154 – Poscia, più che ‘l dolor poté il digiuno

Disclaimer no 1: for the snow in Spain winter hikes, scroll down.

I know I have recently been hinting about posting an article about some of the material worthy of National Geographic that one inevitably comes across while trying to causally date the opposite sex. Or any sex, really, I trust that people interested in same-sex encounters will have as many unbelievable stories to share as I do. There are heaps of bat-shit crazy people freely roaming the streets. Really, it’s a jungle out there. I have always felt reluctant about using dating apps, for three reasons: I have a history of extremely poor choices when it comes to romantic feelings, I meet enough nutcases in real life, and most importantly, looks play very marginal role in who I end up being attracted to, which is kind of counterproductive when you are supposed to pick someone from a catalogue of photographs, as if you were a witness in an identity parade. And as for getting laid, I come from a generation that used to be able to hook up in bars (and other social occasions, like weddings. Not the grooms, don’t worry. I am a conscientious objector to marriage, but not that much.) But all that belongs to pre-pandemics times. These days, there are no bars, no weddings, and nowhere to meet anybody in general. Hence, nowhere near enough sex. The confinement has been long. Then fasting proved more powerful than pain.* One snowy night (hence the photos) I had a fairly liquid dinner with my neighbour, and after the third bottle of wine fell victim to our thirst, I drunkenly reasoned that with Covid, as all of us are in the same situation, there must be a higher proportion of normal people (or at least the good kind of weird) among all the creeps on Tinder. Right? No, not really. 

Madrid: Palacio Real

Disclaimer no 2. I have shared all sorts of stories en petit comité with my friends, but I would not really share them here, because even though some of the idiots I’ve dealt with deserve to be ridiculed publicly, I still respect their privacy. Also, making fun of someone’s poor bedroom performance is a mean thing to do, and I am, deep down, a nice girl. Mostly. However, a word of advice, gentlemen, as it seems to be the case with far too many of you. A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of poor oral abilities. It is mind-blowing to realise how many of you have not learned a thing, given the amount of time and energy you all spend watching porn. It’s really easy. It’s called clitoris and it works. One single point – ONE – you have concentrate on. One. Wandering off to other parts of woman’s body is counterproductive. Think of it this way: when we perform fellatio on you, we do not suddenly interrupt and start licking your elbows, right? Because we are fully aware of the fact that sexual stimulation of an elbow is not helpful with maintaining an erection and by no means can lead to an orgasm. (Then again people wank off with all sorts of weird stuff, but in general, we know that an elbow is not what we are supposed to be licking). Needless to say (but then you never know), the elbow was just an example. Feel free to substitute the elbow for any part of the body that is not the clitoris. Give it your full attention and don’t get distracted. Keep that in mind and good luck next time! 

Apart from ill bedroom manners, there are a lot of people out there who lack basic capacity to interact with others. There was a guy who insisted that women who dine on their own are all prostitutes. I’ve been told that women who charge for sex are prostitutes, but maybe I misunderstood. The genius had the good taste to express this brilliant notion after we chatted for an hour about how I travelled the world on my own. I mean, have you even been listening? Then there are those who try to amaze. Dinners in expensive restaurant. I’m sorry, it doesn’t work with me. I go to expensive restaurants with friends or established partners, or even alone. Exchanging a fancy meal for sex is just a more subtle form of prostitution. Besides, I know if I want to sleep with someone before we get to dinner. No need to buy me a steak. 

I’ll share one story of ordinary madness, because I promised. I was casually dating a guy for about a month. Things seemed ok, uncomplicated, no drama. One day we went out for dinner and came back to mine. He had the bright idea to hang his backpack on the handlebars of my bike. Now, my bike is the single most important thing in my life (and the most expensive in my flat). What does an object designed to stand on two 25 mm large wheels do when you hang something on the side of it? It falls, clearly. Which it dully did. I did not shout. I did not ask what the fuck did he think was gonna happen. I did not instruct him not to dare touching my bike. I did not call him names. I even spared him the lecture on basic physics and gravity, which he may not have been familiar with given his degree in fine arts, which I also omitted to point out. I thought all the above, but I simply took a breath, channelled all the diplomacy I was capable of (which I admit is not my strongest quality) and calmly asked him to try and be careful around my bike. Which I think was perfectly reasonable. Moral of the story: I went to have a quick shower and by the time I came out two minutes later, the gentleman was nowhere to be found. The perfect disappearing act. I tried his cellphone, he did not pick up, I never heard from him again. He may have been abducted by the aliens, for all I know. More probably I’ve awaken some kind of childhood trauma, some powerful image of his mother scolding him for something silly he’d done. Maybe he is attracted to strong independent women, that he tries to tame and he suddenly realised it wasn’t gonna work with me. Well guess what, I am neither a Shakespearian character, regardless sharing her name, nor a bloody horse. The normal thing would have of course been to talk about whatever issue he may have had with my (very mild) reaction, but he’d clearly need to grow a pair for that sort of confrontation. I still cannot tell the story without laughing. I dodged a bullet there. 

