Phnom Penh Vixen: the sad smell that lingers - desperation

Phnom Penh Vixen: the sad smell that lingers - desperation


Desperation doesn’t smell, it reeks. But can you detect the reek on yourself? 

I picked up a whiff recently and it was an awful realisation, closely followed by paranoia, then furtiveness. How many know?  I thought.

Like the whiff of vomit on hair, it’s likely that the drunker you get, the less you will smell the scent of your own despair. But do other wasted people continue to smell it on you?

The question has even haunted me at that hub of deperation Pontoon – where lingerers make up 70 per cent of patrons and pheromones go to die.

There’s only one temporary cure for desperation – and sadly it’s the idea of this, sex with the desperado, that so readily turns off potential matches. For the long-term sexually desperate, pariah syndrome takes hold.

Their friends wish that someone, anyone – but not anyone they know – would end the cruel cycle with a mercy root.

I had a friend, Duncan, who was sexually desperate for about two years. He was a stand-up comic – the only performing art unconducive to getting laid, he said.

When he finally cracked it and found a willing woman, the dual side of the desperado – the user – came out and his partner, presumably realising her role as a mere drought-breaker, fled.

Like many male desperados I think, rather than pacifying him, sex instead inflated Duncan’s ego. He became like a bear hungrily preparing for another winter. No one was out of bounds: little sisters, exes, professors, psychos – he attempted to drag them all back to his cave. A surprising number were up for it.

Being desperate isn’t necessarily the same as sleazy though: it’s a kind of suffering and sometimes suffering draws out the most ardent behaviour in people.

Some of the sweetest words ever said to me were from a guy I met at a board games party who was wincingly, apologetically desperate.

It was a big turn off at the time, but he’d developed a kind of admirable persistence in the face of it. He more or less announced that he was a desperado in a long email, straight after we met. (I’m not sure how he found my email address, but the desperate person always will.)

He told me how he felt over the phone, while, I’m ashamed to say, I was hiding from him. When he called I was a mere hundred meters from where he was having lunch.

I could even see him sitting at a cafe. Ducking down a side street, I explained once more how busy I was and how far away I lived – such insurmountable odds to dating, you see. I didn’t see how he could possibly not be discouraged.  

“That’s ok,” he said. “When you’re in town, call me and I’ll be free – even if I’m not free, I’ll probably cancel what I was going to do and pretend that I’m free.”

When I think about his words now, they don’t seem that desperate  – heartfelt, if anything.

And now that I’m similarly reeking – who am I to judge?


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