Waste money on: pasta-makers, ice-cream machines or other culinary devices which will never use; books by unreadable literary authors to put impressively on shelves; exotic underwear, since pointless as have no boyfriend.
Behave sluttishly around the house, but instead imagine others are watching.
Spend more than earn.
Allow in-tray to rage out of control.
Fall for any of following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomaniacs, chauvinists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts.
Get annoyed with Mum, Una Alconbury or Perpetua.
Get upset over men, but instead be poised and cool ice-queen.
Have crushes on men, but instead form relationships based on mature assessment of character.
Bitch about anyone behind their backs, but be positive about everyone.
Obsess about Daniel Cleaver as pathetic to have a crush on boss in manner of Miss Moneypenny or similar.
Sulk about having no boyfriend, but develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman of substance, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend.
Drink no more than fourteen alcohol units a week.
Reduce circumference of thighs by 3 inches (i.e. 1½ inches each), using anti-cellulite diet.
Purge flat of all extraneous matter
Give all clothes which have not worn for two years or more to homeless.
Improve career and find new job with potential.
Save up money in form of savings. Poss start pension-also.
Be more confident.
Be more assertive.
Make better use of time.
Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music.
Give proportion of earnings to charity.
Be kinder and help others more.
Eat more pulses.
Get up straight away when wake up m mornings.
Go to gym three times a week not merely to buy sandwich. Put photographs in photograph albums.
Make up compilation 'mood' tapes so can have tapes ready with all favourite romantic/dancing/rousing/feminist etc, tracks assembled instead of turning into drink-sodden DJ-style person with tapes scattered all over floor.
Form functional relationship with responsible adult.
Learn to programme video.
An Exceptionally Bad Start
Sunday 1 January
9st 3 (but post-Christmas), alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year's Day),cigarettes 22, calories 5424.
Food consumed today:
2 pkts Emmenthal cheese slices
14 cold new potatoes
2 Bloody Marys (count as food as contain Worcester sauce and tomatoes)
1/3 Ciabatta loaf with Brie
Coriander leaves 1/2 packet
12 Milk Tray (best to get rid of all Christmas confectionery in one go and make fresh start tomorrow)
13 cocktail sticks securing cheese and pineapple
Portion Una Alconbury's turkey curry, peas and bananas
Portion Una Alconbury's Raspberry Surprise made with Bourbon biscuits, tinned raspberries, eight gallons of whipped cream, decorated with glacé cherries and angelica.
Noon. London: my flat. Ugh. The last thing on earth I feel physically, emotionally or mentally equipped to do is drive to Una and Geoffrey Alconbury's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet in Grafton Underwood. Geoffrey and Una Alconbury are my parents' best friends and, as Uncle Geoffrey never tires of reminding me, have known me since I was running round the lawn with no clothes on. My mother rang up at 8.30 in the morning last August Bank Holiday and forced me to promise to go. She approached it via a cunningly circuitous route.
'Oh, hello, darling. I was just ringing to see what you wanted for Christmas.'
'Would you like a surprise, darling?'
'No!' I bellowed. 'Sorry. I mean . . . '
'I wondered if you'd like a set of wheels for your suitcase.'
'But I haven't got a suitcase.
'Why don't I get you a little suitcase with wheels attached. You know, like air hostesses have.'
'I've already got a bag.'
'Oh, darling, you can't go around with that tatty green canvas thing. You look like some sort of Mary Poppins person who's fallen on hard times. Just a little compact case with a pull-out handle. It's amazing how much you can get in. Do you want it in navy on red or red on navy?'
'Mum. It's eight thirty in the morning. It's summer. It's very hot. I don't want an air-hostess bag.'
'Julie Enderby's got one. She says she never uses anything else.'
'Who's Julie Enderby?'
'You know Julie, darling, Mavis Enderby's daughter. Julie! The one that's got that super-dooper job at Arthur Andersen . . . '
'Mum . . . '
'Always takes it on her trips . . . '
'I don't want a little bag with wheels on.'
'I'll tell you what. Why don't Jamie, Daddy and I all club together and get you a proper new big suitcase and a set of wheels?'
