A Look At Life: Romantic Mistakes

23rd September 2011

Rubbing Out Those Romantic Mistakes

Clare Finney

The moment came (as such moments are wont to do) about half way through a bottle of wine.

“The problem,” said my companion, a fellow sufferer and the only thing sitting between me and the rest of the bottle, “is that now you’ve finally let this boy into your double-barred steel coffer of a heart there is nothing you can do to get him. Nothing.”

“I could text him?” I ventured.

“No! Put down your phone. Delete his number. Delete the entire message thread and your call history. And don’t even think about ‘texting by mistake’.”

“What about a letter? Nothing gets through like a letter. I could explain…”

“Oh, for God’s sake. What is this, 1920? Besides” – she leaned over and prised the now tepid Pinot out my hand – “you’re a journalist. You write for a living. Chances are he wouldn’t believe you.”

For a moment we sat there, with me staring forlornly into my glass and she devouring chilli-salted edamame beans with the single-mindedness of someone who’s been in my shoes for a while. Then genius struck.

“I know what I’ll do. I’ll send him that eraser.”

Thus followed a long pause, broken only by the sound of two large glasses being filled to the brim. “Explain.”

And I did: starting with our failed relationship number one (too young), going on to our post-university failed relationship (too stressed) and finishing off with me realising I actually really loved this boy, telling him so, and getting rejected on the painfully reasonable grounds that “You dumped me. Twice.” The following day, wandering miserably by myself around a random gift shop, I had stumbled upon a pencil eraser that said in big bold letters ‘for Really Big Mistakes’. This, I told my friend, was my moment.

“And you think that by sending him this rubber, you can somehow erase the fact that you dumped him?” she asked slowly, her edamame beans forgotten. I nodded.

“It’s brilliant,” came the reply. “Do it.”

So it was that I came to be sending a jumbo eraser first class to someone I loved, and thereby proving a number of things. Firstly, that I’m crazy. Secondly, that that you should always drink in moderation. And thirdly – and perhaps most importantly at all – just how impossible it is accept defeat in love.

Not even when it’s our fault. Not even when we know we’ll lose our health – and our dignity – if we don’t. When we’re at school we’re told ‘there’s no such word as can’t’; that ‘anything is possible if you put your mind to it’. Admirable sentiments indeed (and great for exams) but woe betide you if you apply these rules to romance.

“Relationships, by their very nature, are a bit scary,” writes Bob Grant, a counselor in the field (‘specialty: helping women understand how men think so they know what to do to make sure a man will want to date, marry, and never leave them’). “Once you allow yourself to experience a feeling you like, such as love, all the uncomfortable feelings now also have a doorway out of your heart.”

With them goes logic, closely followed by a sense of proportion. “You know it’s wrong, but you can’t help yourself,” sighs my friend. “It’s like picking a scab – but more painful.”

Perhaps part of the problem lies with young girls’ diet of Disney princes and princesses, and technicolor promises of ‘happy ever after’: about as reflective of real life as Cinderella is of Kate Middleton. Love in a cartoon climate seems blissfully simple. Add real humans, personal history and all its attendant baggage however, and things get extraordinarily complicated.

Take Bridesmaids, for example, the film I will surely force-feed my kids when they’re young. In it, each romance convention is thoroughly subverted, from the ‘fairytale wedding’ to the flatulent bridesmaid. When the good guy gets the girl, she walks out in panic; when she realises her mistake and puts a carrot-shaped cake iced with ‘Sorry’ on his doorstep, he leaves it to be eaten. By rodents. You still hope they’ll end up together, but deep down you suspect she’s on a one-way ticket to heartbreak.

Which brings me back to sending that eraser. It was mad. It was spontaneous, and slightly inebriated. It was bound to go horribly wrong. And, for precisely these reasons, I strongly suspect that it was the most romantic thing I’ve ever done.

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