*This is a creative piece of writing from the vivid depths of my imagination, character traits are accentuated and anecdotes embellished in order to make it more palatable for the audience.
A few months ago a close, at times judgemental friend of mine labelled me ‘shallow’ for rejecting the advances of a female suitor who I wasn’t physically attracted to.
In some ways his objections served as a mirror to his own insecurities; he’d dated a girl for a while before one day deciding he wasn’t actually that into her and abruptly calling time on their short-lived romantic liaison.
He was persistent and unflinching in his opinion, but he was also naive, as are so many who are cradled by the Isle of Wight’s blinkered borders. There’s an important distinction in the gaps between ‘shallow’ and ‘logical’, just as there is in those sandwiched by black and white or acid and alkali.
I had initially been drawn to the back of her, gazing from afar as she stood by a dusty typewriter, trying to think of something witty to tap onto the paper for a piece of performance art, but as time lapsed and we accrued more hours in each others’ company at all manner of destinations, I came to realise that the attraction was heavily weighted on one side and that although I enjoyed hanging out in small doses, our union wasn’t destined for a portrayal on the big screen any time soon; more ‘Blind Panic’ than Titanic.
My friend enquired over the reasons for the parting of ways, I told him the truth – I wasn’t attracted to her as a person in a romantic sense, at which point he dropped the ‘S’ bomb on me, seemingly perturbed rather than jovial.
What he refused to muse upon for a moment was the chapters that had unfolded before the alleged jilting that concluded our courtship. That for every time she rocked up at my workplace unannounced, growing fonder, becoming more porous and allowing my essence to seep deeper into her pores (ok, that sounds more disgusting than I anticipated) my own interest was dwindling.
The first red flags appeared when we went for a walk on a humid, but by no means hot, afternoon, an activity I enjoy as an outdoorsy kinda chap. Within a few minutes she was puffing heavily and sweating profusely, her upper lip drenched in sticky, glistening secretion.
Roughly every ten minutes of walking were followed by an enforced rest for 15, each pause punctuated by her repetitious two word utterance that gradually sapped my vitality: “getting there.” I looked at her, aged 25 and out of shape. I caressed her soggy body and felt bad for her, for us, conceding that unless she was willing to work on this aspect of herself it would become relationship euthanasia via a slow drip.
The logical brain inevitably took over as I became damp from her perspiration, the odour now tickling my gag reflex: “Is she working on that aspect of herself as a young woman who should be able to walk a little bit further?” I pondered. The answer was no, she had already openly stated that she had hated being skinny in the past and thus didn’t exercise in order to avoid losing weight.
She had purchased a push bike, but lost interest in that within the first few weeks. In addition, she had unfortunately suffered from chronic back pain since her teenage years and this was only likely to diminish her physical activity as she got older.
If she was slightly out of shape but mobile it wouldn’t have been an issue. I liked her eyes, they were kind and vulnerable, hidden behind thick lenses. I liked that she became more liberated as we hung out, I liked… I liked her, but this was a gaping chasm that couldn’t be filled with likes, it wasn’t a Facebook status or a video on YouTube, it was our lives.
I was disappointed, she seemed to understand initially, but quite soon decided not to speak to me any more or respond to greetings on social media. I don’t think she could accept my rationale, but it would have been like trying to cram a Jaffa cake into the corner of a jigsaw puzzle to compensate for a missing piece. In the short term I might have filled that gaping hole, but with inevitability maggots and mould were on the way.
Within 48 hours of me articulating to her the feelings that occupied the deepest marshes of my psyche, she announced a new relationship on her Facebook page, my overriding emotion was joy, for her, for him. I knew the guy and he was her corner piece.
To the friend who looked down at my shallowness, I explained that my decision was not “she’s unattractive, thus I will not date her”, I liked this girl, she wasn’t some sort of Barbie doll. She had a good heart and seemed damaged, I wanted to protect her, serve as a catalyst for her to blossom into a confident woman full of vitality.
My decision was based on her inability to do things with me that were pivotal to my existence on this rotating sphere we humans populate. By the same token, I didn’t exactly leap at the prospect of flopping in bed watching Star Wars marathons for 16 hours. Ergo: I was as poor a choice for her as she was for me, she just didn’t realise at the time. That’s the best I can explain it really.
This is all obvious when you think about it. Those who attempt to entirely tear up another person’s blueprint are destined for failure or misery, even if one half of the partnership is now content, the other is effectively a neutered drone.
There is room to enhance each other of course, be it guidance towards meditation, building confidence, or healthier lifestyle choices that are realistic, maybe even just making sure each other brush their teeth twice a day.
In our case we’d have had to compromise too much, and it would have ended up clawing at the fabric of whatever bond we’d built. Her new partner is the Sonny to her Cher, the Jim to her Pam, the Jordan to her… Peter Andre? Ok, maybe that last one isn’t such a great example… And didn’t Sonny used to beat Cher? Ok, so I suck at naming famous couples, but you get the gist.
The freely condemned concept of shallowness that people propagate doesn’t apply without allowing for a caveat or three; far more is visible beneath the waves than on the crest of them after all.
From my perspective it all stems from a deep longing for ‘someone’, not in the sense of a specific being, but rather a void fragment to solve the riddle. Knowing on a painfully visceral level that the current person whom you spend time with and who desires you isn’t fulfilling that craving, being brave/foolhardy enough to walk away. The crossroads of acceptance and liberation.
It’s seeking love, it’s the deepest form of connection, not the shallowest, it’s pure and it’s aspirational… It may also prove lonely and futile, but those are the breaks toots.
To settle, or to seek out that purity of connection? Be with anybody just to have any body wrapped around yours when your head hits the pillow at night, or have faith that a kindred spirit is hacking through the same thicket as you in pursuit of the freedom your presence will bring one another.
I’m far from soulless after all, I’m just not as drunk as most of the other people at the party.