Interventions are never pretty. Even when they involve a beautiful Faghag, a Zayn Malik lookalike and a twink. The scenario goes a little something like this. It’s Sunday. You’re in your natural habitat; lounging in your oversized Britney tshirt and silky pajama bottoms, listening to The Best of Donna Summer, whilst two loving gay men nurse you back to sobriety. The dregs of last night’s mascara remain stubbornly fixed to your bottom lashes clouding your eyes - and indeed - your judgement. You attempt to lift your head from the pillow but a wave of nausea gets the better of you. The conversation abruptly turns to your love life. A topic never favoured by the perpetual singleton but one that seems to have more comebacks than Madonna.
"You're the only woman I know, who goes to a party and gets the numbers of more gay men than have even attended."
"And don’t go thinking I’m jealous. Because I’m not. I’m just thinking of you."
He was jealous.
"You need an intervention." This was the gospel according to Jamaal.
You casually reach for the Berocca balanced precariously on the edge of your dressing table and take a sip, showing you’re completely chill and nonchalant about the whole thing. Your mind, however, goes into overdrive, riffing through a catalogue of suppressed romantic encounters - most of them brief - involving you and the finest calabre of singletons London has to offer. Cue memory of your last conquest: Louis.
It’s fair to say that Louis was an amicable soul. The type of guy who didn’t offend but didn’t delight either. You’d met by the accessible loo on a southbound Virgin Trains East Coast service just outside of Stevenage; on account of you opening the automatic door and nearly exposing him to half of Carriage E. He allegedly ‘saw the funny side’ and you’d reminisced about public transport mishaps until you’d reached Kings Cross. Upon arrival, he asked you out for a ‘drink’ which you’d willingly accepted and proceeded to move to ‘a more central location’ - absentmindedly jumping on the northern line without so much as a second thought.
Then, just as you approached the platform at Tottenham Court Road, he’d asked if you knew any good bars in... Soho. This was only going to end badly... So you'd desperately racked your brains trying to think of a destination that did not require a lap dance on entry, an annual income of over £100k and importantly, was not gay. (You're not the type to stand on the pavement outside a pub nursing a tepid pint and balancing a roll up between palms of fingerless gloves. You're not currently partaking in an undergraduate course at RADA and your hair certainly can't handle the drizzle.)
Throwing caution to the wind, you'd plumped for an unassuming hovel that wouldn't look out of place in a former Soviet Satellite with aggressive strip lighting, quirky cocktails (luminous concoctions that looked like the special ingredient was a highlighter) and a soundtrack that sounds like it came free with the Nokia 3410. You'd tried your best to keep an open mind but when the poor man uttered, 'Well, this is nice’ as his introductory line, any ounce of hope you'd held quickly died. Far too easily pleased for your liking - or just too British.
Cut back to the boudoir. There’s a knock at the door. It’s David.
"I’m getting Deliveroo. Do you want anything?"
We shake our heads. He comes through anyway, adding his two cents.
"You’re too difficult to please."
"It’s called having standards."
"I keep telling her to download Tinder or Hinge."
"Melanie met Steven on Hinge and now they’re honeymooning in Seychelles."
"See. That could be you!"
"What happened to Liam, anyway? He was nice." Trust David to remember Liam.
Liam was a man with promise the type of guy who gives up his Friday to take you to a West End musical and meets you outside the theatre, having already collected the tickets, with a copy of The New Yorker tucked under his arm and a breezy smile. Everything is going well - until he spoils the whole thing by fondly referring to Patti Lupone as 'that old woman' in the interval. A comment which sends you reeling and a statement from which he'll never be able to recover. You spend act two in a 'huff' at the audacity of someone buying tickets in the stalls - yet with no appreciation of the Broadway legendary standing in front of him. You say your goodbyes and meet up with the man sitting in seat A15 who you bonded with when buying your souvenir programme. He thought she was the best Rose too. It was the start of a beautiful friendship...
Oh god. They were right. It was time.
"I just hate the fact that people know I’m on there," I protest.
"They only know if they’re on there too," chimes David, with the logical reasoning of a serial-app dater.
"Besides, everyone does it." And so with a wave of a finger and a visit to the App Store your destiny awaits. Decision by committee rules as the three of you huddle round your phone swiping through an array of gypsies, tramps and thieves until you land on The One.
