Tag Archives: Mr Darcy

The romantic history of a nerdette

7 Jun

There’s no point denying it. I am a nerd of the bookish persuasion. I was one of those conscientious kids, developing scoliosis from carrying around too many books. My taste in literature and music wasn’t quite in step with my peers. My eternal battle with acne and the inability to put together a decent outfit disqualified me from being cool. Luckily I had enough self awareness to realise this and in many ways relinquished myself to it. But in short, I felt I had nothing to say that would interest guys my age.

manMap seeks book nerdsIt was a blessing I went to a single sex school. There was no pressure to impress anyone. I dreamed that one day I’d meet a nerd like myself. I’d glimpse him in a corner somewhere, nose to page hoping to avoid the scorn of the cool girls. I’d psyche myself up, walk over and ask him what he was reading, only to discover it was my favourite book (I knew this was a long shot. I’m yet to meet a man who loves Room with a view the way I do).

It never happened, but I entered my uni years filled with optimism. I was studying writing after all. Surely my classes would be filled with row upon row of nerds like myself. And in one of those rows I might find him. But then I discovered an awful truth. Most of the people in my course were mature-age. The uni had only accepted a handful of school-leavers. And of the few guys, most were either taken, gay or way too cool for me.

After graduating, I hoped work might provide the elusive doorway to the opposite sex. I’ve met some wonderful people working in publishing, people who don’t think I’m slightly odd. But sadly, most of these people are women. And many of them single like me. And so, it was with mixed feeling that I made an important discovery on Friday night. 

The week had been pleasantly smooth: one big job finished at work, a cosy beverage at Grandma’s, delightful dinner with wing-girls at a new noodle bar, productive round of workshopping at my writing group and the purchase of a new book. By Friday evening, I felt like nothing lay between me and a successful round of mapping. But of course, there’s always the danger of A Bad Venue.

First stop: The London, Paddington. Empty and scarily well lit. Second stop: The Royal Hotel. Also empty. Third stop: Durty Nelly’s. Busier but not optimal, an uncomfortable number of women.

Nearing 7pm, I was starting to think the clear winter’s night was going to waste when I found myself at the well-packed Beresford. Always mindful that I run the risk of getting thrown out, I headed to the courtyard and away from the diligent eyes of the bouncers. After surveying every guy who wasn’t obviously gay or on a date, I decided a quick round inside wouldn’t hurt. If I got thrown out, it wouldn’t matter. I already had a healthy bundle of completed surveys in my handbag. Two guys were just settling into a table with their pints as I approached. What happened next will renew your faith in chivalry. I smiled and said hello and one of the guys said, “Oh I’m sorry, did you want this table?” Hurrah, I thought, here sit kind, decent men. Modern Mr Darcys. I asked them if they were single, thinking such nice guys must be firmly attached. But they were both available. Double hurrah! I asked them if they belonged to any social groups which meet regularly. One played tennis. The other spoke words that would make any single nerdette swoon. He was part of a men’s only book group.  

Surveys filled, I hurried off into the night, head filled with images of men sitting on comfy lounges discussing themes and character development. Mecca, I thought, If only I knew where they met.

But then I got cranky (partly because I was hungry). How could the man-nerds of Sydney be so cruel? Since adolescence I’d been searching for men who read. Now they were sectioning themselves off from their female equivalents. Were they afraid we’d force them to read chick lit or emasculate them with tea and iced vovos? I wished I’d ignored my hunger pains and thought to ask the surveyee before I’d left. On behalf of all the nerdettes out there, I’ll try my best to track down the exclusive book groups. They may not let us in, but we can always loiter by the door.

PS. Over 80% of the surveyed guys at the Beresford were single. Worth a visit ladies!

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Outside love

8 Mar

It’s a terrible thing when you feel out of step with someone you love, be it a partner, friend, family member or city. As you may have read in previous posts, since my return from NYC I’ve felt what I best describe as discontent. My life in Sydney just wasn’t doing it for me. Fairly major problem since I’ve invested myself in a massive Sydney-based project. 

