When I was small, I loved chess. It was like foretelling the future. By lining up the pieces a certain way, I could get my opponent (usually someone equally inept) to move the way I wanted.
Once I discovered men, chess palled (well, except strip chess). Men were mysterious. Men could call or not call. They could say they were in love with you or not even remember your name. The unpredictability of their erratic behaviour bugged me.
The guy who bugged me more than anyone ever had was Jake. He was my next-door neighbour in university residence, and he had his bed smack against my wall. A new girl visited that bed nearly every night. Judging by the wump-wump-wump sound, he was bouncing her off that wall at the speed of fifty bangs per minute.
In the mornings, he would often knock on my door, holding a female-related item — glasses, panties, a bracelet, a hair-clip.
“Ummm, if a girl shows up looking for me, give this to her please.”
“What does the girl look like, Jake?”
“Ummm, cute. That’s it. Cute.”
Then I’d go off to class, my brain going wump-wump-wump from lack of sleep. This had to stop.
Before getting out into the world and learning about men and venereal diseases from personal experience, I thought I’d read the manual. No, not the self-help books. (Why would I want to augment their writers’ disposable incomes? They were plenty rich already). After all, the mechanics of infatuation had been examined long before the words “self-help book market” even existed. Ovid, Stendahl, Shakespeare and countless others wrote about falling in love.
They also — unlike the writers of self-help books — all agreed on one strategy: the carrot and the stick. They vouched for it. I believed them.
The carrot was, obviously, sex. A low-cut dress. A frisson of perfume. Gorgeous cascading hair, slim legs and long eyelashes. Porcelain skin and pedicured toes. A bit of lace here, a garter belt there. Who could possibly resist taking a swing at a low-hung piñata?