What’s the etiquette here? Text? Card? Hate mail?
As I write (a Friday in late June), it’s David’s birthday tomorrow. What’s the etiquette when you haven’t heard from someone for, ooh, two quarterly bills from EDF, you’re still wearing the engagement ring they gave you at Christmas (I tried, again, to return it after lockdown, and the jeweller offered a ‘scrap’ amount of £200!) and it’s their Special Day? Do you send a text? Card? Hate mail? I found myself browsing the Timothy Everest website, looking at a lovely bottle-green shirt, but stopped myself in time. I don’t even know what size he is. He might have expanded on lockdown due to too many packets of warm Revels. Oh, plus he is no longer my boyfriend.
We all know his past birthdays have been disastrous. During lunch at the River Café, he wouldn’t order rhubarb panna cotta as ‘panna cottas should always be vanilla’*. On a romantic mini-break in the New Forest, he had a meltdown before the first course arrived, used his awful gluten-free bread as a sort of face flannel, and I had to lock him out of the £500-a-night-breakfast-and-dinner-not-included room.
But the nice thing about having a boyfriend is that you have someone to buy things for (improve their dress sense according to your own taste, more like) and go on mini-breaks with. The downside? Men always expect sex on their birthday, no matter if you have been arguing. So if I did send a friendly text, and David turned up to be in my bubble, he would want sex, despite the fact I have lockdown legs**. And have been arranging to meet another man for lunch, which he surely knows about because he checks up on me***.
The day after David’s birthday, my column will be published where I talk about P from Westcliff. P’s emails are friendly and complimentary, whereas David’s are more 18th century: ‘I hope you are well’. I also write about The Purge, where you get rid of any sign a man has been in your life: cheap toothpaste, non-artisan tea bags, skin cells. So, if David did arrive tomorrow, I would wake up on Sunday to him moaning that there are no tea bags, then peering at his iPad, reading all this and emerging in a dark mood. It’s horrendous, nothing being private. We’re like Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, only slightly less heated and attractive. A court wouldn’t have to order me to disclose texts, as everyone will have read them.
Anyway, Saturday night, I gave in. ‘Hi Dave. Happy birthday! [cake emoji]’ He replied, ‘Thank you. Not exactly the party I’d planned. But Prudence**** seemed to enjoy herself.’ I told him my tour has been put back by a year because of a bat virus.
‘Out of bat hell,’ he replied.
‘What? Did I make you laugh? I thought I was boring and dull.’
I ignored that and told him I’ve been having therapy in lockdown.
‘Really? You should ask for your money back. I’ve been listening to your podcast. Nicola is poisonous. And I never used bread as a flannel.’ Ah, so his listening is bang up to date.
‘Blameless, aren’t you. We never had one deep discussion about anything.’
‘I tried to talk to you about your finances and you shut me down.’
Did he? I know he once spotted a Space NK near my flat and said, ‘You’d better not go in there too often.’ I then told him he’d been rude to my friend Helen, who stayed with us over Christmas. ‘You’ll have to remind me who Helen is. And I doubt that I was. But it’s true I’m domestically challenged and my garden is a mess.’
And that was it. I should never have texted him. It was the I Heart Champagne that did it.
Then, on Sunday, I got this. From P. ‘LL*****. Looking forward to our lunch. I would offer to pick you up so that you could have as much champagne as you liked, but with your dogs, it would be mayhem in the Maserati… OMG you’re interesting and very funny.’
Compare and contrast, shall we?
*This, from a man who doesn’t own a teaspoon
***Reads this magazine
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