Is it my fault? Is it your fault? Does it have to be anybody’s fault? Is there such a thing as terrible chemistry? I’m not talking about bad sex, although God knows we’ve all been there. I’m talking about that moment when you meet someone – another woman – and things are immediately wrong, so wrong. Their smile looks odd. Your smile feels odd. Everything you say comes out wrong; brash or boring or both, and everything they say sounds slightly irritable. Or you keep missing the point, not getting the joke. Suddenly, you are not you. Who are you? You feel under tremendous pressure. Bad chemistry.
And it rarely, if ever, improves. From then on, every time you see this person your heart slightly sinks and you panic slightly and wonder, ‘What will I say? How/Who/What will I be?’ You mentally rehearse appropriate questions:
Question: How is that lovely boyfriend of yours?
Inevitable answer: He dumped me.
No opening gambit ever, ever, ever gives you anywhere to go but, because you kind of realise that this is no one’s fault, you keep trying. You keep hello, how are you-ing. Until one day, perhaps ten years down the line, you give up. And it is the most monumental relief. They walk into the room and you just… carry on. Being the you that you know. Doing the you that you do. And, once you get comfortable with the not bothering, you wave or blow a kiss and they send some warm and affectionate signal back because they are so grateful not to have to do that dance of death with you and they also know that this is no one’s fault. It’s just bad chemistry. And it’s written in the stars.