Chinese men/women

One of the oddest things I observed in China was the difference between men and women. I arrived with an open mind, ready to observe and absorb as much as I possibly could. One of the first things I noticed was this difference, which at first presented physically – they look different – but afterwards the differences seemed to go further than merely skin deep.

Not long after I arrived in Beijing I had someone explain to me the different ethnic groups of China. By far the largest group was the Han, but there were also the Mongols, from whence many of the Chinese emperors had come. Around the borders there were different ethnicities, and throughout the country many different physical types – the taller, more robust, Mongols, the round faces of those living near the coast, and so on.

Obviously there are great variations then, but by and large Asian women are reasonably attractive, and Chinese women no less. I walked the streets looking about me. As a heterosexual male my eyes were drawn to the women, but I observed also the men going about their business. To my surprise I found the men seemed different from the women, almost made different it appeared. Of course there are every type, but the women were finer boned, delicate, obviously feminine; the men trending towards the portly as they aged, their skin more coarse, their frame stubby. It seems a strange situation where they both come from the same stock that on the one side they can be pretty, and on the other often downright ugly. God knows how many times I saw a 6/7/8 rated woman walking down the street with a 4/5/6 bloke.

It’s not always the case of course. There are good looking Chinese men, and occasionally very good looking men, but there are far fewer in proportion than there are women. A lot of Chinese men start off well, but age far worse that their female counterparts. A lot of that is how they look after and present themselves. In youth there appear many fresh faced guys who look destined to be attractive men. In the many taxis I caught in my travels I would look upon the identity card fixed on the passenger side sun-visor and generally observe there a young man with a smiling face and a full head of hair. Not bad. Turning to my left I would then look upon the same man 10 years on, balding, pot bellied and poised to spit out of the car window. Not good.

Though there is a distinct physical gap, there appears a gap in attitude also. I probably spoke to twice as many Chinese women away than I did men, and before you go and tell me that’s because I’m a randy male the truth is that the women were so much more open to conversation, and so much more curious. I can’t explain it, but in general the women seemed more spirited, and often with a cheeky perspective to share. The men seemed generally uninterested, and turned inward.

How do you explain this? Well, I have theories, some of which I’ll get to later, but the leading idea right now is that the women are more outgoing because they have to deal with Chinese men. Chinese men appear often as sexist, close-minded and bad mannered. It’s not necessarily personal, but cultural. They inherit a philosophy where women come second, and are treated as such – even though many will readily admit that at home the missus rules the roost. In comparison Chinese women see western men as more gentlemanly and considerate, rightly or wrongly. They are open to the possibility then, and curious to discover when western men become available. They cop some bad press for this, but is there really any wonder?

My friend Fong went to China about 18 months ago to teach English. She’s an ABC – Australian born Chinese – and actually had to learn Mandarin again before going there. She is an Australianised Chinese then, with a very modern sensibility. She’s quite assertive, even for a western woman, and outrageously so for an Asian. On her return she described her romantic adventures to me. She’d been with about 14 men while away, and not one of them Chinese. This she explained dismissively – Chinese men were ill mannered and uninteresting, and furthermore she scared most of them. That I could understand – she scares plenty of male caucasians too. To a Chinese man looking for a submissive partner she’d have seemed terrifying.

I found much of this disturbing while I was in China. So many men appeared as chauvinistic oafs with terrible personal habits and insubstantial personality. I found myself stopping so many times to take in the unexpected. Once in Hangzhou I was at the bus station to go to Huangshan. Every transport hub in China has the x-ray machine in which you must place your bags before proceeding. I was approaching this at the same time as a girl of about 16. I gestured for her to go ahead of me, which is how we’ve been brought up, to which she responded with a surprised and delighted smile, so unused to it she was. Fancy that! But before she had a chance to proceed a group of four Chinese men about 20 years old jumped in front of her without a thought, one even unconsciously shouldering her aside. How typical it was.

I know I sound disdainful. Often I was. I remember another time waiting in a queue for a taxi at a railway station. It was a long, but orderly queue. Then, as I’d observed previously, one guy who had joined the queue at the back sidled up to the front and pushed in. Though everyone else was observing the courtesies of the line no-one demurred as he stepped in front of them, except me. I’d seen this maybe 8-10 times before, and each time a bloke. This time I’d had enough. Somewhat futilely I yelled out to him in English, “hey, the line starts back here.” He looked at me uncomprehendingly. Others looked at me too, understanding I think, but unwilling to make a fuss. To them I was just an eccentric gaijin. They were used to this casual rudeness and accepted it.

