Friday, July 29, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 58

There's been a pop psychology series running on the BBC at the moment the 'Science of Love' and last week dealt with speed dating, which turned out to be a total bust for all concerned. I know, I've been there.

I've been meaning to get this one off my chest for ages. I hate anything organised other than politics and pub-faring activities where organisation has always proved pretty crucial, so to be honest I really wasn't all that up for speed dating.

I mean seriously, it never seems to work so well when done at a more sedate pace, what's it going to be like on speed?

I blame several people, beginning with my friend Alison, who although best is also a born-again smug married, who suggested it and Adam, who was keen to go.

"I really think you should get out more."
"Really? I do get out. What are you getting at?"

Alison slid a tatty piece of paper across the table.

"You should do this, they have nights designed for people just like you?"
"What you mean war-mongering lefties with a taste for pop culture , Lloyd Cole songs and Douglas Coupland novels? Are you sure? As really I'd be surprised."
"No, I meant people who work in the media."
"That sounds a nightmare. Have you meet those people?"
"But speed dating is very trendy, right now."

My interest pricks up when Alison says this. What can I say I'm a little shallow and easily influenced by passing trends and fads.

"Er, well at least among single people."
"Yeah right."

Anyway, once the ball got rolling just about everyone thought it was a good idea. Adam is always up for this kind of stuff and will drag his arse to many distant locations if women happen to be involved.

"Oh, I've been saying for ages we should do more stuff, I'll go."
"I knew you would be up for it."
"I hear the women are really desperate and, well, it's apparently like shooting fish in a barrel."
"You say that like it's a good thing? I'm not sure you're approaching it with the right attitude. The whole barrel-fish thing?"
"The right attitude, what are you talking about. I really want to sleep with women, what can I say?"
"This can't possibly end well."

Alison not only thought it was a great idea that I go, but she had been talking to Susan about it as well who then called me with a really stupid plan. You see where this is going, right?

"Oh I think it's great, I've been meaning to go for ages, we should all go together it would be like a group outing."
"Suze, I hate to break it to you, but I think you're missing the point with the whole group idea. If we go together we would actually have to date each other."
"But not seriously, it would be like pretend dating."
"Yes... but I still don't think it's a good idea, we should go separately, you know, on quite different nights."
"What are you worried I'll see your technique at work?"
"My technique? I thought it was pretty clear that I don't have one – hence the singleness."
"True, but I thought you were just overly picky and fussy, and really with a fixation on Winona Ryder."
"I'm long over that, I mean by years."
"If you say so."

That said, I did recently rewatch 'Heathers' on DVD and really? Still very good, but seriously, I'm over the whole Winona Ryder thing.

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"So you won't go on the same night as Adam and me?"
"I'll think about it."
"You'll think about it? I'd think hard about it."
"Don't pressure me. I hate being put under pressure. I'll make some crazy decision and live to regret it."
"I'm not worried about you living to regret it, I'm more worried about me."

With that, of course, she hung up. I've sort of digressed. In the Sunday night BBC show... which I should be honest about and admit that really I've only seen highlights of. Highlights is kind overstating it. What I really mean is that Sunday is about the only night of the week when I am in and something is actually on TV that I like. And can you believe it, it's on Bravo? Who would have guessed that there was actually anything of value on Bravo whatsoever? The show in question is the high-kicking, twisty-turn CIA drama 'Alias' starring Jennifer Garner and I am a slightly addicted, four-season veteran of this confusing but wonderfully written Milo Rambaldi obsessed show.

I did mention the whole lo-fi culture thing right? Anyhow, not that I am encouraging anyone to ad skip, but I've been watching the BBC show during ad breaks. So really I've seen about 12 minutes of 'Science of Love'.

In the most recent show the team of scientists orchestrate a speed date with a hundred singletons to test their theories. They get zero matches. One included 32-year-old Beth Eagland who started her "dates" with Gestapo friendly questions like "why are you single?". I didn't see the next bit, but my feeling was she heading down the McCarthyite path and surely her next question was "Are you or have you ever been a member of..."

I swear it was just like this. There was a vast amount of pickiness going on. I should put my hand up and say I'm guilty also and really have on several occasions declared that I could not possibly go out with X or Y as I find it impossible to date anyone who has a bigger arse than me.

Seriously, I can't help it and I just wish I could. I'm just worried that one day, I'll be there and she will go, does my arse look big in this? And I won't be able to help myself. I know, I should get a job or a life or, you know, something. I know, what's that about. I blame my parents.

