People think I’m quite posh. My family didn’t have any money, I didn’t go to a fancy school and I live in a teeny-tiny flat and drive a used car. But still, people quite often say I’m one of the “poshest” people they know. So imagine my surprise when, through yet another ill-judged online dating incident, I went on a date, with what must easily have been the single most posh person in the county. Possibly the world.
On paper, this chap seemed a good match. We had a lot of shared interests, lived within driving distance and our online chatter was interesting, polite and quite fun. So, when he invited me out for coffee, I agreed.
Ensconced in a leather armchair, at a nice-ish hotel in a not very nice part of town, I had arrived first and nervously awaited my date – let’s call him Barnaby. As I was reading the coffee menu, I heard a loud “hulloooooo” and looked up. There in front of me was a tall, very thin fellow, wearing a military tie, smart coat and with his hair slicked to one side in that way that they must only teach at private schools. As I introduced myself and shook his hand, I realised something: his accent was so very proper that it actually distorted the words beyond recognition. Even my name, when he said it, was almost unintelligible to me. And let’s remember, dear reader, that other people think I am posh. I am well-used to well-spoken people but this was, quite seriously, off the scale.
A kind of guilt set in; I knew it was wrong to judge people on how they sounded or their background or their education. But he was speaking so loudly that I felt people were looking at us. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair, hoping that nobody I knew would walk into the hotel lounge. Barnaby and I chatted politely about our shared interests, our jobs, and all the other nothingness that people discuss on a first date, whilst secretly, in the back of my mind, I was wondering whether I could ever introduce this chap to my friends: “Fred, Margaret – I’d like you to meet Barnaby”…
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t agree with posh-bashing, as it has become known. Or any kind of bashing, as it happens. I’d gladly buy a brandy for Boris Johnson given the chance, and Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh are all on my fantasy dinner party list. In fact, for a while, I had a bit of a crush on Kenneth – but that’s another post entirely. Anyway, back to the subject, I’m really quite “live and let live” and happy for people to be whoever they are, so perhaps that gives you some indication of just how obscenely affectatious Barnaby was.
As he chattered (shouted) about his having played polo at school, the interesting characters with whom he socialised at his “club”, and how he was related to some branch of medieval aristocracy, I began to feel that this was all a front, a part he was playing for the world to see. I wondered what that front was hiding. He wasn’t lying about anything as such, but it rapidly became obvious that he was emphasising his life in a certain aristocratic angle that maybe his reality couldn’t quite match. He was now (loudly) ordering a bottle of champagne, but at the same time telling me he was saving up his money to move out of his father’s house. And his father’s house, far from being some marble-staircased ancestral pile, sounded to be a very nice but perfectly normal, middle-class family home. I tried desperately, as a modern, independent kind of gal, to pay for half of the drinks but, no, he couldn’t possibly allow a lady to contribute. Just not the done thing, my dear. Not the done thiiiiing.
The revelations continued… his collection of priceless antique art, most of which he seemed to have “rescued” from junk shops with suprising regularity, for the princely sum of 50 pence. His ambitions to own frightfully expensive fast cars, although he was still taking driving lessons and had been for quite some considerable time. His exciting career, from which (reading between the lines) it sounded ever so slightly like he was soon to be fired. His celebrity friends, whom he hadn’t seen for a decade. Eventually I realised that Barnaby had created this construct, of himself, whereby he was trying to be somebody else; presumably because he thought that the world would like him better, or respect him more, or give him different opportunities if he were somebody else. It was based on truth, but in reality just a little to the left of the truth and it was terribly sad. He was clearly quite sensitive and the world in which he had been raised had left him with some dreadful insecurities. But I desperately wanted to leave.
I made my excuses, politely refused the barrage of reasons why he felt he should pay for my taxi, and I departed. He was a sweet, but mis-informed young man and not for me. A couple of days later, he called me to ask for a second date. I said I thought that maybe there was no future for us, but that I had very much enjoyed meeting him and I wished him the greatest of luck in his search for a suitable lady-friend.
His reaction, perhaps predictably, was a little over-the-top. Barnaby declared that he took this as the final straw. He would give up on love – forever. He felt that the best thing for him to do after such rejection, would be to leave the country and live far away from society, somewhere quiet, where he might write or paint.
The last time I heard from him, he was threatening to write a letter to the Editor of The Times, exclaiming his distress upon the “death of romance”. Maybe he did. Perhaps there is a letter, no doubt on exquisite letter paper and penned by quill, on the Editor’s desk right now.