I have a theory that everyone thinks they’re a good kisser. They’ve been told by someone at some point, and statistically there must have been some lying involved. I’d say that this overconfidence is a problem in people and I’ve had some bad kisses as a result but then maybe I was the problem? These are the things I think about.
On Valentine’s Day last year I saw a kiss that transcended bad. I may not be certain I’m a good kisser but I don’t need to be a good chemist either to know that the purple foam coming from under the laboratory door is probably a bad thing. It was like two people who had learned to kiss from watching deliberately terrible movie kissing, rubbing their hands up and down each other’s back (but only backs) with terrifying, clockwork synchronicity. As if they’d watched Not Another Teen Movie and decided the intentionally terrible kissing scene was a template to be followed.
It was like two mating slugs. It was like the destruction of worlds. It was the flash of light at the end of the universe. It was bad, is what I’m saying. It was really bad.
Town at night on Valentine’s Night is a strange place. The early hours are much like any other but after about 2am the place settles into a sort of desperation that you rarely get to see. I was out with some friends and we’d decided it’d be apt to take MDMA for the night of love, something only tangentially relevant to this story: we didn’t have much and were hovering somewhere near the line of “basically sober really” by the end, slightly too wired to go home but feeling too shitty (and poor in my case) to start any serious level of drinking. The upshot of this was that I was sat in the table end at the top of a terrible nightclub in York with a relatively clear head and a slightly intense look about me.
Creepy men are usually at saturation point on any given night out but Valentine’s wrings every last drop out of scum out, and those who haven’t successfully cajoled somebody to fondle their Lynx Africa infused whacker find themselves at the last club in town that’s still open, circling like filth around the drain at the end of a bath. Valentine’s desperation isn’t unique to men, but with these it’s so much more palpable. The club I was in was called Willow, and it had formerly been a Chinese restaurant. It’s disgusting but it’s also cheap and open all night and has free prawn crackers. At any given point in a morning lecture you’d have at least 10 people who still have the lingering taste of prawn and Sambuca in the back of their throat.
It was split into two parts: a table section at the top which was a hangover from the days that it served real food which was relatively well lit and even quiet, and the dancefloor at the bottom which had strong school disco vibes. As such there were two different seduction techniques in action. At the top, the men (often alone or in pairs) would hover without sitting down, or do circuits of the dancefloor then back, waiting to see if any groups of girls or ideally loners sat down so that they could request a seat too. You could see the same ones striking out and looping back round over and over again well past the point at which I’d have given up and gone home quietly sobbing to myself.
Some of the men came and sat at our table, presumably because we had a girl in the group. One of them looked a bit like a magician with a little goatee. I don’t think he was really a magician. I’m perennially beardless so I’m reluctant to criticise anybody’s facial landscaping decisions but it’s not nice to spend all night on edge because you’re expecting him to pull out a pack of cards and you won’t be able to escape. When we went back home they wouldn’t go so came with us, and then sat with me and my female friend in her living room while we smoked a solitary spliff and crept a few minutes closer to death. They left eventually.
The dancefloor was more awkward. As with the other group there was a clearly discernible set of single (in both senses) men circling, only in this case instead of asking to sit down they just danced at the general vicinity of girls: close enough that they were clearly focussing attention that way but far enough away that the girl wasn’t really aware it was happening. Not good dancing either, mind (something else I’m also unqualified to comment on), but an awful combination of your dad at a wedding and Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle. They’d slowly shuffle forward too; an inch at a time, until seemingly without her noticing chappy was at her shoulder getting the occasional thrill of a brushed shoulder contact. All the sexually aggressive men had already hooked or been hooked and gone home, a “throw enough mud at the wall” technique effective if you’re brash enough to be unbothered by 40 rejections a night until somebody says yes.
And, slowly but surely, it worked, at the top and the bottom end of the club. Most people had either pulled, didn’t want to pull (although, on Valentine’s Night in Willow, they were in a serious minority) or had given up and gone home and so, by hook or by crook, people ended up drifting together and exchanging horrible kisses on the dancefloor. The lonely kissing the shy, and the desperate groping the drunk. It sounds unedifying but by the end I was starting to see a twisted sort of beauty in it all. Why hasn’t Wes Anderson written a film about this? Not true love but just the people pushed together because they’ve all reached the bottom of the funnel at the same time.
Earlier in the night somebody had fallen or jumped off the bridge into the river. We saw the emergency services as we left in the taxi. I’d say it was a stark reminder of the realities of loneliness but after the night I’d had it felt more like the cherry on top. A miserable, fumbling affection that lasts until the club lights go up and you both look at each other and independently decide to go home alone or a flight off a bridge instead of facing it.
I reckon I’m probably staying in this year.