One of the most unfortunate things about life is that often, the Venn diagram showing the people we are attracted to and the people who are attracted to us simply resembles a circle waving desperately at a much smaller circle across a yawning divide. And the smaller circle is usually full of freaks.
We men have found a way round this, namely that we talk ourselves into being attracted to anybody who has even a passing interest in us. That way, the Venn diagram looks more like a tiny circle at the centre of an indiscriminately huge circle. Bullseye. My friend Ivor summed this up eloquently once during a visit to a nightclub by saying. “You might as well go ugly early in the evening, because you’re sure as hell going to end up going ugly later on.” It’s a charming principle though regrettably not one that actually works. And believe me, there’s little more crushing than being rejected by somebody you don’t even really fancy.
It’s tougher for women, and nobody embodies this more than my friend Eleanor. She has a type of man that she likes — she is drawn to big, bearlike men; funny, motivated, passionate, political, hugely intelligent men. You’ll have to take my word for it that such a man is no less than she deserves.
Fate, however, appeared to have different ideas, because the men that were attracted to Eleanor, for a long time, appeared to only have one dreadful thing in common. Not a poorly concealed enthusiasm for the musical works of Barry Manilow, a fanatical yen for Morris dancing or a diary full of weekends spent re-enacting medieval battles. Those kinds of shortcomings might not be visible right from the start the way, say, a lazy eye would be, but you don’t have to spend much time with people like that to work out that there’s something wrong with them. The moment you shake the metaphorical box you hear the disconcerting rattle that tells you that all is not entirely intact inside. Eleanor, on the other hand, attracted men with one very particular defect, which quickly became apparent, normally in an unpleasant and embarrassing way.
The sort of man who went for Eleanor wanted to subject her to anal sex.
The first time it happened, it was easy to write it off as bad luck. It wasn’t just that the man in question wanted it, although that was apparently bad enough in itself, it was more that he wouldn’t stop going on about it to the extent where their beautiful friendship had to end. Nobody thought any more of it than that at that stage. It was just a comic interlude in Eleanor’s love life; it happened hot on the heels of the man at work where the sexual chemistry had simmered for weeks only for him to turn out to have a miniscule penis which, in Eleanor’s own words, “came out after every stroke”.
The second time, we all just assumed it was a coincidence; the rock guitarist she met through work. She developed a fondness for his band at roughly the same time that he revealed his even greater fondness for getting his brown wings. Of course, Eleanor was having none of it or, more accurately, he was. He never got round to his difficult third album or her especially difficult third orifice, and they went their separate ways.
After the third successive man turned out to be an evangelist for sodomy, Eleanor declared it officially beyond a joke. As it turned out, that was a pity because, for the rest of us, that was when the situation started to become amusing. The endless conversations over a “white rabbit” cocktail –- a blend of chocolate, cream, vodka and dreams — upstairs at Café Iguana were perhaps less so.
“Why? Why do they all want to do that? What is it about me that makes men think ‘anal sex’?”
I looked at Eleanor. It was not a question I had ever anticipated being asked. She was certainly pleasant enough that you wouldn’t necessarily want her to be facing in the opposite direction. She had lovely long legs but I had never really considered approaching them from that angle. She was a classic English rose without any hint of hidden filth. The more I thought about it, the more I was stumped: why did everybody want to bugger my friend Eleanor?
Regrettably, it became a bit of a routine after that. Eleanor would date a man in a flurry of activity, there would be excitement that this might be a serious long-term prospect but it was always marred with a degree of trepidation about the inevitable denouement. And inevitable I’m afraid it was; I lost count of the number of times I would have a phone conversation with Eleanor that went something like this:
“You haven’t mentioned that guy you were seeing for a while. How’s that going?”
“We broke up.”
“Oh. Anal sex?”
”I don’t want to talk about it.”
Of course, all runs of bad luck have to come to an end (unless, for instance, they culminate in you being hit by a bus) and Eleanor’s terminated when she met Mark, a slightly older man at work. He was suave, he was debonair and –- perhaps most importantly –- he was experienced.
“I can’t tell you how nice it is to go out with a grown up man for a change. It’s so different!”
“Really?” I said. Speaking as somebody who was very far from being a grown-up, or indeed a man, I felt quite protective about my fellow muddling-through-mid-20s fuck-ups, even if all the undesirable perverts Eleanor had run into were somewhat letting the side down for the rest of us.
“Definitely. We go for meals, instead of just going to the pub. In restaurants. I mean, can you imagine?”
