Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

My unfortunate weakness for Interesting Men

I have a weakness for interesting men. Sadly, 90% of the people I meet — male and female — are horrifically boring. I’d imagine they’d say the same of me; one person’s fascinatingly entertaining friend is another’s eye-stabbingly dull social chore. But the problem remains that I find it very hard to find men who engage my mind for long enough to engage anything else.

Now, that 90% does sound a bit harsh. The art of conversation is, after all, about finding the nuggets that everybody is able to offer up if you dig for long enough, even people who live beyond the Shooter Curtain in Fourways and care in a deep and meaningful way about 42 inch LCD TVs.

But the truth is, there are not a lot of interesting people out there. As a result, my pursuit of people, especially men, who have the kind of energy I want to bounce off can become an obsessive one, to the point where I panic, literally panic, about the prospect of never finding anyone to have an interesting conversation with ever again. It’s a quixotic quest, because over the years, my weakness for Interesting Men has got me into more than a bit of trouble.

My definition of what makes for an IM is not fixed. If I think about who made the cut and why, it’s a range of factors and there are no hard and fast rules other than that the IM should be good at breaking them.

The Iranian-South African student could play Beethoven sonatas despite never having learned to read music. He used to tell me about his one night stands at the BP garage in Illovo (it was easy to get girls in the mid 1990s if you drove Daddy’s Porsche; it probably still is); he also had terrible body odour. He was jealous of my male friends and threatened to hire people to break their kneecaps; his father — who owned a scrap yard — had contacts.

The Chinese-South African engineer was basically a very boring man but he was Chinese and his family wasn’t supposed to know about me so that made him an IM. He introduced me to the throbbing metropolis of Mooinooi in the North West. I wrote a story about them and they tried to send me death threats but couldn’t find my number in the phone book. I stayed with him purely so that I could participate in a Tantric sex course.

The fat psychic told me I had a beautiful soul and that was me sold. I paid him for tarot and intuition lessons to help pay off his BMW; he broke up with me after I wrote him a poem in which, he claimed, I broke up with him.

The architect. Half English — real English, not South African English – half Afrikaans, Ayn Rand fan (Howard Roarke here we come), arty, mercurial, incredibly angry at the world. Marrying him, as I soon found out, was a bad idea.

The coke head copywriter. Not as interesting as he liked to think he was but he told me I was an over-educated snob and I loved that.

The hot shrink. I only met him twice but it was hard not for me to fall for a 34-year-old psychiatrist who’d retired to write novels and taught Step aerobics on the side. Also, the single most magnificently hot man I have met, ever. Alas, he is an example of an IM to avoid because his hotness means he attracts lots of bunny boilers.

The Jedi Master. An engineer with a creative streak, the type I’m most at risk of finding Interesting. He drove a double cab, listened to heavy metal, pumped weights in the gym and adored his cats. He was also the most un-Indian Indian man you can imagine, which of naturally made him even more interesting.

The 20-year-old. 20-year-olds do not actually need to be Interesting; being 20-years-old is enough.

The coke head journalist. Coke head journalists, it must be said, are much more interesting than coke head copywriters. Very Interesting Man; unbelievably bad sex (I never actually dated him either, which is just as well).

The problem with Interesting Men, of course, is that Interesting usually means Difficult. You will get your heart trampled on, as Alanis sings and even if she recommends it, it hurts like hell. So I’ve redirected my quest for the IM into one that seeks out friendship rather than relationships. Friendships survive the test of time, after all; relationships don’t. I like to think I’ve learned my lesson, sort of. I’ve long since given up on dating and if I were to fall pregnant I’d have to offer myself to the New Scientist as the first documented case of parthenogenesis in human beings. If I do meet an IM, I will do my level best to resist his perilous charms.

But I know I have a weakness, and that it’s almost certainly going to get me into trouble. Again.

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