It’s 2008 and I’m stuck in London with a man I don’t love. I’m not sure how I’ve ended up in this situation. We met online, went for a drink and I didn’t really like him an awful lot initially, finding him pompous and irritating. He has nice legs, his clothes are good and he makes me laugh but apart from that there’s nothing much there. I certainly don’t love him.
I’m still not sure how we’ve ended up going out with each other for so long. My mental state is bad at the time following the recent death of my father and I’ve been single for a while. My guards were down. That’s the only explanation I can think of. He’s younger than me (which I hate), very religious (which I hate more), prone to exuberant fits of childish enthusiasm every five minutes and he walks round wearing those horrible plastic Croc shoes. The shoes are the worst thing. We aren’t well suited. He does make me laugh a lot though and is incredibly attentive and nurturing. I need attention and nurturing at this point in my life. I lap that up, for once. My usual state is to reject nurture attempts.
We’ve spent the night in a friend’s flat. His friend is a single woman who can’t find a man. I’ve never met her but on entering the flat I can see why she’s alone. Being me, I comment sardonically on it. There are pin boards full of pictures of her grinning and making faces, positively screaming: “Look at me! I’m crazy!” If her bookshelves and ornaments are anything to judge her by, she’s actually thoroughly ordinary and probably quite dull. It was kind of her to lend us her flat though. I appreciate that, but secretly think she’s insane. I wouldn’t let a stranger sleep in my bed whilst I was away.
There are upwards of 150 soft toys in her bedroom and I understand why she’s not getting any sexual action. No man could maintain a decent erection with that many stuffed bears, cats and dogs watching his every thrust. She will surely stay single for a while. I manage to avoid intimacy too by drinking wine till I pass out.
The next day we see “Cabaret” on stage. I love the production. Its camp, sexy and dark as is possible. I leave feeling uplifted. My partner feels thoroughly depressed by the show and tells me so as we enter the afternoon sunshine. I fail to understand why. Yes, the characters all end up being gassed in a concentration camp at the end but they had fun along the way. Isn’t that just life? You make the best of it then it ends, somehow. He fails to see my point or approve of my philosophy.
He talks about the future as we stroll around London and I desperately try to remain calm. He mentions again that he’d like a partner who was his “soul mate”. He wants someone who shares all his interests, likes everything he likes and is keen to enter a commitment endorsed by the church. He knows my views on marriage but fails to understand that a huge part of my horror is that he’s talking about this after only four months together. I shudder a little.
He’s insistent that I will like his favourite restaurant in London and adamant that I must go there. It’s a sushi restaurant. I protest. I hate sushi. I hate ginger (unless it’s in a cake), soy sauce and all Japanese food I’ve ever tried. He insists there will be a curry on the menu which will suit me.
We’re seated at a refectory table, with ten other people. We’re in the middle of the table with ten strangers. The only thing rawer than the sushi is my nerves. I do not approve of communal dining, however funky the restaurant is. I look through the menu. There is nothing I can eat. Everything contains meat, fish or the banned ingredients: soya sauce or ginger.
He tries to be helpful and points out that there’s a vegetable curry. I point out the fact that in brackets below the description it says “Cooked in chicken stock”. I become disproportionately cross about this. I order an avocado salad with no dressing. It arrives and it’s half an avocado on a lettuce leaf. There’s no cutlery; just chopsticks. I honestly believe that no one really uses chopsticks in Asia. I think they’re an invention to fool pretentious English people into looking more stupid than they already are whilst waiters conceal contemptuous laughter. I also think that there’s this amazing invention (the knife and fork) which has superseded chopsticks. He’s less than impressed when I ask for cutlery.
He eats his raw fish and I nibble at my avocado and we run out of things to say. The only thing I want to say is; “I told you so! I hate Japanese food. Why do you have to try and make me into a satellite of you? I don’t have to like everything you do. That’s not how relationships work for me. I’m not pretending to like stuff to please you” Instead, I say nothing. He also likes opera, heavy classical music and religious iconography. This is doomed to fail.
The bill is £120 and we’ve barely eaten anything and I’m horrified at what a rip off the place is. I voice this. We’ve had to share a table with a load of stick wielding chattering morons and I’ve not eaten enough to give me the energy to walk to the nearest chip shop for sustenance.
We get the train home, ready to limp on for another two months before we finally and thankfully split up. He’s the one who ends it and although I feel hurt and rejected, I’m also relived. I’ve never been in a sushi bar since. I’ve also not listened to classical music, been to the opera or admired religious icons. I don’t intend to either.