Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Travails of a Serial Non-Dater

Since moving to Hong Kong for a change in scene and the promise of reinvention more than a month ago, it seems inevitable that I find myself navigating formerly uncharted waters with my personal relationships.

Yes alas, I’ve fallen into this whole dodgy business of dating.

And boy do I really suck at it. I sleep with these guys on the first date and more often than not, before the first date. I dance outrageously on bartops, flirt with all the waiters, maintain an erotic blog and don’t have any houseplants. I state truthfully that I have not been in a serious relationship for 4 years and don’t intend to start. I am not a Rules Girl by any stretch of the imagination.

But still, they keep coming (and for once, I don’t mean it in the biological sense).

And calling. And leaving meaningful voicemail messages like, “I really would like to meet you for a coffee soon to talk about us.”

I’m still trying to figure out why. Maybe because in Hong Kong, my distinctive firecracker-red passport and appalling Cantonese mark me as a dysfunctional discombobulated expat desperately looking for someone to love as opposed to a languishing local sluggishly looking for someone to share the lease.

Maybe it’s because I stay in Mid-levels in Hong Kong. I swear there are enough young, upwardly mobile, aspirational, attractive people here to put a permanent finger up Cupid’s arse as compared to other districts. Everyone does their hunting here – in fact there is a whole line of bars and restaurants dedicated to encourage this habit – and if one is to snag a special someone, then it is only to be expected that they will move to Singapore a few years later. You know, for the kids.

Or maybe I’ve just had the misfortune to meet men who really like me for my brain, (obviously no one’s told them about the Singapore school system or they wouldn’t still think I’ve got a good one) and not my body. And oh, not to forget, they really dig my personality too.

Whatever the reason, in the short space of a month there have been at least 3 serious contenders for the biggest booby prize of all; Me – in a relationship. And these guys won’t even settle for no-strings-attached sex as a consolation. Believe me, I’ve flogged it but to no avail.

I’m not against relationships or commitment per se, I’m just not ready to do it yet. And I’d rather not make some half-hearted attempt to commit to the next available guy, fight constantly, cheat on him with his maid’s uncle and then generate enough bad karma to come back as a flu-ridden chicken in my next life.

I have many fulfilling interactions with people that don’t include sex and for now that works for me. Sometimes I am emotionally intimate with the men that I shag and we end up becoming good friends i.e. we keep in touch even after we stop having sex. But none of these relationships have included me meeting Mum or signing up to cook dinner on a non-negotiable basis.

All my supposedly older, wiser friends who don’t buy apartments for their mistresses say that when I meet the right person or when I’m ready to settle down, I’ll Know with a capital K. Well so far, I haven’t discerned any sort of knee-knocking, orchestra-playing, swine-soaring moment of enlightenment in my life.

So all I Know with a capital K is that I’ve checked my biological clock and it says 6 a.m. (It’s said that for the past few years so maybe it’s broken or something. Heh.)

Which leaves me stranded on Square 1; going through the awkward and elaborate motions of dating.

I’ve been happy to ‘non-date’ for the past 4 years. ‘Non-dating’ basically means hanging out, chatting and enjoying the company of men that I also happen to be shagging. The rules are simple. Free sex, intelligent conversation and a few good laughs in exchange for the following:

1. You do NOT think I am the perfect woman and that you are sooo lucky to have met me.

2. You do NOT think that I will make a great girlfriend/wife/mother someday and that you are the only person that can tame my spirit.

3. You do NOT spend time looking deep into my eyes and dreamily contemplating what to name our children.

Dating on the other hand, involves all of those things. And so far, I have found it to be a game of sophisticated interactions where I feel duty-bound to persuade these hapless men that I am not The One (in not so many words) and really, I am not as sweet and innocent as I look. Whilst they feel honour- or ego-bound to prove otherwise.

It is an intricate dance where every little gesture (drinks vs. dinner, weeknight vs. weekend, roses vs. lilies, how many times you call vs. how many times I call etc.) takes on a much larger significance under the magnifier of unmet expectation and barely-suppressed emotion.

Some girls love the drama and dissimulation. But I find it tiresome. It just seems awfully expensive (for you) and futile (for me). Honestly, if you’re not the Armani-wearing, Sartre-spouting, Ducati-riding hellion of my dreams, then all the fancy dinners and concert tickets in the world will not suddenly transform you into that person.

(Of course now that I’ve written this, the love of my life will undoubtedly end up being some bespectacled beancounter wearing a hippie bandanna. Life is cruel and uncooperative like that, sometimes. And you, dear readers, will have the last laugh.)

So save yourself a few noble declarations. And me a few heartless rejections. I’m happy doing what I do, and I just don’t do boyfriends.

Now can’t we all just have a few gratuitous shags and get along?