Company - May 2001

Pass the Chardonnay

by Laura Miller

Tequila... and one...  and two....  yeeeek!
Location: wine bar. Mission: Bridget’s mates from the film of Bridget Jones’s Diary give Company readers advice on life and love. Cigarettes smoked: 18. Alcohol consumed: Chardonnay (lots), Tequila shots (many). Calories consumed: 1000s. Problems resolved: Er…

Sally Phillips, 30 (from Channel 4s Smack the Pony) plays Shazzer. “She’s stroppy and swears a lot. Her role is to give Bridget (played by Renée Zellweger) lots of crap advice”

Shirley Henderson, 35 (from Wonderland and Topsy-Turvy) plays Jude. “confident, hard-nosed with a high-powered job in the City. But when it comes to relationships she’s a total flop”.

James Callis, 29 (from BBC1’s Sex, Chips & Rock’n’Roll) plays Tom. “He’s always in a flap - not because of Bridget’s problems but because he broke a nail on the way round to hers.

My friend is always getting loads of attention from men when we’re out… and I don’t. How can I make men notice me without seeming desperate?

Shirley: I wouldn’t actually force the issue. I’d just be myself. If it was Jude, she’d probably knock something over to let them know she was there.

Sally: I’d be tempted to build myself a less attractive female friend out of a mop and old clothes as a decoy. Then I’d stand closer to her than to my other, real, good-looking mate and by comparison, I’d be the one who looked nicer. I’d also decorate my decoy with lots of things men like - sci-fi club badges, copies of Playboy, PlayStations… so they’d find her quite interesting but once they got up close they’d realise they’d prefer to sleep with me.

James: My advice would be to arrange a girl’s night out with your mates, but then the day before try to sabotage their looks. Like spreading butter on their pillows so they break out in spots, or spraying a horrid smell on their clothes so that no man will go near them. Alternatively go the other way - just try and appear really cool and aloof because men are always fascinated by the one person in the bar who isn’t paying them the slightest bit of attention. And the other thing I’d suggest is go on holiday, re-invent yourself and come back feeling a million dollars, and you’ll n ever feel insecure next to your mates again.

My boyfriend spends more time in the pub with his mates than he does with me - how can I get him to change without nagging?

Shirley: Start going out with your own friends more. Any night that he’s going to be in, just tell him you’ve got something that you can’t cancel. That should get him wanting to spend more time with you.

Sally: Go on holiday, reinvent yourself and come back feeling a million dollars! No seriously, I’d say go out with your own friends more. It’s always a big mistake to try and get men to change habits like this. Men don’t like changing, do they James?

James: Um… well if I was in the pub and my girlfriend rang to say she was having a fantastic time somewhere else and I should really join her, I’d probably be out of that place like a shot - especially if she mentioned things like big screen TV for the football and chilled beers in the fridge.

I’ve met someone I really like, but I don’t want to seem too keen. How can I let him know I’m interested?

Sally: Spend all night catching his eye and then coyly looking away. Don’t actually say anything. That’ll keep him guessing.

James: Be honest. Say how you feel. If it’s right, then he’ll reciprocate. If he’s playing a game - not returning calls, that sort of thing - then you’re much better off out of there.

Sally: I think you have to be quite discerning about the level of honesty guys can take - you don’t want to scare them off by telling them you want to have their baby after five minutes.

James: No, that’s terrifying! On the very limited occasions a girl has chased after me, I’ve found it slightly worrying.

Sally: Ideally, men should chase us. It’s great when they’re completely smitten. But what actually happens is that I end up running after them going: “I want you, I want you!” That last bit was a joke, by the way.

So, how soon is too soon to have sex with him?

James: Hmm, I need to confer with the girls… (goes off into whispered huddle)

Shirley: Surely, it should be when you feel comfortable with someone. You might want to wait a year, a week or it might not even enter your head that you’re waiting at all.

Sally: Don’t do it because you feel you have to, like if you’ve been seeing him for five weeks and you’re thinking “I really should now, because he’s going to leave me if I don’t.”

James: I agree with Shirley and Sally!

My boyfriend is always on his mobile. When we’re out together, he constantly takes calls and checks his messages. What should I do?

James: Nip to the loo and send him some really nasty messages throughout the evening, blocking your own number or borrowing someone else’s phone, so that he won’t have a clue who they’re from. If they get more and more abusive as the night goes on, he may want to stop checking his messages altogether. Especially if you describe what he’s wearing and send messages like: “I know where you live”.

Sally: Just snatch it out of his hands and drop it into his drink “by mistake”. Or insist on taking calls of your own outside the bar, then stand just where he can see you and alternately laugh and look suspicious so he thinks you’ve got someone else on the go.

James: Or you could just say, “Do you know you’re getting excess radiation and brain-cell depletion because of how much time you spend on the phone? Since we started going out you’re getting a lot less interesting, and you’re probably in need of a frontal lobotomy.”

