I have a lunch date at dinnertime. I will light the tall candles in my silver candelabra and tie an oxford bow on my skinny Dior tie. The meal, having been previously arranged, is also being prepared four thousand miles away, with the same conditioned reflex. I will pull on the lapels of my dinner jacket forgoing the trousers in favour of grey tracksuit bottoms or perhaps just a pair of well-worn Y-fronts. As my date flickers onto the screen like the onboard computer beauty from a nineteen-seventies SciFi fantasy I will hide my bare legs from the tiny peephole hidden in the screen of my laptop.
For the last two and a half years I have been the willing victim of a long distance relationship. It started when I naively thought that life would wait for love and, having spent all of my money on shuttle-runs to Philadelphia, I finally see how wrong I was. This may seem horribly unromantic but I also learned that when you find someone who you genuinely think is super-double-awesome then stability and a (however forced and against ones nature) sense of realism is necessary to ensure longevity. Having also had the clarity that lies at the far end of a colossal failure of a marriage I learned a lot about life and love. Essentially don’t fall in love when you are full of alcohol/ prozac/ sleeping pills/ the hollow praise of fickle glossy magazines (!).
You truly cannot help who you fall in love with blah blah however the true danger lies in who you try not to fall in love with. My G/F and I spent the first few months of our relationship in a blissful haze. I was living in Philadelphia when we first met and I assured her that it was a good idea for me to whisk her off to Mexico where our love was confirmed. Then Berlin, France, hotels in New York… finally we settled in Brighton for an idyllic spell of driving the 2cv with the roof down and taking care of the cat. We were a happy little family until she checked her Visa and I checked my wallet. Alas, they both agreed that she and I would sign ourselves up to the Long Distance Relationship Club. And so now, years later I find myself cutting polenta fries and offering them up to the brilliant glare of my MacBook.
I am historically completely dependent. I would forget to eat and drift into existential crisis if anyone were ever brazen enough to leave me with my thoughts for more than a few hours. The first rule of the Long Distance Relationship Club is to learn to adapt. Find things you enjoy about your own company. I, for instance, laugh at all my jokes. I share my own political beliefs despite often disagreeing on religion. I am the only one who shares my passion for the films of Stuart Gordon and feels crushing nostalgia for the music of Algebra One (melodic hardcore band from the late nineties). It helps to take inventory of new music by the ancient and sacred medium of the mix-tape. My only means of transferring vinyl to love memento is an old record/ cassette player which gives every mix-tape a classic eighties Brat-Pack feel. I cannot understand why couples reject the mix-tape after the first few weeks of a relationship. If you have a sweeping romantic gesture to make then why not call upon Phil Spector and Tom Waites who have, no doubt, put it more poetically that you ever could and scored it to music. These mix-tape exchanges also serve to remind me that my G/F is much cooler than I could ever hope to be.
I relish in reinstating the first-date nerves that arise after a long period apart. Our tenth first kiss, carefully choosing my outfit despite being two and a half years deep into a relationship. When immigration laws snatch her away from me is when the gaping whole in my life reminds me why I need her. Couples don’t talk as much as they should. They may share their thoughts about gas bills and state a preference over which movie to watch but being forced to fill a daily email or a weekly letter is an unforgiving compatibility check. As I write this the morning has almost made its way across the Atlantic, the second-hand dawn spilling into her Philadelphia street, her inbox cluttered with the love letters of a couple on the rise and a recipe for the dinner that she will have for lunch.