Gin has had an argument with Jason. We are at Pizza Express. She's sniffling into a red napkin. Often in films you see women crying prettily with one sad tear rolling down their cheek. Gin looks like she's been hit in the face with a brick.
Personally, I think Jason is an idiot. He has one of those Britpop Paul Weller/Oasis mental hospital haircuts that are the 90s equivalent of the mullet, he openly stares at my cleavage when talking to me, he always insists on ordering champagne for "the girls" even though he has no idea what champagne should taste like and he is invariably rude to bar and waiting staff. I would rather chew my own arm off than voluntarily spend time with him. But Gin likes him and now she is upset, so I don't think that analysis of the situation will help in any way.
"I think he's a total knob," says Amanda. "Get shot."
Someone comes to ask what food we want.
"I don't want anything to eat," says Gin. Amanda and I order. Gin bursts into tears again.
Sometimes I think I would like to be with someone. I'm not sure who that would be. And I'm also confused about whether it's something I actually want myself or whether it's something a lot of other people think I should want, like a mortgage, or a pair of Jimmy Choos.
Gin has had four long term relationships (and several affairs, since she's constitutionally incapable of being faithful). Amanda has had dozens and dozens of boyfriends, usually lasting an average of two weeks. I've never known anyone who wanted to be publicly acknowledged as my partner, but I have had five or six nebulous involvements which generally fall under the catch-all title "things" with various people. These generally drag on for a couple of months before getting cancelled due to lack of interest.
I have, however, fallen in love (never with anyone who has been in love with me) and it's a difficult experience. The levels of vulnerability are terrifying. I like to control when and how I connect with people and love takes any element of choice away. It feels like someone else has come along and effortlessly opened you up, prising your dark comfortable little shell apart and letting in the light and the air and the wide open outside world. While this can make you dizzyingly high all it means, in my experience, is you have further to fall when the crash comes.
The problem is, never having really been in one, I'm not entirely sure how romantic relationships between people work. In order to have one, I probably need to change and I'm not sure how. I'm not sure what to do differently. I'm not even sure I could do it differently if I knew how to change.
I do know that (physically speaking) I'm a reasonably attractive woman. People look at me, and they approach me. During the course of our conversation I generally manage to confuse or alienate them even when I'm trying not to, and then they back off and find someone else. I do understand. Personally speaking, I wouldn't want to get involved with me either. Why bother, when there are plenty of women out there who are perfectly normal? Women who are fun and happy? Women who don't have post-traumatic stress disorder, or Matthew, or screaming nightmares, and who can have normal conversations with a beginning and a middle and an end, and who don't watch David Lynch films at 7am?
Not that I'm disparaging any of my own choices. In the end, I made them. Well, apart from Matthew.
I've been celibate for nearly four years. In the sex-obsessed third millennium, where we are all defined by who we fuck and how often, where do I fit in? And, in the great scheme of things, I mean, cosmically speaking, does it even really matter if I never touch anyone again? And, more importantly, how do I get over myself? Is there any way of just discarding your own personality? Stepping out of it, shedding it on the ground?
Later, I articulate some of this to Amanda. “Christ,” she says. “You really are such a classic cult victim. Don’t come crying to me when you’re living in a forest commune with a bunch of glassy-eyed hippies."
"I need to take the red pill," I say.
She brushes her blonde hair out of her eyes and smiles at me.
"Look, I'm not going to give you any sympathy. Not because I don't have it, but because you don't need it. The only thing that's wrong with you is that you think something's wrong with you. That's it. You aren't going to get given a magical solution to your entire life by Laurence Fishburne in a black leather trenchcoat. Attractive as that idea is."
She stretches her arms above her head, yawns, and says: "You'll feel happier if you stop obsessing about being judged by other people and start judging all of them instead. It works for me."