Madrid, Plaza Tirso de Molina

The world of online dating is overwhelming. It’s wrong in many ways. For starters, it dehumanised us and the other person. There is zero necessity for basic manners or decency. If you suddenly stop liking the other person, you just disappear and stop responding. You don’t need to give any explanation. Which is great when you want to avoid confronting a creep, but then again, there are a lot of creeps in real life, too, and you should really know how to deal with them when disappearing is not an option. But creeps apart, the apps give you the tool to discard people when you’re bored with them, without feeling guilty about it. Only they don’t even seem people, they are just photographs. Tinder (and I guess all the other apps, I only tried one, I spend large enough part of my day staring at a screen already) also leads us to believe that if we flick through a few more pictures, there may be something better waiting. That even when you start dating someone you like, maybe you’re missing someone better. Maybe you should have another peek.

And besides, it’s boring and mentally exhausting. Every time you start talking to someone, it’s basically the same conversation. It feels like a job interview, like you’re auditioning for a gig.

Why are you in Spain? – To take away your jobs and fuck your men, that’s what us foreigners apparently do.

What do you do? – Have you seen Wolf of Wall Street? That, but without the coke and the ladies, so no glamour in there.   

Do you want to have sex? – Clearly, that’s why we’re all here. However if I want to have sex with you in particular is yet to be determined, and I’m sceptical. I do appreciate the bluntness, however.

What do you think of anal sex? – It burns a little in the beginning, but then it’s rather nice, is what I think, there you go, blocked.

Can I ask you a question? – Go ahead (half-expecting to be enquired about the above) – How tall are you? – Does it really matter, in horizontal position or life?

On second thought, maybe I should stick to hooking up in bars, I come across as less caustic in person, just about. I set an ethical code of conduct for myself on Tinder to protect my mental well-being. I ignore profiles that do not have a description. Loss of time. Same goes for profiles with photos of abdominals, naked backs and bathroom/lift selfies. Really, you like your reflexion in the mirror of an elevator so much that you have to take a photograph? Get over yourself. About the abs. I like the sight of a toned body as much as the next woman, but I speak from experience when I say that people too aware of their good looks are a lousy lay. And what’s with the height? Why does literally everyone put how tall they are on their profile (or ask you about it within 5 minutes of a conversation). Apparently most women are really concerned about that (and good luck in this country). Note to myself: I need to create a fake male profile and see what my sex behaves like on Tinder. And then rant about it here, obviously. Anyway, does anyone’s height affect your opinion about a person? How shallow do you have to be? And why do men accept it as a fact and obediently state their centimetres in the biography, as if it was an important character trait? Why would you accept to go out with a person if their decision to meet you or not depends on something as unimportant as your height? Have some self-respect, for fuck’s sake. Actually forget it. It’s precisely for the sake of the sexual intercourse you have no self-respect whatsoever.

Most importantly, every time I meet someone vaguely interesting (or two at most), I go off Tinder. I do not have the time and energy to keep talking to people that I have no interest to meet up with even for a coffee, because my interest is for the time being elsewhere. So I switch the app off out of respect to the person I am currently seeing, and to the others as I do not want to give them the impression that I am available when I’m not, because maybe they are nice people and they deserve the decency to be treated with respect. I prefer to explore the present, until the madness of the current suitor comes out (and it inevitably will, eventually), and then when it’s over, I switch Tinder back on and meet new nutcases. The wonderful universe of Tinder is, just like the real one, infinite and ever-expanding. 

