After one friend gets engaged, it prompts panic in another.
“We want equality, but we also want to be treated like goddesses.”
Dana from Texas, quoted in What Women Want, Stains & Bechtel, 2000
Having finished an infuriating second in a pub quiz in Old Street, Guy, Phil and I were a little the worse for wear as we clambered aboard the last tube home. We were taking our seats when a slim, smart blonde woman in her early 20s brushed past.
“Fuckin’ ’ell,” said Phil, while she was still well within earshot. “I’m usually a tit man, but I’d make an exception for that.”
Phil had put on a few pounds since I’d last seen him, but was otherwise unchanged.
“You silver-tongued devil,” I said. “How do they keep their hands off you?”
Guy heaved a sigh. “Jesus, Phil, are all women still just sex objects to you?”
“Only the fit ones.” Phil’s gaze was still riveted to the blonde, now half a carriage away. “When did you become the great defender of women, anyway?”
Guy’s nose twitched. “The day I asked one to marry me.”
The words took a few seconds to sink in. “You … Amy? So that’s what the weekend in Scotland was about!” I grabbed his hand. “Congratulations, man!”
Phil’s reaction was less effusive. “You ain’t gone and knocked her up?”
The tube doors opened at Angel, and Guy calmly picked up a tattered Evening Standard from the seat next to him. “No, she’s not pregnant. And no, it wasn’t her idea.”
Phil’s forehead creased slightly as he realised this wasn’t a joke. “You — you can’t get hitched, mate. You love being young, free and single.”
“Yeah, well, I decided I didn’t want to be old, free and single.”
“But why … why would you?” Having failed with sentiment, Phil resorted to reason. “I mean, you said yourself, we’re not biologically programmed to stay with the same bird. We’re only supposed to stick around long enough to make sure the kid don’t cark it.”
Since Guy seemed to find the sports pages more interesting than the discussion, I deputised. “We may not be designed for marriage, but society is. Everything’s structured round it — government, communities, welfare, the houses we live in, the cars we drive …”
“But there’s no legal or financial advantages to getting married any more. And no one cares if your kid’s a bastard — ”
“I don’t think the legitimacy of any possible future child is Guy’s main consideration, Phil.”
Phil’s voice sounded almost panicky now. “You can’t get married! You’ll vanish off the face of the earth, like all the other bastards! Who’m I gonna go on the pull with? Bodle?” I’d have contested the point if he hadn’t looked so hurt. “Anyway, if you get married, it just makes it harder to trade her in for a younger model in five years’ time.”
Guy dropped the paper and turned to Phil. “Why would I want to do that? Sure, her looks might change a little in five years, but her personality won’t.”
Phil sniggered. “Loving a bird for her personality? That’s like loving a vindaloo for the diarrhea.”
One of the things I’d always admired about Guy was his ability to remain calm in the face of even the fiercest provocation. I’d never once seen him lose his temper, not even the time someone stole his sunglasses off his head at the Big Chill. So it was with no little surprise that, as the tube pulled into King’s Cross, I watched him rear up from his seat, lean close into Phil’s face, and snarl: “Because to me, Phil, Amy is more than just a piece of meat with a hole in it. Because when Amy opens her mouth, my first instinct is not to stick my cock in it, but to listen to what she has to say. Because when I say ‘I love you’ to Amy, it’s not because I want her to open her legs, but because I enjoy her company, because I miss her when she’s not there, and because I think I might actually want to spend the rest of my life with her, not just the next two and a half minutes.”
Guy’s voice had grown steadily louder throughout his tirade, to the point where everyone in the carriage, up to and including the slim blonde girl, were glancing nervously in our direction. Phil had shrunk down into his seat, and I noticed that something was missing from his face: the smirk.
“Shall we call this one a draw, then?”
Lame as my peacemaking effort was, Guy returned to his seat.
Phil stretched himself back up to his full five foot five. “Anyway … Can I ’ave a plus one?”
With its seductive blend of ancient and modern, urban and rustic, cultural and decadent, the Estonian capital has something to offer even the most jaded palate. For the sightseer, a picture-postcard old town laced with winding cobbled streets and crumbling 14th-century churches. For the history buff, an extraordinary wealth of relics from medieval and communist eras alike. For the nature lover, acres of verdant woodland and blustery, unspoilt islands. For the bargain hunter, scores of quaint boutiques offering the pick of local handicrafts. And for stag parties of 20 thirtysomething middle-class white men from London, desperately trying to misspend the last remaining shreds of their youth, cheap beer, ritzy nightclubs and sleazy strip joints.
The Baltic states’ dark, venomous winters mean that late spring and summer are the best times to visit, but even then you’d be well advised to pack some warm clothes. And, of course, a hilarious jester’s outfit for the stag.