If no-one ever protests or complains nothing will ever change. By and large Chinese men have it good, and know no better. I remember in Shanghai speaking to a young bartender there. He was a university student by day, and complained with a smile that Chinese universities are no good because all the students play on their PS3 or Xbox all night and barely bother attending class. He also said that when he gets married and has a child he hopes it will be a girl. “Why?” I asked him. Because boys are too expensive. He went on to explain to me how boys are looked after by their parents, and properly set-up when they venture out into the world. “That doesn’t happen with girls?” I asked. “No,” he said, smiling.

Maybe that makes the girls more spirited and self-sufficient, and the boys complacent?

Though I wished it different I struggled to take many Chinese men seriously. Some of that was purely superficial. So many times I would look at them and think they were no bigger than a 15 or 16 year old back home. For the most part I was a good 5-7 inches taller than the average. They seemed like boys to me. And while that seems a trite observation often their maturity seemed to match. It’s often the case that men mature later than women, but in China there were few men under 30 I met who had the gravity of true maturity. They seemed lightweight, when so many women seemed full of interesting substance.

There were exceptions of course. In Beijing I spent an evening at a very cool cocktail bar (Mei) chatting with the owner while he mixed a succession of very interesting cocktails for me. He was urbane, intelligent, obviously ambitious, and very curious. He plied me with questions all night and the conversation zigged and zagged in different directions. In Shanghai I had a similar experience with another cocktail bartender. On the train to Shanghai I met a software developer, and at a restaurant the manager who was full of ideas. They seemed modern men, models for the new China. They were exceptions though. For every man like this I met half a dozen vibrant women. The women are freer I think, without the pressure of expectation and therefore more open to ideas and opportunity, and more curious about what may come.

Am I being harsh? I’ll let you be the judge.

Wikipedia: slight definition: having a slim or delicate build. Wikipedia: slight definition: having a slim or delicate build.

Webs of desire

I had coffee before with Vinnie who was complaining about his lot in life. Now he has some challenges to overcome, but it can’t be that bad I said to him. Look at me mate, I said, shit’s happening and I’m happier than you. That seemed only to confirm his point. My life is so dire that it can only improve it seems, whereas his can, and probably will, get worse. It was interesting perspective: my glass is so empty it can only be filled.

In truth my life is odd these days, and has been for some time. The gods sitting up there in the clouds, or atop Mt Olympus, or lazing on a banana lounge in the Whitsundays, or wherever they are, must have good reasons I guess for the current design of my life. You guys, my readers, would be excused for being oblivious because let’s face it, I leave things out. I don’t give you the full picture and some pretty significant occurrences never see the light of day here. You’d understand my bewilderment if you had the full picture. You’d be up there nudging the gods in the rib cage as if to say how the fuck does that work? I wish I knew.

In any case this mini-rant has been provoked by the sudden surge in popularity in H. Though I was oblivious of it at the time, it seems come last news year eve every woman and her pussycat made the resolution that this year was the year – and quite possibly that H was their man. I’ve never graphed it, but if I did I reckon you’d see a huge spike in interest for H since 2012 has begun. It’s not 4 weeks yet, but I reckon I’ve had about 15 different women in contact with me. Fresh, new women.

Now my life is setup a little like a spider weaves his web. I’ll get regular tremors as the odd woman gets ensnared, at which time I’ll do the right thing and check it out. Clearly I’ve not found the woman of my dreams amongst those caught, but I’ve met many interesting and fun women as a result. This month though – and perhaps it’s the summer? – I’m catching them at a rate of about three times the long term average. Some of them are really nice and interesting, and one or two are near the top of the cuteness scale.

What do I make of this? Ultimately not too much. Like I say, I have a bunch of other things going on in my life that makes this activity very incongruous. I just live my life, I do my thing, I don’t think too much about what might be or what could be and concentrate on what is.

Life will at some point assume it’s more traditional configuration, the glass will – must – fill, if only slowly. And if one of these turn out to be more then I’ll happily go along with that. God knows, I’d happy to be snared in just the right web myself.

Turning points

I went to sleep last night thinking about that girl – let’s call her Eva – I met on Saturday night. I thought a couple of things. I thought she seemed very much my type.

