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Men are more romantic than women

February 14, 2011

"Phew! Not in trouble after all."

I’m not making this up. Match.com, which puts out a yearly Lovegeist report (that’s right: LOVEGEIST), said in the latest one that men are more romantic than women. FACT.

Well, I am willing to believe it. Women have high expectations for romance but men often deliver incredible avowals of romantic feeling – I’ve known of lovey powerpoint presentations, complex ploys involving airplanes and spare keys, chauffeur-driven cars, surprise spa breaks….men do seem able to excel themselves….when they want to. When they want to, though, seems not to be on Valentine’s Day, of which more later.

Today is V-Day (for the next 35 minutes). Despite every last man I know being staunchly opposed to Valentine’s Day, I saw many people today clutching roses with intent. They were all men. At M&S tonight – (where I went on my way home from the gym: my little lover’s gift to myself, those 30 mins of cardio) – the girl at the till said that all evening men had been storming the flower and chocolates. “See that?” she said, pointing to the flower stand. “It was completely empty five minutes ago”. That was at about 8:45pm.

Impressive. But what all this flower and chocolate buying does suggest is tokenism – men know that they need to produce something to keep the ball and chain happy. Arriving home empty handed will probably lead to a fight. Can’t blame the dudes – sometimes just giving in to the pressures of a day you don’t believe in is a good way to go.

I never thought I’d say this but maybe women need to change their tune. I’m one of many that have given boyfriends grief over V-Day – my last one was thoroughly unmoved by it and I threatened to take it VERY personally indeed. He gave in and took me out for dinner and gave me some flowers, but of course I’d ruined it by making a fuss of it. My expectations were the feature of the day – and overshadowed any true romantic feeling.

Men are more romantic – Match says so. So if we lay off the importance of VDay (within reason – roses and chocolates would not be dismissed by me under most circumstances), our men may still shine on other days. Power point presentation, anyone?

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Run for your lives. The BAD BANTER EPIDEMIC is spreading

February 6, 2011

Please, man. Don't make a quip about your hangover.

Banter or die: that is the watchword of the single male or female.

Traditionally the weight of banter has fallen on men – women have been expected to receive male witticisms and giggle, crooning later to their friends over pink cocktails that he is just “soooo funny!” Well, now women have to pull their weight in the banter stakes – or at least those with personalities rather than, or as well as, hot bods and perfect highlights. The result, naturally, is that we’re brilliant at it, being – as studies have shown – often more verbally skilled when we put our minds to it than men. The corniest lines, the slowest understanding of innuendo, the worst jokes? Almost always the specialty of men.

Poor male-driven banter was forgivable back when the b-word was a very brief precursor to actually meeting up or, as in the distant past, nearly an irrelevance in the broader scheme of courtship and letter writing and the conveyance of sincere meaning.

Now, it is the single most important part of most nascent love affairs – from the booty call to the relationship to the micro-fling. With the advent on online dating, banter is unavoidable and essential for many couples.

Well, it must be that the weight of importance put on verbal foreplay is now is too great for the capabilities of your average male banterer (I don’t know how female banter is faring – it may also be suffering). Because banter, in the main, has become CRAP.

The bulk of it to cross my virtual thresh-hold of late has involved talk of a sandwich chosen for lunch, feelings of tiredness, boredom at work, and excitement for the weekend. None of this accompanied by any questions beyond: “Good day so far?” “Good weekend so far?” “Good lunch so far?” And so on. The minutia of the average office worker’s day is not sexy, not romantic, and certainly not banter.

Then you get your men who go all formal and dull miss ALL your jokes. They go all “Dear Zoe” and “Best, Bob”. Or, take this paragraph from someone I was set up with (and I kid you not, he DID write this): “I have launched and incorportated my business at the London Companies House in 2002. The company specialises in XX brokerage services and XX management. We also offer consultancy services within the aviation industry.” I responded the only way I could: with a minor but very clear joke: “I am a journalist and I have no companies registered at Companies House.” He missed it. No comment. No humour. NO BANTER.