There was no particular reason for my mood. I’d only been away for four weeks. Nothing major in my daily life had changed. I had no valid excuse for how I felt, and yet I couldn’t help it. I knew I loved Sydney, but the memories of happiness in Manhattan were making me pine.

Then on Friday, something changed. As I walked through the post-dusk air along Macquarie Street, I realised my restlessness had quietened. I felt a flush of affection for my city which I hadn’t felt in months. By the time I reached the Hyde Park fountain, I realised I’d fallen back in love.

What had changed in those last few hours to shift my feelings? Yes, it’d been a stress-free day at work. Yes, I’d been running on almost a decent night’s sleep. Yes, I knew Saturday was a rare day off in view of Mardi Gras. And yes, I’d just ordered a large pizza from my favourite pizzeria. But it was something more, something entirely Sydney that had drawn me back.

I’d planned to survey in the Rocks on Friday. A few spots there needed revisiting, to ensure my first round of mapping hadn’t been a fluke. Keen to compare the Friday and Saturday night scenes, I jumped on a train and prayed to the Mapping Gods that the straight men of Sydney would be out in force.

But I didn’t make it past Circular Quay. As I got off the train, I looked down at the street below. This is what I saw:

manMap holds the Quay

Ok, my phone camera doesn’t have a zoom (that I can find anyway…) so it’s a little hard to tell, but there are several groups of nice-looking guys drinking at Quay Bar. My prayer had been answered. I decided to ditch the Rocks and embrace my good fortune.

I’d never been to Quay Bar before. I don’t generally socialise in that part of town, unless I’m mapping. But I have to say, I really liked it. It felt like we were hanging out in someone’s back terrace (someone very rich with a harbour view and a well-equipped bar). No loud music, all outdoors, everyone was friendly and relaxed. I couldn’t detect the slightest hint of social pressure, which in the words of Miss Bingley was ‘so refreshing.’ A number of big groups of guys were there, along with mixed groups and some nice but not stuck-up looking girls (bait, ladies, bait!). My surveys were done in no time, with one guy even pulling his work mates over to speak to me. And what’s more, it didn’t feel like hard work, which it sometimes does after a busy week. The guys at Quay Bar were friendly, interesting and funny without being sleazy. In fact, they reminded me a little of the guys in Manhattan.

So as I paused by the fountain in Hyde Park, admiring how attractive my beloved city is, I realised my experience at Quay Bar had won back my love for Sydney. The openness and enthusiasm my surveyees made me remember why I started this project in the first place: we live an amazing city and we all deserve to share it with someone wonderful. NYC is fabulous for a fling, but deep down Sydney is my true love.

The Mr Darcy Syndrome

18 Oct

On Friday night at Round Two of Ryan’s Bar, I met a lovely man. He was an attractive professional, a member of a surf lifesaving club, had a good job and seemed like a decent and kind human being. He was also single. But he said something very disturbing (and no it wasn’t, “Are you in the mood?”). He told me he never speaks to women he doesn’t know.

Now I’m sure some of you are probably thinking, “What kind of man can’t approach a woman?” or “I want someone who’ll take charge and approach me.” Well naturally, we all want that deep down. It means we can be lazy and leave the awkward, scary stuff to the guy. But ladies, in this city, there’s a strong possibility it won’t happen.

There was no reason why Mr Lifesaver couldn’t successfully approach women. After my short conversation with him, I realised I was speaking to a great guy, someone any woman would be happy to get to know. But he doesn’t feel any more comfortable approaching women than the average woman feels approaching men. Any why should he? Lack of confidence keeps him safely in his corner enjoying a drink with his friend. Sound familiar? I think most of us can relate.

This scenario isn’t new. Since the moment Eve plucked that juicy apple from the Tree of Knowledge we’ve been hounded by insecurity. Luckily for Eve, she’d already found her man by then. And while most of us smile at the memory of the “less formally attired” Mr Darcy stumbling upon Lizzie at Pemberley, sometimes we forget that even the most respected, kind-hearted man can feel “ill qualified to recommend [himself] to strangers.”