Exhausted, I held the phone away from my ear, puzzling about where the missionary luggage-Christmas-gift zeal had stemmed from. When I put the phone back she was saying: ' . . . in actual fact, you can get them with a compartment with bottles for your bubble bath and things. The other thing I thought of was a shopping trolley.'
'Is there anything you'd like for Christmas?' I said desperately, blinking in the dazzling Bank Holiday sunlight.
'No, no,' she said airily. 'I've got everything I need. Now, darling,' she suddenly hissed, 'you will be coming to Geoffrey and Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet this year, won't you?'
'Ah. Actually, I . . . I panicked wildly. What could I pretend to be doing? ' . . . think I might have to work on New Year's Day.'
'That doesn't matter. You can drive up after work. Oh, did I mention? Malcolm and Elaine Darcy are coming and bringing Mark with them. Do you remember Mark, darling?He's one of those top-notch barristers. Masses of money. Divorced. It doesn't start till eight.'
Oh God. Not another strangely dressed opera freak with bushy hair burgeoning from a side-parting. 'Mum, I've told you. I don't need to be fixed up with . . . '
'Now come along, darling. Una and Geoffrey have been holding the New Year Buffet since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on! Of course you're going to come. And you'll be able to use your new suitcase.'
11.45 p.m. Ugh. First day of New Year has been day of horror. Cannot quite believe I am once again starting the year in a single bed in my parents' house. It is too humiliating at my age. I wonder if they'll smell it if I have a fag out of the window. Having skulked at home all day, hoping hangover would clear, I eventually gave up and set off for the Turkey Curry Buffet far too late. When I got to the Alconburys' and rang their entire-tune-of-town-hallclock-style doorbell I was still in a strange world of my own — nauseous, vile-headed, acidic. I was also suffering from road-rage residue after inadvertently getting on to the M6 instead of the M1 and having to drive halfway to Birmingham before I could find anywhere to turn round. I was so furious I kept jamming my foot down to the floor on the accelerator pedal to give vent to my feelings, which is very dangerous. I watched resignedly as Una Alconbury's form — intriguingly deformed through the ripply glass door bore down on me in a fuchsia two-piece.
'Bridget! We'd almost given you up for lost! Happy New Year! Just about to start without you.'
She seemed to manage to kiss me, get my coat off, hang it over the banister, wipe her lipstick off my cheek and make me feel incredibly guilty all in one movement, while I leaned against the ornament shelf for support.
'Sorry. I got lost.'
'Lost? Durr! What are we going to do with you? Come on in!'
She led me through the frosted-glass doors into the lounge, shouting, 'She got lost, everyone!'
'Bridget! Happy New Year! said Geoffrey Alconbury, clad in a yellow diamond-patterned sweater. He did a jokey Bruce Forsyth step then gave me the sort of hug which Boots would send straight to the police station.
'Hahumph,' he said, going red in the face and pulling his trousers up by the waistband. 'Which junction did you come off at?'
'Junction nineteen, but there was a diversion
'Junction nineteen! Una, she came off at Junction nineteen! You've added an hour to your journey before you even started. Come on, let's get you a drink. How's your love-life, anyway?'
Oh God. Why can't married people understand that this is no longer a polite question to ask? We wouldn't rush up to them and roar, 'How's your marriage going? Still having sex?' Everyone knows that dating in your thirties is not the happy-go-lucky free-for-all it was when you were twenty-two and that the honest answer is more likely to be, 'Actually, last night my married lover appeared wearing suspenders and a darling little Angora crop-top, told me he was gay/a sex addict/a narcotic addict/a commitment phobic and beat me up with a dildo,' than, 'Super, thanks.'
Not being a natural liar, I ended up mumbling shamefacedly to Geoffrey, 'Fine,' at which point he boomed, 'So you still haven't got a feller!'
'Bridget! What are we going to do with you!' said Una. 'You career girls! I don't know! Can't put it off for ever, you know. Tick-tock-tick-tock.'
'Yes. How does a woman manage to get to your age without being married?' roared Brian Enderby (married to Mavis, used to be president of the Rotary in Kettering), waving his sherry in the air. Fortunately my dad rescued me.
'I'm very pleased to see you, Bridget,' he said, taking my arm. 'Your mother has the entire Northamptonshire constabulary poised to comb the county with toothbrushes for your dismembered remains. Come and demonstrate your presence so I can start enjoying myself. How's the be-wheeled suitcase?'
