I was having a great time on my first date with P, a charming and funny agent who had been introduced to me by a mutual friend. Great, that is, until he started masturbating in public. It was even more shocking because our date had started out so normally. We went for Italian food, shared a plate of tiramisu and retired to an intimate bar for dessert wine. To get some privacy, we settled into a back-room sofa beside a roaring fire. Then he leaned in, I steadied myself for our first kiss – and that’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. Somehow, while we were chatting, he had unbuttoned his trousers and released his member, which he was enthusiastically stroking like a pet hamster.
Even during my hedonistic teenage years, somewhere in the back of my mind I had a “checklist” for my life. I’d envisioned meeting the man of my dreams at around the age of 29, and marrying by 30ish. I did meet the man of my dreams at the age of 29, but I guess we took a wrong turn somewhere, and our relationship ran into a ditch. But if there is any truth in the saying “life is what happens when you make other plans”, I think that the same logic would also apply to love. Sexually, I was an early bloomer and a pretty wild teenager.
Back in secondary school, I used to daydream about meeting the perfect man during Classics studies. He would be tall, gorgeous, successful, fit, emotionally aware, and have a killer sense of humour. We would meet, fall in love, and get married – probably after a very short courtship. And because my “soulmate” would be my best friend, he would automatically know what I needed.
Then I grew up, and got real. I’ve now realised that my ideal man was as much of a mythological character as any of the Greek gods. Because when it comes to the thought processes of men and women, the differences can run a lot deeper than failure to put up the toilet seat or an inability to ask directions.
I know that women have four times as many neurons connecting the left and right side of the brain, and use more than three times as many words per day.
So I would probably run from a man who can have long, unprompted conversations about his deep feelings for me on a first date – in my experience, he’s probably either a con man or mentally unbalanced.
But like many women, I still over-analyse every aspect of my relationships. Last week, I was at my girlfriend Amy’s house for several glasses of wine while we exhaustively dissected my on-off boyfriend Charles’s latest texts.
The male side of me told me that the situation was pretty simple: Charles had cancelled our holiday together because he didn’t want to commit to me, but he wanted to keep in contact in case he decided that he wanted to have sex with me again.
But the emotional, female side of me was still trying to make excuses. Perhaps his failure to take my hint for a beach holiday stemmed from the jellyfish sting that he suffered as a child, rendering him incapable of sharing intimacy near the ocean.
“Maybe he’s afraid of how much he likes you,” Amy said. “Just give him a bit of time.”
Again, I think that the idea that men are “scared of their feelings” is another female myth. My friend Michael agrees. “Even if a man temporarily freaks out, if he really likes you he’ll get over it. It’s just an excuse.”
So I decided to experiment with trying to think like a man – more specifically, a 14th-century logician and Franciscan friar, William of Occam. According to the principle of Occam’s Razor, all other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.
So if a guy hasn’t called, it’s probably not because his fingers are broken. He’s not that “crazy” at work – if the Prime Minister has time to have a family life, a corporate lawyer can take five minutes to send a text.
But unlike the passive approach advocated in books such as He’s Just Not That Into You, I realised that I had to be more direct.
I had to be honest about what I needed from the relationship, rather than expecting him to guess. And if he didn’t come through, I had to let go of our on-off fling. I told him this in a brief, but honest, conversation.
The next day he invited me to fly out to the beach to see him, and his new house. Maybe he was finally realising how much I meant to him, and had been agonising over how to get me back for weeks. Had I been making this poor, sensitive man suffer needlessly? I was actually feeling guilty when I asked him to clarify why he wanted me there, and got the following response.
“Just thought we would have fun babe. And you do look super hot in a bikini!”
Will I ever learn?
I am writing about marriage under duress, because I have been drafted as a bridesmaid for the third time this year, and, frankly, I’m running scared. Don’t get me wrong: I love weddings, and hope to have one of my own someday. But what is it about the ceremony that reduces some seemingly rational women into Bride-zillas from hell? This summer alone, I have broken up one near-fistfight over a tea set; dealt with the fallout from a randy best man shagging two different family members; and consoled a 37-year-old woman who went to pieces because she could not be a “flower girl”.