Not an Odalisque

Posts Tagged ‘supermarkets

‘Don’t let’s talk about being in love, OK?’

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Some time ago a friend said that he wasn’t falling in love with me. Oddly, even though I have no romantic inclinations towards him, it was even more awkward than if he had declared his undying affection. At least I’d know what to say to that; I’ve had some practice. I said goodbye. I got onto a train and I tried to read, but instead commenced re-examining my words and actions for the past several months, looking for those which could be misinterpreted as expressions of love. Even with my obsessive nature and considerable critical abilities, I was unable to sustain it for three hours straight, and was distracted by thoughts of love in general. I had obviously failed to communicate my position on love, or I wouldn’t be being warned off by anyone.

Love is like expensive ice cream. People tell me how great it is, how comforting. They say they crave it and describe taking a two litre tub of it to bed at the end of a terrible day. I’ve tried it and found that it’s, well, like eating frozen cream. I’m more of a sorbet girl myself, but ice and fruit aren’t ever going to elicit the response from me that Ben and Jerry’s does in others. That’s fine; I’ll not take ice cream. But if there is momentary incredulity about my not desiring ice cream, there is outright denial of my wish not to get romantically entangled.

My biggest problem is this: those who challenge me aren’t entirely wrong. Even if I don’t like ice cream, I would like to believe that a cure for unhappiness could be bought in pots. Of course I want someone who accepts me for who I am. I want someone to think it’s sweet that I can never remember the name of the main character and adorable that I can’t organise a cupboard in such a way that things don’t fall out. However, I live in the real world, have experienced the pain as the items have hit me on the way down, and have a realistic expectation about people’s reactions.

I’m tempted by the promise of love. And by the seductions of extended metaphors.

Being with people thinking of love is like being in a supermarket. Supermarkets make me panic. This time last year they left me breathless, stumbling through crowds searching for the door, hardly able to remember my own name. Nowadays, I avoid that by going in with a shopping list at 2am. Supermarkets scare me because they seem to be trying to turn me into a different person. I think I only need milk and bread flour, but before I’ve gone a few paces hundreds of products have been suggested. I stride past them with certainty that I don’t need shower gel or heel cream or hair mayonnaise (yes, that one’s real). By the time I’ve passed the books, DVDs and Christmas decorations I begin to think something’s not quite right. Other people want these things. They are there, picking up action movies and artificial trees. I must be a very picky. At the fruit and veg I feel ought to get something. I may think I want tomatoes, but from a range of eight types, with wildly differing price tags in no way reflective of variation in the tomato eating experience, I feel totally unable to make a choice. It seems there’s an interpretative system which everyone else is in on, allowing them to pick the right one, but no one’s told me the secret. By the time I get to the bread aisle and find that, among the hundreds of options, there isn’t a crusty brown loaf, I feel there’s something horribly broken inside, dividing me from the rest of humanity and confirming that I’m just not the person I ought to be.

That’s how I feel about love. I can recognise the utter duds, the men who email me on fetish sites with photos of their willies and the drooling guys in bars who tell me I’m the most beautiful girl they’ve ever seen as they ‘accidentally’ brush my leg. These are the blue cheeses and the value sausages of love—you’re amazed that anyone has even tried them. Most people aren’t like that. I find people interesting. Some of them announce their love, and I try, as with the tomatoes, to imagine what it would be like to pick this one, or that. I never seem to be the tomato buyer they wanted me to be.

Love demands attention. As an intense personal experience, it cannot be denied. Even as a person tells you that they want nothing from you, their love is given for free, it is whispering the question, “why don’t you pick me? Here I am. Better than any other bread on the aisle.”

Every time someone says they love me, I have to bite my tongue so as not to say “but you don’t know me.” There’s a constant tension between revealing enough for your liking to apply to me, and making myself the sort of person you would like. People have said they love me on the basis of my listening to expositions on Kandinsky when totally uninterested, defining words when I think they are perfectly capable of using a dictionary, agreeing with their philosophies I think are banal. I can’t believe that their experience was all that different; these are the compromises life is made of.

One man said he loved me on a Friday and dumped me on the Sunday. Apparently he couldn’t deal with me being flogged by other men. I’d like to think that a propensity to being flogged by other men is an integral part of my character, so we’d obviously misunderstood each other somewhere along the line. I think I’ve worked out why. In depictions, love is a spontaneous, explosive force that sweeps objections out of its way. That’s fine when you’re Mr. Darcy and by overcoming petty doubts you prove your love and give your girl a really big house. I, however, quite like myself, my life, my way of doing things. I don’t need any explosions.

So I’m not looking for love. I am looking for people to sleep with, play with, tie me up, hit me with things or read me stories in bed. I’d like to meet first-readers, coffee-drinkers and re-organisers of kitchen cupboards. I’d be very grateful to the person who can explain the end of Selima Hill’s poem Don’t Let’s Talk About Being in Love, as it has been troubling be for years. For a few minutes you could be my special someone. I think we could both be happy with that.

Written by Not an Odalisque

October 13, 2010 at 11:10 pm