I've just been watching Big Brother, where one woman has already been the unrequiter in two love intrigues. I love watching human interaction played out under such a microscope. The set-up may be artificial but nobody can act for that long, so the stuff that happens between people is very real. But anyway...
So there's this bloke, fancies a woman, she doesn't fancy him back. But he won't see it. He keeps finding evidence that she must be interested in him, and refuses to accept anything else.
The obvious reaction as an observer is to laugh and call him a fool. Everyone else can see what he's blind to. And having watched this happen so often to women I know... a man who won't take no for an answer... is boorish and demanding and then sulky when he doesn't get what he wants. I get impatient and annoyed with selfish fools such as this.
But the other thing which drives me mad is when women encourage the delusions by being a little too friendly, bestowing the occasional chaste kiss, generally giving just enough encouragement that the idiot can convince himself of whatever he wants. Having been close to women who do this kind of thing, I know they often don't mean to tease or manipulate. They just don't want to hurt, don't want to disappoint, are hopeless at saying no or being frank about how they really feel, but mistakenly believe that the chasteness of their responses is enough of a hint that they're not really interested - rather than the clutched-at straw it inevitably becomes.
But then. I suddenly remembered this weird 'relationship' I had with a bloke, back in the early 90s. We worked together as service chefs, at a pizza / pasta restaurant in Manchester. I was besotted with him. He was all quirky and enigmatic and he had good taste in music and a lovely purple cord jacket (isn't it funny the things that stick in your mind?). I was forever inviting myself round to his flat and just kind of... hanging around. We had various odd sexual encounters, and he kept me at arm's length... but not far enough that I gave up the chase.
I knew he wasn't in love with me or anything like that, I knew it was all rather one-sided, but he gave me just enough rope that I thought it was worth tugging away at it.
Poor man. I was like a kitten that's found the end of a tampon, somewhere inappropriate.
One time I insisted it would be a good idea for me to stay the night, and we could just cuddle. Which we did, me of course in as little clothing as possible, but next thing I knew he was sucking my elbow. Which quietly led to even more delightful stuff. But this was the least ambiguous of our encounters. Another time he had given up trying to get rid of me, so suddenly announced he was having a bath. And I of course invited myself into the bathroom, and next thing we were flicking foam at each other, and in any other circumstances this would be obvious flirtation... but nothing happened. He got out of the bath, put his clothes on and we ate toast. Once he came round to my flat, submitted himself to a certain amount of finger-sucking and then abruptly announced he was going home. At which point I became all whiny and disappointed, so somehow we ended with me naked in the bed, him kneeling by its side, with his coat on, and basically shutting me up before going home.
Looking back, it's pretty effing obvious that he never fancied me. But he was rubbish at saying no, and I was determined to snatch at the tiniest piece of positive evidence or encouragement and ignore everything else.
There's a quote I use a lot, it's from a 19th century mentalist called HJ Burlingame, and it forms the basis of my second novel. It goes like this:
We easily believe what we ardently desire to be true.
Oh deary me, don't we just?