"He’s bloody gorgeous! Like if Calvin Harris and Bradley Cooper had a love child and Jessica Biel was their donor."
"It’s not all about looks," I instinctively remind them.
"Yes, it is," retorts David. "It’s like window shopping before entering the store and being leapt on by an overly keen sales assistant with ill fitting jeans and hali..." He had a point.
"True… Can we at least read his interests?"
"'Go to Karaoke Song… So Emotional. Crying emoji.’ What more do you want? He likes Whitney!"
"And he’s definitely straight?"
"Maybe he’s bi."
"See, I always said you should date a bi-sexual."
"Ah, he’s wearing New Balances there…" Jamaal points to picture 3. Definitely straight.
After the initial ‘Hey’, you reluctantly hand your phone over to David.
"You’re free next Friday, right…? Good."
Friday rolls around and you’re a ball of nerves. You arrive ten minutes early, walk past the restaurant to assess if he’s already arrived and do a loop of the neighbouring estate. A move which means you end up arriving ten minutes late, slightly clammy, with your lipstick having morphed into lip liner. You take a breath and glide in, pretending not to see him on first glance - all part of an overly choreographed ploy to add a bit of je ne sais quoi to your entrance and ensure you appear chill... You sit down. He was rather attractive. Conversation flows as does the wine. He’s funny, he’s smart - and he works in PR (common ground)!
It was going brilliantly. Better than the time you thought you'd met The One in the form of the maitre d' at your company's Christmas do. Yes, this was the Christmas party where you decided to get up during the main course and do a turn in which you belted out I am what I am from the heights of the bar to the finance department as your team gasped agog and HR tried to compute the fact that they didn't factor this into the risk assessment. Better than your summer romance with Pierre in Eastbourne. Starcrossed lovers. You'd gone to support your friend in his self-devised drag show So Sue Me: The Sue Perkins Monologues - a verbatim piece. Pierre had taken a wrong turning somewhere on the A26. Somewhere near Calais, I imagine...
The meal was up. And with dessert over and the bill paid, you make to leave. You stroll side by side through the cobbles of Shoreditch until you reach the concourse at Liverpool Street. You peep up at the boards and spy that your Overground departs in seven minutes. Perfect. You spin round and look into your amour’s eyes, plucking random fragments of past conversations out of the air to prevent the impending silence from cloaking you both.
"Isn’t it nice weather for this time or year?"
"Yes. Do you have any holiday plans…?"
Quietness suddenly ensues. You inhale deeply, close your eyes and shuffle forwards - seizing the moment. You rise up and move your face to meet his, closer and closer until your lips are practically touching. Then all of a sudden, he sneezes. A cluster of particles travel through the air covering your face in a foreign mist. You gasp but stay glued to the spot for a moment too long and feel a wet mouth against yours. Fearful of the awkwardness that will necessarily follow if you instantly pull away, you remain fixed to the allergy-prone stranger for ten never-ending seconds before quickly backing off.
You turn and briskly walk away saying how you ‘must dash’ and jump towards the barriers. You empty every coat, bag and jean pocket in search for your oyster card. Successfully located, you triumphantly hold it against the yellow pad only to see the two most horrible words in the English language flash up on screen: ‘Seek Assistance’. You attempt another barrier - in case this one is faulty - and are met with the same response. A brain wave hits and you clutch for your phone, hoping Apple Pay will save the day. You’re met with a black screen and an empty battery. You’re left with no choice and scurry to the ticket machines conscious of the fact that Sneezey is keenly watching this whole saga. You finally top up and scuttle back to the ticket barriers.
You get home in an anger, in a rage and announce to the whatsapp group that you’re never going on an app date ever again. A week passes. Monday rolls round. You’re back at work, sat at your desk, re-writing your to-do list on coloured post-its, when you hear your boss come bounding over with a set of less self-assured footsteps in toe.
"And here’s the last person I’d like you to meet, your new line manager!" "Sorry to interrupt, can I introduce you to our new freelancer, Rich?" Your stomach nearly falls through the floor as you automatically extend a hand and repeat your automated spiel about how he can help himself to teas and coffees. Tissues are in the stock room.