'Big beyond all sense. How are the ear-hair clippers?'
'Oh, marvellously — you know — clippy.'
It was all right, I suppose. I would have felt a bit mean if I hadn't turned up, but Mark Darcy. . . Yuk. Every time my mother's rung up for weeks it's been, 'Of course you remember the Darcys, darling. They came over when we were living in Buckingham and you and Mark played in the paddling pool!' or, 'Oh! Did I mention Malcolm and Elaine are bringing Mark with them to Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet? He's just back from America, apparently. Divorced. He's looking for a house in Holland Park. Apparently he had the most terrible time with his wife. Japanese. Very cruel race.'
Then next time, as if out of the blue, 'Do you remember Mark Darcy, darling? Malcolm and Elaine's son? He's one of these super-dooper top-notch lawyers. Divorced. Elaine says he works all the time and he's terribly lonely. I think he might be coming to Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet, actually.'
I don't know why she didn't just come out with it and say, 'Darling, do shag Mark Darcy over the turkey curry, won't you? He's very rich.'
'Come along and meet Mark,' Una Alconbury sing-songed before I'd even had time to get a drink down me.
Being set up with a man against your will is one level of humiliation, but being literally dragged into it by Una Alconbury while caring for an acidic hangover, watched by an entire roomful of friends of your parents, is on another plane altogether.
The rich, divorced-by-cruel-wife Mark — quite tall — was standing with his back to the room, scrutinizing the contents of the Alconburys' bookshelves: mainly leather-bound series of books about the Third Reich, which Geoffrey sends off for from Reader's Digest. It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting 'Cathy' and banging your head against a tree.
'Mark,' said Una, as if she was one of Santa Claus's fairies. 'I've got someone nice for you to meet.'
He turned round, revealing that what had seemed from the back like a harmless navy sweater was actually a V-neck diamond-pattern in shades of yellow and blue — as favoured by the more elderly of the nation's sports reporters. As my friend Tom often remarks, it's amazing how much time and money can be saved in the world of dating by close attention to detail. A white sock here, a pair of red braces there, a grey slip-on shoe, a swastika, are as often as not all one needs to tell you there's no point writing down phone numbers and forking out for expensive lunches because it's never going to be a runner.
'Mark, this is Colin and Pam's daughter, Bridget,' said Una, going all pink and fluttery. 'Bridget works in publishing, don't you, Bridget?'
'I do indeed,' I for some reason said, as if I were taking part in a Capital radio phone-in and was about to ask Una if I could 'say hello' to my friends Jude, Sharon and Tom, my brother Jamie, everyone in the office, my mum and dad, and last of all all the people at the Turkey Curry Buffet.
'Well, I'll leave you two young people together', said Una. 'Durr! I expect you're sick to death of us old fuddy-duddies.'
'Not at all,' said Mark Darcy awkwardly with a rather unsuccessful attempt at a smile, at which Una, after rolling her eyes, putting a hand to her bosom and giving a gay tinkling laugh, abandoned us with a toss of her head to a hideous silence.
'I. Um. Are you reading any' ah . . . Have you read any good books lately?' he said.
Oh, for God's sake.
I racked my brain frantically to think when I last read a proper book. The trouble with working in publishing is that reading in your spare time is a bit like being a dustman and snuffling through the pig bin in the evening. I'm halfway through Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which Jude lent me, but I didn't think Mark Darcy, though clearly odd, was ready to accept himself as a Martian quite yet. Then I had a brainwave.
'Backlash, actually, by Susan Faludi,' I said triumphantly. Hah! I haven't exactly read it as such, but feel I have as Sharon has been ranting about it so much. Anyway, completely safe option as no way diamond-pattern-jumpered goody-goody would have read five-hundred-page feminist treatise.
'Ah. Really?' he said. 'I read that when it first came out. Didn't you find there was rather a lot of special pleading?'
'Oh, well, not too much . . .' I said wildly, racking my brains for a way to get off the subject. 'Have you been staying with your parents over New Year?'
'Yes,' he said eagerly. 'You too?'
'Yes. No. I was at a party in London last night. Bit hungover, actually.' I gabbled nervously so that Una and Mum wouldn't think I was so useless with men I was failing to talk to even Mark Darcy. 'But then I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.'