Later in the evening, when I’d reached my survey quota, a lovely wing-girl came to meet me for a beverage. She’s not a CBDer and was curious about Suit Night. Despite the weather’s drizzly attitude, we positioned ourselves outside at the end of a table, close to open space where men were gathered. As we sat and chatted, two nice, normal looking guys rested their beers on the table near us. They stood there for a while, but we didn’t talk to them and they didn’t talk to us. Eventually they moved away and I realised how ridiculous the scenario was. How have we arrived at the point where we can’t even say hello to someone standing next to us, just because they’re the opposite sex? We talk to bus drivers and shop assistants. We talk to hairdressers and beauticians. We talk to random girls standing next to us in toilet queues who we know we’ll never see again. So why can’t we just say hi to well-dressed, non-psycho looking guys at a bar? Have we lost that much faith not only in ourselves, but also in the people around us? Are we all suffering from Mr Darcy Syndrome?

So here’s my soapbox moment. It’s time to reclaim our faith in fellow Sydneysiders. For our own benefit. We need to believe not only that there are men worth introducing ourselves to, but that we’re women worth meeting. Finding out where the single men socialise is only the first step. The next step is up to the individual.

And so as encouragement, I’ll leave you with this extract from Pride and Prejudice (for those with dirty minds, the instrument referred to is a piano):

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault – because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of superior execution.”

Perhaps it’s time to practise.

The love-barrier

20 Sep

An alarming number of single women among my social group (myself included) suffer from a chronic condition. We constantly complain about the symptoms: fatigue, anxiety, stress, tardiness. And as the longer days hint of the approaching summer, we shake our heads knowing our condition is going to flare up like angry eczema. Even though there are things we can do to help manage our condition, reining it in proves to be an impossible task. RBS (Ridiculously Busy Syndrome) has become our way of life.

RBS commonly occurs in single women living in Sydney. Having so many options for entertainment, combined with no obligations toward a Significant Other, means our interests can consume most of our time outside work. My social circle is primarily female, the majority single, and made up of people with diverse interests. But one thing we have in common is that We Are Oh-So Busy All The Time.

Part of this busyness is because we all have things we love to pursue, whether it’s music, fitness, fashion, psychology or fine food. But I wonder whether it’s also partly because we don’t have anyone (aka Mr Lovely) at home to help us slow down. Instead of seeing how a relaxing Sunday could pan out, most of us have a series of events to carry us through the day, inevitably leading us to be happily socialised but rather exhausted. An eventless day on the calendar is an endangered species or something that’s been deliberately scheduled to catch up on less appealing chores, like tax returns or Gumption-ing the shower recess.

Although I enjoy feeling like I’m living a full and productive life, I can’t ignore the thought that RBS might be a barrier to love. In our rush to get from one event to another, to make the most of the time we have with our friends, to finish this and move on to that, to see that film and go to that festival and attend that event, are we missing out on catching the eye of that guy sitting a few tables away, or waiting for the train on the same platform as us, or enjoying the sun in the park? We’ve all heard the quote that’s often used as a metaphor for love:  

You can chase a butterfly all over the field and never catch it. But if you sit quietly in the grass it will come and sit on your shoulder.

Despite my cynicism of all things Hallmark, perhaps there’s some truth in this saying.

Last Sunday I spent a few hours at Bondi Beach. Festival of the Winds was on and I was hoping thermanMap says let's go fly a kite!e’d be a crowd. The sun was out and the kites looked stunning against the blue sky. But I felt anxious about meeting my survey quota. There were so many families getting involved but (not sure why this didn’t occur to me earlier!) kites didn’t seem to be a huge draw-card for the average man. Kicking myself for wasting precious surveying time, I headed beyond the area of the festival and there they were: clusters of men catching up on Vitamin D and enjoying some down-time. Many of them weren’t locals. They’d just decided to hang out at Bondi for the day because it was sunny. They weren’t planning to swim or fly kites and yet they were there.