My friend and I both fancy the same man. He’s been flirting with both of us - should I steer clear and let her go for him?

James: Well, there’s obvious potential for a threesome!

Shirley: If he’s flirting with both of you, you should both tell him to get lost - it’s obviously just a game to him. If it was James flirting with Sally and me, I’d think he was just trying to boost his ego by trying to chat up two foxy chicks.

Sally: It’s definitely not worth falling out with your friend over - friends should come first. Enjoy the fact that he’s flirting with you and be completely open with your mate.

I’ve been living with my boyfriend for three years. We both work hard, don’t see each other much, and our sex life has gone off the boil - how can we spice it up?

Sally: Go on holiday, re-invent yourself…

James: Say to him: “Look, we’re only young and gorgeous once, we’ve got the rest of our lives to be old and grey and boring, so let’s go and do something crazy, like join a salsa class, and put the sensuality back into our relationship. There’s no point making a stand on your own - like investing in sexy lingerie - and just expecting him to notice. You have to discuss things together and rediscover your intimacy.

Shirley: It’s hard work, but you owe it to yourselves to try. If you’ve got stuck into a rut where you’re taking each other for granted, I’d probably try to arrange some proper nights out together where you can get to know each other again.

My boyfriend is still in touch with his ex, and keeps photos of her in his wallet. I’m really jealous - what should I do?

Shirley: It’s totally natural to be jealous, but she is part of his history. And you shouldn’t be looking through his wallet, anyway!

James: Maybe he has no idea the pictures are in there. Maybe they’re just a souvenir of a good time he once shared; great for reminiscing about, but not threat to you. After you split up, he’ll probably carry photos of you around, too. Really.

Sally: The key is not to go psycho on him. We’ve all got a past, and as you get older, people have more and more baggage.

James: As long as the photos don’t keep changing to pictures of different women, or have things like “thanks for last night, big boy” scrawled on the back!

My boyfriend bought me some tarty underwear which he thinks is really sexy. Does he secretly want me to be a slut, or does he just have bad taste?

Shirley: This has never happened to me, but I think it’s funny!

James: Me, too! Girls spend all their time analysing whether their man really fancies them. If he buys you raunchy underwear, what more proof do you need? He obviously wants to see you in it. And that means loads of sex.

Sally: I was seeing someone once who used to loiter outside Ann Summers shops saying things like, “Oooh, aren’t those crotchless knickers sexy”, and I’d have to patiently explain to him that, actually, they weren’t. I suppose if you don’t find his gift sexy but you’re prepared to indulge his fantasies then at least he owes you a return favour.

My friends think my boyfriend’s arrogant, but they just don’t know him like I do. How can I resolve this without having to choose between them?

James: Get a video camera and tape your boyfriend telling a cute story about how he saved a kitten from drowning or something, then play it to your mates when he’s not with you and tell them that’s the real him - vulnerable but heroic.

Sally: This is precisely Jude’s dilemma in the film…

Shirley: …but Jude doesn’t compromise - and why should she? She likes her friends and she likes him, so she sees them separately. She lets them moan about him and vice versa.

Sally: You’ve got to stop feeding your friends negative stories about him, and only tell them positive stuff. Even if it’s just little things, like, he makes me tea in bed in the morning.

James: I thought you said, “he makes me pee on him every morning!”

Sally: Well, whatever works for you!

I’ve been with my boyfriend for five hears, and he refuses to commit; he never mentions moving in together or getting married. Should I stick with him?

Shirley: I wouldn’t force it. If he’s not ready ,he’s not ready. If things are fine the way they are, don’t try and change it.

Sally: I was in this situation once with a guy I’d been with for a couple of years. He’d just renewed the lease on his studio flat for another three years, so it was obvious he wasn’t intending on leaving his “bachelor pad”. It was a good opportunity to talk about whether the relationship had a future. It transpired it didn’t. So you can see that as a positive thing.

James: Five years is a long time, but everyone’s got their own personal plan for the future. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s just not. You have to ask him where he sees it going. You should be able to tell in about five seconds by the look of panic on his face.

I met this guy recently - we hit it off brilliantly and slept together. I thought it could lead to a relationship but he never called - even though he said he would. Was I just a cheap one-night stand?

Sally: Yup. It’s awful when this happens but there’s not much you can do.

James: Sex is a crazy, intimate thing and people behave in different ways afterwards. Even though a guy can hint that sex is not all he’s after, sometimes it is all he’s after and he runs away or fobs you off afterwards. That’s his problem, not yours.

Shirley: Sounds like you were just a one-night stand, so you’ll have to accept it.

Sally: Learn from it. If the sex was good, then at least that’s something positive. Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty safe rule not to sleep with someone on the first night. Phew! Did we do okay with our advice? It’s quite tricky! Sometimes, though, I reckon people with a problem aren't that bothered about getting a solution, they just want someone to listen to them. Good friends are just like big walking ears, aren’t they?

Photos: Sean Cook

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