So, at breaking point after a particularly long string of sandwich-oriented chat, and joke-missing, I think something serious needs to change. An alternative to banter must be born – something more people can excel at. Maybe: how many US breakfast cereals you can name in 10 seconds.

Until that becomes the norm here are some ground rules to improve matters:

1. No mention of food consumed that day unless it is hilariously in excess or ridiculous. You could say: “I ate four pigs for lunch and now look identical to one” or “I think I might eat a salad made exclusively of sprouting beans”

2. Do not write emails without questions, thereby making the recipient debase themselves by having to do all the work to respond. Must they cleave to your reference to those 6 unplanned beers the night before?

3. Get on with it- do you want to meet or not? Banter is boring very quickly when pointless. Unless, of course, it’s witty. But see above

4. Your night is boring. Your hangover is boring. Anything to do with your WILD AND CRAZY NIGHT OUT is BORING

5. Ask questions, but not crap ones. Not: “How is your day?” when it’s 11:01AM and you’ve met once. Ask: “On a scale from one to ten, how excited are you for lunch?”

Signing off now, to go get a sandwich. I could really murder a sandwich. I’m so hungry. That hangover….

Q: Every time I meet a guy I like, it always develops into friendship and nothing more. What am I doing wrong?

February 5, 2011

A: Ah ha. The curse of the friending stick. You’ve got the stick and you keep hitting people over the head with it. Why?

Well, the answer is probably because you see yourself as “the friend”. You don’t want to be the friend, but it’s happened before and now it’s your “story”. The less you want to be “the friend”, the more you find yourself being the friend. This is because you’ve bought into a narrative of “why do bad things happen to good people?”

Start seeing yourself as a sexual being – someone who a man would be smart and lucky to lust after – and things will change. That is a long-term goal. Here are a few things you can do to improve things in the short term.

1. Don’t act like a friend if you don’t want to be a friend. Act like a stranger – to start off with. That is: no references to relationships, nothing too matey (ie, “Men are awful! Men are bastards!” or “So, pal, what’s YOUR romantic situation like?”).

2. Limit information you reveal about yourself. Even if you think you’re the most fascinating person in the world because of X, Y, Z, don’t come out with it. Let it be discovered. Then you get to say: “oh yeah, I DO have a phD in nuclear physics, now that you mention it.”

3. Don’t apologise for yourself. The most unsexy thing you can possibly do is be self-deprecating. This can manifest itself in everything from wearing no makeup and baggy clothes because you don’t think there’s any point in wearing something else (rather than because it’s your look, motherfucker), to talking about all your failures – academically, socially and crucially, romantically.

4. Wear lots of eye-makeup, get your tits out or whatever it takes to make sure you look hot. A good test is if randoms on the Tube ogle you/almost fall onto the tracks at the sight of you. If YOU think you look hot, and randoms on the Tube think you look hot, there’s a far higher chance of HIM thinking you look hot.

5. Restrict the communication you have after your meeting. If you get along very well, that could be the glimmer of romantic spark. Don’t kill it by being in his inbox all the time. Don’t arrange group meetings – after a period of good banter – arrange a single meeting where you have the chance to look smoking.

6. Get drunk together. The rest often follows, if the previous five rules are observed. Good luck!

The Single Person’s Catch-22

February 5, 2011

Sometimes the sofa is so tempting. But when you're single, can it ever be guilt-free?

It’s Wednesday night. You’re tired,  just not in the mood for other people. The idea of your sofa, your book, your TV and the stop by Waitrose on the way home (where you can treat yourself to packs of tropical fruit – yum!) is so appealing. And yet there’s a party. There will be booze and “opportunities”. Which do you choose?

If you’re single and the type that gets neurotic about those opportunities, the choice hardly matters. What matters is the inevitable, disproportionate period of angst and debate about what you “should” do. On one hand: home is always nice. On the other, you won’t meet anyone at home.

