The Trader: Suffering the single tingle

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The Independent Online
THERE'S NOTHING wrong in being single. Actually, that's not quite true. There is, in fact, one major flaw with not having a boyfriend - and that's the way everyone who isn't single treats you.

There's the neurotic girl now going out with one of your university friends, for instance, who won't invite you round for dinner because you're not in a couple and might, therefore, be tempted to run off with her man. You're inclined to point out that if the prospect were that appealing, you'd have done it in the three years you and man lived practically next door to each other. But you know she wouldn't listen because she never does.

Then there are your parents, who are too wise to make a frontal assault. Nevertheless, you notice that they have every single Disney cartoon on video - for the non-existent grandchildren.

And there are friends like Giles, who has been going out with Sarah for so long they had their seven-year itch in the dawn of their twenties. Since I split up with Olivier, Giles has introduced me to every unhitched man he knows. "More like 'unhinged', though," I tell Laura after one typically ghastly evening. "You know, apparently well-mannered, but thinks dressing casually means undoing the top button of your stripy shirt. And he asked me to go to a cricket match with him at the weekend. He said it would be fun."

"Well," Laura replies, "if you lead a very dull life, perhaps cricket is fun by comparison. I mean, you did say he was a stockbroker. What did you tell him?"

"That I'd rather drink slow-acting poison - and he laughed. I don't think he realised I was being completely serious."

Laura isn't going to let me get too depressed over this. There can't be an endless supply of single stockbrokers, even though it seems like it. And it was Giles who introduced me to my last boyfriend, the glamorous and far-from-boring Olivier.

"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," says Kirsty, who's finally closed off a deal she's been pricing all morning.

"Very clever, Kirsty," I say. "The old ones are the best, aren't they? Anyway, I didn't say I needed a man. I'm just cross the rest of the world seems to think I do." Then Mrs Hughes rattles in with her trolley and we're too busy fighting over her home-made fruit cake to talk of anything else.

So it's not until evening that we return to the topic. Rory has developed a new trick of insisting we all go to the bar with him and then disappearing after the first drink, so he's gone, Simon trotting after him. Findlay and Kirsty have gone back to the office to work on some mega-complex deal, and Laura has gone to meet her sister. Suddenly, it's me and Jaap, which seems to be happening a lot lately.

"I hear your friends have been match-making you recently," Jaap says, with an unreadable expression on his face. "Have you, er, met anyone?"

"No one I'd touch with a barge-pole," I say. "I wish everyone would understand that I'm perfectly happy being single."

"Oh, I see. It's just..." Jaap pauses, and suddenly my heart flips. "There are plans to set up a separate marketing team, and I've been asked to head it up. It would mean I wouldn't be your boss anymore. If I take the job, would you have dinner with me many, many times?"

I can hardly speak for pleasure. Because, although I'm perfectly happy being single, there's nothing wrong with not being single, either.

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