'Maybe you should get something to eat,' he said, then suddenly bolted off towards the buffet, leaving me standing on my own by the bookshelf while everybody stared at me, thinking, 'So that's why Bridget isn't married. She repulses men.'
The worst of it was that Una Alconbury and Mum wouldn't leave it at that. They kept making me walk round with trays of gherkins and glasses of cream sherry in a desperate bid to throw me into Mark Darcy's path yet again. In the end they were so crazed with frustration that the second I got within four feet of him with the gherkins Una threw herself across the room like Will Carling and said, 'Mark, you must take Bridget's telephone number before you go, then you can get in touch when you're in London.'
I couldn't stop myself turning bright red. I could feel it climbing up my neck. Now Mark would think I'd put her up to it.
'I'm sure Bridget's life in London is quite full enough already, Mrs Alconbury,' he said. Humph. It's not that I wanted him to take my phone number or anything, but I didn't want him to make it perfectly obvious to everyone that he didn't want to. As I looked down I saw that he was wearing white socks with a yellow bumblebee motif
'Can't I tempt you with a gherkin?' I said, to show I had had a genuine reason for coming over, which was quite definitely gherkin-based rather than phone-number-related.
'Thank you, no,' he said, looking at me with some alarm.
'Sure? Stuffed olive?' I pressed on.
'Silverskin onion?' I encouraged. 'Beetroot cube?'
'Thank you,' he said desperately, taking an olive.
'Hope you enjoy it,' I said triumphantly.
Towards the end I saw him being harangued by his mother and Una, who marched him over towards me and stood just behind while he said stiffly, 'Do you need driving back to London? I'm staying here but I could get my car to take you.'
'What, all on its own?' I said.
He blinked at me.
'Durr! Mark has a company car and a driver, silly,' said Una.
'Thank you, that's very kind,, I said. 'But I shall be taking one of my trains in the morning.'
2 a.m. Oh, why am I so unattractive? Why? Even a man who wears bumblebee socks thinks I am horrible. Hate the New Year. Hate everyone. Except Daniel Cleaver. Anyway, have got giant tray-sized bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk left over from Christmas on dressing table, also amusing joke gin and tonic miniature. Am going to consume them and have fag.
Tuesday 3 January
9st 4 (terrifying slide into obesity — why? why?), alcohol units 6 (excellent), cigarettes 23 (v.g.), calories 2472.
9 a.m. Ugh. Cannot face thought of go to work. Only thing which makes it tolerable is thought of seeing Daniel again, but even that is inadvisable since am fat, have spot on chin, and desire only to sit on cushion eating chocolate and watching Xmas specials. It seems wrong and unfair that Christmas, with its stressful and unmanageable financial and emotional challenges, should first be forced upon one wholly against one's will, then rudely snatched away just when one is starting to get into it. Was really beginning to enjoy the feeling that normal service was suspended and it was OK to lie in bed as long as you want, put anything you fancy into your mouth, and drink alcohol whenever it should chance to pass your way, even in the mornings. Now suddenly we are all supposed to snap into self-discipline like lean teenage greyhounds.
10 p.m. Ugh. Perpetua, slightly senior and therefore thinking she is in charge of me, was at her most obnoxious and bossy, going on and on to the point of utter boredom about latest half-million-pound property she is planning to buy with her rich-but-overbred boyfriend, Hugo: 'Yars, yars, well it is north-facing but they've done something frightfully clever with the light.'
I looked at her wistfully, her vast, bulbous bottom swathed in a tight red skirt with a bizarre three-quarter-length striped waistcoat strapped across it. What a blessing to be born with such Sloaney arrogance. Perpetua could be the size of a Renault Espace and not give it a thought. How many hours, months, years, have I spent worrying about weight while Perpetua has been happily looking for lamps with porcelain cats as bases around the Fulham Road? She is missing out on a source of happiness, anyway. It is proved by surveys that happiness does not come from love, wealth or power but the pursuit of attainable goals: and what is a diet if not that?
On way home in end-of-Christmas denial I bought a packet of cut-price chocolate tree decorations and a £3.69 bottle of sparkling wine from Norway, Pakistan or similar. I guzzled them by the light of the Christmas tree, together with a couple of mince pies, the last of the Christmas cake and some Stilton, while watching EastEnders, imagining it was a Christmas special.
