When it all goes wrong, ring an ex

By Paul Lester, April 15, 2010
Why did you dump me? A scene from A Complete History of My Sexual Failures

Why did you dump me? A scene from A Complete History of My Sexual Failures

Have you seen that film, A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, in which a grungy Kurt Cobain lookalike tracks down all of his ex-girlfriends to find out where he went wrong? I haven't but apparently it's a bit like Homer's Odyssey, only instead of an epic poem concerning the long voyage home by an ancient Greek war hero and his search for meaning and salvation, it's a documentary about a scruffy Londoner who learns the hard way that a lack of hygiene and terminal lethargy will get you dumped. A lot.

(I would like to point out, in case any of his descendents happen to be reading the JC this week, that Homer's Odysseus was dynamic to a fault, not to mention scrupulously clean, and always showered after battle.)

Even if I couldn't quite stomach watching the film, it did give me an idea - to get back in touch with some of my old flames and see if anything could be rekindled. Or would that be like trying to set fire to damp matchwood? Actually, they say that revisiting a past relationship is like reheating cold soup, but what's so terrible about that? Bung some leftover Osem in the microwave for a couple of minutes and you've got a delicious meal.

The question was, which ex should I contact? Should I call Julie (1981-84), who chucked me on the grounds of, no, not diminished responsibility, more an inability to engage her, or indeed anyone, including her gran and other octogenarian relatives, on any subject apart from the late '70s and early-'80s British music press?

How about Claire (1985-8), who cruelly terminated our affair on the phone from France, although to be fair she did call me (and it was peak rate). Or perhaps Eleanor (1988-90). It was her, after all, who inspired a good friend of mine, on meeting her for the first time, to describe her as my "future ex-girlfriend". Maybe she could become my future ex-future ex-girlfriend? Or even my next future ex-wife?

In the end, I plumped for Melanie (1992-3). Ah, Melanie. She was great. Sure, she was finicky about food (she once spent a whole evening in a restaurant in Hampstead nervously assessing the calorific content of peppermint tea), and yes, her narrow worldview and anxiety about her appearance did make her reluctant to discuss anything except hair products and hand cream. Still, on the plus side, she did live in Edgware, or at least she used to, and with petrol prices currently at an all-time high, I thought she would be the sensible choice.

Following some rigorous detective work (think Jessica Fletcher rather than Gene Hunt), I found out that Melanie moved to Bournemouth not long after we split up. Oh dear. With time (and money) at a premium, that might be a bit far. Then again, you can't put a price on love, although at 119.9 pence a litre it's probably worth bearing in mind. Of course, I could always take the train. In a certain light (shadowy, dark) I look half my age - maybe I could get a student discount?

But I was getting ahead of myself. I hadn't even spoken to Melanie yet. When I finally plucked up the courage to call her, I didn't get the reaction I was expecting - a short, sharp intake of breath followed by the sound of someone frantically trying to press 9 three times in quick succession on their mobile. In fact, she seemed pleased to hear from me, "pleased" being a relative term, with joyous rapture at one end of the scale and mild delight at the other. I'm no psychic but I reckon I got the latter.

I also discovered some interesting things. She recently got divorced from the builder she left me for. (What is it with Jewish girls and handymen? They've only got to whip out their spirit level and they're putty.) She's got three children like me and laughed when I suggested we do a Jewish version of The Brady Bunch and call it The Brady Maccabi Bunch. She's no longer obsessed with what she eats and didn't laugh at all when I asked whether that was another way of saying she was fat.

But - and here's the part where I come on like the director of a spoof soap opera, set in a mountainous ski resort, entitled Cliff Hanger - she has agreed to meet up with me in London. And I promise to tell you how it goes next month if you promise not to mock if you see me eyeing up the Black & Deckers in Wickes.

Last updated: 4:17pm, September 3 2010