In high school I was one of the only one of my friends who had never had a boyfriend. I didn’t “flirt” with guys or ask guys out, in fact I wouldn’t even mention to my friends if I liked anyone. I was in a committed relationship with my GCSE coursework, and no boy, no matter how wonderful, was going to break us apart and leave me crying amidst the ‘F’ grades. ‘Me and ______ went on a date to Mcdonalds,’ they’d say. ‘Me and super hot science revision guide had a pretty nice date on my bed. I struggled for a while, but he helped me get everything right in the end,’ I’d reply. But even with my lack of experience dating anything off of the exam syllabus, my friends would still come to me for relationship advice. And I still cannot fathom why.
Asking a person without any dating experience for relationship advice is like asking a tourist to instantly show you round your own town. It’s ridiculous and probably won’t end successfully. No, people without dating experience don’t know what it’s like to have their heart broken. The nearest they’ve got is when Romeo and Juliet died at the end. No, they cannot tell you that they think you’re moving too fast in your relationship. They got to Chapter Four of their dance theory book last night and that rolling around the bed to get something going was pushing them too far out of their comfort zone. No, they can’t tell you how you should instigate the next move. The only move they’ve made was marking the ink on a textbook, and they were panicking over that. You probably shouldn’t ask for the advice if you want someone who can relate to your problems. Unless you want a conversation that involves this: ‘Yes, I understand that you think it might be too early for second base, but he’s ready and it might be fun. My textbook flipped to page 204 last night and I just went wild and went with it.’ No, you probably shouldn’t ask.
Relationship talks with my friends never went overly well. They weren’t dramatically disastrous but they certainly weren’t the best of conversations. In the beginning they involved loved-up friends asking for help and me reeling off quotes from the teen magazines I bought, and buttering them up with clichés. ‘Yes, he touched your arm. That must mean he likes you,’ My magazine would talk through me. ‘You only live once, go for it,’ the clichés would say. It worked initially, but then friends got deeper into relationships and love became involved. And complications worked there way into their lives.
That’s when new questions came up. Serious ones. Questions about whether they should stay with whatshisname because he was being a complete total arsehole. Miserable whining over what he’d done to them. Potentially life-changing decisions that they needed to make. Unfortunately they’d chose to ask the person who’d never been in love, a person who would see the situation as completely black and white. ‘He’s a bastard, dump him,’ was the basic gist of my advice. Just imagine me shouting a range of abusive words at my friends, not stopping to consider the love side of things. I never thought about the soppy bullshit of their hearts being attached to said bastards. I just put together a string of expletives and sat there as hard as stone, taking none of the feelings nonsense into account. I probably wasn’t helpful. I could only have been considered helpful if I’d have made the abuse more interesting – using song or interpretive dance. But I didn’t.
A couple of years later, and still in the deep dark pit of singledom, I began taking these advice conversations less seriously. I had taken the ‘whatever’ approach to all my friends’ flowering love lives and began to take up residence in the house of the ridiculous. If they still thought my long subscription to the single life meant that I was good at relationship advice I would prove that I wasn’t. I wouldn’t take their lovely happy relationship advice conversations seriously. If they thought I’d become a mechanic of love without ever seeing the car I would show them that they’d thought wrong. I would prove that I had been the wrong person to ask all along.
It happened in the cinema. My friend was sat between me and the guy she liked. The Hangover was playing. I was sharing a big tub of popcorn with my single self. My friend leant over to me and whispered, ‘I want to make a move.’ ‘Then make a move,’ was my no nonsense advice-less prompt. But she couldn’t take my answer. She wanted some real advice, and she wasn’t going to go without it. ‘I dunno what to do,’ she said forcing me into my usual role. This was it. My time to put my lack of experience aside and tell her something pointless like ‘touch his arm’ or ‘stare deep into his eyes’. It was my time to shine as a good friend. So, what did I do? I gave her the best advice she’d ever heard. The best advice anyone had ever heard.
‘Ask him if cows turn him on,’ I said.
Needless to say she didn’t use this information. She may have laughed, but she didn’t follow my advice and ask him. I never got to find out whether he had a thing for cattle. And she wasn’t quick to run to me for advice again.
They are not together now. Maybe if she had listened to my advice they still would be. I’d like to think so.