I’ve been with a lot of different women of different types, but it seems to me there are two types I am predominantly drawn to. The first I think of as the Katherine Hepburn type – smart, sassy, a little quirky, a sharp sense of humour and good with words. I’ve never been one for the glamorous types – I can appreciate a Marilyn Monroe say, but she does little for me otherwise. I always used to like watching Katherine Hepburn exchange repartee with the likes of Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy, that whip smart, challenging nature and unconventional good looks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I always found Hepburn sexy. Give me unconventional any day.

The other type is more classic I guess. It’s epitomised I think by a feminine grace. It’s sort of girly in a way, but not dumb, conventional girly, but rather an independent, free-spirited femininity. Generally she is good looking, though often times there is something unusual in the good looks – the obvious has never turned me on. Combine it with intelligence, engagement, and an earthy zest for life and it’s an alluring package.

Like I said yesterday, of all the women I see and know there is just one – plus Eva – who I like, and she, like Eva, is of this second type. We are Facebook friends only and exchange the odd online conversation, but my aspirations don’t go much further than that. I like her, I figure she likes – and appreciates – me, but for now she is all tied up, and that’s that. And so too is Eva I guess, but it seems different.

Funny, as I write this I can see Eva in my mind – a sensual cast to her features, and a prettiness that verges on the beautiful, her eyes soulful, and, though I saw her immaculately groomed, she seems somewhat windswept in my mind. This relates to the second thing I thought last night. I went back in my memory to those very first moments when we looked at each other and so much seemed to happen. She looked at me as if she knew me, as if she expected me to speak to her. She saw me before I saw her I think, and maybe in that glance she saw something I had to catch up with. It was like she was there, waiting, and so when I opened my mouth and began to speak she accepted me, my words, as if already written.

I flirted with her, but found myself reacting to her in a physical way, and not as you might think. I wonder in what seemed our mutual attraction if there was some kind of physical dichotomy at play. She feminine, delicate, beautiful, me tall, masculine, robust. In those moments together I sensed something that afterwards I put together piece by piece in my mind. I wanted to shelter her. I wanted to be her rock. I wanted for her to take my strength and use it for herself. I wanted to be that blunt edge clearing the way for her. As these thoughts built one upon another they took me to a place unusual for me. I had a moment of divine clarity.

Maybe I extrapolate too much: fantasy runs away with me, but I felt as if I might be more with her. Not that I become better or more complete, or any of that nonsense, but rather that as an individual I become more meaningful with her. Meaningful: that was the word, indeed, it was the concept. Here I have this great strength and resolve and it’s lovely, but it benefits little but myself. There is no meaning to life, no purpose as such. What meaning there is we find in ourselves if we’re lucky enough, and only when we understand how to use what we’ve been given. And, perhaps, why.

I have an IQ over 160. I’m glad of it. It makes me good at puzzles and playing cards, and I guess it helps me professionally (though being a smartarse can be counter-productive). Likewise being tall-ish was an advantage when I still played sport. It helps filling out a suit and generally helpful with people’s perceptions. Like my intelligence though it is a singular thing – as other things are. The benefit of these has been to me as an individual. I’ve lived the life, I’ve travelled the world, I’ve done the work, channelling these things into a narrow focus like a beam attached to my head. No regrets, and grateful for all I have, but as the sole the sole beneficiary of these advantages the value has been halved.

Suddenly it occurs to me that I have gifts that I might share. That might be attractive to others. And suddenly I realise that by sharing them they multiply, they become meaningful in a much border context. And I realise in myself without thinking of it that that’s what I want, a surprise to me, that these things might be made so much more, that there are so many more possibilities. And that’s what I want, what I felt in those moments of mysterious connection, those parts of me open up, rouse, and seek the meaning hitherto unknown. And with her.

This is how it works I guess, I give something for her, and she gives something for me. Together is something more, ours, something new made of old and familiar things, and something beyond my imagination before.

No-one extrapolates like me! Maybe that’s what this is all about – me learning something I should have known long before now. In any case, regardless of what happens, I take this encounter as a positive sign of better things to come.

Wikipedia: much definition: great in quantity, amount, extent, or degree.

