I’ve been hiding in the mountains again. I tried to be a youthful traveller and, y’know, get wasted in Mendoza, but after three days I fled.
An old friend of mine was in town for two days so I went to a party at her hostel on my first night, thinking hey man, I may be thirty one but I’ve still got it. Sadly it turned out that I hadn’t still got it. Not even vaguely. At 1am I looked over at the bar, where the bartenders were pouring tequila down people’s throats direct from the bottle, and announced that I was leaving to find an establishment that sold coffee. I dragged my poor friend off to a deserted Irish pub and held forth on matters such as:
1. Which cleaning products I had used on the stain on my bedroom carpet in London, where we once lived together.
2. My intolerance to cheese
3. The problems I was having with my camera charger.
My god, the poor, poor girl. She must have been quite devastated to have hooked up with me! After a while I sent her back to the party and shuffled off to the taxi rank. “Are you going out clubbing now?” asked the taxi driver. I suppressed a silent-but-violent (unfortunately I had given in to a four-cheese pizza earlier on in spite of my aforementioned lactose intolerance) and shook my head. “No, I’m going to bed.”
“But it’s 2am!” he replied. I shook my head again. “Soy una viejita.”
(I’m a little old lady.)
He nodded, sadly. “You are not normal,” he told me. This is a simple enough sentence in any language. I did not mis-hear him.
So two days later I took my not-normal ass to a faraway hostel in the Andes to continue to a) practice being a viejita and b) write my nov. On arrival I was greeted with a kiss on the mouth by the rather over-friendly owner. “I’m a bad man,” he informed me delightedly. I knew immediately that it was going to be an enjoyable stay.
I wasn’t wrong. It is a hostel full of Characters – an embarrassment of riches, inspiration-wise – and resultantly my novel has come on in leaps and bounds. Thus far, however, I have not found a role for the Irish girl who is cooking what looks like catfood in a pan in the kitchen and singing Shirley Bassey songs. She is in a league of her own.
One of my faves has been a beautiful Slovakian girl who yells “EGGS EGGS CHICKEN CHICKEN” in her sleep and who has a habit of turning the light on in the middle of the night, brandishing a broom handle and asking me who the hell I am. (Fortunately she falls back to sleep before anything bad happens.)
Then yesterday, a new man arrived in our dorm. He looked EXACTLY like the guy that I had this mad thing with a few years ago. So identical, in fact, that I asked him three times if his name was not in fact XXX. It wasn’t. It was something I couldn’t pronounce.
But here’s the thing. I remember – when it all went wrong with that handsome and unsuitable man back in 2006 – saying to my friend (well, wailing) “I AM NEVER GOING TO FIND ANYONE WHO I THINK IS AS AMAZING AS HE IS.” I went on to bellow that he must have been The One because every waking moment I had been breathless with wonder that he actually liked me. It was the miracle to end all miracles.
I have been thinking about this on and off for the last twenty four hours. And have realised how completely dysfunctional my attitude towards men once was. On the rare occasion that I met someone I liked I would hoik them up on a pedestal and decide there and then that my future happiness and emotional wellbeing was entirely dependent on their feelings for me. I would find them to be so completely incredible and ethereally beautiful that I spent my entire time trying to be someone else, so as to be worthy of the few crumbs they might care to throw my way.
I was simply not good enough as just Me. I had to fool them into believing that I was better.
And so I would allude to a wild, rock n roll lifestyle that I had never had. I would make reference to strings of other admirers and stalkers. I would pretend to speak languages I couldn’t. To have read books I hadn’t. I would buy endless presents and meals for the man of the moment and would spend a small fortune buying a never-ending supply of new clothes so that he would believe that I was fashionable and hot.
If any of these men came away from our liaison with the faintest idea who I really was then quite frankly it was a miracle.
I’m sad that I felt like that. Really sad.
Which makes it all the nicer that I seem more able to accept myself as I am these days. The Man has never once heard me brag about a party I never went to. He’s never once had to listen to me banging on about all these admirers and exes I’ve left heartbroken in my wake. He doesn’t think I’m into XY and Z cool band because I’m bloody well not! I like Take That! I sing Celine Dion during long-distance car-journeys!
Ok. I did go and buy a new dress for our second date. But that was because the aforementioned second date was taking part in BA’s most expensive restaurant in the presence of ten of his colleagues and I couldn’t very well turn up in frayed hotpants, a shit old vest and a pair of dusty flip flops could I now.
The Man has been exposed to Me, and nothing but Me. And guess what: he loves Me! That’s the amazing thing! I have been nothing but myself with him. Trapped wind, bad music, grey travellers’ pants an’ all. It’s a blinking revelation, you know.
I don’t remember when things changed. When it started to occur to me that I might actually be of interest to a man if I stopped pretending to be someone else and started to just be Me, but things have changed. And for that I’m grateful.
And that’s it really. I’m leaving the Mad Hostel tomorrow for a 24 hour break for the Chilean border and then I continue to head north in the pursuit of a suntan and some tasty llama stew. Oh and history and culture and that sort of shit.
Yours, 100% herself and not trying to be anyone else,