Saturday, April 19, 2008

Kissed - thanks to Ireland's smoking ban

Two women "starting again" deliver kisses in the garden

Photo by Lady_AnnDerground (Flickr)

This is the text of my That's Men column published in The Irish Times on Tuesday, 15th April, 2008. A collection of That's Men columns will be published by Veritas this summer:

It's not every day you get kissed by two women while you're minding your own business but, thanks to the smoking ban, it happened to me last week.

I was having a pint in the conservatory bar of a public house when the heat from the sun sent me out to the pub garden. Sitting in such a place is like watching a series of one-act plays as customers – ranging from the young and beautiful to those with one foot in the grave – come out for their smoke.

Among them were two well-oiled, as they say, women, one in high spirits, the other subdued. The one in high spirits was advising the other on the question of chatting up men. The subdued one did not know how to chat up men, could think of nothing to say to them and didn't know what to do about it. Her companion urged her to have a go - "All you have to do is say Hello Gorgeous" - and see what happened. Her own philosophy, she explained, was that when she was in the nursing home in her old age – “They’ll send me there to get their hands on the house,” she said of her loving family – she wanted to be thinking about the fun she had and not be marooned on a chair watching Bosco on the television. I certainly identified with her on that one: such indignities as might be inflicted by incapacity must be endured but being forced to watch Bosco counts as an act of inhumanity.

This did not reasurre the subdued one who objected that the men you meet in nightclubs only want the one thing. "Well don't give it to them," her companion advised. “That’s what I do, well, most of the time,” she laughed.

At their age - fortyish - most of the good catches were married or gay so it wasn't all that easy to get a man worth having, she added. That's why you had to get out there where you could be seen.

"Amn't I right?" she asked me, well aware that I had been listening to everything they said despite my pretence that I was absorbed in my Irish Times and my packet of peanuts. I agreed, of course – there was no future in disagreeing.

Having established that I was on the right side, she returned to the demanding task of educating her doubtful companion on how to become a woman of the world. Then the cigarettes were finished and it was time to go back.

"But I'm kissing him first," she said and bounced over to me, threw her arms around me and administered a good, solid kiss on the cheek, almost smothering me in her ample bosoms.

But it seems that her efforts at persuasion had not been entirely lost on her companion.

"I'm going to kiss him as well, so," said the subdued one when her mentor had withdrawn. She then gave me an appropriately subdued kiss on the cheek and off they both went, leaving me alone with my peanuts.

That ended my adventure but I have to say that my sympathies were entirely with the subdued lady. I gathered from their talk that they were both “starting out again” on the search for an enduring relationship.

The ebullient one may have seen it all as great fun but I suspect the subdued one has many more sympathisers among those who are separated, or dumped, or still single after all those years.

For many such people the thoughts of having to go anywhere near a nightclub is off-putting to such a degree that they just can’t face it. The same applies to chatting people up in bars. Their motto is, Never again!

I suppose they could try internet dating like the service run by and I’ve met a couple of people who were happy they took the internet route. They hadn’t yet found their soul companion but they had found people they liked.

But if you don’t want to do that, or to suffer in nightclubs or embarrass yourself in bars, you could just hang around the smoking areas of pubs minding your own business and see what happens.

I’ll be the one with the Irish Times, the pint and the packet of peanuts.

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