Old style desire

Was crook yesterday. Picked up a bug coming back from KL I think and have been congested/sneezing/coughing since. The cough is particularly annoying, and yesterday particularly bad. On top of that I had heartburn for most of the day for whatever reason. I took it as an excuse to take it easy. I read the paper, put a DVD on, watched a bit of the footy, took a long bath with a short book. I was due to a farewell party last night and from late in the afternoon I kept wondering at ways I could get out of it. I didn’t really feel up to it, but nor did I really feel as if I could miss it.

About 9 I dressed for the party and left. The streets were quietish, and I was able to get to Fitzroy within 15 minutes, listening to the footy as I went.

It was a farewell party held at Felice, a sort of retro, lo-fi bar just off Smith Street. They stocked Italian beer and the Negroni was the house cocktail. Strung from the ceiling was a model biplane about 4 foot long. It was full, full enough that a small crowd had spilled outside to taste the warmish night and to suck on a ciggie. Inside half were dressed in Fitzroy regulation, the other half was my lot.

I pretty well knew the one person only, the girl who had invited me, the girl who was leaving, and maybe a couple of others to nod at. There was a theme for the party, sort of art-deco-ish noir. Most of the party had dressed to the theme and it was good to see so many suits and hats and old-time frocks like it was a cast meeting from Guys and Dolls. Some looked like bootleggers, or gumshoes, one guy a mafia hitman, the girls society types from the 1940’s or else a bordello madame. I didn’t go to that trouble but wore a vest with a dark shirt, and a jacket that I quickly discarded. I looked more like a card sharp, or maybe a pool shark.

I said my hello’s and bought a mineral water and then returned to watch the tables set-up for rounds of Texas Hold ’em poker, which was the stated entertainment for the night. Most seemed novices, and it was amusing to watch as they learned and came to terms with the complexities of the game. Invited to join in I held back, not yet I told them.

I went back to bar for a real drink, already feeling better. Standing there a girl came and stood at my shoulder. I turned to her as she did me. We just looked at each other and as if it was the most natural thing in the world started talking.

She was a pretty girl with a natural femininity, her lips the shape of a heart. At first glance I thought she might be 30, just, then revised upwards, though not in any negative way. She was dressed for the occasion, which I remarked upon. She wore a lush fur around her neck. Yours? No. Didn’t borrow it from your mum? No, a friend lent it. Do you mind if I touch it? Her eyes settled on me before she answered: go on. I stroked her fur commenting that I bet you get asked that all the time. We continued to speak like that while our drinks were being mixed. I introduced myself, as she did. Our conversation was languid and stylish with a kind of old fashioned wit that went with the period. We parted.

I went back to watch the poker. I chatted to someone and thought about the girl. I liked her. She was my type. I didn’t know how I knew that, but I was pretty sure. I was pretty sure I was her type too. Girls like men who talk. More so if they have something to say and do it with style. And confidence. It had been no great challenge: the words had just flowed to me and I’d nailed it. As much as anything I knew from that she was good for me: the best women draw the best from you.

I’ve flirted with a lot of women over the journey. Most times it’s just for fun. Sometimes there’s a bit more intent than that. Rarely is there any real feeling in it. This time it felt natural. I started off with a smile on my lips, but even as I spoke I wondered if there was something different behind this door. We were strangers, but there was a surprising familiarity. Both of us were intrigued I think, and drawn in some mysterious way to each other, enough to want know more, to follow that tenuous connection.

As I stood there contemplating this and talking to someone else she returned. As she went by me she ran a finger down my arm from elbow to wrist without looking at me. It was a sort of sexy, surreptitious signal of interest. She kept walking as I watched, her tight, long dress shimmering on her toned body. She sat in the corner by a man I had not noticed before. So… I thought. I looked twice to see if they were together or not. He was not what I expected of her. I had hoped for her to be single, but if she was with a man I would have expected him to have a certain presence, if not handsome then at least to possess some charisma. That appeared not to be the case, though appearances deceive. He looked about 20 years older than her, and those years that hadn’t gone by easily. He was my size maybe, solidly built muscle once that had lost it’s spring, his hair grey, a face friendly and inoffensive but showing its age. He was dressed in character, a black suit, a white shirt, a thin tie. They were together clearly, but they seemed an odd couple, like she was out with her uncle. But that was that.

I sat down to play cards. I pondered this. I was disappointed, all my moves cancelled out. Then he joined us at the table. We talked, I made a joke of something and we laughed. He was an amiable character. He called me Mr Big and kept on calling me that for reasons I couldn’t figure out. Then he left the game and I played on.

