The Demographic Shift - 5
It's no wonder my mother wasn't giving me the third degree at the mention of The New Girlfriend. She already knew there wasn't one. It's not as bad as it sounds. The TNG isn't completely fictional. She's actually very real, in a living breathing kind of way, but she just isn't my girlfriend. She is, however, single and I have been working myself up to asking her out. What this actually makes her is Potential New Girlfriend. I was just jumping the gun slightly for my mother's benefit.
This doesn't, however, excuse Susan who told my sister that there is, in fact, currently no girlfriend and, more importantly as far as my sister is concerned, no one to bring to her perfect wedding. I expect more from Susan. Somehow, years of friendship and way too many foreign language movies (not to mention frequently and sympathetically uttering: "Suze, I don't know why he left you, you're perfect") should be worth more than exposing me to such casual ridicule. Some people.
My sister, she of text message birthday greetings, obviously told my mother who probably thinks I'm slight cracked. I can hear her now: "My son with the fictional girlfriend and the falling sperm count, oh vey." I admit it doesn't look good on paper and for some reason she comes across as Jewish, but that could just be my typing.
"I can't believe you told your mother you have a new girlfriend when you clearly don't. That is incredibly sad."
"I'm under a lot of pressure to live up to certain images."
"You're not a child prodigy, you're a 34-year-old single male."
"Depressing when you put it like that."
"Anyway, who is this girl?"
I start to explain to Susan who the Potential New Girlfriend is. That she's a friend of Adam's, that she's very nice, that's she's also 34, but doesn't seem to have considered all the demographic changes she's about to go through.
I only know this as I've had the chance to question her at length in the pub. The things people tell you. For instance, she owns numerous compilation albums, the most recent being the '24-Hour Party People' soundtrack. Now while this is full of wonderful Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays songs, it is still a compilation album. You're going to think it's strange that I have a thing about compilation albums... what can I say, it's something I just can't fight.
What is true though is women buy many more compilation albums than men. I've been researching this. They also seem able to justify these purchases with strangely warped logic. One girl I know said it was purely a convenience thing, you know like buying microwave meals -- "they're already packaged for you". So, while in the past, I have discounted pursuing a relationship with people for, now in retrospect, slightly circumspect reasons but which seemed to make perfect sense at the time ("she reads nothing but Russian poetry"), ownership of numerous compilation albums is probably not a strong enough reason.
I ask Susan what she thinks my chances are.
"How old did you say she was?"
"Same age, 34."
"Well she's probably desperate enough to go out with you then."
"When you put it like that you make it sound so appealing."
"Anyway, I seem to remember you saying that you weren't going out with women the same age as you any more."
"I never said that."
"Yes you did. Last summer. Primrose Hill. We had ice cream. It was hot."
"OK, I did say that, but I was going through something at the time."
"What, you mean your extended and ongoing adolescence?"
"What can I say? Women and men at this age seem to have different priorities. It's physical. It's not just about tomatoes and screwdrivers, it's bigger."
"What you mean is women are getting broody and thinking about having children and you're thinking of buying a new bigger than ever TV? You're right, men and women are different."
Things are suddenly less frivolous. The questions you have to ask people before you go out with them are, well, just bigger. No longer is an interest in art house cinema and dirge/jingle jangle guitar music enough.
Now you have to ask if they plan on multiplying in the very near future. See, I find it hard to even get the words out.
"You asked her that, didn't you? I can't believe you. That is so incredibly rude. What did she say?"
"She said I was funny, she just wasn't sure if this was in a good way. We're going out for dinner though."