So we went... and really this is long enough. I will follow this up.


I thought I really should update on last week's blind date latest. After I left message with said girl who might be called Becca or possible Jackie or maybe something in between.

Amazingly after garbled message she calls me back, but from the back of a taxi and so when she says who it is I still can't work it out. I'm positive this is significant or maybe even insignificant. I can't quite make up my mind.

We sort of blahed away slightly incoherently, what with the lack of coverage, after about half an hour on the phone and exchanging various biographical details we agreed to meet up sometime in a few weeks' time.

She was off to Scotland and was going to be away in the States and possibly Ireland as well this was difficult.

"What about the week commencing July 25?"
"The week commencing? Do people really say that?"
"Er, I do, everyone here does."
"Really? That's disturbing, the week commencing? That's just plain... oh who knows."

Somehow I found this very amusing, to be honest, I can't tell you why. For some reason it totally escapes me. But for the next five minutes I could not help myself but make fun out of the phrase week commencing. You can see how I get all these dates now, I mean it's pretty clear.

Anyway, July 25 has of course been and gone, but before it happened she cancelled. Tragic I know.

"I'm going to South Africa, work, I know tough, but I will be back on August 5, but might have to go to Ireland and the US after that, so might now be back until August 20, which is heading into autumn. I'll text you or you could text me, do you want to put something in the diary now?"

All this and really I'm still not sure what her name is or what country she might be visiting. I'm sure it never used to be this complicated. I'm no good at advance planning and not really much better at dating, so combining the two is really never going to work out.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 57

Apparently I should be more grateful. I know what that’s about. This is what my friend says to me on the phone, as he tries to twist my arm to get me to date his partner's sister's best friend's dog.

I'm kidding about the dog, kind of. Anyway, I'm kind of jumping the gun. My good friend Robert called me from the frozen wastelands of the North. Not the one from Stallingwalling... the other one who also lives on the side of a hill in not-so-sunny Derbyshire.

I knew something was up as soon as I picked up the phone. I'd spoken to him just after 7/7 when there was that flurry of calls from friends to check I'd not been blown up by Islamists.

Normally, it would be another several months before such another conversation. That's rule number one relating to friends who do not live in London.

After we had caught up on the goings on in the intervening seven days he cut to the chase.

"The reason I was calling..."
"The reason, I thought this was a social call?"
"Oh it is, but..."
"But? I'm not a fan of buts I'm convinced that it will be followed by the words cancer, pregnancy or some weird dating invitation. That could, of course, just be me."

There was as this point a long pause on the line. OMG...

"That's spooky," Robert says, "That must be a single person thing, being able to tell when someone is about to bring up the subject of setting you up with someone."

Setting me up? See the language is all wrong. People get set up in spy stories and heist movies. Lee Harvey Oswald was set up. It never ends well.

"Setting me up? Really, you know, that's not necessary."
"Not necessary? Are you sure? We're concerned you'll become one of those perpetual bachelors that people have to eventually abandon because they start to get a little weird. You should be grateful."

Little weird? Grateful? See it's great to have friends. They do stuff for you, but really you have to wonder if they are really not doing it for themselves as well. I know, I'm ungrateful, possibly deluded, but hey what can I tell you.

"Oh cheers, mate, I'll try really hard to be grateful, despite not really seeing an upside to be setting up."
"Oh this one does, as blind dates go."
"Now you've gone and said it. You've put those two words together that really should never mate. Blind date? I mean come on."

Take a second to think about it. There was once this guy (I'm sure it was a guy), he had this eureka moment. I think 'Cross Your fingers and Prepare for the Worst Date' would be more apt, but really not so catchy.

"True, but who would ever go on a 'Cross Your fingers and Prepare for the Worst Date'?"
"Dude, it would be me, I feel like I've done it all."
"I mean other than you… anyway, this is why you should meet this girl, besides we sort of said you would. She's Kate's sister's best friend."

Your married or coupledom friends get together at dinner parties and promise their single friends to other. It's kind of like an auction, but you know with people.

"Oh man, I can't."
"She's done some modelling..."
"A model, well I always thought it would be good for me to meet more models."
"Perfect, I should say she sort of has a high powered job for some big American retailer, does lots of travelling, went to Leeds, comes from Southport..."
"High powered? I can't do high powered, it's like power tools, I end up with some large, but not terribly useful hole in the wall. I'll go to pieces and talk about 'Star Wars', yoga or Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater movies, which are really my own areas of expertise."

