I know I’m late to the party here because Bridget Jones was bitching about it years and years ago, but why in the world do people – perfectly normal, polite people; the kind who would be mortified to be caught not using a coaster – think it’s acceptable to grill others on their personal lives?
Predictably, my mother is the worst culprit. “So, any young lads on the scene?” she’ll ask every time I see her, completely oblivious to the fact that nowadays a ‘lad’ is any bloke whose idea of a brilliant night involves twelve cans of Fosters, a blow job and a kebab, in that order.
“Nothing to get excited about,” I always say enigmatically, which could be any value between zero and whatever number covers throwing your own orgies every third Thursday of the month. My mother – like all mothers – is chronically nosy, and also has no concept whatsoever of playing it cool. I once made the mistake of telling her about about a guy I went out with for a couple of months just after the third date.
“He seems really nice, we’re going out again on Saturday.”
“Ooh, how lovely! Does he have his own house?”
“Er, yeah, I think so. In Fulham.”
“Fulham! He sounds perfect.”
She called me a month later when the guy was well out of the picture.
“And how is that nice young man of yours?”
“The one in Fulham! Dad says it’s a very expensive area.”
“Oh yeah. No, he’s long gone.”
“Oh. But he seemed so nice. And I’ve told everyone about him!”
WHAT THE FUCK MOTHER. No doubt in her prime she was one of those terrifying bunny-boiler types who give all women a bad name by acting like complete a head case. I might ask my dad, actually. So you see, she deserves not to be told anything. This is after all the woman who once told me that ‘dates are sort of like interviews, but for a husband’. (I’m not even joking. Every time I tell her about a new hobby or something interesting I’ve done, she says, “ooh! That’ll be something to talk about on your next date!”)
To be fair to her, by my age she was an established housewife with a baby to look after – admittedly an monstrously ugly, accidental baby (me), but at twenty-four she was pretty much playing the end game, whereas most of my friends and I are still arguing over who gets to be Professor Plum and looking for the spare dice. I can see why, to our parents and grandparents, we younger people look like we’re leaving it a bit late. Especially girls, for whom university and careers have become the norm only recently. And in fairness I know my parents do want me to prioritise my career, no matter how many times my mother tells me my dad is looking forward to having grandchildren. And let’s be honest, they’d have been the first to complain if I’d come home aged seventeen with a wombful of little arms and legs. That would have really sucked; I don’t have the bollocks to pull a Virgin Mary and lie through my teeth for the rest of my life in the face of scientific evidence just to avoid getting called a slag.
But here’s the thing: it’s not just my mother and other assorted female relatives who are so interested in my rock-toting, sprog-popping prospects. It is fucking EVERYONE. Friends, acquaintances, workmates. It drives me mental. Recently I went for dinner at an old school friend’s:
“How’s your love life?” he asked before I’d even had time to put the wine in the fridge.
“You know, cold and barren,” I replied cheerfully. “And how are you?”
“Don’t worry,” he said with a reassuring pat on my hand. “I’m sure you’ll find someone soon.”
See, I wasn’t worried. Should I be worried!? The following week:
“Where are you going?” asked Kelly, who I sit next to at work, when I emerged from the work bogs at 6:15pm in nice shoes and lipstick (as opposed to the scabby gym shorts and Batman T-shirt I usually cycle home in).
“Out for dinner,” I told her.
“Ooh, is it a date?”
“Afraid not, not just a friend.”
“Oh. Bummer. Everyone in the office really wants you to get a boyfriend.”
And that’s how I found out that my colleagues hold surprise pity parties for me around the water-cooler when I’m not around. In an office of twenty, I am now the only single person left, which means that any time I leave the office looking like a good dicking might be imminent, everyone gets ludicrously overexcited.
“ARE YOU GOING ON A DATE!?” they bawl, as I sprint out the door in an effort to contain the madness and prevent anyone drowning in their own rabid froth. And the next morning is usually worse.
“How was your date?”
“It wasn’t a date.”
“…Are you hungover? You look hungover.” (I’m not hungover.) “Er, aren’t they the same clothes as yesterday!? Haven’t you been home?”
“I have been home,” I say. “I was wearing a DRESS yesterday. These are jeans.”
“Oh. Never mind then. How was your date?”
“It wasn’t a date.”
And so on. And you can’t stop them, because the more you deny it the more excited they become. Telling people you don’t mind being single is a lot like being a fat girl and telling everyone you don’t mind being fat. Nobody believes you. “Good for you!” they say encouragingly, as though you’re terribly brave for overcoming this most dreadful of fates (i.e. unloveableness/obesity).
Well, it’s bollocks. While nobody would be rude enough to tell a chubby lass to her face that she’d look a whole lot better without the extra tyres and party-size double chin, even complete strangers aren’t shy of commiserating people for their tragic lack of boyfriend. I say boyfriend; it does seem to be straight women and gay men who get the most grief about their lamentably loveless lives, although I’m sure it happens to everyone sometimes. Fortunately I live with two (single) blokes, one gay and one straight, neither of whom could give less of a shit what other people think of their marital status.
“Jesus Christ,” I said one night, after another ex-schoolmate of mine announced their engagement on Facebook. “What’s going on? Everyone is suddenly getting married and we’re all still on square one.”
“Pfft, nothing wrong with square one,” said my flatmate. “It’s the fun square. The party square, darling!”
He is not wrong.
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