I've heard lots of women moan about the failings of prospective men, before they can bring themselves to think that it would be all right to go out with them. You know the usual thing: "he's not very tall", "he's fat", "he's bald", "he's an accountant", "he's got small hands - that means small... doesn't it?" Fair enough. Good reasons. But just listen to this one. I spent hours in a bar the other night with a very politically correct friend, who informed me that after numerous meetings with so-called like-minded types, she had given up. Then, unexpectedly, she ended up going to a party full of rugby-playing types, who had never opened a Guardian in their lives. Now we were talking.
So she meets sexy, gorgeous guy, turns down offers from four other similar guys, and thinks it's Christmas. Takes sexy, gorgeous guy home, decides she is very keen, realises she is very pissed, so before he can even put his lips to his Nescafe, sends him away. Then, as if that weren't bad enough, they forget to exchange phone numbers. By this stage I have my head in my hands.
She says it doesn't end there. The next morning she gets up, staggers into the kitchen, sees his undrunk coffee, and realises that she has lost him forever. Then after a whole morning of stomping around her flat saying, "Why? Why? Why?", the phone rings. It isn't him. I wasn't going to be able to bear this much longer. It is the party host, who wonders if sexy, gorgeous guy might still be with her, because he has left his wallet there. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" she is now saying. So am I. What a relief. So she races round to the party flat, and is allowed to examine the wallet. She doesn't really want to be nosy, so she just slips her telephone number inside. Isn't that so romantic? Then curiosity gets the better of her. Shaking her head, she says to me, "That's when I discovered it." "What?" I say, thinking: Oh God, he's a Tory MP/ transvestite/ got six children. Poor girl. I say gently, "What was it - you can tell me". She looks at me, stricken. "His pay slip". His pay slip? "He earns pounds 100,000 a year. I can't justify going out with someone like that." By now I have lost patience. I've got my head in my hands again.
I cannot believe I am hearing this. I try making excuses for him - "it's nothing after tax and NI and bills - in fact he's probably no better off than you." This doesn't wash.
Finally I give up, and say, "If it's such a problem, can't you just buy him some Birkenstocks and pretend he's an impoverished aid worker?" Her eyes light up, she says she can't thank me enough, and leaves. I wonder what his failings were.