Actually, at the time, I couldn’t. She interrupted me musing about this to continue with her torrent of enthusiasm.
“He has his own place, too. I haven’t even stayed over yet, because we’re taking it slowly. Taking it slowly! It’s so refreshing dating somebody this way.”
“Anal sex?” I said. These two words followed by a question mark seemed to feature in a lot of my conversations with Eleanor.
“Not a sausage, so to speak.” She said. “It’s because he’s older. I think he’s sewn all his wild oats and done all that stuff already. It’s such a relief.”
At the end of the call I hung up and reflected on how lucky Eleanor was, with only a small nagging worry in the back of my mind. I didn’t hear from her for well over a month after that, but tried not to worry. I rationalised away the radio silence; it stood to reason that she was off living the high life in restaurants with her sophisticated older man, and was far too busy to meet me in the greasy café at lunchtimes to collaborate on the Times Two crossword and scrounge cigarettes off me. I didn’t mind a brief spell alone with my frothy coffee in a plastic beaker, but when I did see her next it was an all together more dejected Eleanor joining me on the cracked leatherette banquette.
“What happened with Mark?”
“We’re not together any more.”
My better nature fought with every sinew to say something flowery and supportive, and failed. In my defence I was a lot younger then, though I have a nasty suspicion that I’d still react the same way now. Besides, I had a feeling the script had almost been written for me, and my next line was set in stone.
“It’s worse than that.”
“How can it be worse than that?”
She proceeded to tell me the story, thereby demonstrating that it could indeed be far worse. What happened was that one night, after work, Eleanor and Mark decided to give the restaurants a miss for once and, instead, head out for a few drinks. A few drinks turned into a few more drinks, which turned into a lot of drinks and mutated into Eleanor being invited back to Mark’s bachelor pad.
“It was the first time he’d ever invited me back. I was so excited; I thought it really marked a milestone in our relationship. This is it, I thought, he’s going to take this to the next stage.”
How right she was; Eleanor didn’t remember much more about the night of passion at Mark’s, but the events of the following morning were to remain deeply etched in her memory. She woke up prone, on her front, with a mouth like a nuclear winter and an apocalyptic headache to match. But what was worse was a nagging, moist sensation in a very worrying place where moistness really should not be.
Confused, nauseous and with a growing sense of apprehension she looked over her shoulder. There was Mark, the sophisticated man of her dreams. Those dreams would previously have involved him returning to bed from the kitchen bearing a nice cup of tea and maybe some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. They were unceremoniously shattered almost immediately, because to her aghast horror there were no scrambled eggs and there was certainly no tea. Instead, he was crouched over her in a decidedly sinister manner, holding a tub of Vaseline in one hand and diligently applying it to her posterior with the other.
She looked him in the eye.
He stared back blankly, as if her regaining consciousness had just never featured in his plans at all. Her sphincter contracting in record time, she sprang to her feet, threw her clothes on and left in total silence. In fairness to him he didn’t even attempt the tired old chestnut of “It’s not how it looks” or “I can explain everything.” Though, as I heard the story, I did find myself wishing he’d given it his best shot, if only to see whether he came up with anything creative.
That is always the thing that has vexed me most about the whole sorry saga was that we never did find out what Mark’s Plan B, so much so I was never sure he had one. But worse still, did he even have a Plan A? Was he hoping she would awaken to discover that she actually enjoyed being anally violated by stealth? Or, worse still, was his ambition that she would remain unconscious throughout the whole dastardly deed? If it was the latter, it didn’t say an awful lot for his dimensions or, for that matter, his technique.
We never did solve that riddle; Mark got married not long after that and, last I heard, he had invited Eleanor to stay with him and his wife abroad, which suggests that his capacity for perversion and his unbridled optimism remained undimmed. Eleanor on the other hand? I caught up with her in the process of writing this to do a bit of fact checking and to my horror there was one error she wanted to correct.
“I did fancy a guy – a lot actually — who was into historical re-enactment!“ she said. “Oh, he was lovely. Stop laughing.“
She is still searching for her bearlike, funny, passionate, political man and I have no doubt that she will find him. But while she’s waiting for him to make an appearance she’s off on a date soon with a ginger bloke she’s met off the Internet. It’s good to keep your hand in, if nothing else. I have reluctantly given her my blessing, but suggested that she shouldn’t come crying to me if he too shows an unnatural interest in her bottom. When I gave her this advice I nearly said, “Don’t take this the wrong way…” But, now I that I come to think of it, there seems little danger of that.