Now, though, I feel ashamed and repulsive. I can actually feel the fat splurging out from my body. Never mind. Sometimes you have to sink to a nadir of toxic fat envelopment in order to emerge, phoenix-like, from the chemical wasteland as a purged and beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer figure. Tomorrow new Spartan health and beauty regime will begin.
Mmmm. Daniel Cleaver, though. Love his wicked dissolute air, while being v. successful and clever. He was being v. funny today, telling everyone about his aunt thinking the onyx kitchen-roll holder his mother had given her for Christmas was a model of a penis. Was really v. amusing about it. Also asked me if I got anything nice for Christmas in rather flirty way. Think might wear short black skirt tomorrow.
Wednesday 4 January
9st 5 (state of emergency now as if fat has been stored in capsule form over Christmas and is being slowly released under skin), alcohol units 5 (better), cigarettes 20, calories 700 (v.g.)
4 p.m. Office. State of emergency. Jude just rang up from her portable phone in flood of tears, and eventually managed to explain, in a sheep's voice, that she had just had to excuse herself from a board meeting (Jude is Head of Futures at Brightlings) as she was about to burst into tears and was now trapped in the ladies' with Alice Cooper eyes and no make-up bag. Her boyfriend, Vile Richard (self-indulgent commitment phobic), whom she has been seeing on and off for eighteen months, had chucked her for asking him if he wanted to come on holiday with her. Typical, but Jude naturally was blaming it all on herself.
'I'm co-dependent. I asked for too much to satisfy my own neediness rather than need. Oh, if only I could turn back the clock.'
I immediately called Sharon and an emergency summit has been scheduled for 6.30 in Café Rouge. I hope I can get away without bloody Perpetua kicking up.
11 p.m. Strident evening. Sharon immediately launched into her theory on the Richard situation: 'Emotional fuckwittage', which is spreading like wildfire among men over thirty. As women glide from their twenties to thirties, Shazzer argues, the balance of power subtly shifts. Even the most outrageous minxes lose their nerve, wrestling with the first twinges of existential angst: fears of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian. Stereotypical notions of shelves, spinning wheels and sexual scrapheaps cons ire to make you feel stupid, no matter how much time you spend thinking about Joanna Lumley and Susan Sarandon.
'And men like Richard,' fumed Sharon, 'play on the chink in the armour to wriggle out of commitment, maturity, honour and the natural progression of things between a man and a woman.'
By this time Jude and I were going, 'Shhh, shhh,' out of the corners of our mouths and sinking down into our coats. After all, there is nothing so unattractive to a man as strident feminism.
'How dare he say you were getting too serious by asking to go on holiday with him?' yelled Sharon. 'What is he talking about?'
Thinking moonily about Daniel Cleaver, I ventured that not all men are like Richard. At which point Sharon started on a long illustrative list of emotional fuckwittage in progress amongst our friends: one whose boyfriend of thirteen years refuses even to discuss living together; another who went out with a man four times who then chucked her because it was getting too serious; another who was pursued by a bloke for three months with impassioned proposals of marriage, only to find him ducking out three weeks after she succumbed and repeating the whole process with her best friend.
'We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation daring to refuse to compromise in love and relying on our own economic power. In twenty years' time men won't even dare start with fuckwittage because we will just laugh in their faces,' bellowed Sharon.
At this point Alex Walker, who works in Sharon's company, strolled in with a stunning blonde who was about eight times as attractive as him. He ambled over to us to say hi.
'Is this your new girlfriend?' asked Sharon.
'Well. Huh. You know, she thinks she is, but we're not going out, we're just sleeping together.I ought to stop it really, but, well . . .' he said, smugly.
'Oh, that is just such crap, you cowardly, dysfunctional little schmuck. Right. I'm going to talk to that woman,' said Sharon, getting up. Jude and I forcibly restrained her while Alex, looking panic-stricken, rushed back, to continue his fuckwittage unrumbled.
Eventually the three of us worked out a strategy for Jude. She must stop beating herself over the head with Women Who Love Too Much and instead think more towards Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, winch will help her to see Richard's behaviour less as a sign that she is co-dependent and loving too much and more in the light of him being like a Martian rubber band which needs to stretch away in order to come back.