I ended up playing for an hour or so teaching a woman to play until she had all my chips and most of the rest. I fetched myself a beer thinking I would leave soon. They had gone. What did I make of that? Another ship I thought. I sipped my beer watching the play and thinking, then put the empty bottle down on the window ledge. I left, sharing a big farewell scene with the girl who was leaving and nodding my head to my new acquaintances – all of them pleasant, interesting people. I got in the car and drove. It was about 1am I guess. I got home and looked at the TV screen for a little while and then hit the sack. Another night, good enough.

I woke and had my coffee and felt a kind of distant wistfulness. What could have been. I settled down with my newspaper and wondered if there was anything I could do, or should. When Donna rang I asked her that. “Well, you can,” she said.

I can? Why?”

“Because you do.”

Oh, I thought, as she went on to explain. She spoke with the familiar amusement in her voice she has always when talking about my amorous exploits. Boyfriends are no obstacle she seems to think, when it comes to me and my desires. Nor wives. That’s what you do she said. On reflection I understood, marginally, though did not think it as black and white as that – though perhaps because I’ve never thought of it in those terms. These are puzzles to be resolved to me, desires to be fulfilled, not moral conundrums. Even now, and even though I see many, the one girl I really figure I could be with is with someone else. That’s a condition of our times though, and of my age, and perhaps a commentary on my commitment.

In any case, I’d like to meet this girl again, though don’t know quite how to engineer it. It’s not a big deal. Not a burning desire. Just curiosity, a touch of wonder. Chances are in a fortnight she’ll be a memory. Till then I’ll put my thinking cap on.

The good, the bad and the ugly

I need to settle down. I saw three different women over the weekend. Had drinks at Von Haus and then dessert at the European with the first one Friday night. On Saturday morning I had a dreary cup of coffee with the second. And then on Saturday night I had dinner etc with the third at a local Indian restaurant.

There are none that I would consider to be long term options. Friday was pleasant and quite taken with me, but while I had a nice enough time I didn’t feel the necessary spark. Saturday morning was a drag because we come from different galaxies. Saturday night was an earthy, sexual woman whose company I enjoy, but I can’t see much more than a friendship coming out of it long-term.

To add to the general confusion I was chatting to a very alluring and interesting woman on Friday night before I had to dash off. Another time I would have suggested moving our conversation to a more intimate venue, a suggestion she seemed open to. Typically that was not possible. She’s still around though, so won’t rule it out.

After the activity of the days preceding I had a quiet Sunday. Towards the end of the day I found myself casting back to recent events. I sighed wondering why it was so hard. For a few misguided moments I thought wistfully of the girls who could have been, wondering why I couldn’t make any of them stick and thinking how much easier if I had.

I reflected on a couple of other little things that seemed indicative of something more. Last week I met with a bloke who presumed I was a father. It was not worth correcting him so I let it go, but it troubled me. I felt classified, categorised, pigeon-holed and somehow reduced to that single point of difference – which is really something very common. I was surprised to find how much it offended me. I look forward to being a dad, I expect to love it, but…

Similarly I got talking to this girl at a work function Friday. I sought her out having been put onto her by a mutual friend. We got talking and it was good and more than a platonic chat between colleagues. She knew and I knew and I wondered how that was communicated so simply. I was in the game, she knew it and was receptive to it. Then I went back to my colleagues – the consultants – and they looked at me as if I was their champion and I didn’t like that either.

Man you do things, you bounce around from one thing to another, from one experience to the next, often ricocheting unpredictably like a pinball in a machine. I often figure that my professional life is pretty well plotted out even if it doesn’t often go to plan, but that my personal life is pretty random. In the end I assume, without judgement, that the blame for much of that is me (though in general it seems a male failing).

I wonder how it is that wherever I go and without saying a word everyone knows that I’m in the game. I like to flirt sure, but that’s pretty harmless. Saturday night gave me an unexpected insight into that. I don’t think it’s the whole story, but it might be part of it. She said I was cool, cooler than most and pretty well everyone else my age. I look and act young, I dress pretty hip, have a groovy haircut and cool glasses and have the general attitude and posture of someone confident and in control. Well to be honest I probably would have thought most of that was pretty true, but I had never considered the impression this makes on other people. I guess it brands me, something my sister confirmed yesterday.