Not once have my friends and I deliberately headed to a grassy patch to watch the world go by. Our gatherings, particularly during the day, always involve activities. Perhaps this is where we’re going wrong. Our movement is scaring away the butterflies. I’m not generally one to make New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps this would be a good one: schedule in some regular time to be still. That way, even if my butterfly* doesn’t flutter past, I can at least loosen the grip of RBS.

*With apologies to my future partner for likening him to a feminine insect. Whoever you are, I’m sure you’re most manly and not at all butterfly-esque. 🙂

Push up

17 May

Running manThere’s a culture in Sydney happening all around me without me knowing anything about it. Sure, I catch the occasional glimpse: people in unfamiliar clothing, an overheard phrase I don’t understand, a noisy establishment calling to its followers.

As I sleep through the dark hours of the morning, its members are out there, hot and sweaty, fuelled by various concoctions, heads pumping with loud music. I am, of course, referring to the fitness culture.

On Sunday morning I woke early (9am) and was out the door by 11, which is pretty impressive for me on the weekend. My philosophy is that if I have to get up early during the week for work, I’m allowed to sleep in on the weekend. Surveys packed and glasses on to maximise the six-packs of my imagined surveyees, I headed to Hyde Park looking for the fit, healthy men who’d just run the half-marathon. But it was all over. The only people left were the picnicking families who’d been cheering on mum or dad.

Those of you who know me know I’ve never set foot in a gym. The idea of having to publicly expose my lack of coordination without the support of alcohol terrifies me. My exercise regime has always centred around yoga, pilates, walking and watching the men’s diving during the Olympics.

But I’m realising that I might be missing out. While I’m enjoying a sleep-in, a good chunk of healthy, hetero men have woken, showered, breakfasted and run 21 kilometres. I’m sure most women don’t feel too attractive post-workout, but maybe we’re taking the wrong view. Women enjoy watching sweat-glistened men jog by. Why do we assume men don’t think the same? In Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy even comments that Elizabeth’s “fine eyes” are brightened by exercise.

Maybe there’s something to be said for group fitness activities where you get to work out and broaden your social circle. There are even a few groups in Sydney specifically for singles.  Do you think what starts as a beep test could end in love?

Social safety for singletons

19 Apr

When you’re single, a dinner invitation from a married friend can be much the same as a bikini wax: you accept no one’s forcing you to go, you know you’ll have to nod and smile your way through the pain and one way or another, you know you’ll pay. We’ve all lived our own versions of the scene from Bridget Jones’s Diary (sadly minus Colin Firth/Mark Darcy at the table) where we find ourselves wondering why we’re doing something that only makes us feel bad about our lives.

Luckily for me, most dinner parties are just for the girls, or there are enough singletons to balance the gravy boat. But the other night at a surprise party I was on the receiving end of a new level of thoughtlessness. I was insulted before I’d even crossed the threshold.

Gathered in a side street waiting for the other guests, someone hurried over to hand me a balloon. She greeted me with:

Hello, where’s your husband?

not “Hello, how are you?” or dare I suggest “Hello, thank you for coming.” Standing alone in the dark, clutching my balloon, I automatically went into ‘polite and socially acceptable’ mode, laughing that I didn’t know and I had been wondering the same thing for some time.

When I accepted the invitation I knew I’d be the only single person there, but being a party, I thought I’d be safe. No awkward seating of odd numbers at a table or being trapped in one place most of the night. Parties are supposed to be the gentler option for singletons. As it was, I wondered why I’d bothered. I would’ve had a happier night if I’d hit a few pubs with my single gals.

So what do you think? Is it acceptable to decline an invitation based on romantic status? Given that most of us are time poor, can we simply say, “Sorry, I can’t attend events where everyone else is paired up.” We might not meet the man of our dreams elsewhere, but at least we won’t be subjected to thoughtless people who haven’t been single since last century.