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Flights of fancy

By: SKIP BANDELE

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Skip Bandele moved to the Algarve 10 years ago and has been with The Resident since 2003. His writing reflects views and opinions formed while living in Africa, Germany and England as well as Portugal.

ALBERT EINSTEIN reputedly said ‘Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love’. Atlas was the Titan in Greek mythology said to have held up the sky on his shoulders. Most of my life I have felt the famous German scientist’s statement applicable to myself while identifying with the Hellenic hero.

Let us start at the beginning. Afflicted by acute shyness from a very young age, I always found it horrendously difficult to meet girls – honestly! Days, if not weeks, were spent casting adoring glances from afar at the subjects of my romantic yearnings in the forlorn hope that somehow telepathic contact would be established.

To make matters worse, if one actually approached me, on purpose or by chance (meticulously worked out plans timed down to the exact second at times succeeded in bringing these impromptu ‘collisions’ about), my vocal cords seized up while blood surged to my head rendering a frightening image of a bright red, stammering imbecile.

I think I was 12 when I was first kissed, the girl sitting behind me in the classroom obviously having been hit by the full force of the pent up emotion emanating through the back of my stubbornly unturned head. Corinne pinned me to the wall as the lunchtime bell sounded and planted an immature smacker on my lips. No need to add that I never spoke to her again, and she went on to share the joys of the darkened Odeon matinee shows with my best friend Matthias.

When my ears finally stopped ringing several years later, I fell for my first proper girlfriend. Abigail’s eyes locked upon mine across the smoky room at one of a seemingly endless sequence of parties, prompting her to demonstrate her newly acquired judo skills which left me prone on the carpet beneath her slight figure. I was smitten.

University

Unfortunately a family holiday abroad beckoned a week later, and by the time I returned, my newly beloved had swept a bearded 26-year-old college lecturer off his feet to leave me heartbroken. I took to staring into restaurant windows in an effort to cure my ‘illness’ and thought I was making reasonable progress until a violent collision with a lamp post put my self-administered therapy into reverse gear.

Two years later I was off to university and the promise of a more promiscuous future. Alcohol came into play, temporarily banishing long-harboured inhibitions, but there was always the morning after to leave me to deal with situations not of my own making. Having focused my attentions on one Mary-Anne from Wales, a bubbly and very popular girl, I took to parading around campus arms linked with her and best friend Angela, still seeking safety in numbers. Mary-Anne spent a weekend at home with her parents and I spent a year in the arms of the increasingly neurotic third wheel on the wagon, Angela – how, I still do not know to this day. After the summer break, a new term, and I was finally free again until Josh, the Rodeen Girls School rugby captain, quite literally kidnapped me from the student’s union dance floor. I have not been partial to big girls since! Somehow engineering my escape from the ensuing dorm scrum some 12 hours later, I limped into the welcome clutches of Suzanne; or rather, she finally developed a crush for me when slumping onto my lap during a further night’s festivities! Thus encouraged, I gallantly accompanied the girl that was to turn the following seven years of my life into a rollercoaster ride between heaven and hell to the toilets. The rest is history, as they say.

In between my nocturnal adventures I did study, by the way, emerging with a decidedly average second class honours degree in International Relations (!) at the end of my four-year sojourn. More important, however, were the lessons in life learnt while being released back into ‘normal’ society after six years’ incarceration at an English public boys’ school, an experience which still haunts me during the occasional nightmare. I also managed to overcome the phobias which had previously impeded my interactions with the opposite sex, and my present happy relationship has been the result of six months’ diligent face-to-face old fashioned courting. Long may it last!

Yet things could have been so much easier if latest scientific research is to be believed. For a start, it appears that my early predicaments apply to all but the most confident among us. You fall for someone but daren’t say anything in case you make a fool of yourself. But, says psychologist Dr Ben Jones of Aberdeen University, sexual chemistry is much simpler than that. Telling a prospective partner ‘I really like you’ could make him or her immediately find you more attractive, producing similar results to making eye contact and smiling. Still, easier said than done. Going up to someone you fancy, teeth flashing and eyes boring into theirs as you profess your love may work for swimwear models straight out of a catalogue without a care in the world, but any teenage angst-ridden ordinary mortal in desperate need of an acne cure is more likely than not be roundly condemned as a ‘weirdo’ by the inevitably ‘perfect’ recipient of such unsolicited attentions.

Text appeal

I prefer another recent survey which suggests that men hoping for a date don’t need sex appeal, so much as ‘text appeal’. Apparently those most likely to succeed combine wit and some innocent flirting into an abbreviated phone message. A poll found that 90 per cent of girls prefer to use texts rather than real conversation in the early stages of a relationship. And more than 75 per cent judge a potential date’s character by his texting style. Men should not go too heavy on the sarcasm or appear ‘lewd’ but use a witty style to build rapport. Practical missives which lack emotion, such as instructions to meet at a certain time and place, displease more than 50 per cent of female receivers. And 63 per cent are left cold by smiley faces and codes such as CUL8R for See You Later. Which, again, may all be very well, but how do I get her number in the first place?!