My father, who was in a wheelchair, never had any problems seducing women. He had three beautiful wives, many a glamorous girlfriend, and no shortage of flings. He put it down to two things: persistence and making them laugh.
He had a point about persistence. If a fellow tries it on with ten women, say, and persists, the law of probability suggests that one or two will oblige. I have certainly found, in the face of male persistence, that a definite No can sometimes unexpectedly turn into an, ‘Oh all right then, what the hell.’ Many women know those moments of, ‘Shall I? Shan’t I?’ Late at night, a certain amount of internal debate goes on. The suitor is none the wiser, but if he happens to lunge at the right moment, he gets lucky. There are times when a Yes seems politer and easier, somehow, than the inevitable palaver prompted by a No. Paradoxically, it may be the best way to get a good’s night sleep. It is often whether or not he makes us laugh which is the clincher. We all know how winning and attractive a funny man is, even if he looks like Quasimodo.
For men, not so much. Of course, online and in general, they purport to value the old cliché of a GSOH (good sense of humour), but that’s bollocks. What they mean by a woman with a GSOH is one who laughs at their jokes, not a woman who makes them laugh. I’ve been struck of late — generalisation alert — by how few men view witty women as sexy. Recently, the American comedian Amy Schumer was bemoaning this very fact. Miranda Hart has also spoken about this in the past, as have plenty of other women comedians. In fact, many have complained that being funny has been an active turn-off for the men they have dated. A lot put this down to the reason they have had long periods of being single or why they have remained so.
I am not very funny, but I am a show-off and would have liked to have been a stand-up. There was a time I played the Comedy Store with a youthful Paul Merton and Julian Clary. I was crap. But in normal life, as a middle-aged divorced person who is not a total recluse, life — and especially the dating life — is a rich seam of comic material. If one is prepared to take on the mantle of performing monkey for the amusement of couples who can sit smugly thinking, ‘There, but for the grace of God,’ then I am happy enough to perform that service — and I do, God help me, and not just in this column. They laugh, but if there is an unattached man in the room, the cost is a swift retreat. Fair enough, perhaps: they don’t want to risk becoming the butt of a future anecdote, and more fool me for not playing demure. But even when the subject of my comedy routine is nothing to do with dating, all flirtatiousness ceases in the puff of a punchline. Men enjoy the company of larky women, but on the whole they don’t want to sleep with them.
I have observed this numerous times over the years. Most recently, in my dealings with two single men on two separate social occasions. I had long, involved and flirtatious conversations with them both over dinner. With one it was a two-way traffic. He asked questions, laughed a lot and stayed by my side all evening, not exactly holding back with his body language. The other didn’t ask any questions so I asked him a great deal about himself and he answered effusively. I was a prompt and a sounding board: interested, sympathetic, quiet — and as dull as I possibly could be. No fun at all, I would have thought.
The first — charming, generous conversationalist, interested, great sense of humour — I have not heard from since. The second, out of whom I barely managed to raise a smile, let alone a smidgen of implicit body language, has been urgently pursuing me from that night.
I had been thinking of applying to do a comedy course in Chicago. It’s a pathetic idea — a hopeless chasing of an old dream, a mid-life crisis, last chance saloon, call it what you will. But I was tempted before old age proper sets in.
Now, though, I am having serious doubts. On the remote chance I turned out to be any good at all, I fear that would be the nail in the coffin and my ailing romantic life would finally expire.