I’d like to begin this month’s column by publically disclosing the most personally mortifying ‘I’m obviously single and a little bit desperate’ moment of my life.
Many, many years ago I was at the supermarket checkout, staring off into space and mentally questioning my life choices, when I realised the ‘bip, bip, bip’ of the scanner had stopped. Rousing myself from my reverie, I became aware that the checkout chick (who I shall call ‘Jessyka’, for that was what her name tag said) was peering at me sideways with a look that was mostly smirk with a little dash of pity. I must have responded with an utterly blank expression because her overly-plucked eyebrows flitted downwards, just for a second, at my purchases which were now sitting in a forlorn little pile at the end of the conveyor belt between us. I followed her glance, took stock of what I was about to pay for and, with a jolt of understanding, began to blush extravagantly. They were:
• four packets of Continental Insta Fasta Pasta for One
• three tins of Whiskas Chunky Fish Casserole
• two jars of peanut butter
• six rolls of toilet paper and…
• a jumbo pack of AAA batteries.
Jessyka, myself, and the three gossipy-looking ladies in the queue behind me silently regarded my purchases for a minute that lasted a lifetime, before the checkout chick put me out of my misery and bagged the items with a snort and a flick of her hair. With as much dignity as I could muster, I turned to the gossipy ladies behind me and announced, ‘THEY’RE FOR MY BICYCLE LIGHTS’. Then, with a saucy wink at Jessyka, I swept from the shop.
So much for Valentine’s Day 2004.
But back to the present. I’m still single (although I would like to state for the record that I have been NOT single at least twice since then, and one of those times was for six whole weeks), Valentine’s is on again and I’m all good for triple As.
I am, however, living with a couple who are entering the final stretch of their wedding preparations. Lynda and Sexy George have been engaged since Christmas before last and pretty much everything is good to go, from the rings to the pastor to the cut and colour of the bridesmaids’ frocks. In fact, the only things not yet organized are the groom’s suit (but I’m sure he can just pick one up on the day) and the seating arrangements for the reception.
Now, if you can think of any worse time to be single than the second weekend of February while helping your soon-to-be wed housemates work out their seating plan, I’d like to hear it. My own invitation was addressed to ‘Sez Plus One’, a statement as familiar to me these days as ‘Sez, why are you still writing your column, deadline was 10 minutes ago’.
Plus One, as we all know, guarantees you a place at the table labeled ‘Miscellaneous’, squished behind a supporting pillar along with six distant cousins and an old bloke cackling quietly to himself that no one seems to know called Barry.
You also know that at Table Misc. you’re inevitably going to get the crap meal in the alternate drop and not have a partner willing to swap out of a sense of romantic duty. (At the last wedding I attended I asked Barry to swap his meal for my prawn & mango cocktail. He grinned enthusiastically, leaned towards me with an air of shared conspiracy and whispered ‘Asparagus bum dragon’. I spent the rest of the evening at the bar nibbling on a bread roll.)
Alternate drop can be a controversial affair, particularly if Option 1 is Grain Fed Eye Fillet on Potato Celeriac Puree with Red Wine Jus, and Option 2 is apricot chicken. Those lucky enough to score the steak guard their plates jealously from their wives and girlfriends (because for some reason it’s always the blokes that get the red meat, isn’t it?) while the ladies stare at their own plates of food with long-practised resignation. They pick delicately at a meal that really should have died along with the 80s before surreptitiously draping a napkin over the top and wandering over to the bar to rustle up a bread roll.
But enough of all this wedding talk and back to Valentine’s Day. Last year on the morning of the 14th I was woken by a knock on my bedroom door. Sexy George elbowed it open and brought in a breakfast tray bearing a stack of pancakes with homemade chocolate sauce, a side of plump strawberries, hot coffee and freshly squeezed OJ. There was even a little vase in the middle of the tray with a flower stuck in it. ‘I made breakfast in bed for Lynda, but I didn’t want you to miss out.’ This incredibly sweet gesture didn’t do anything for my single status, but I swooned a little bit all the same.
Happy Valentine’s Day NT, and find me on Tinder. I’m the one with six cats, a big bag of apricots and lots of spare batteries. Just don’t bring Jessyka or Barry.