The two big conflicting arguments in singletude today are these. One: “do what YOU want and the rest will follow” . This means: going home, eating tropical fruit and being peaceful whether by reading or by watching junk TV, which will help solidify your inner core and thus make you more “grounded” and thus a better proposition for a relationship and more attractive to boot. The other one is: “TAKE STEPS! The knight in shining armour is NOT going to appear. So get out there, get online, go go go”.

Reconciling the two is every singleton’s constant nightmare. And by the time you’ve agonised about it, there IS no right decision. Go home and you won’t be able to concentrate for fear of missing out. Go out and – while caught in a “so what do you do?” spiral of chat – images of your sofa and that packet of pineapple will keep flashing in your head.

Worse, going out when you felt like going home (or thought you might have felt like going home) puts the millstone of expectation round your neck. Fail to meet anyone, kiss anyone, get anyone’s number and the evening feels like  failure. Yet expectation gives you a distinct whiff of…something repellent.

To try or not to try – that is the damn question.

Why those old fatties at Sky Sports are irrelevant

January 25, 2011

The gurning face of football: these idiots know not what they do

As repellent as it is to learn of Gray’s and Keys’ recording, sacking the two old fatties responsible for the comments is hardly the solution.

The problem, unfortunately, goes far deeper than a couple of off-the-record comments that, I’m fairly sure, most men would snigger at in agreement if given the chance.

Just look at the contrast between the amount of time in which women were utterly deprived of rights or life at all outside the home (millennia) and that in which they’ve technically been able to participate in the world as they choose (a few decades) and you see why some men of limited intelligence are struggling to keep up.

If you were to sack all the men who make crude, offensive and downright stupid comments off the record about women, you’d have a big job on your hands and – unfortunately the way things stand – a big hole in the economy. The solution is not to sack two idiots for talking among themselves. It is to force, if teaching won’t do the job, society’s numerous sexist relics to get over the fact that women are not stupider nor less capable than them. Not because we care what they think, mind, but so that they don’t stand in our way. To do this we must encourage and reward more Hilary Clintons, Condelezza Rices, Karren Bradys and Sian Masseys. Shun housewifery and get out there ladies: the fight’s not over.

Finally, football is overwhelmingly still a man’s game. Playing aside, devotion to it requires a degree of bone-headed, slathering animalism that most women aren’t drawn to. It’s one of the last places men can be relatively free of women and as atavistic as they want. Massey and Brady aren’t enough: there are far too few women in the game for their presence to be normal. Until it is – or until the Grays and Keys of the world get new brains – there are deeper feminist issues to address than a couple of predictable comments about chicks in football. (A version of this article was also printed in City AM).

What’s the best way to pick up a good-looking stranger in a non-conventional place – the bus, the grocery store, etc?

January 23, 2011

Do airplanes count? I demanded an exchange of email addresses with the hot Lebanese man I sat next to on a flight from London to Boston in the summer. Otherwise, though I have an extremely active imagination and almost anywhere provides it with fuel…not really.

How do you approach someone you think is good looking in a bar? Or do you even approach?

January 23, 2011

Sure you can approach. Normally I’d say that if you’re the one going after the man, not vice versa, it probably won’t end too well. But in this case he may simply not have seen you. That said, marching up to a guy and offering your shiniest pickup line will present you as Strong, Confident, possibly Sexually Predatory Woman, which appears to “scare” some men. (A lot of guys like it, mind.)

The best of both worlds, then, is to give them the eye, which lures them over to you or inspires them to talk to you when you happen to move in next to them at the bar to ask for a drink. The eye takes nerve, of course. The last thing you want is to give them a mad, hungry, come-and-get-it stare. You want a sweet but intent look. You want to make sure you catch their eye, then look away. You build up rapport this way and talking to them will stop being scary because you will already have lusty water under the bridge.