THINGS TO DO
You could spend a month in Tallinn and barely scratch the surface of its cultural treasures. As well as the fascinating City Museum, there’s the opulent Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the minaret-like Town hall tower, the spectacular Danish King’s Courtyard and the former KGB headquarters, not to mention a raft of art deco patisseries, cozy candlelit anterooms and breezy sunlit patios, ideal for strong coffee and people-watching. Alternatively, you could just make your own entertainment by kitting the stag out in his jester’s costume, dragging him to Town Hall Square, and forcing him to play outdoor Twister with three random passers-by.
Tallinn’s vibrant restaurant scene offers delicacies from every corner of the globe, with fine examples of Estonian, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Mexican, and even Middle Eastern cuisine, all set in decadent olde-world dining rooms, charming wine cellars and super-stylish bistros. But if it’s cheaper thrills you’re after, try the Medieval Lesbian Banquet at the Olde Hansa restaurant.
Exercise extreme caution when attempting to purchase drugs from any of the local dealers. Be particularly wary of buying so-called “ecstasy tablets” that look like horse suppositories. If you do consume any such pills, you may be overcome by nausea so suddenly that you have no time to find a toilet and are forced to vomit into the nearest ashtray.
When darkness falls, Tallinn comes alive with the sound of all manner of night spots, from gay clubs to karaoke bars, from seedy dives to chichi jazz hangouts. By far the most unimaginative place to go is Club Hollywood, a throbbing multi-level emporium with four kitsch, overlarge floors juddering to four different unlistenable Euro beats.
Estonian is a complex language with 14 cases, no future tense, and no close relatives. As a result, many of its words can seem very alien to English eyes. One of the most common girls’ names, for example, is Epp.
Estonian women are famed for being among the most beautiful in the world. Slim and strong with fine, high cheekbones, they are striking even when they have prominent flaws, such as an unusually large nose.
While Estonians have earned themselves a reputation as a slightly standoffish people, a warm smile, a friendly word and an effort to speak a little of the local tongue will go a long way. For example, if you were approaching a beautiful 22-year-old woman, you might break the ice thus: “Tere (hello). I’m from England. I’m leaving tomorrow, and I haven’t talked to any locals yet. Would you like to be my first?”
Follow this up by buying her and her friends a drink and, if all goes well, you’ll be past the conversation stage within five minutes. And after an hour or so’s snogging, with a little luck, she will pull away and say something like, “I want to go home. Why don’t you come with me?”
Tallinn boasts an excellent network of buses, trams and trolley buses. However, if you wish to travel any distance at 3 o’clock in the morning, you will almost certainly have to take one of the city’s 5,000 taxis. Cabs can be picked up at ranks around the city – the largest is located near the main bus station — or outside Tallinn’s biggest nightclubs. A 10-minute taxi ride should cost you around 50 Estonian kroon (£2.50), with fares rising around 20% at night. A 45-minute trek into the deep, terrifying forests outside the city, though, is anyone’s bet.
If you are accompanying a local woman on a nightmarishly expensive cab ride into the middle of nowhere, do not be alarmed if, on arriving outside her charming Hansel and Gretel cottage, she gets out, slams the door in your face, and shouts, “I don’t think my husband would like it if you came in.” This is perfectly normal.
THE SEX INDUSTRY
As a magnet for western men seeking excitement and eastern women seeking payment, Tallinn has, perhaps unfairly, earned itself a reputation as “the Bangkok of eastern Europe”. The average price for full sex with a stunning Tallinn prostitute is 900 kroon (£50). The price for a kiss from a married woman with a big nose is £80.
GLOSSARY OF USEFUL PHRASES
Mis te nimi on? What is your name?
Tule minuga. Come with me.
Kas hommikusöök on hinna sees? Does it include breakfast?
Minge ära! Go away!
Ma ei saa aru. I don’t understand.
Kui kaugel see on? How far is it?
Kas teil saab maksta krediitkaardige? Can I pay by credit card?
♥ Have you, as a woman, ever wondered why some men won’t take a hint? Have you, as a man, ever wondered why some women seem to give off positive signals — and then suddenly go cold? A 2003 paper by Martie Haselton proposed an explanation for both puzzles.
According to Haselton, male humans suffer from a “sexual overperception bias”: that is, they are likely to infer sexual interest from even the tiniest positive signal. From an evolutionary perspective, it was far more costly for men to miss out on a possible mating opportunity altogether than it was to waste a small amount more time in extra courtship (ie, persistence). Men who pursued even slim leads, therefore, would out-reproduce men who gave up at the first sign of discouragement, which would gradually give rise to a larger and larger proportion of persistent men.
In the view of evolutionary psychologist David Buss and others, females have evolved their own strategy to exploit this bias, a sort of “bait and switch” tactic: they persuade men to part with resources as part of courtship, then fail to follow through on the implied promise of sex.
Photo credit: Flickr / p r o m i s e