Everywhere I go at the moment I?m confronted by big red hearts-and it?s not because I?m a cardiac surgeon. No, it?s because we?re fast approaching St Valentine?s Day-the patron saint of restaurants and flower shops everywhere. Soon, most men will be guilted into scurrying around paying out extortionate sums of money for bunches of red roses and the type of lingerie that only looks good on drag acts.
So yes, Valentine?s Day does make me quiver, but not with pleasure or anticipation. And it?s not because I was cruelly shunned by the objects of my affection either (well not all the time). Nor was I one of those wild-eyed crazies who sent themselves flowers and cards to the office to try and con the rest of us that they had some kind of ?relationship? going (yeah,try imaginary). No, red hearts and flowers are a painful reminder to me that one Valentine?s Day long ago, I allowed myself to be talked into a blind date with a workmate?s brother. I say blind, but although I had never met the guy, I?d seen him in photos and he looked reasonably attractive. My friend Alison assured me that he was also very funny,intelligent chatty and friendly. In her words he was ?just perfect? for me. Alison lied. Her brother, Jonathan, had just broken up with his girlfriend, and was, if not exactly suicidal, far removed from the hilarious funster I had been led to expect.
That night, there were four of us crammed round the smallest restaurant table in London; Alison and her fiancé, (a monosyllabic dullard with not even one interesting thought rattling around his big empty head), me and Mr Glum. Embarrassingly for me, every time a waiter had to squeeze past our table, my knees were almost massaging his genitals. Not quite the introduction I?d been aiming for, but it was the only thing he didn?t complain about all evening. All around us the walls were festooned with big feather-trimmed hearts and plastic roses, and vomit-inducing love songs were oozing out of an ancient stereo.How could love fail to blossom in such a magical setting?
It wasn?t until she?d dragged me to to the loo that Alison said she felt that she should mention Jonathan?s ?problem? with food. I thought she was going to say he was allergic to shellfish, or God forbid, a vegan. But no. It turned out that he could only eat any food on his plate in alphabetical order! What? Apparently, he?d had this little idiosyncrasy since he was a child and unbelievably (to me) nobody had thought to beat it out of him.
Anyway, it would be appreciated if I didn?t comment on the way he rearranged and ate his meal. Had his parents force-fed him too much Alphabet Spaghetti? Who knows, by this stage I was already looking for the fire escape.
When the waiter came to take our food order I actually had to clamp my hands over my ears like a hyperactive 5 year old high on E numbers, so that I didn?t laugh like a hyena over his menu choices. I was relieved at first to see that he had no alphabetical issues with drinking, so maybe it was all just automatically classed under ?a? for alcohol. He certainly grew more talkative, which was unfortunate because he was one of the dreariest people I?d ever encountered. All he whined on about was his ex-girlfriend, who in my opinion was probably sat at home with a magnum of champagne toasting her own lucky escape. So I could only amuse myself by watching him push piles of food around his plate. He separated everything into neat little groups arranged like the numbers on a clock face, and chowed his way through it in strict alphabetical order, to the accompaniment of LeAnn Rimes squawking ?How Do I Live? in the background. How indeed.
The alcohol had evidently loosened more than his tongue. As he helped himself to more booze, he pushed the table out, flung his leg up onto my lap and asked me to push up his trouser- leg. He?d rashly decided he ?liked? me ( possibly he?d been misled by my unintentional massages) and wanted my opinion on the scars from the metal pins he?d had inserted into his leg following a gruesome motorbike accident a few years previously. Jesus help me, I was torn between wanting to stick a fork in his eye and opening my own jugular. When he briefly left the table, Alison leaned across and confidentially informed me that ?Sandwiches are a minefield for him?. But I?d had enough of them all by now so I told her ?No, a minefield might horribly maim or kill you – what he?s frightened of is biting through a slice of cheese and ham at the same time!? I think my lack of sympathy killed stone dead any plans she may have had for a double wedding right there and then.
Of course all this happened some years ago, but I can still hear her silly voice in my head emphasising that her freaky brother was ?just perfect? for me. So what the hell was it about me that made her think that? I?m still hoping it was just desperation and that she was trying to take advantage of my caring, giving nature… Grrrr….I still hate them!