Self-Portrait- Dabwood 2013
As the milestone of St. Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s difficult not to take stock of one’s love life, a sort of romantic tax return. For myself, this time last year, I was recovering from a difficult break up and very much convinced that relationships were dumb bullshit only for fat stupid idiots like you and that disgusting sea-mammal you’re shacked up with in the filth kennel of a hell-hole you no doubt call home.
The results were in and after a decade or so of trial and error I believed that monogamous romantic relationships were inherently ridiculous and deeply, fundamentally flawed as a concept. It seemed absurd to enter a new relationship with any sort of optimism in the face of the facts - like how statistically you’re more likely to be killed by a spouse than by sharks, hammers, diseases or time. Or the statistic that over 50% percent of marriages fail within the first 5 years and only about 80% of people get married anyway - meaning if you were to add those two figures together, you would be doing maths.
Not to mention the other obvious worst-case-scenarios, like ending up in infidelity, apathy or open combat.
It is perhaps also worth noting that at the time of developing this theory, I was carrying around a lot of “being dumped” weight and - when shirtless - I looked like a bag of ham that had been kicked. Like a bag of damp ham. Like 3 onions in a sock. Just a sort of beige net full of mallets.
I considered myself old enough and wise enough to know better than to do it all again, but that left the nagging question: what are the alternatives?
Polyamory seems a lark, if a little idealistic for me personally. I fear I’m perhaps too traditional and catholic to go the whole hog and jealousy might get the better of me. Or I’d wind up over-committing to an unconventional lifestyle and before I know it there’s a cage in my kitchen housing a Peruvian gimp named Stefahne.
Becoming a confirmed bachelor hardly seems my style. I could see myself very easily twisting into one of those sad old gimmers fingering a copy of The Game in my fuzzy top hat, before leaping into the street during the daytime to tell perfectly nice girls they’ve got fat shins.
And then there’s asexuality. Eschewing romance entirely - who am I kidding? I wear a shaggy beard and a few lumberjack shirts and I could just as well be sitting in the woods eating a plate of spanners, but deep down I’m act one Reese Witherspoon pulling a little wheelie suitcase around an airport hoping to stumble into my next meet-cute.
But the deck seemed awfully stacked, and experience has told me that relationships in the manner that I had been practicing them are unrealistic, impractical, impossible to maintain and you would have to be fucked in the head to start one. A year later I still believe this sincerely and whole heartedly to be the truth.
All that having been said, I went out with a girl a few months ago and now we’re seeing each other. So that’s that fucked. She created a problem for me: I didn’t want a relationship, but she’s not a relationship. She’s a somewhat remarkable person I want to spend an inordinate amount time with, she’s smart, she looks nice, she makes me laugh and I’m relatively certain she won’t murder me. I like her in spite of the fact that she can’t whisper, she has a cat to which I’m so allergic that it turns the very air around me into poison and (most distressingly) she’s onto my bullshit. And of course there’s a whole load of other stuff but that’s private.
Either way, I was quite content being a miserable old sod before I met her and falling for someone new was a massive inconvenience I could frankly have done without. And to me, that is a tremendously romantic sentiment.
I don’t believe relationships work. In fact I’m not entirely sure what “work” even means or by what metric success is measured. I’ve got nothing but a back catalogue of abject failures to draw on and (if I may artlessly blend my metaphors) I think the boat is - if not necessarily sinking - then certainly leaking and most assuredly doomed, but if she’s getting onboard then I suppose I want to go too. Just in case I’m wrong this time.
Happy Valentines and all that.
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE (or THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE)
KURT VONNEGUT JR
Here’s a big illustration project I did recently for Prudential and Droga5. It’s a Procrastination Personality Test, which may be of interest to you if - like me - you’re on the internet in the day right now.