First of all, I had no idea this was going to be a happy goddamn book. Fresh from my romantic breakup with L---, and from my reading of Europa, I was, especially after the first few chapters of this were under my skin keeping all the wounds open, just not ready, at all, to come to the final chapters (so many months after starting, after saying final goodbyes- I have not and will probably not do the looking up that the main character does in this), and find an ending that is high in redemptive and joyous energy. But then, I was hardly looking for that in my own life. Who ever is?
- This, really, is the bottom line, the chief attraction of the opposite sex for all of us, old and young, men and women: we need someone to save us from the sympathetic smiles in the Sunday-night cinema queue, someone who can stop us from falling down into the pit where the permanently single live with their mums and dads. I'm not going back there again; I'd rather stay in for the rest of my life than attract that kind of attention.
- He's sharp, Barry is. Sharp and nasty. He understands the power girls' names have, and he doesn't like it.
- I feel as though I have been having conversations like this all my life. None of us is young anymore, but what has just taken place could have happened when I was sixteen, or twenty, or twenty-five. We got to adolescence and just stopped dead; we drew up the map then and left the boundaries exactly as they were. And why does it bother Barry so much that Dick is seeing someone? Because he doesn't want a smile from a man with buckteeth and an anorak in the cinema queue, that's why; he's worried about how his life is turning out, and he's lonely, and lonely people are the bitterest of them all.
- Where's the superficial? I was, and therefore am, dim, gloomy, a drag, unfashionable, unfanciable, and awkward. This doesn't seem like superficial to me. These aren't flesh wounds. These are life-threatening thrusts into the internal organs.
"Do you find that hurtful? He was a wimp, if that's any consolation."
It's not, really, but I didn't want consolation. I wanted the works, and I got it, too. None of Alison Ashworth's fate here; none of Sarah's rewriting of history, and no reminder that I'd got all the rejection stuff the wrong way round, like I did about Penny. Just a perfectly clear explanation of why some people have it and some people don't. Later on, in the back of a minicab, I realize that all Charlie has done is rephrase my own feelings about my genius for being normal; maybe that particular talent -- my only one, as it happens -- was overrated anyway.
- ... like most people, I'm OK at being half of a new couple. It's the more established, quieter couples, the ones who have started to go through life back-to-back or side-to-side, rather than face-to-face, that interest me.
- When I am no longer desperate, when I have got all this sorted out, I promise you here and now that I will never ever complain again about how the shop is doing, or about the soullessness of modern pop music,... or anything at all. I will beam beatifically at all times, just from sheer relief.
- It's like you can never do the right thing by someone if you've stopped sleeping with them. You can't see a way back, or through, or round, however hard you try.
- "I wish your penis was as big as his, though."
This, it would appear, judging from the length and volume of the ensuing snorts, giggles, guffaws, and roars, is the funniest joke Laura has ever made in her life - the funniest joke that anyone has ever made, in fact, in the entire history of the world. It is an example, I presume, of the famous feminist sense of humor. Hilarious, or what?
- "There's no secret. I'm simply pointing out that what happens to us isn't the whole story. That I continue to exist even when we're not together."
I would have worked that out for myself, in the end. I would have seen that just because I go all fuzzy around the edges when I don't have a partner, it doesn't mean that everybody else does.
- "All I'm saying is that if you believe in a long-term monogamous relationship at all, then you have to allow for things happening to people, and you have to allow for things not happening to people. Otherwise, what's the use?"
"No use." I say it mock-meekly, but I am cowed -- by her intelligence, and her ferocity, and the way she's always right. Or at least, she's always right enough to shut me up.
- Women get it wrong when they complain about media images of women. Men understand that not everyone has Bardot's breasts, or Jamie Lee Curtis's neck, or Cindy Crawford's bottom, and we don't mind at all.
- But it's much harder to get used to the idea that my little-boy notion of romance, of negligés and candlelit dinners at home and long, smoldering glances, had no basis in reality at all. That's what women ought to get all steamed up about; that's why we can't function properly in a relationship. It's not the cellulite or the crow's feet. It's the... the... the disrespect.