Last summer, I was browsing the shops of Soho with my lovely friend on the search for her ‘first dildo’.
We had a look around, and every time I found one that looked pretty cool, she read the box and looked slightly crestfallen.
“I don’t want something called ‘the giant destroyer’, or ‘prince of penetration’. Whatever happened to ‘Wonderful Steve’, or ‘Marriage-material Mike’?”
Clearly, she wanted more from a dildo name than the promise of borderline violence. She wanted a non-threatening, intimate friend.
‘Wonderful Steve’ became a bit of a joke ever since (not helped by the fact that the next day we met a guy called Steve), and yet she touched on something rather more profound than it originally sounded.
Just before Christmas, I was possibly ‘seeing someone’. We’d had a few dates, been to a couple of parties. We seemed a likely match in many ways. My friends liked him. I even got him a Christmas present. In my particular style, it was, of course, the most awesome, hilarious and completely personally suited present I could imagine. We’d chat every day, almost. He worked abroad a lot of the time, so things were rather limited. Yet every conversation was wonderful, and personal, and politely enthusiastic. Yet I noticed a problem. It was always me that initiated the conversation. So I stopped initiating. And that was, wordlessly, the end of that.
It did occur to me that this was not something anyone needed to know. In many ways, having been present as a real person on a few occasions, and as someone who was usually abroad, I could have easily made him my fake boyfriend.
Why would anyone want a fake boyfriend?
Well, there is a multitude of sensible reasons. From the age-old trick of sending yourself flowers at the office, to the modern ‘pretend you are really busy with other people’ methods, seeming like you are desired makes you more of a perceived catch. It puts you in the category of ‘sought-after person’. People are a bit daft like that. They think if you are single long-term, that there must be a reason why. They like to compete for what they see as a desirable prize. It doesn’t seem to matter so much whether the facts are true.
In this hypothetical situation, I’d have a ‘boyfriend’ who never got in my way, who allowed me to do whatever I wanted, who was always plausibly not present, and yet gave me the public status of whatever the conventional, romance-focussed people seemed to think I ought to be spending my time and efforts on. It wouldn’t matter if we ‘broke up’ somewhere down the line; it wouldn’t matter if I ‘found someone else’. What seems to matter to people is that I’m investing my efforts somewhere: In someone. Doing something that gives their own choices the validation of seeing others replicate them.
Basically, my fake boyfriend would have got other people off my back. They wouldn’t have to ‘worry about’ me. They could rest assured that I was doing the ‘normal’ thing of pursuing a conventional relationship, however rocky, unfulfilling and obviously pointless it might actually be. I’d have had all the benefits of being single and pursuing whatever I wished to, without the social stigma attached to it. You notice there are a lot of inverted commas in here. The reason for this is because they are not thoughts I actually have myself.
A fake boyfriend: This might sound rather an odd thing to consider, but is it really so strange?
A multitude of people in long marriages work opposing shifts. They travel for their jobs. They take ‘girls’ weekends’ and ‘holidays with the lads’. They spend their work time apart and their leisure time pursuing their own interests. It seems quite possible and plausible to have a respectable ‘relationship’ long term with a person you spend as little time with as you can get away with. What do you have then? A fondness? A tolerance? A business partnership? An annoyance? Is this the passionate, romantic love and affection the world expects us to be feeling, regardless of evidence to the contrary?
It strikes me that the purpose of conventional relationships can be split into different motives:
- Companionship: Having someone around on a regular basis. Can also be easily filled by friends, family, pleasant workmates or others.
- Status: The status of not being a ‘single’. This is more of an issue for women than men, as viewed by society. The reason why this should be so is somewhat unclear. Presumably, it’s related to the alphas of animal societies being the ones who are allowed to breed. If you are a single woman, you must clearly be desperate not to be.
- Sexual: A person to provide you with tactile, physical pleasure. Easily replaced by a bubble bath, warm fireplace or chocolate. The number of relationships in which physical pleasure no longer plays, or never did play a significant part is phenomenal. Statistically speaking, one does better to invest in a quality toy than one does to pay for the lonely hearts columns or dating apps. At the end of the day, the agency of our pleasure should always belong to ourselves. The vast majority of potential suitors are not love-gods. They might do their best, bless them, but they are fallible humans.
- Validation: This is a peculiar mix of long term societal expectations affecting our own self-worth. Whatever we achieve, however wonderful we are in our own right, as the song goes, ‘you’re nobody ‘till somebody loves you’. To have even one person in life accept you completely and think you are worthy seems to be expected to be enough to compensate for the opinions of the rest of the world. Let’s not get too hung up on this though. Plenty of serial killers were married couples. Plenty of canonized saints were single. The opinion of one person really isn’t all that important.
- Emotional: Someone to confide in; unload on; lift you up; know your dreams. Again, more easily roles filled by family and friends.
It is interesting to note that, with very few exceptions, women who are divorced or widowed later in life do not stumble and fail. They do not set out to get themselves the very next man that crosses their path, in fear and loneliness. That is not to say that they do not love or miss their former life-partner: Rather, women are complex and diverse social creatures, and having already had the status conferred by being a wife, mother, grandmother; running a home, family and business, the last thing they need when suddenly truly independent is to find another man to look after. Statistically, they live longer than married women. Statistically, single men live less long than either.
Perhaps there are better things to focus on than keeping the world reassured that we are happy in the way they think they must be.
Here are some adventures you can have with or without a partner:
- Learning about what makes you wonderful and unique
- Learning what gives you pleasure, in your mind, body and soul
- Learning about different people and loving them for who they are, without needing anything back
- Discovering what you are capable of doing, beyond that which you ever dreamed
- Being someone who makes other people’s lives better in some way – either by being a force of happiness or being the one person they can turn to for support who won’t judge them
- Planning new experiences for yourself: travel, events, hobbies, career directions
- Being a part of your community. Finding your true community.
- Creating something that wasn’t there before, from the depths of your own soul and experience
- Treating yourself the way you wish a lover would treat you
All in all, do we need a fake boyfriend? Not really. Though it would probably be a lot less hassle than a real one.
Love comes in many forms. A life without couple-status is not a life of tragedy. A life without love might be, for some but certainly not for all. Yet the wonderful thing about love is it can be found all over the place when you reach out to connect with people. Happiness comes from being a part of things, not from owning them. And certainly not from squeezing what is natural into a shape that isn’t, just to fit in the box the world expects from you.
Be wonderful, be unique; be single or coupled or any other orientation. Just enjoy being you.