Andy Bodle finds a Muse in Lycra in the college lecture hall, and begins a campaign to win her affections.
“If I meet you suddenly, I can’t speak—my tongue is broken;
A thin flame runs under my skin; seeing nothing,
hearing only my own ears drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body and I turn paler than dry grass.
At such times death isn’t far from me …” —Sappho
I was never very diligent about attending lectures. They were dull, they were voluntary, and they started far too early—sometimes before lunch. In fact, I was present and punctual for just one complete course of talks, in the third term of my second year, on linguistics; and yet I remember next to nothing about them. Principally because sitting four rows in front of me every week was the sexiest woman in the universe.
She had soft blonde hair down to her shoulders, porcelain skin, and seemingly only one item of legwear: a pair of exceptionally snugly fitting navy blue Lycra leggings. Never before had I been, nor would I be again, consumed with such maddening, suffocating, paralysing lust.
Linguistics lectures rapidly became the focal point of my week. I started wearing shirts. I started ironing them. I started brushing my hair, and making sure I got at least six hours’ sleep the night before. I even took to arriving 15 minutes early, just to make sure no one bagged my precious fifth-row seat.
As the eighth and final lecture of the term began, realisation dawned: this might be the last time I ever set eyes on that heavenly Lycra-clad behind. The thought was too much to bear. So as soon as the lecturer started clearing away his notes, I dashed outside and found a place to lie in wait.
She was taking an age to come out. I panicked. Was there another exit I didn’t know about? Had someone else made his move in the corridor?
Then, finally, my goddess emerged.
“Excuse me. Would you like to go for a coffee?”
She frowned. “What, now?”
I glanced at my wrist for long enough for both of us to notice that I wasn’t wearing a watch. “Yes, now.”
And, to my utter incredulity, she did.
The conversation in the café was a bit stilted—when she asked my opinion on the lectures, I only just stopped myself saying “peachy and biteable”—but it served its purpose: she told me her name, Imogen, and her college. That was all I needed to put my plan into action.
Because, armed with my solitary glimmer of hope, I had come to a decision. I was going to stop at nothing to win this girl’s heart. Or at least those snugly fitting navy blue Lycra pants.
While my romantic campaign wasn’t quite Operation Desert Storm, it was almost certainly in breach of several UN resolutions. Letters. Gifts. Flowers. Poems. Floral arrangements that spelled out poems. Dedications on local radio. Misleading hints about my family wealth.
My efforts didn’t go entirely unacknowledged—Imogen once wrote back thanking me for “the best letters I’ve ever got from anyone”—but I could never quite persuade her to go on a date. Because, of course, I wasn’t the only one to have noticed her charms. She was a highly sought-after woman, and one who apparently wasn’t very good at hiding. She always seemed to have a minimum of three boyfriends on the go.
Almost a year after the cappuccino, as I was on the verge of giving up hope, Imogen went from being quadruple to single in the space of a week.
As soon as I heard the news, I sent her a letter asking if she wanted to see a film. To save her the trouble of replying, I enclosed a self-addressed envelope with two small pieces of paper: one marked Y, with little pictures of smiley faces and rainbows and bunnies, the other marked N, with thunderclouds and puppies dying of cancer. When I opened her reply to find the Y, I danced a jig in the porter’s lodge.
I remember that the film was Howard’s End, but I couldn’t give you a detailed plot breakdown. I spent the first half pinching myself, and the second half wondering exactly how I was going to fuck this up. Would I say something idiotic? Have a sneezing fit? Accidentally elbow her in the face? But none of those things happened. The film finished, we went for a drink, and then, as we said goodbye, she kissed me.
I hardly slept at all that night. I just kept replaying that kiss over and over in my head. I didn’t dare imagine what the future might bring. I just know that at that moment in time, I was just about the happiest I’d ever been.
The next day, I asked Imogen to come over, partly because I wanted her to see my college, but mostly because I wanted my college to see her. She didn’t let me down. It was the hottest day of the year so far, and she was wearing a red strappy top and a pair of denim shorts that would barely have covered Barbie’s modesty.
As I gave her the guided tour—ensuring that we passed as many of my gawping peers as possible—I noticed for the first time that she was a full two inches taller than me. Which, the way I was feeling that day, would have made her 10 foot two.
The next day, she asked if I wanted to stay over at hers.
It was a natural step, of course, but I hadn’t allowed myself to believe it might happen. I briefly toyed with the idea that there might actually be a God, until I remembered that this sort of activity wasn’t really His bag.
Every second that afternoon felt like a century, but eventually, evening came. I floated to Imogen’s college, found her room, and knocked. When she answered, I had to bite my lip to stop myself bursting into tears: she was wearing those Lycra pants. She narrowed her eyes mischievously and crooked her finger. “Come in.”
After minimal preamble, Imogen lay face down on the bed, fully clothed. “Do anything you want to me,” she sighed.
Jesus fucking Christ on a pimped-out penny farthing. All my Christmases had come at once, and that’s assuming I lived to be 1,000.
I glanced at the door. I was expecting balaclava-clad members of the Beauty Police to burst in at any moment and arrest me on a charge of desecrating a grade-one listed body. But the teargas never came.
Anything? I had spent 12 months fantasising about performing borderline illegal acts on this woman, and now that I had carte blanche, my mind was a blank. This felt wrong. I didn’t feel I deserved this. Still, I had to do something. The lady was waiting.
Heart pounding, I crawled on to the bed, and took up a position kneeling over her legs. My trembling fingers hooked around the waistband of the Lycra pants, and gently eased it down—just a couple of inches. Enough to reveal that she was not a believer in underwear.
I hesitated a moment more, then lowered my head, and humbly, reverently, placed one blissful, sweet, light, delicate kiss on her pristine, naked flesh. Then I pulled up the waistband and lay down beside her.
There was a couple of seconds’ silence.
“Well, that was erotic,” said Imogen, putting more stress on one word than I’d ever thought possible.
The next day, she dumped me.
In 1992, psychologists Richard Moreland and Scott Beach conducted a test in which four researchers of comparable attractiveness attended a series of lectures. One attended 15 times, one 10 times, one five times, and one not at all. When, at the end of the term, the students in the class were asked to rate the sex appeal of the four subjects, it emerged that there was a link between frequency of attendance and perceived attractiveness.
In other words, the more we are exposed to people—the more familiar they seem—the more likely we are to fancy them.
And in a 2011 paper catchily titled ‘Heterosexual Romantic Couples Mate Assortatively for Facial Symmetry, But Not Masculinity‘, researchers concluded that relationships in which the female partner is noticeably more physically attractive than the male tend not to last long—while the man being more attractive did not seem to have an effect.
This was previously published on Womanology.
Image credit: Alaskan Dude/Flickr