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Awkward Chit-Chat

More than once lately, I have been making small talk with someone I’ve just met — usually a guy, usually one that’s interesting in some way — and he'll ask if I have a boyfriend, which is easy enough to answer. (No, in case you think I’ve had a mystery man stashed away somewhere. It's been a while.) But then there's a follow-up: "Why not?"

Seriously? What the fuck kind of a question is that to ask someone? I suppose it would be simple enough to answer if I’d made a conscious decision, and I could say something to the effect of "I reject heteronormative coupling because I find it politically and socially oppressive." Really, though, there's not an answer. If there were a clear reason, then it would probably one that I could address in some fashion.

In my head, I quickly run down a list of reasons, and realize that any or all of them would be dreary conversation-killers, and expose slightly more bitterness and less self-confidence than I prefer to reveal in casual conversation:

  • Perhaps you should ask the small handful of guys I’ve really, really been hung up on this past year who have sweetly, politely, and very firmly indicated their lack of interest.

  • Guys that hit on me that I really get along with tend to have boyfriends already. Bless them for being upfront about it, and I guess it's flattering that I’m like catnip for couples in open relationships, but seriously: that’s just being greedy. (Note: these guys also tend to ask why I don't have a boyfriend, even though they are hogging precious resources.)

  • HIV panic? When this one has come up, I can't really blame a guy for not wanting to put himself in that situation, and to be fair it tends to come up long before any serious feelings are involved. It sure stings a lot, though.

  • I’m kinda short, scrawny, hurtling towards 40, poor, and average looking? (While I have particularly bleak moments where I moan about all this, I don't actually think it's true. Well, it all is, but I usually acknowledge that I’m not so bad.)

For the first couple of years I lived here, there were easy answers that circumvented all those issues. At first, I did have a boyfriend, but he lived in America. Athough that gave way to the reality of never seeing one another, I was still living like a hermit because I was a full-time student — in Reading — and generally too poor and busy to get out much. Once I moved to London, it was really just that I was new in town and didn't know many people.

So what's the story now? Who knows. The reality, of course, is always going to be subtler and drearier than any snappy answer could be. There will always be someone else who's hotter, smarter, more interesting, younger, or whatever around, beside whom I will pale by comparison. that’s true for just about everyone in a big city, though, isn't it? People just don't always click, even when it works on paper. That goes both ways: I’ve had to admit to some very lovely guys that it just wasn't working, just like I’ve been told the same. Man, though: it hurts like hell when you think you're onto something and it seems like you never even get a chance to give it a whirl.

I’ve lived here almost three years at this point, and the loneliness is wearing on me. Granted, I know a lot of magnificent people here now, but you can't make old friends, as they say, and I haven't gotten as close to anyone as I’d like. And that’s the thing, when you get down to it. I’m not looking for a boyfriend. That is, I’m not distressed that there's a boyfriend box that hasn't been ticked, because it probably would be simple enough to just find someone who'd stick around if I that was my only concern. Rather, I’m more troubled that things keep going nowhere on the rare occasions when I stumble across someone who I like being around, who has all these things that really align with or complement my admittedly eccentric interests. In fact, I have a tendency to become good friends with guys I’m really attracted to, since the things that turn me on go so far beyond just looks.

That leaves me with a grim question that tends to undermine what has been otherwise a growing sense of self-confidence: what is the fucking problem, anyway?

[NB: that’s a rhetorical question, and I probably don't want to hear the answer to it, if you have one.]

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