My profile clearly states that I have no interest to talk to people who vote VOX. Which in Madrid filters most of the population (and good riddance). To be quite fair, I have the same reservations about supporters of Partido Popular (although there are exceptions that I find tolerable, barely) and Cuidadanos (if the party hadn’t gone extinct about a month ago, but then the only difference between PP and Cns was that the latter does not care if gays get married or not). Yeah, I value the freedom of speech and political belief and blah blah blah, I just don’t see any reason why that should by default grant access between my sheets. Believe what you like. Vote what you like. If I don’t like what you vote, I won’t sleep with you. Democracy doesn’t extend to my bedroom.  

There are people who disagree with my decision not to date people with different political leaning. They say I should be more tolerant. What on Earth for? Again, it’s only to protect my mental health. I spend enough time surrounded by people whose worldview could not be further from mine already, namely in my office and my fencing club, so I don’t exactly live isolated in my intellectual bubble. I see no reason why I should waste any time on trying to build a romantic (or even only sexual) relationship with people I don’t share basic values and opinions about what is just and fair in the world with. And yes, I always talk politics on the first date. How else am I going to avoid right-wing fundamentalists. 

For the people who are here to read about the snow. We’ve had the most spectacular snowfall caused by the storm Filomena (described by Wikipedia as “fairly weak”) on the night of January 8th. Almost a metre of snow fell overnight, paralysing the capital for many days afterwards. The following Saturday was winter wonderland, everything was immaculate, cars trapped (sometimes abandoned in the middle of the road as the Spaniards discovered that summer tyres really don’t work in deep snow), people snowboarding in parks and skiing on Granvia. Then the fun began: 20 % of the trees in the capital collapsed (70% damaged in the historical parks), no rubbish collection for days in some narrow streets in the city centre, loads of wet snow slipping off the roofs, posing danger to people and cars, blood shortage in the hospitals due to over 3000 people being admitted to A&E after having slipped and broken something. The funniest feature of the Filomena aftermath were the infinite queues in front of the shops (see the photo above) – and nothing in there to buy as the delivery vans could not arrive. It looked like my country in the 80s. Real socialism. I get it. It was unprecedented. But you knew it was going to snow, the least you could have done was removing the Christmas decorations, so that they would not fall and block the streets for 5 more days. On the other hand, Filomena achieved what Madame Ayuso never managed to (not that this stopped her from taking all the credit): with schools and most businesses closed for the following 10 days and people physically forced to stay at home, our Covid incidence plummeted rapidly. For a while at least. 

While the capital was a mess, the outskirts were stunning. As soon as the Cercanias service was reinstated, I managed to visit Aranjuez and El Escorial. A trip to the Sierra with snowshoes would have been fantastic, but the mountains were sadly inaccessible. Not that getting anywhere else was easy. On the Monday following the snowstorm my friend Sue and I turned up at the station and hopped on the first train that was going anywhere, which happened to be Aranjuez. The service was dodgy, the journey that normally takes 40 minutes lasted almost three hours, so the day didn’t leave us with many hiking options. We took a little walk around the royal palace and through the deserted city centre, and then continued to the natural reserve Mar de Ontígola just out of town, which in summer is a nesting ground for many aquatic birds and one of the most important butterfly reserves on the planet. On that occasion it was half frozen and covered in snow. The entire flats south of Madrid looked like Siberian plains, once in a lifetime kind of breath-taking.

On another day we attempted to hike Alto de Abantos from San Lorenzo El Escorial, which went surprisingly well, until we encountered an overprotective cow with to two babies that wouldn’t let us pass. I know cows are normally harmless, but this one was charging and there was no way we could avoid her. We hiked in the snow on the old tarmac road that leads to Abantos roughly half way, then took a trail down. I will talk about the hike in the next post, as I managed to finish it subsequently. I hope you enjoyed the photos. 

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The title: “…then fasting proved more powerful than pain.” (Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia, Inferno Canto XXXIII): Count Ugolino della Gherardesca recounts the circumstances of his death by hunger. The meaning of the verse has been disputed. During the 13th century conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in Italy, Count Ugolino was imprisoned in a tower near Pisa together with his two sons and young grandsons, and the family was left to starve. From Wikipedia: Ugolino’s statement that hunger proved stronger than grief has been interpreted in two ways, either that Ugolino devoured his offspring’s corpses after being driven mad with hunger, or that starvation killed him after he had failed to die of grief. The first and more ghastly of these interpretations has proved the more popular and resonant. For this reason Ugolino is known as the “Cannibal Count” and is often depicted gnawing at his own fingers.


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