As a little girl I always wanted to be a collector. I imagined growing old surrounded by collections that would reflect the adventures and perhaps even sometimes misadventures (that’s when I’d giggle to myself as my grandchildren sat at my feet looking up in awe and confusion at my self-deprecating, yet humble eccentricity), of my life.
The problem was I grew bored with collecting and it took a long to time to realise I could appreciate a good collection but lacked the talent for creating and maintaining my own, well that, and I had convinced myself that if I put all my self worth into a collection I would be dead, the result of a self-inflicted gun shot wound by age 12.
My best friend (from 1985 – 1992) had quite the outstanding My Little Pony Collection, and I was not only jealous of it, but also obsessed by it. I had the perfect arrangement – I could come and visit, take them off their shelf, shower them with praise, take them for a walk outside, whisper in their little plastic ears that I’d always be there for them, and then when it was time to leave, put them back on their shelf and give them a vague commitment of a time in the future when I might be able to see them again – things were really hectic at work right now.
I was only ever allowed to play with the ponies on the last two shelves, not the prettiest ponies. But because of that the uglier ponies on the ground floor only tried harder to please me. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that on occasion I often wondered what life would be like with a top shelf pony, and sure sometimes when I’ve found myself making out with the unattractive best friend of the hot guy, I imagined said hot guy was like a top shelf pony, looking at me out of one eye, wondering what it might be like to slum it…even if just for a moment.
Of course it would be years later that I would realise that my friend’s pony collection was the closest thing she had to control in her life – a life riddled with eating disorders, a father/daughter complex and an overall sense of inadequacy, but I was never one for context.
My brother was also an avid collector; of chocolate Easter eggs. For him it was less about the beauty of his collection and more about spiting those closest to him. He would wait and watch as my sister and I devoured our eggs in the allocated time slot of Easter and then he would line his up just outside his bedroom and just leave them, for months until they started to rot. Then just as the mould would set in he’d offer them as gifts to me and my sister – it was amazing how a damp flannel and a butter knife could restore those eggs to almost brand new.
But myself, no I never could collect anything other then a festering resentment towards my mother for never letting me watch the final episode of the Wonder Years and then forcing my hand, leading to me a fake a sicky, being sent to my neighbours to recuperate, only to tell her I left my homework at home, go home and pull the secret video recorder I hid under the couch and eject the Wonders Year tape, take it back to the neighbours and watch it while she went to her daily yoga class. However time heals all wounds, and much like all my other collections before the one of resentment, this one fell by the wayside.
It wasn’t until the other day, drinking with a friend and lamenting my lack of enthusiasm for a collective of things that I was faced with the realisation that I might have always been a collector, a sub conscious collector…
‘Lou you’re what we call in the collector’s trade – a passive collector’ she qualified as she finished her latest coke and Bacardi.
‘I’m not passive aggressive.’
‘I didn’t say you were passive aggressive.’
‘But you implied it, there was the tone of implication there.’
‘Get your hand off it Lou.’
She was right; I wasn’t going to win this argument, so I took my hand off it.
‘You’ she retorted, pulling her skirt down over her undies and grabbing another drink… ‘You my friend, are a man friend collector.’
‘That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard, lots of women have male friends.’
‘Yeah, you’re right, but I challenge any of them to be as discerning a collector as you Lou.’
‘You sound like you’re challenging me to a duel’ I rebuked as a scraped the last bit of hummus off the lid – only half a Weight Watchers point, I was going to enjoy this.
‘Did I mention pistols at half moon?’
‘I think its pistols at half noon’ – I corrected her.
‘You’re the only person I’ve ever known to call it quits on a friendship because it was getting too intense – most people do that with relationships, romantic relationships, you do that with guys you’re friends with.’
‘Hey, we both wanted different things. It was a mutual decision.’
‘Yeah whatever Lou.’
‘I don’t care what you say, I don’t collect them – I just have a handful of close guy friends and it works for me.’
‘But they’re pretty collectable, because well most have a rather distinguishing feature.’
‘Don’t be gross.’ – one more hummus coated cracker wouldn’t kill me, only an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill.
‘Let’s see shall we’ she began to list them off on her fingers ‘they’ve pretty much all at one stage been involved with a friend of yours…’
‘Complete coincidence…’ I mumbled.
‘Lou just deal with it – you collect safe men.’
‘You’ve got me. That is what I asked for when I ordered them online – I quite clearly picked the do not rape and pillage option, but funnily enough did not pick gift wrapping as an extra.’ I laughed, she did not – we were having an argument.
My friend stood up and stumbled to my fridge – how heart broken she would be, I only had Pepsi Max left – score 1 Lou!
‘The thing is most of us, at our age when we meet guys we at least have a drink with them. You, you get crafted friendship bracelets and clean each others shoes…’
‘We do not clean each other shoes.’
‘My point is Lou, you know what it makes you look like, and you know what people think?’
‘I don’t care what people think, it’s no ones business, two people can just be friends – look at Spaced.’
‘…it makes you look frigid Lou, people think you’re frigid and don’t ever reference an outstanding BBC comedy to your life again – I won’t stand for it, none of us will.’
‘No one thinks I’m frigid.’
‘Some of us are concerned that you’ve lost the ability to put out.’
‘I don’t think it’s something you can lose.’
‘As your friends we beg to differ…I mean when was the last time someone even managed to slip a – ‘
‘Enough, christ if you must know I met a guy on the weekend, and before you ask, he has not been involved in any of my friends and I don’t particularly like him as a person and we all know what that means – can anyone say potential boyfriend?’
Taking the last Pepsi Max out the fridge, she made herself comfortable on the recliner.
‘He sounds like a catch.’
‘He’s definitely not a safe man.’
‘Well I wish you all the best, no really, I wish you all the best, so when’s the date?’
‘The date you have with a guy you’re not friends with.’
‘I hate when you get all specific’ – I really wanted a Malteser.
‘I hardly think asking about a date is being specific.’
‘I wish you would hardly think more often!’ BAM – score 2 Lou.
‘You’re not going to sleep with him are you. You might elude to it but you’re not are you?’
‘That is none of your business.’
‘And how did you meet him?’
‘We met through a friend.’
‘Oh yeah, what friend?’
‘That’s not important.’
‘Humour me, unlike you Lou I crave context.’
‘Um…well he knows Ben.’
‘Like Ben, you’re ex boyfriend Ben?’
‘Nothing – just let me get this straight – you met a guy who is friends with your ex-boyfriend and you’re trying to convince me that you’d date him?’
‘I don’t need to convince you.’
‘I’m afraid you do Lou, cause from where I sit all I’m hearing is that you’ve made another man friend, a safe friend and you can sit there and act all innocent because even if you wanted something to happen you’re blocked by the mate code of never ever hooking up with your mates ex-girl.’
‘Gee, I never thought about it like that.’
‘Bullshit Lou, you played me and everyone around you from the start.’
My shame hit me hard. She had caught me out.
‘Why Lou, why’d you do it this time?’
I took a moment – maybe she’d understand, maybe this time it would be different.
‘He was just so shiny and I only needed one more to complete the set.’
She finished her Pepsi and then stood to leave.
‘It’s like I said – frigid Lou.’