‘Men find limps attractive,’ a good friend told me on Thursday. She was hugging me goodbye. She is a film director, back in London to pick up her visa before returning to New York. She was looking very well: blonde, green-eyed, clear-skinned. As she held me she explained the theory.
‘Men see a woman who limps and they think they can catch her.’ She kissed my cheek and smiled. ‘They like that.’
I considered this as I cycled away. Does this explain the great success I’ve had attracting men over the past 18 months? I’d thought it was my hair.
Because I do have a limp. And it’s been getting worse. Or, using my friend’s equation, better. (The worse the limp the greater the attraction? Is a bed-ridden woman irresistible?)
I dislocated my hip in a tobogganing accident when I was 22 and had successful surgery. It healed perfectly. Within six months I was able to run a full marathon, cycle across the Rockies in summer heat and swim Lake Ontario. Of course I wasn’t so bloody stupid that I did any of these bloody stupid things, but I was able to.
In 2007 I was doing yoga, came out of a deep bend and screamed. And a few months later, walking with a friend in an orchard in Kent I first heard the words ‘Are you limping?’
I hadn’t known it then. But now it’s impossible to miss.
I was out with a man this summer, a guy I hadn’t seen in years, and the limp grieved him. He talked about it. He mentioned it. When he held me in bed he said ‘Is this your sore hip???’ It was more painful for him than for me. (He was the man I shocked by whistling as I came down the hall from the bathroom, returning to bed. ‘Was that you, whistling?’ he said as I walked in, his eyes wide.
‘Oh yes yes, that’s me. I’m sorry’, I admitted, crawling beside him. ‘My whistling is annoying. People tell me, I’m sorry.’
‘No, no. Not annoying,’ he said, thinking. ‘It’s kind of sexy.’ He waited a moment. ‘And off putting.’
My producer Chris maintains that’s why I never saw him again. ‘He’s not going to ring! Why would he ring?? You know what he calls you? You’re the whistling gimp.’) (She obviously doesn’t subscribe to my director-friend’s theory.)
When I got tired of seeing the grimaces of pain on the faces of my friends, I went to see a doctor who referred me to a surgeon who within six weeks agreed to see me unconscious under his able, gifted, slicing hands. On Tuesday, 29th November, he’s putting in a new hip.
I am so excited I can hardly tell you. I am going to be walking, dancing, ROLLER BLADING again (this I will do, can’t wait, on my birthday, you’re invited). And before I go under the knife I have given myself a quest. I stand on a cliff top, shielding my eyes against the rising sun of my new Hip Life and scan the horizon. For someone. Some brave one. Some brave man, in fact – who will just put his fingers against the skin on my hip, as it is now and say ‘Ah yes. This is how it is. I will remember…’ And promise to always remember.
Or at least lie and say he does.
It’s not that I mind scars. I quite like the original one, in such a discreet place that you have to know me very, very well before you see it. It’s just that I don’t like change. Or, rather, changing. Once the scar is there, I will love it because it means I can walk. However, in these days before it arrives, I feel nostalgic about the as-yet-unblemished skin. I told two friends last Sunday in a pub that this part of my hip I happen to like very much. I like most of me quite a bit, if I’m honest, but these 10 centimetres at the top of my thigh – they are jolly nice.
And I want someone to recognise this.
Even if I have to pay him.
My pub companions, two young men, were very receptive. They were friendly – and charitable enough – to have sympathy for my plight and immediately volunteer their services.
‘I want someone,’ I said, turning in my seat and putting my fingers on my denim-ed outer leg ‘to just – feel – this part of me, and then to – ‘
‘Photograph it??’ said the handsome, long-haired musician I’ll call Bill. He’d had several beers by this point. So had his equally handsome, saturnine friend Ben. They gazed at me, weirdly sober seven pints in. Or behaving weirdly sober, at any rate.
‘Yes!’ I said, not daring to hope someone would actually be able to get a camera close enough to those ten centimetres without embarrassing us both and making it look like a home porno movie.
Bill was on it.
‘I’ll feel it and Ben can take a picture!’
‘Why do I have to take the picture? Why do you get to feel it?’
‘I have softer hands,’ Bill said. He shrugged, philosophic.
‘You have softer hands?’ Ben guffawed. ‘What? You’ve been moisturising?’
‘You have hands like a rhino,’ Bill shouted.
At this point I realised they were no longer acting as sober as they seemed. And neither one has since mentioned this service they were willing to offer when under the influence, so I suspect they a) don’t remember or b) have re-thought the propriety of my request and decided, understandably, all is best passed over in silence. So, sports fans, I am back on the trail.
But I know what I want. I want someone sensitive, decorous, poetic – and with a camera. On his phone. That’s fine. Someone young enough to be around in later years when I ask ‘Do you remember how I looked without the scar?’ and have him smile at me fondly – not, you know, creepily – and say ‘Yes. I remember it well.’ And if some day he’s not there I can look at the picture he took – his sensitive, decorous, poetic picture - and remember myself.
I am ready for this newer, faster, fitter me. I am ready to hike the coastal paths again, ready to skate for hours while listening to Ron Sexsmith sing ‘I’m A Late Bloomer’. It will be spring, maybe April, maybe my birthday. Trees will be bursting into blossom, light will ricochet off the Serpentine onto the sunglasses of the happy tourists eating ice cream on the benches, and I, on my roller blades, will push forward, stride after stride after stride, gaining momentum, faster and faster and faster and I will think on my director friend’s theory, about men who like women who limp. And I will realise this is irrelevant to me now. I will speed past boats and trees, past other girls on bikes sailing beside me through Hyde Park, and I will know, in my new ceramic replacement bones, that I am ready for a man who is fast enough to catch up.
S. Young - Artistic Director will return as soon as she is conscious. Enough.