TO ALL THE GIRLS I’VE LOVED BE­FORE

ON THIS MOST SCARY OF DAT­ING MONTHS, NEIL HUMPHREYS REM­I­NISCES ABOUT HIS LOVE LIFE THUS FAR.

Men's Health (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

On this most scary of dat­ing months, Neil Humphreys rem­i­nisces about his love life thus far.

his col­umn be­gan with a do­mes­tic row. As usual, my wife and I were bick­er­ing over some­thing ridicu­lously ba­nal and puerile af­ter I did some­thing equally child­ish. Shov­ing my iPhone un­der her nose, I shouted: “You see that pretty woman there. She just started fol­low­ing me on Twit­ter. I don’t know who she is, but I bet she wouldn’t scream at me for not putting the mar­garine on the right shelf in the fridge.”

With a hol­low laugh, my wife replied: “Be my guest. Ask her to sleep with you. I’m sure she dreams of sleep­ing with a mal­nour­ished OIive Oyl.” There was no need for the Olive Oyl ref­er­ence. But the ar­gu­ment, my sar­cas­tic wife, the mys­te­ri­ous brunette in the Twit­ter photo and my bat­tered ego got me think­ing about the women who’ve stepped in and out of my nar­ra­tive; who in­flu­enced, se­duced and dumped me (there was a lot more dump­ing than se­duc­ing).

I’m still cap­ti­vated and cowed by women. Like a mal­leable mould of soft clay, I’ve been shaped al­most en­tirely by fe­male fig­ures. Some nipped, tucked and pruned. Oth­ers hacked away at me with a parang. Some were be­nign. Some were ballsy. And some re­moved my balls with a blunt in­stru­ment.

I learned life lessons from them all – the first of which came from Miss Fluin. She had long, silky hair and al­ways wore the tight­est jeans. She was my first crush. She was also my nurs­ery school teacher and I was only four years old, but I’ve al­ways felt that age is just a num­ber. She taught me how to read and write, and ex­plained why it’s never ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour to drop your un­der­pants and show off your “don­gle” in class. That life les­son is just as valu­able to­day as it was when I was four.

Most of all, she in­stilled in me a deep, re­spectable ap­pre­ci­a­tion for flow­ing hair blow­ing gen­tly against skin- tight jeans. Such a sim­ple sar­to­rial look still turns my head. The long hair and the tight trousers re­call the in­no­cent beauty of my first teacher. They also make me think of Rus­sell Brand. That part dis­turbs me.

So, to es­cape the vi­sion of a Cock­ney co­me­dian, I pic­ture my first kiss from Kelly. Now, Kelly be­lieved in fem­i­nism. She was not will­ing to be shaped by the ar­chaic rules of so­cial con­ven­tion and out­dated in­sti­tu­tions im­posed by self­serv­ing pa­tri­archs. She’d go her own way: She’d kiss as many boys as pos­si­ble.

I know I wasn’t the first boy in class she kissed, but at least I wasn’t the last. She taught me how to kiss ro­man­ti­cally – like Elis­a­beth Shue did with Ralph Mac­chio in the orig­i­nal KarateKid – it was all about breath con­trol. By the end of our brief li­ai­son, she had given me the self­be­lief to kiss other girls while she de­vel­oped the abil­ity to scuba dive with­out an oxy­gen tank. But she gave me self­con­fi­dence for which I’ll be eter­nally grate­ful.

First loves do that. Kelly cer­tainly did… for nine whole sec­onds. I floated for an en­tire week, un­til I learned that Larry had kissed Kelly for an oxy­gen- de­fy­ing 17 sec­onds. Some 25 years have since elapsed. I’m still not over it.

As I got older, I went through the usual phases, gen­res and cliches with the op­po­site sex. As a young man stricken with the mind-bend­ing ef­fects of pu­berty, I grap­pled with the naive, hope­ful and al­wayslust­ful ex­pec­ta­tions of what I thought my girl­friends could and should be.

Lost in a hor­monal whirlpool of horny teenage hell, I be­lieved ev­ery woman should re­sem­ble my pneu­mat­i­cally en­dowed French teacher. She spoke in French. Her chest wob­bled a lot when she spoke. Teenage dreams are made of noth­ing else.

For a while, she made me fix­ate on the su­per­fi­cial – all right, I be­came ut­terly ob­sessed with cleav­age – and it was not help­ful. I be­came shame­fully shal­low, in­ter­ested only in women from the neck down. And when I did meet women who shared sim­i­lar in­ter­ests – such as the im­por­tance of cleav­age and fake sun­tans – we ended up hav­ing lit­tle else in com­mon. It turned out I re­ally was in­ter­ested in women from the neck up.

That’s when I moved into my early adult phase of rab­ble-rous­ing mil­i­tant pol­i­tics, an un­shaven ap­pear­ance, long black coats and the most bel­liger­ent of Dr Martens boots.

That wasn’t me; those were the women I hung around with in univer­sity. We were go­ing to start a rev­o­lu­tion in our beds. We quoted Marx. We protested against grubby multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions. We stayed up all night lis­ten­ing to Nir­vana. We didn’t bath very much.

We shared our ide­al­is­tic hopes for a po­lit­i­cal utopia. We shared our man­i­festos. We shared our de­odor­ants. And I loved and learned from them all.

And then I met a com­bi­na­tion of the two. She had long hair and was beau­ti­ful. But she also shared a deep com­pas­sion for the less for­tu­nate and had an opin­ion on ev­ery­thing.

Re­cently, I asked her why one of my re­cent books hadn’t sold as many copies as an ear­lier ti­tle. “Be­cause it’s crap,” she said.

Her life lessons are al­ways grounded in re­al­ity. She still teaches me how to be my­self. But if she thinks I’m putting the mar­garine on a dif­fer­ent fridge shelf, she’s got another thing com­ing.

“AND WHEN I DID MEET WOMEN WHO SHARED SIM­I­LAR IN­TER­ESTS SUCH AS THE IM­POR­TANCE OF CLEAV­AGE AND FAKE SUN­TANS, WE ENDED UP HAV­ING LIT­TLE ELSE IN COM­MON.”

“I’M STILL CAP­TI­VATED BY WOMEN. LIKE A MOULD OF SOFT CLAY,

I’ VE BEEN SHAPED AL­MOST EN­TIRELY BY FE­MALE FIG­URES.“

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