'Yes, but does that mean I should call him or not?' said Jude.
'No,' said Sharon just as I was saying, 'Yes.'
After Jude had gone because she has to get up at 5.45 to go to the gym and see her personal shopper before work starts at 8.30 (mad) — Sharon and I were suddenly filled with remorse and self-loathing for not advising Jude simply to get rid of Vile Richard because he is vile. But then, as Sharon pointed out, last time we did that they got back together and she told him everything we'd said in a fit of reconcilatory confession and now it is cripplingly embarrassing every time we see him and he thinks we are the Bitch Queens from Hell — which, as Jude points out, is a misapprehension because, although we have discovered our Inner Bitches, we have not yet unlocked them.
Thursday 5 January
9st 3 (excellent progress — 21b of fat spontaneously combusted through joy and sexual promise), alcohol units 6 (v.g. for party), cigarettes 12 (continuing good work), calories 1258 (love has eradicated need to pig out).
11 a.m. Office. Oh my God. Daniel Cleaver just sent me a message. Was trying to work on CV without Perpetua noticing (in preparation for improving career) when Message Pending suddenly flashed up on top of screen. Delighted by, well, anything — as always am if is not work — I quickly pressed RMS Execute and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Cleave at the bottom of the message. I instantly thought he had been able to tap into the computer and see that I was not getting on with my work. But then I read the message:
You appear to have forgotten your skirt. As
I think is made perfectly clear in your
contract of employment, staff are expected
to be fully dressed at all times.
Hah! Undeniably flirtatious. Thought for a little while whilst pretending to study tedious-beyond-belief manuscript from lunatic Have never messaged Daniel Cleaver before but brilliant thing about messaging system is you can be really quite cheeky and informal, even to your boss. Also can spend ages practising. This is what sent.
Sir, am appalled by message. Whilst skirt
could reasonably be described as a little
on the skimpy side (thrift being ever our
watchword in editorial), consider it gross
misrepresentation to describe said skirt as
absent, and considering contacting union.
Waited in frenzy of excitement for reply. Sure enough Message Pending quickly flashed up. Pressed RMS:
Will whoever has thoughtlessly removed the
edited script of KAFKA'S MOTORBIKE from my
desk PLEASE have the decency to return it
Aargh. After that: zilch.
Noon. Oh God. Daniel has not replied. Must be furious. Maybe he was being serious about the skirt. Oh God oh God. Have been seduced by informality of messaging medium into being impertinent to boss.
12.10.Maybe he has not got it yet. If one could get message back. Think will go for walk and see if can somehow go into Daniel's office and erase it.
12.15.Hah. All-explained. He is in meeting with Simon from Marketing. He gave me a look when walked past. Aha. Ahahahaha. Message Pending:
If walking past office was attempt to
demonstrate presence of skirt can only say
that it has failed parlously. Skirt is
indisputably absent. Is skirt off sick?
Message Pending then flashed up again immediately.
If skirt is indeed sick, please look into how
many days sick leave skirt has taken in previous
twelvemonth. Spasmodic nature of recent
skirt attendance suggests malingering
Just sending back:
Skirt is demonstrably neither sick nor
abscent. Appalled by management's
blatently sizist attitude to skirt.
Obsessive interest in skirt suggests
management sick rather than skirt.
Hmm. Think will cross last bit out as contains mild accusation of sexual harassment whereas v. much enjoying being sexually harassed by Daniel Cleaver.
Aaargh. Perpetua just walked past and started reading over shoulder. Just managed to press Alt Screen in nick of time but big mistake as merely put CV back up on screen.
'Do let me know when you've finished reading, won't you?' said Perpetua, with a nasty smirk. 'I'd hate to feel you were being underused.'
The second she was safely back on the phone — 'I mean frankly, Mr Birkett, what is the point in putting three to four bedrooms when it is going to be obvious the second we appear that bedroom four is an airing cupboard?' — I got back to work. This is what I am about to send.
Skirt is demonstrably neither sick nor
abscent. Appalled by management's
blatently sizist attitude to skirt.
Considering appeal to industrial tribunal,
Oh dear. This was return message.
