T.P. Smiths on Saturday is where you end up when you thought you wanted to shop, but it turned out all you wanted was a pint of beer and a chicken fajita. It’s airy and comfortable and there’s football on the telly. Sure where else would you be?
If straight men and gay women have one thing in common, I think, it’s that we both detest shopping. (Well, no. If straight men and gay women have one thing is common, it’s something else entirely. But if we have a second thing in common…) I run into my friend Eleanor. She introduces me to her girlfriend Karen. They ask me to join them. I accept.
Hanging out with lesbians is nothing like media – and by the media, I mean pornography – would have you believe. Eleanor and Karen talk about cycling. They talk about swimming. They talk about baking. It’s boring stuff. Hot tub invitations are rarely proffered. But you know me. Where there is breeze, I’ll shoot it. Where there is fat, I’ll chew it.
Eleanor tells her girlfriend that I despise nature and am indifferent to the great outdoors. Karen refuses to believe it. “Oh, come on,” she says. “Weren’t you in, like, the kayak club or the hill-walking society or something when you were in college?”
“Lets just say, I may have spent my college day a little differently than you did.”
When it comes to my neuroses though, we’ve barely scratched the surface. “Tell her about your toilet roll phobia,” Eleanor begs.
“I can’t buy toilet paper,” I admit.
“Tell her why,” Eleanor prods. Fuck it. They’re lesbians. I see no reason not to tell them straight.
“I can’t buy toilet paper because I’m afraid I’ll bump into an attractive girl and she’ll see me with it and she’ll have a mental image of me using it.”
Karen is baffled.
“So what do you keep in your bathroom?”
They both look at each other and then back at me. They burst into hysterical laughter, as though I was some weird creature in a zoo. “He’s such a freak,” squeals Karen delightedly. “I told you, didn’t I?” cribs Eleanor.
“Hey, you’re both gay. You could at least be tolerant.”
“No, no,” insists Karen.” “There’s a line and you’ve crossed it. Toilet roll is the line. You’re a freak!” I concede the point, but Eleanor won’t let it rest. She tells Karen that I babysit pretty regularly. But I refuse to trade in baby talk.
“I was with him one day and his niece dropped her teddy on the floor. She starts screaming, right? And you know what he does? He just looks at her and says…”
“I told the child that she was overreacting. I told her that her reaction was out of all proportion, I felt… to what just…”
“She’s eight months old.”
“So? How’s she going to learn to speak if people are only ever telling her goo-goo-gaa-gaa?”
“Wat if she doesn’t stop crying?” asks Karen.
“If there’s no one else around…” (I lower my voice here.) “If there’s no one else around I sometimes sing a few verses of the Barney theme song. You know? ‘I love you, you love me…’ She seems to like that.”
Karen is bemused. “How the fuck do you even know the words to the Barney theme song?”
Eleanor decides to field this one.
“Lets just say,” she explains. “Eoin may have spent his student days a little differently than you did!”