Talk about being totally behind the loop. I'm so late to the party with this guy, it's a Wednesday afternoon, the empties are mouldering in the section of landfill marked "Ha! They thought they were recycling!", and my continual efforts to enter the host's bedroom and deposit my coat have resulted in a worryingly large and sudden police presence. Sorry, what guy? This guy. This guy, who has already progressed through unknown blogger to book deal and out the other side. This guy, who I chanced upon a few months back but only fully got into two days ago, after a surprising incident where I was at work, idly reading his heart-wrenching post about his cat dying, and suddenly found myself actually weeping. I don't weep. I occasionally snuffle, maybe a sob or two will work their way out when I'm feeling particularly slighted, but mostly I favour the single dignified tear rolling down the cheek in a satisfyingly picturesque manner. But this made me weep, at work, in front of a bemused colleague more used to seeing me flailing angrily about myself and muttering dark accursed words in the direction of our useless IT department, in between cheerily making cups of tea for everyone in sight.
So, Bete de Jour, or Stan Cattermole, is a blogger who interests me thusly: He writes about his life as, in his own words which we must believe as he's not about to give us pictorial evidence and all power to him, an ugly, ugly man. But through his writing, which is by turns silly high-pitched hoot-producing hilarious, so heartbreaking it actually removes your heart and squeezes it cruelly in front of your face like in Indiana Jones, and frankly at times eye-wateringly HOT, he comes across as entirely perfect. If you don't believe me, I invite your disbelieving eyes to focus themselves on his comments box, which is generally packed full of internet females with their faces set to swoon. Which brings me back to an old chestnut: why is it that we can virtually fall in love just through writing?
I have prior in this area, and in homage to the wonderful confessional style of Mr Cattermole, though not with even a tenth of his skill - please expect the hooting and heartwrenching to be at an absolute minimum, and your expression to be unmoved from this position :-| - here's the story of me and the sports writer.
Let's call him David, and I'll curb my enthusiasm for telling you his real name (oh-ho! Let me just award myself a peanut for that one) and let's say he worked for the Times, which he didn't, writing about football, which he didn't. So David the football writer had a real-time column of sorts, which had a bit of an interactivity angle, where people would email in and get their name published against various witty banterage that David would pass comment upon, which would cause a small frisson of glee. One evening myself and two good friends, one human, one gin-bottle-shaped, were having a rather intense communion, decided to write in and got a few emails published. Two thirds of the party were big fans of David (the other third merely exhibited glassy stoicism) so got quite giddy with the minute amount of fame and recognition. The evening passed into alcoholic coma stage, and I thought no more of it.
Till the next day, when I checked my inbox and there was an email from David.
My heart did a little funky dance as I read the email. It was friendly, passing amused judgement on the slightly drunken state of our emails, but was otherwise unremarkable - apart from it coming from a famous writer who didn't know me from Adam, of course. I didn't really know what to do, so I replied in equally open but non-committal tones, with a slight aftertaste of WTF. Not expecting anything more to come of it, I got on with my week.
Then another email. Which I replied to. Then another one. Not thousands a day, or anything, maybe one a week, but they kept coming and I kept replying. He seemed like a thoroughly nice chap, and a great writer. So on it went.
I should at this point it was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like the dreadful film You've Got Mail. There wasn't any of that self-conscious, slightly wry, "I feel closer to you than anyone I know, so I can share with you my theory on why I'm the only one in the world who understands Godfather III" cruddington. I just, if you can possibly believe such a thing, blurted a load of words onto virtual paper in a misguided attempt to be funny.
But he seemed to like it. He kept emailing. It was fun, it was illicit, I started getting an odd but familiar lurch in my stomach when I opened my email. This was the greatest shot in the arm my self-esteem could ever get - this random writer, who I really admired, wanting to read what I wrote, and getting ever so slightly more flirtatious with every reply. So when, as was inevitable, he hesitantly floated the idea that we should, shock amongst horrors, meet up for real, I was Imbruglia'd. (Torn. Must I do everything for you?) Don't get me wrong, I'm not of the Bete de Jour school of thought that I'm cursed with a face that looks like a bag of elbows, but I'm aware that I'm pretty unremarkable. ..Sorry, can you still see me all right behind that enormous guffing great violin that's just appeared and is trying to bow your eyes out with its sad little song? Ignore it, I'll carry on. Anyway, as I considered David's offer of a quick drink somewhere, the words "I WILL BE A CRASHING DISAPPOINTMENT" kept barging through my head like a couple of bailiffs.
But I acquiesced. And we met up. And I got stonkingly drunk, and he'd just split up with his live-in girlfriend, and the combination of those factors resulted in me clonking him over the head and dragging him back to my hovel by his hair. And then proceeded a quite horrific period of six months or so, where we would periodically meet, pretend we were just mates, innit! s'all fine! until I (it was always, always me) got drunk enough to actually get over my innate Britishness and fear of intimacy and general hang-ups, and we would retire to somewhere usually uncomfortable to do things which I would never properly remember.
But I liked him. I really, really, *really* liked him. So when I had finally had enough of this strange one-sided fuck-buddy arrangement, and sort of tried to say, well, hey, maybe we could try maybe doing a relationship type of thing, well, OK, not even that, but you know, I'm not talking about two hearts beating as one death do us part but maybe YOU could just kiss ME, touch the side of my face, maybe, just once, what did I get? Nuh-uh. No way Jose. And why? Cos I really wasn't the person that I came across as over email.
Needless to say, I only saw him eight or nine times more and that was totally IT. Kidding. I did of course run home and cry my little face off, and have barely seen him since... A couple of lunches, of course never, ever mentioning the whole heartbreak elephant that was stamping in our soup, and once they fizzled out, nothing. So, over email, I'm pretty amazing. Real life? Not so much.
This mental fence did, as you may well imagine, take me quite a few attempts to clear. Many, many brain-horses were shot for glue.
Gosh, what was my point? This is the longest post ever, apologies. Ah, yes, Mr Cattermole. On his blog, and through his book which I am going to buy as soon as I can find it, as everywhere I go says that they have it on their shelves and don't, he is funny, warm, amazing, fantastic, beautiful, inspiring, thesaurus fail, and boffo. Is it a carefully crafted facade, designed to twang the fallopian tubes of the silly wimmins like me, or is he actually perfect? And how can stuff like this come across so heavily in how people write?
Well, that was going to be the meat of the post, not an incredibly long-winded confessional booth whine and then a massive, massive Bete de Jour scrotal massage, but dear readers, it is long past bedtime and it will have to wait till another day. Hold it! ..OK, now you may celebrate. Hootenanny!