I guess I’m getting to that particular age when people start to really couple up. And not just with that once-off fervour that a few tequila shots at the Walkabout can induce, but in that proper ‘let’s Photoshop our faces together to see what our babies would look like’ way. In fact, one motivating factor for the move from small-town Australasia to London was the fact that in my office of 30 people, my peculiarly singular status and lack of desire for a ‘better half’ with which to tend a vegetable patch with on the weekends had become routine office water-cooler conversation.
Add to this a wealth of coupled up-friends and you may has well have renamed me ‘Third Wheel McGee’. I became quite good at hanging out with twosomes. Of sitting alone at one side of the table whilst they smooched on the bench seat opposite, all the while the waiter standing in the corner shaking his head and bemoaning the aesthetic unevenness of the arrangement. Of agreeing that nicknames like ‘schmoodles’ and ‘cuddly-butt’ were “oh so adorable”. Of watching rom-coms from the single armchair whilst the couple pat each other’s hair and feed each other Thai takeout from a shared fork on the double couch.
But when I moved to London, a city where one does not need to sit at home in a onesie – Bridget Jones style – swilling red wine from a schooner glass and instead celebrating the state of singledom with half-price drinks and speed-dating, I didn’t then except to continue to be surrounded by couples.
Forget internet dating, forget Guardian ‘soulmates’ – if you want to have the nearest stranger come clamp their mouth over yours for all of eternity, then just stand near me. I am a magnet for all things that come in pairs. A mecca for those who wish to walk down the street with their limbs entangled. A nerve centre for those who wish to canoodle in the M&S line when I’m trying to buy my microwavable roast for one.
At a recent trip to Fernandez & Wells, a Spanish tapas hole in the wall in Soho with a long thin bar of stools to sit on and indulge in all things pig, I was confronted with a veritable wall of couples. All facing inwards in a vertical line, their legs intertwined and in various stages of pre-coitus and undress. The entire restaurant was like Noah’s Ark – all in twos. I didn’t even really need to order, I could have just moved down the line, sneaking an olive from between that couple’s interlocked lips, taking a swig from the glass stolen over that girl’s shoulder while she’s busy climbing into that guy’s lap, siphoning a piece of prosciutto from that otherwise occupied man’s hand.
Of course, I didn’t. I just sat in the leftover corner space with my schooner of red and a wheel of cheese, trying to avoid the flailing limbs and contemplating charging couples for my services of having my mere presence reignite their lost passion.