"Your knowledge of Lloyd Cole and Teenage Fanclub is also extensive, don't sell yourself short."
"Yeah, and really, you're quite amusing for someone who lives on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere."
"Look, why don't you call her, what's the worst that could happen?"

What's the worst that could happen? Why do people say that? It's like an invitation, you know, but not in a good way.

Anyway, I wait a respectable three or four days and call. Things immediately start to go wrong as she's out and I get her machine. At work, I'm superfine with machines, but in other contexts, or more explicitly, I turn into the guy from the movie 'Swingers', where Jon Favreau's character "Mike" leaves increasingly pathetic messages on "Nikki's" answering machine, as the machine keeps cutting him off. In my case I just start to tell my life story, but in a really confusing way.

"Hi, Gordon here, the friend of Robert and Kate? Er, they gave me your number, obviously because I'm calling, er we used to live together in Manchester, but knew each other from before university in case you were wondering, but that was a long time ago and possibly not totally relevant, but anyway, he said, oh not really sure what he said, but he did give me your number and oh erm, well I'll leave my number and oh I might call back or erm, OK, bye."

See not good. I call Susan and tell her the latest and gauge her opinion as to whether she thinks the girl will call back.

"Another blind date? Oh I think that's good news. I keep telling you that what you need is more dating momentum."
"But I don't want dating momentum, it sounds like a disease. Besides dating momentum has really worked out for you. That last animal guy? I mean come on."

Susan has been on lots of dates recently, but the most entertaining was marine wildlife guy. He was some friend of the family. Never a good thing.

I couldn't stop laughing when she told me about as the only thing she could think to talk about that was in any way connected with marine wildlife was 'Flipper' and 'Free Willy'.

The something hit me. Something disturbing.

"Oh, I just had this thought, Rob said she was called Becca, but I swear the answering machine, said 'hi, Jackie's not home right now'."
"You should call back, you'd be like that guy in that movie..."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 56

I was going to write about speed dating, but I had a last-minute topic rethink and decided to write about cancer. Did the room just go quiet? Ah, give me a break, it's my birthday.

I really was going to write about speed dating. I did go a while ago (even before the final plate smashing incident, which was really the end for me as organising dating goes), and talk about disastrous, it turned into a bit of family affair. I just never got around to writing about it, but it's on my list of embarrassing dating mishaps.

Anyhow, I was kind of prompted by cancer charity Everyman, which has a new "light-hearted" "Check 'em" awareness campaign to encourage men to check for early signs of testicular cancer. When it says check' em we all know what Everyman is talking about. If you don't, just nod enthusiastically, which is what I do, and it's always worked for me. You know kind of.

I know it's distressing and while women out there might think we spend all our time playing with them, really this is not true. I hardly have any idea what they look like. Honest.

Everyman has website at It has lots of animated pics. For instance there's some balls wearing sunglasses and kind of looking hairy. I'm wondering if this is a personal reflection, you know, like, are yours a cool sunglases-wearing pair or maybe just some NHS specs, you know, if NHS specs still existed any more (Vietnam-style flashback to nine-year-old tortoise shell glasses wearer -- freaky). But that's probably not the case.

If you click on through you get kind of graphic pictures, which could get you sent to Guantanamo by the IT department, of, well, you know, testicles as well as lots of helpful facts, including the one that you can be unlucky enough to pick up testicular cancer from the age of 15.

The only reason I'm writing about it now is that earlier this year I was feeling this pain from said region. I was thinking about that, the bombings last week and my birthday and was generally feeling all mortal and earthly like.

I've heard lots of stories about the bombings last week and really mine's no biggie, but then again it's kind of hard to tell. I normally don't come in until 09.30 on Thursdays, which means I leave at about 08.30 and get the Piccadilly line heading through King's Cross about 10 to nine or thereabouts. Last week, I decided that if I went in early, I'd get a seat and could finish scribbling the Demographic Shift in my notebook. I mean who knows.

I digress, of course, I can't help it, it's my thing. I had this pain down below and initially did what all men do when discovering I ignored it and sort of walked around going "no can't be that".

As a strategy this was a total bust (who would have guessed?) as after a couple of days I was still feeling, er, what's the term? Oh yeah, discomfort. I got off my arse, you know sort of, and checked out a few websites. And the thing is with that as soon as you start reading this you're convinced you're dead in a week.

I went to some big US site, where you go through a checklist. And really it's more of a hindrance than anything else as after you've visited these sites you're convinced you're going to be dead before the weekend -- Monday morning at the latest.