Absent, Jones, not abscent. Blatantly, not
Blatently. Please attempt to acquire at
least perfunctory grasp of spelling. Though
by no means trying to suggest language fixed
rather than constantly adapting, fluctuating
tool of communication (cf Hoenigswald)
computer spell check might help.
Was just feeling crestfallen when Daniel walked past with Simon from Marketing and shot a very sexy look at my skirt with one eyebrow raised. Love the lovely computer messaging. Must work on spelling, though. After all, have degree in English.
Friday 6 January
5.45 p.m.Could not be more joyous. Computer messaging re: presence or otherwise of skirt continued obsessively all afternoon. Cannot imagine respected boss did stroke of work. Weird scenario with Perpetua (penultimate boss), since knew I was messaging and v. angry, but fact that was messaging ultimate boss gave self conflicting feelings of loyalty — distinctly un-level playing field where anyone with ounce of sense would say ultimate boss should hold sway.
Last message read:
Wish to send bouquet to ailing skirt over
weekend. Please supply home contact no asap
as cannot, for obvious reasons, rely on
given spelling of 'Jones' to search in file.
Yesssss! Yessssss' Daniel Cleaver wants my phone no. Am marvellous. Am irresistible Sex Goddess. Hurrah!
Sunday 8 January
9st 2 (v. bloody g. but what is point?), alcohol units 2 (excellent), cigarettes 7, calories 3100 (poor).
2 p.m. Oh God, why am I so unattractive? Cannot believe I convinced myself I was keeping the entire weekend free to work when in fact I was on permanent date-with-Daniel standby. Hideous, wasted two days glaring psychopathically at the phone, and eating things. Why hasn't he ring? Why? What's wrong with me? Why ask for my phone number if he wasn't going to ring, and if he was going to ring surely he would & it over the weekend? Must centre myself more. Will ask Jude about appropriate self-help book, possible Eastern-religion-based.
8 p.m. Phone call alert, which turned out to be just Tom, asking if there was any telephonic progress. Tom, who has taken, unflatteringly, to calling himself a hag-fag, has been sweetly supportive about the Daniel crisis. Tom has a theory that homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding: both being accustomed to disappointing their parents and being treated as freaks by society. He indulged me while I obsessed to him about my unattractiveness crisis — precipitated, as I told him, first by bloody Mark Darcy then by bloody Daniel at which point he said, I must say not particularly helpfully, 'Mark Darcy? But isn't he that famous lawyer — the human-rights guy?'
Hmmm. Well, anyway. What about my human right not to have to wander round with fearsome unattractiveness hang-up?
11 p.m.It is far too late for Daniel to ring. V. sad and traumatized.
Monday 9 January
9st 2, alcoholunits 4, cigarettes 29, calories 770(v.g. but at what price?).
Nightmare day in office. Watched the door for Daniel all morning: nothing. By 11.45 a.m. I was seriously alarmed. Should I raise an alert?
Then Perpetua suddenly bellowed into the phone: 'Daniel? He's gone to a meeting in Croydon, He'll be in tomorrow.' She banged the phone down and said, 'God, all these bloody girls ringing him up.'
Panic stricken, I reached for the Silk Cut. Which girls? What? Somehow I made it through the day, got home, and in a moment of insanity left a message on Daniel's answerphone, saying (oh no, I can't believe I did this), 'Hi, it's Jones here. I was just wondering how you are and if you wanted to meet for the skirt-health summit, like you said.'
The second I put the phone down I realized it was an emergency and rang Tom, who calmly said leave it to him: if he made several calls to the machine he could find the code which would let him play back and erase the message. Eventually he thought he'd cracked it, but unfortunately Daniel then answered the phone. Instead of saying, 'Sorry, wrong number,' Tom hung up. So now Daniel not only has the insane message but will think it's me who's rung his answerphone fourteen times this evening and then, when I did get hold of him, banged the phone down.
Slunk into the office crippled with embarrassment about the message. I had resolved totally to detach myself from Daniel but then he appeared looking unnervingly sexy and started making everyone laugh so that I went all to pieces.
Suddenly, Message Pending flashed up on the top of my computer screen.
Thanks for your phone call.
