At twenty-one years old it feels strange to admit my woeful lack of romantic escapades. Politely putting it I’m a late bloomer, accurately termed I’m socially awkward and emotionally distant, not two qualities the male populace are falling over themselves to find in a girl. I imagine dating me would be like dating a chubby, less-fashionable Annie Hall crossed with Enid from Ghost World. Awkward, occasionally amusing, distrustful of humanity and a shameless product of years of exposure to popular culture. But since I never have dated, we can’t ask anyone. Whenever people ask why I’ve never had a boyfriend they’re probably well meaning (I imagine they mean ‘But you’re not ugly! But you’re nice! You’re not a complete sociopath!’), but it’s a really horrible question that there isn’t an answer to. What am I supposed to say- that my relationship with pizza is too serious for any man to come between us? That my impossible standards brought on by the first time I saw a Paul Rudd film mean I’m going to be single forever? There are probably a thousand reasons I have a more intense relationship with my cats than I do any actual human.
One might be my crippling lack of self-confidence with men, possibly brought on by having a really shitty Dad, possibly a result of being a fat kid who got called a lesbian just about every day by a group of boys in her first two years of high school. I don’t approach boys because I’m absolutely terrified of rejection. I’ve said countless times that I think flirting is a conspiracy that Cosmopolitan magazine started to make me feel even more socially inept. I have spent months pining after guys I have one conversation with because I can’t bear the thought of actually trying to initiate some form of further contact. On the few occasions that a boy has come up to me and started a conversation, my first instinct is to get embarrassed and run and hide and try to forget the whole thing. Of course, the fact that it isn’t charming young gents approaching me, it’s grabby pilled-up weirdoes, probably doesn’t help matters.
For someone with so little experience in the field, I am a hopeless romantic. I know deep down life can’t be like When Harry Met Sally, as wonderful as that would be. So many people say you don’t enter a relationship because you’re in love with someone, that it’s not like a Hollywood romcom, that it’s sort of secondary. If that is true it’s even harder for me to work out how the hell people get into a relationship in the first place. I’m not exaggerating when I say I just don’t understand how the process works. Even though I’m pretty sure I’m overthinking it, hearing the phrases ‘You’ll know when you know’ or ‘You’ll meet someone eventually’ does nothing to alleviate the sad reality of being alone and – not always, but often – lonely.
My year abroad has highlighted to me how little comprehension I have of the matter. I guess in Leeds I spent so much time either in my bedroom or at work I didn’t have much time to process how I felt about the subject of relationships, or maybe I just ignored it, because I’m really good at doing that too. But Berlin is the kind of place where you think anything might be possible, and whilst I’ve been here I have realised a few ambitions and generally feel a thousand times more positive about the future than I did this time last year. I should be grateful for an amazing year in which I’ve made friends who mean the world to me and experienced things I never would have back at home, and I truly am, but perhaps the naïve romantic who’s seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s too many times just thought moving to a foreign country would also mean meeting the love of my life. Or at least one of them. I think I’d even settle for a fling with a forgettable but ultimately well-meaning German boy.
Whatever happened to Kate Nash? She spoke to me on such a spiritual level…
It’s not easy for me to talk about my love life, or its non-existence, and when people ask me about it in person I get cagey and will have to try not to burst into tears. I’m incredibly conscious of the fact by my age most girls have some sort of romantic history. Writing these things down, venting about them on my garish green blog, is cathartic and a lot healthier than eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream and watching every episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
I suppose like all things, self-confidence requires practice, and if I can practice writing an objective review of a Nicolas Cage film until I’ve got it down to a fine art, it’s probably not beyond my grasp to try and put myself out there more. I don’t fear rejection in many other places. I’ve faced more ‘Thanks but no thanks’ from employers more times than I can count and I was only mildly embarrassed when I went bowling and asked for the gutters to be put up only for the manager to scowl and inform me “Those are only for kids” but there’s something about asking a boy out, admitting that you like them and that you hope they like you too, that is altogether more frightening to me.
But until they invent a cure for Bitchy Resting Face (BRF, a very real affliction affecting me and thousands of other young women) and I learn that starting conversations with facts about wildlife probably doesn’t impress other people as much as it impresses me, I can’t really see a light at the end of the terminal singledom tunnel. Occasionally I’ll open up Tinder and half-heartedly swipe at the screen and feel my heart lift a little when there’s a match, but nothing comes of it. It’s like eating sherbet. You feel great for about five minutes then really flat and sorry for yourself.
For the time being I can live vicariously through Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal and try to think of other things. The holy trinity (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling) probably didn’t get where they are by worrying about being weird and single, and at least there’s the chance that my lack of romantic prowess could make for an amusing sitcom premise someday.