The Currency of Truth
February 3, 2012 § 25 Comments
There are a few names of bachelors or “available” fellows in my circle of friends which come up again and again as suggestions for me. I sat next to one of these famous single men last night at a 5oth birthday dinner, but of course he isn’t actually single, is he? He has a turnover of girlfriends but doesn’t marry them. One friend talked of men – “single” or multiple-married – leaping from lily pad to lily pad. A vivid but rather too romantic image in my book. I see serial monogamy, more, as chain smoking: with the old fire still alight but dimming, lighting the next; never a fresh air breather in between.
The last girlfriend of this man, my neighbour last night, was a hotshot heiress, brilliant and beautiful, apparently, and younger than him, but she went the way of all the rest. During the first course, this “single” man wasted no time in pointing out his new girlfriend to me. She was sitting opposite us. She is my age and looks smiling and sensible, modest and kind. What a relief it was, he said, to be with someone of his own age, no longer with an exhausting younger woman. I thought, Marvellous, at last you have seen the light. I said, could I ask you a cheeky question. You can do this when you are a plankton. You feel strangely bold. Was he it in for the long haul, I ventured. There was much demuring. I am not entirely sure now, in the cold light of day, what precisely was his reply. A certain amount of guff along the lines of, early days, early days! “We are at the stage when we still fancy each other,” he said at one point, looking across at her fancyingly. But Janey told me it wouldn’t last, and there never was a wiser woman.
“I’ve known him since [university],” she said. “And he has had wonderful girlfriend after wonderful girlfriend, and they never do.”
So this “single” man is “single” in rather a different mode from that which I am single. We inhabit different single territory entirely. Our definitions of the habitat diverge manifestly.
Janey and another mutual girlfriend had said I should ask him to do some match-making for me, as “single” people tend to hang out together and he therefore must know lots of “single” men. Actually, I myself have been thinking seriously of late not of entreating my girlfriends to match-make for me, but of canvassing my male friends instead, because there is no question that a number of them daily exist in male-dominated worlds into which I cannot enter because I have no excuse to do so. I am always being told to find a way into these worlds, but I don’t have any easy ways in. Starting with doing an GCSE in Maths and working my way up into the City? I don’t think so! Or training to become a surgeon or lecturer or lawyer? Oh, yeah? But these male friends are already there by dint of their work, or chosen sport or whatever; and they like a challenge, so it seems logical. But I don’t know this man all that well and whilst I am bold, I found, alas, I wasn’t that bold, so I didn’t ask him. But I might. Another time.
The dinner was fantastically merry. Populated with many an historic friend. One lovely plankton, a single mother who’s ex-husband and father of her children has cut off all maintenance, laughed at the car crash of her life and my admiration for her billowed. We laughed together and said we must arrange a jolly evening to compare desultory plankton notes.
I teased a man who had circled me aeons ago. I heard recently that he would have liked to have married a woman like me. I was delighted but puzzled to hear this because at the time we never even kissed. Because it was so long ago, and because he has a lovely wife with whom he is happy and I get on, and possibly because I am an entrenched old plankton and just can, within reason, say what I like, boldness returned. Why the fuck, I asked him, laughingly, had he never made a pass at me then?
“You were out of my league,” came the startling but flattering reply. Oh, how the layout of the past, its unique landscape, is seen so differently by those who inhabited it at the time, fleetingly, together. Oh, the way we can get things so wrong. All along, back then, I thought he was out of mine!
It does set you to thinking of chances missed through skewed interpretations. He looked at me and held my hand – no, not in a threatening-to-his-wife way – as if to say the same: not regrets exactly, because of other marriages and children since, but how foolish of us that our thoughts were so out of synch at the time, so remiss; what fun there might have been. Missreadings so rife when you are young they are almost cheap. Youth is so spoiling. It makes us squander opportunity and suppose we have time.
To me, with nothing, it felt good that someone had a candle with my name on it, let alone seemed to be holding it still, however nebulously.
Precious few of those around.
Precious little time. And certainly no more of it for skewed interpretations.
I have made a start with LS, being myself in my latest email to him. Call it honestly, clarity, openness, ingenuousness, truth: these surely have to comprise the currency of the plankton’s future.