That’s not all of it though. I think there is something in the way you look and how you carry yourself, an edge born of curiosity and desire that is somehow communicated whenever there is not anyone to satisfy that.

End of day you are what you are, no matter how you get pigeon-holed. That’s the trick I guess. Can’t change what’s happened and can’t do much more than influence what people think of you. As they say, you just keep on keeping on.

A man without qualities

There are things I want to write, but I don’t know where to start. All the elements are there, swirling around me ripe to be plucked and written of. But which one first, and to what point? I know these things so well, but by collecting them together what is it I am trying to say? I think this will be one of those occasions when I just write and let it out of me and hope by the end I find the sense and reason that led me to write in the first place. To discover the things I knew but did not know until I wrote of them. How often that seems the way.

For the last little while I have been well behaved. A lot has been on my mind in one way or another and so I have been disinclined to complicate things further. At the same time I have been conscious of re-making my life in some way, and was unsure yet what I really I wanted, and where things fit. And to be honest I have not felt the usual desires – or if I did they were more distant, muddied by competing demands on me.

I may pause but the world continues to spin on its axis. Regardless of my inclination I am still subject to external pressures and parties. I move within a society – my society – needing to react and respond to the people in it and to the little events that occur within it; all the while keeping my own counsel. I enter in to this society adopting a variety of personas depending who I am with. Sometimes I am a man of wit and brio, mostly with people I know less well. At other times I am more reserved, more silently strong. Sometimes, with those I am closest to, I am more open, more apt to reveal something of my inner workings – though it is a rare event. In all cases I am pushed and pulled in different directions by the environment around me.

I feel like a character in a novel. It is not something I think often, if at all previously, but of late it seems more true. Being of the literary type this fleeting thought will often bring a small and sardonic smile to my lips. I feel I am in the middle of things, a key character around whom so much revolves, but who despite a proud independence remains at the mercy of events he does not entirely understand. For some reason the novel that actually comes to mind is The Man Without Qualities, by Robert Musil.

Sometimes as part of this I wonder whether I feel all the things that I should feel, as if a part of me is muted. When that happens it is as if I am a character in a novel, at one remove from myself. I am surprised at how casually and easily ruthless I am. It is not so much in what I do, but rather in what I feel – or don’t. It as if there is a part of my subterranean mind that works at these vexed questions while I go about my normal business. Every so often there is delivered to my conscious mind the resolution to these questions, objective, logical and bereft of complicating sentiment. I accept it as it is, a fait accompli, all the associated angst pre-digested and easily swallowed.

Though this process can be used to describe much, I am particularly referring to my dealings with women. What else?

A key part of this life I am looking to design includes the woman I want to share it with. Much in this pretty picture depends upon her existence. The picture is quite clear to me, and though I don’t know who she is, or even what qualities she possesses, I know how and where I want her to fit in. There is nothing sinister in this, I believe very strongly in being equals. I want what I want though, and will never settle for anything less.

Though I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator in recent times there are still many women in my life. I can’t live without them altogether.

Not long ago I caught up with a woman I met briefly before I headed off to Brisbane 4 years ago. We hit it off then in a big way. I liked her; she liked me. It was only that I was moving away that it ended. A month or so ago I heard from her again, inadvertently I guess, but it was enough to re-establish contact. We met for a drink and got on well again. That’s good.

I’ve moved on though. I like her, but I’m a different man to what I was then. I have different needs now. Though I think she is a lot of fun, I doubt I can love her deeply, and know that she will not give me what I want if that picture is to be complete. I’m interested in seeing her again, but already fear that she is becoming wrapped up in me. That’s a nervous feeling most men will be familiar with. I don’t want to lead her on, but I don’t want to lose her either – and so I must navigate a tricky middle way.

There is another, a switched on Chinese girl who thinks I am the bees knees too. I don’t really know yet what I feel for her, but I am happy to persist for now.

Then there are the women long established in my life. I lead my single life and do my bachelor things, my eyes on some far distant prize, while in front of me there are those who would happily join me I think. I have become more aware of this lately, alerted by others whilst knowing it in my own heart. There are two who I see a lot of, who I talk to often and share much of what is important to me. They are women, but I see them as friends. I feel for them in ‘that’ way, yet I think if I turned to either of them and proposed then they would happily agree.

