The youngest freak I’ve dated was 31, whilst the oldest was 50. Dating only mature freaks means that I’ll never be Juliet: a young rebellious lover, star-crossed and doomed.
It also means that I’ll never be a freak’s first date, first love, first long-term relationship, as they’ve all been there and done that. No, I’ll never be a freak’s first anything – unless it’s his first weirdo redhead he met online. I accept this, though. It’s the price you pay when you have a taste for the older man: at school you only fancied the teachers and, growing up, you only fancied Jeremy Paxman. I accept it, but what I can’t accept is recycled emotion.
Shug had taken me to Blackpool for the weekend - after I apologised, by text, for calling him that nickname. We were on the North Pier eating hot doughnuts and watching the sun go down.
I knew I was comfortable with Shug as I was devouring the doughnuts and had clumps of warm sugar on my chin. So what? I can always measure how relaxed I am with a new beau by how I respond to food around them. I flinch when offered dinner on a second, or even third date. Too soon! I won’t be able to do it justice. I’ll be picking at it delicately, and ordering things based on how likely they are to end up in my décolletage. I won’t be able to declare ‘Steak pie with mash! Chuffin’ hell, yes!’ But anyway, I was loving these hot doughnuts and tossing crumbled pieces to the seagulls.
‘Enjoying that?’ asked Shug.
‘Mmmmrmmmfffrmm’ I said.
‘You know, I’ve got something for you. A wee present.’
My eyes lit up. If there’s anything I love it’s being given presents whilst stuffing my face in Blackpool.
Shug slipped his hand into his inside pocket and brought out a black velvet pouch. He deposited it in my sugary palm and looked out to sea.
I untied the pouch and tipped its contents into my hand. A ring. Shug had got me a ring? Oh dear. It’s the first time a man has ever bought me a ring, unless we count those fizzy jelly rings you get in Haribo packets. I’ve had tons of them. Well, a ring. I assume it’s not that kind of ring. We’ve only been dating for about six weeks. Oh dear. Which finger do I put it on? I can’t tell right from left anyway. Or maybe he puts it on for me? I don’t know. Oh, I wish I wasn’t covered in sugar.
Shug lifted it out of my palm and slid it onto my finger (not that finger). ‘I made it in my silversmith class and thought you’d like it.’
Then the moment shattered when the ring stuck. It wouldn’t budge past my stupid fat knuckle.
‘Oh it doesn’t fit!’ I wailed, so miffed that this lovely moment had been ruined.
Shug took my sugary hand and kissed it. ‘Doesn’t matter. I’ve got a bucket of them at home.’
The sunset suddenly lost its rich golden hue.
‘A bucket of them?’
‘Aye, I make loads. Practice it in the class. I’ll bring you another one.’
So, there we are. A beautiful gesture shrivelled to nothing because he had a bucket of rings in his spare bedroom. Does that lessen the gesture? The man had taken me to Blackpool and presented me with hand-made jewellery, so why did the moment suddenly lose all its sparkle? Was it because I pictured him rolling up his sleeve and fishing in his lucky Bucket O’ Rings to find one to present to his latest burd? How many other women….no! Stop that.
The gesture is still a charming one, even if it’s been done before.
It reminded me, with a bit of a sting, of a similar ‘recycled emotion’ I’d had from Terry Boy. We were engaged and he gave me a tape (this was back in 2001 when we still had quaint things like tapes) saying he’d recorded his favourite love songs on it, but the very first one was the song he wanted at our wedding. God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. I cried – when I was sure he wasn’t looking.
The lyrics to God Only Knows just racked me and I couldn’t believe he had given me such a beautiful thing. Then – well, you know what I’m going to say next – I found out that he’d been engaged to his ex (her with the name I couldn’t utter) and had actually made that tape for her! But – hey – the songs still have the same meaning! They still apply to how he feels for me! He still wants it as our wedding dance!
God only knows how hurt and angry it made me! I was a petulant 21-year old student at the time, cutting about Glasgow in pink suede Kickers and crimped hair. So, maybe I was too young and silly to appreciate that, although the tape was a ‘recycled’ one, the emotion behind it was genuine. But no, I ripped the tape out of the cassette and hurled it on the floor in shiny brown ribbons.
I’m 31 now, and slightly more mature, so I didn’t throw Shug’s ring off the North Pier. I thanked him, said I looked forward to the new ring, and dipped into my paper bag for more doughnuts.
As I chowed down I realised that there’s nothing new under the sun and so a man can be forgiven for making the same old romantic gestures that’s he made before and that, for as long as I date older freaks, I will never be the first one he tries his gestures out on. I need to expect my freaks to have a history and to have dished out rings and tapes to other women. But maybe – just maybe - I’ll meet a freak one day to whom I am, to paraphrase the Walrus of Love, his first, his last, his everything.