My heart sank. That phone call was suggesting a date. Who replies by saying 'thanks' and leaves it at that unless they but after a little thought, I sent back:
Please shut up. I am very busy and
And after a few minutes more, he replied.
Sorry to interrupt, Jones, pressure must be hellish. Over and out.
PS. I like your tits in that top.
. . . And we were off.Frantic messaging continued all week, culminating in him suggesting a date for Sunday night and me dizzyingly, euphorically, accepting. Sometimes I look around the office as we all tap away and wonder if anyone is doing any work at all.
(Is it just me or is Sunday a bizarre night for a first date? All wrong, like Saturday morning or Monday at 2 p.m.)
Sunday 15 January
9st (excellent), alcohol units 0, cigarettes 29 (v.v. bad, esp. in 2 hours), caloriess 3879 (repulsive), negative thoughts 942 (approx. based on av. per minute), minutes spent counting negative thoughts 127 (approx.).
6 p.m. Completely exhausted by entire day of date-preparation. Being a woman is worse than being a farmer there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature — with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Dennis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwelpeter, blind as bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence?
7 p.m. Cannot believe this has happened. On the way to the bathroom, to complete final farming touches, I noticed the answerphone light was flashing: Daniel.
'Look, Jones. I'm really sorry. I think I'm going to have give tonight a miss. I've got a presentation at ten in the morning and a pile of forty-five spreadsheets to get through,'
Cannot believe it. Am stood up. Entire waste of whole day's bloody effort and hydroelectric body-generated power. However, one must not live one's life through men but must be complete in oneself as a woman of substance.
9 p.m. Still, he is in top-level job. Maybe be didn't want to ruin first date with underlying work-panic.
11 p.m.Humph.He might have bloody well rung again, though. Is probably out with someone thinner.
5 a.m. What s wrong with me? I'm completely alone. Hate Daniel Cleaver. Am going to have nothing more to do with him. Am going to get weighed.
Monday 16 January
9 st 2 (from where? why? why?), alcohol units 0, cigarettes 20, calories 1500, positive thoughts 0.
10.36 a.m. Office. Daniel is still locked in his meeting. Maybe it was a genuine excuse.
1 p.m.Just saw Daniel leaving for lunch. He has not messaged me or anything. V. depressed. Going shopping.
11.50 p.m. Just had dinner with Tom in Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor, who was obsessing about a pretentious-sounding 'freelance film maker' called Jerome. Moaned to him about Daniel, who was in meetings all afternoon and only managed to say, 'Hi, Jones, how's the skirt?' at 4.30. Tom said not to be paranoid, give it time, but I could tell he was not concentrating and only wanted to talk about Jerome as suffused with sex-lust.
Tuesday 24 January
Heaven-sent day. At 5.30, like a gift from God, Daniel appeared, sat himself on the edge of my desk, with his back to Perpetua, took out his diary and murmured, 'How are you fixed for Friday?'
Friday 27 January
9st 3 (but stuffed with Genoan food), alcohol units 8, cigarettes 400 (feels like), calories 875.
Huh. Had dream date at an intime little Genoan restaurant near Daniel's flat.
'Um . . . right. I'll get a taxi,' I blurted awkwardly as we stood in the street afterwards. Then he lightly brushed a hair from my forehead, took my cheek in his hand and kissed me, urgently, desperately. After a while he held me hard against him and whispered throatily, 'I don't think you'll be needing that taxi, Jones.'
The second we were inside his flat we upon each other like beasts: shoes, jackets, strewn in a trail across the room.
'I don't think this skirt's looking at all well,' he murmured. 'I think it should lie down on the floor.' As he started to undo the zip he whispered, 'This is just a bit of fun, OK? I don't think we should start getting involved.' Then, caveat in place, he carried on with the zip. Had it not been for Sharon and the fuckwittage and the fact I'd just drunk the best part of a bottle of wine, I think I would have sunk powerless into his arms. As it was, I leapt to my feet, pulling up my skirt.
'That is just such crap,' I slurred. 'How dare you be so fraudulently flirtatious, cowardly and dysfunctional? I am not interested in emotional fuckwittage. Goodbye.'
It was great. You should have seen his face. But no I am home I am sunk into gloom. I may have been right, but my reward, I know, will be to end up all alone, half-eaten by an Alsatian.