It gives you a strange feeling to know that. They’re at my finger tips. I need only compromise a little and bingo, I’m married to a great girl. Why not then? Because neither are right for me. I don’t feel that edge of excitement that I think is necessary. I will do almost anything for them as friends, but I do not feel that raw desire in my stomach. They are familiar and safe, desired by other men, but for me I hardly even think of them as women. So no, never.

I wrote of Jennie the other day, but in truth all I feel for her is a distant affection. I have no doubt much more could be re-ignited given the opportunity, but equally I know that opportunity will not come. In its place then I wish her happiness knowing I am not to be a part of it. There is some regret, though not so much at how things ended up, but rather about some of the things I did. I did wrong, and would if I could ask forgiveness for that, but know I shall have to live without it.

There are others too, but none that will figure in that part of my life. I’m lucky to have so many women as friends, but at the end of the day it still leaves me here on my own. This is the society I enter into and exit. These are the things I deal with and adjust to day after day. Day after day I am left wondering still, manfully trying to figure things out much like the original man of qualities, Ulrich. And in the midst of all this I wake with a yearning I seek to put down, to ignore, for another not mentioned here and, I’m sure, never to be encountered again.

The Prince and the pea

I went to lunch last week with a former colleague, Ibsa. Amongst the usual chit-chat, the catching up on recent events, gossip and reminiscence about the old office, there were two notable pieces of information he revealed to me.

The first was pretty innocuous, but has a bearing on what I am to write. A couple of weeks ago I caught up with him on a Friday night for a drink or two. In the bar that night were also a few work colleagues – someone was leaving – and the night grew large and raucous. Somewhere in the course of the night, he tells me, one of my colleagues, Shui, spoke to him about me. He admitted he was jealous of me, that he envied how, in his words, all the women want to be with me. I smiled at this as I was told, surprised but not displeased.

The second piece of news was more substantial. Quite casually he spoke of the girl I had liked at the place we had worked together, Amy, the girl I had looked to be with. He told the story as if I already knew it, as if it was common knowledge – but if it was, it wasn’t to me. He mentioned it as if it was understood how the girl had been on the verge of leaving her man for me, had made that mental leap and was preparing to come across. Except in this case she was talked out of it at the last minute by her friends, how can you leave your boyfriend?

Had I been told this a year ago my reaction would have been very different. Today I listened and took it in, surprised once more, stunned almost, so that I did not follow up with the questions I might have, and did not confess that it was news to me. The timing of this news seemed odd. I had not thought of her for ages, yet had found myself dreaming of her a few days before, and she had been on my mind since. Then this. Still, though I was stunned – and maybe a little sad – most of what I felt was distant and remote, as if a long way distant at the far end of a long tunnel.

As always women figure large in my life. There is the other of course, Jen, somewhere over the seas, distant also, but tied to me still, for now, a tenuous link that neither of us yet are willing to completely sever.

Then there are the others. There is the woman who would come to me if I beckoned, who sees in me the perfect man for her, the man she has claimed she will marry one day, as if it is written in the stars. She is always close by, hovering, intelligent, fun enough, interesting in her way, but not right – not for me. No matter what she wishes or how hard that will never be.

And there is another, fascinated by me I think, drawn to me and resisting it sometimes and other times letting it be. She is with someone too, a no-hoper, an ex-dopehead who lumbers around genially but without purpose. He seems such a strange match for an intelligent, strongly-natured woman like her, but perhaps it is easier like that, unthreatening, unchallenging. I am almost the total opposite to him.

And so she clings to me. We lunch, we have drinks, we part late. Ibsa asked what the deal was. No deal mate, I told him. She follows you around he said. I shrugged my shoulders. I enjoy her company. She is irritating sometimes, but interesting too – sometimes I want to make her life better. I look in her eyes and ask what she wants. I wish she were happier and at times I wish I could make it so. I am drawn to her but I also know she is not for me. I think almost inevitably we will end up in the same bed, and if nothing else intervenes, may even be together for a while. But not forever.

There is another falling for me too, I know the signs now. I like her a lot, I respect her, care for her, enjoy her company. It’s hard for me not to linger with her; but I don’t want anything to happen with her. Her boyfriend is a bit of a dick but I am not Mr Fixit. I like her, I’ll be her friend, but I can’t do any more.

There is all this but really, still only the one. Funny how it’s so hard to find that person just right. You can go through a lot, you can like them plenty, but… Like the Princess and the pea if you remember your fairy-tales, or may be Goldilocks. How few there are just right…