I did all the fiddling and I seemed to check every box, which really meant I should go to see my GP. I described the symptoms, the pain and out came the gloves for a quick tour.

As my continued ability to type has no doubt already shown there was nothing with me. Apparently I had some bruising, nothing mucky, probably caused by a really bad transition as I dropped out of canter out horseriding and smacked the saddle. I just didn't feel it at the time.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Demographic Shift - 55

I got pilloried last week last week while away on a trip, which kind of got me thinking about the toxic male.

To be honest, the pillorying? It's all my own fault. One of the problems with writing things like this and yakking on about your own life is that apparently people will read it. Weird, I know, but what can you do? Worse than that, once they have read it they sometimes talk about it, which is where the problems begin and kind of what happened last week on a trip to Jordan -- that's the country rather than...oh you know what I mean.

Courtesy of the Discovery Channel, which is where I learnt everything I now know about the Battle for Stalingrad, B52 Bombers and where I can catch up on all those property shows, which led me to wonder if putting a loo in the middle of my kitchen was such a good idea.

I digress, you know, kind of. After a somewhat heticly enjoyable few days we had made it to our final destination for a day of pool activity and massage (I know, tough break), which is where the pilloring took place.

It's definitely the worst thing about being single -- the pillorying and the questions.

Not only do you get the on going ones from family members, which leads to weird schemes and ideas (Mother: psychics
; sister: blind dates), but friends peers and colleagues as well.

It was only slightly weirder as the sunbed-gathered group were dressed in a mixture of swimming gear, bathrobes, shorts and sunglasses and drinking beer in 37-degree heat. Actually I blame the beer, you know, just for a change.

"So why are you single?"
"You should do ads."
"An ad?"
"A personal ad, sell yourself."
"Sell myself?"
"No, you should try the internet."
"The internet? I'm not so sure..."
"What sort of women do you want to meet?"
"I tell you, I know a New Yorker, not much to look at, but she's about to get millions."

And kind of on like that it went for a bit with much friendly joshing and japing at my expense. I'm not scared or anything, but I did sit around for the next couple of days thinking, so why am I single? You know, in a self-help book 101 style exercise.

I didn't get very far until on the plane home I spent a little time watching one of the worst movies I've ever seen. The movie was the American remake of 'Fever Pitch' and it was truly, truly very awful. It did two things: it made the outbound movie 'The Pacifier' starring Vin Diesel look good and it made the original Brit version of 'Fever Pitch' look like a work of greatness.

Bear with me, during the US movie there is a moment where one of the female friends declares that the Nick Hornby character must be a toxic male -- you know in a "anyone single that long must be" kind of way.

In the movie, the Hornby character's male toxicity relates is his obsession with the Boston Red Sox (standing in for those loser Gooners).

I concluded in an OMG kind of way that I must, in fact, be really toxic. So, like all such moments of crisis in the arena of dating I call Susan. I knew she would give it to me straight -- you know, in a both-barrels kind of way.

"Suze, I'm concerned I might be too toxic to date, I need reassurances or something."
"Gord, I hate to break it to you, but is the Pope a Catholic?"
"Is that a trick question? I always thought you said the Papacy had high Anglican leanings and so technically not Catholic."

Susan laughs at this, which seems fair enough. I've always wanted to find a way around the whole Pope Catholic thing, but there's nothing. I mean those Catholics have it sewn up pretty tight.

"I've never seen someone reach so much, you're like on stilts. Toxic guy on stilts."
"Gee thanks."
"Look, really I've been out with people far more toxic than you. On the plus side, you're not a major football or sports obsessive. You have that going for you."
"Gee, that's just great, maybe I really should do an ad: 'not a sports obsessive' apply within."
"Oh don't be like that, besides, honestly?"
"OK, honestly."
"I think really you're just more picky than toxic, but then thinking about it being too picky is possible a little toxic."
"You're saying I'm a little toxic and a little picky? Wow that's harsh."

What I really think I need to avoid future pillorying and questions is a new image.

No I am not taking another step backwards Posted by Picasa

What do you think?

I have to admit this whole piece is just an excuse to run this Arafat like picture. I obviously wrote it all before bombs struck. Bad timing.

So just to reiterate, the current despite bearded look, the keffiyeh headgear, I'm still pretty pro-war/pro-Isreali and apparently a little toxic. No wonder.

Oh, in case you were wondering? I really don't have a loo in the middle of my kitchen. I just had to point that out.