Everyone who writes down words for a living has met this guy. He lurks at parties. Nobody knows who invited him, but he claims to “know Matt”. He listens in on other people’s conversations until he hears someone say that they’re a journalist, or something similarly wordsy. Then he pounces. He bursts out from behind a houseplant like a knife-wielding maniac. Except he’s actually wielding one of those Moleskine notebooks.
“Ahh, you’re a writer?” he says to whoever the writer is. “I… dabble.”
“DABBLER ALERT, DABBLER ALERT,” shrieks your inner alarm system.
“Yeah,” he says. “Mostly poetry.”
“POETRY ALERT, POETRY ALERT.” All you can see is the word “danger” flashing before your eyes to the rhythm of the Dabbler waving his little black Dabbling Book in front of your petrified face.
If you’re very, very lucky, you won’t spend the rest of the evening listening to some sweaty interloper’s haikus about losing his virginity (which he has yet to do, but hey, poetic licence).
Being a hypochondriac of some distinction, I’ve collected a few doctor friends over the years. I have yet to ask one of them whether they ever meet dabblers. Whether, while at parties, they’ve had someone appear from nowhere, announce that he “dabbles” in surgery and lift up his shirt to reveal a homemade appendectomy.
“Did this myself,” he says, pointing to his lower abdomen, at a gash held together with sellotape. It’s oozing something greenish and noisome. He will probably die.
After all, dabblers come in all shapes and smells. Some dabblers even dabble in being gay. These people, I recently learned, are known as “heteroflexible”. I repeat, heteroflexible. Let that word sink in, while I tell a sad story.
I used to love getting messages on OkCupid. The dumb optimism of my early twenties made everything that showed up in my inbox a potential love letter from a Gillian Anderson lookalike who lives on a cat farm made of crisps (crisps are my favourite food). Five years down the line, I’m smarter, uglier and have a perpetually swollen hate gland. Nowadays, every message that comes my way might as well be from the solicitor of a Nigerian prince who mysteriously left me $3m in his will. Somehow I’ve become suspicious of anyone who shows an interest in me. Every time a new message appears, I hear the “cuh-chick” of this emotional pump-action shotgun as I wonder, “Who the hell are you, and what do you want?”
The other day, armed with my trusty firearm – I call her Beth – I checked out the profile of a woman who had messaged me. All seemed above board. She liked all the same douchebaggy music I do. All signs pointed to her living in a house and paying taxes. Then one thing caught my eye. “Cuh-chick”, goes Beth. Under orientation, she’d put “heteroflexible”.
Heteroflexible. As in: that thing where people are 99.9 per cent straight, but occasionally like to give lesbians the run-around… there’s a word for that now. That thing is its own, legitimate sexuality. With all of the options (so many options) under the LGBTQIA umbrella, why choose something external? Something that basically says, “Yeah, I’m not gay or anything. Pffft.” What’s wrong with “questioning” or “curious”? Curious is fine. Curious is someone who goes to a kebab shop and orders a burger. I mean… it’s a reckless thing to do, and you might die, but it has a certain dignity to it. Why do these so called “heteroflexibles” feel the need to advertise that they’re basically straight, but will try on gayness like a Primark scarf, if pushed?
Maybe it’s the cuteness of the word I object to the most. Does sexuality really need to be dragged down that Cath Kidston, cupcake-on-an-ironic-doily black hole of doom? There’s nothing cute about the word “lesbian” (it always makes me think of horses for some reason. Not cute horses, serious ones). And that’s the way it should be. Remember, lesbians aren’t cute and we don’t, for the love of god, dabble. Except maybe in palmistry and vegan baking. But that’s a whole other story.