Fitting In

So life’s tickety-boo again. I’m busy, I’m “out there”, my privately personified alter ego still affords me the success, the shags, the self-esteem. And yet here’s something that us Toymen probably lose ground on to you luckier Toyboys out there. The creeping sense that however smoothly you’ve at last got it all going, for some reason you’re suddenly just a little bit out of synch with …

Cut to – how the other week I met up with some old classmates (all city boys these days) for a square mile drink, steak meal and eighteen-year catch-up. Now when I was at school I was the quiet swotty one (but as I wasn’t snottily matter-of-fact nobody held this against me). In fact I was I guess well thought of, although I was hardly down as “most likely to become a hellraising womaniser” either. Anyway so years later a small few of us have been intermittently bumping into each other on the daily London commute, mobile numbers have been exchanged, and then somebody suggested a get together for old-times sake. Right then, there I am, and everyone is saying that while I haven’t changed much physically, there is something perceptibly different about me (my “transformation” was always more the subtler tweak than complete personality refit). And neither have they changed really, but they’re all in long-term relationships while I’m still keeping rather “glint-in-the-eye” coy on that front. But guess what I’m hearing? All about the pleasures of Bangkok, or their favourite strip clubs, or which bloke on TV their other-halves always say they’d love to bonk and has anyone clocked that twenty-something blonde with great tits and arse behind the bar. Okay fair enough. Boys will be boys. But hang on, remove that veneer of collective bravado and don’t they all sound a bit jaded with their current domesticity? The job, the money, the car, the xbox, the ipod, the girl, it’s all there; but already they’re talking about how next time we should take in one of these strip joints they’ve been eulogising. Erm sorry chaps, been there, done that (in fact that’s how everything started). For all the fun I’ve had… these guys aren’t me.

Cut to – sometime later I’m spending a quiet weekend in the country with a group of old university buddies from my days “oop north”. Plus there’re spouses and toddlers to boot. Yep, I’m down with the settled and marrieds. And haven’t we all done well since graduation – sensible professions, the Guardian daily, recycling friendly and merlot socialism. It’s all very “nice”, full of polite conversation, gentle jokes and warm smiles for the kids. And this is great, and calm, and solid, and stable, and of course I’m the odd one out, supposedly leading the high life in the nation’s happening capital, again saying very little about my lovelife and seeing the, “well who’d have thought you’d now be the dark horse after the misery that girl caused you at uni” raised eyebrows behind each thoughtful nod as I tell my abridged tales. In their world I’m the closest they’ll come to a lesser-spotted “ladies man.” Yep that’s right little old me. Who’dve thunk it! Thing is I know that here, with them, I’m in the realm of contented aspiration. I mean isn’t this where I should be, where once upon a time I always wanted to be? Nah, I don’t belong here either… yet.

Cut to – an uncomfortable silence. However the precursor to this uncomfortable silence was an awful lot of noise in the form of grunts, moans, sighs, squeaking bedsprings and the odd, unbidden, filthy expletive. You get the idea. In fact I’ve told you about her. She’s that potential client (fortyish, inexplicably alluring, divorced) I chatted to at a recent industry shindig. The one who needed batteries for her vibe. Remember now? Well inevitably we met up and “things” have gone on. Funny as I’d been exchanging increasingly suggestive text messages with someone else at the same time but as you also may recall, I was in two minds about taking it further, simply because there was nowhere for it to go. But wait, there was nowhere for this to go either. So why did I bother going anywhere at all. Well it’s easy to walk away from things when you’re just texting isn’t it. On the other hand, if you meet up for a drink and the chemistry’s there, good sense invariably gets a lusty bedroom door slammed in its face. But hey this was no strings anyway. So that’s okay then surely. Hell this has been “me” for quite a while now. We’re merely “friends with benefits” as they say these days in politer circles. And tonight she was particularly demanding of said benefits having been “set-up” by her mates the previous evening with what was apparently a truly awful own-age date that left her, as she put it, “biting the heads off jelly babies” when she got home. Nothing like a bit of rigorous “exercise” to get certain frustrations with modern life out of your system then and so that’s precisely what we did in a primal, “giving as good as you get” sort of way. Yes. I like her. She likes me. But that’s about it. We haven’t shaken hands and made promises about no mind games etc. (like I did with another such “friend” that one time) but the sentiments are there. Unspoken. Unsaid. Only tonight, as we drift into the clichéd cigarette moment (not that either of us smoke) I’m feeling anything but satisfied. I’m feeling uncertain. I can sense neither of us knows exactly what we want. We enjoy “this” for what it is (as Jane once put it) but near seismic shifts of non-orgasmic proportions are underway. In this new age of taboo sundering and gender emancipation, we’re so spoilt for choice we’re sometimes lingering too long with the menu rather than trusting our instincts. So maybe then we really do want more… but not with each other.     

You know, worryingly I’m starting to wonder if I’m slowly becoming one of those Nick Hornby protagonists seeking his own philosophically happy ending. Not that such weighty matters need concern your average Toyboy just yet. Still, forewarned is forearmed I say…

 By Bastian Dash

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