Dazed & Confused

Social media is giving me a headache. Literally.

After Brenda went mad and abandoned me last year, a loyal fan of my “work” tracked me down and insisted on comforting me in my time of need.

She comforted me over and over again until I begged for mercy. A man my age can be comforted only so much before he has to get up and stretch his legs with a brisk walk to the pub.

A week ago I went to buy the Sunday papers in Umdloti and when I got back, she was on the point of embarking on a search and rescue mission.

Maybe not so much rescue.

“You’ve been gone for two hours,” she snapped. “Where the hell have you been?” I stood there red-eyed and waterlogged. “Surfing,” I said.

I didn’t call because I didn’t have my phone. But I did have my surfboard. And there were waves.

I was busy explaining how immersion in the sea is a biological imperative for some people when she interrupted me.

“Why are you following so-and-so on Twitter?” I rubbed my salt encrusted eyeballs and took a step backwards. What? How did we go from surfing to this? She didn’t say so-and-so. She named a woman. Not even by her real name, but by her Twitter name. It was something ridiculous, like Jellybean-Moonshadow.

I remembered her. She follows me on Twitter and bought one of my books not too long ago. Out of common courtesy I followed her back.

For those of you who were raised by wolves and have never heard of Twitter, I should probably point out that following someone does not make you a stalker. Following someone, in the renegade realms of Twitter, is … ah, to hell with it. I can barely grasp the mechanics of it myself.

My caregiver, easy on the eye and a teacher by trade, had gone into my Twitter account while I was surfing. I follow 172 people and she chose to confront me about Jellybean-Moonshadow. It would have made more sense to accuse me of having a thing for Ricky Gervais. I admire him far more than I do Jellybean-Moonshadow.

I also follow the M23 Congo rebels, but it doesn’t mean I’m packing my raping boots and sneaking off to Goma.

I follow journalists, writers, atheists, satirists and Pigspotter, all of whom are doing great work but none of whom I wish to see naked. It’s the same with Jellybean-Moonshadow.

Occasionally she retweets me. This, in the eyes of the teacher, is the electronic equivalent of her sending me her panties in the post.

I would far rather deal with a Jehovah’s Witness on a Sunday morning than an angry woman repeatedly shouting, “Why are you following her?” Even though I was innocent, she made me feel like a woolly reject sloping about the suburbs in a semen-stained raincoat peering into bedroom windows and tugging at my crotch. I don’t do that sort of thing any more.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Why am I following my ex-wife?”

“Which one?” she snorted.

I suggested that, under the circumstances, a course of psychotherapy might be beneficial. There are very few women in this world who take kindly to advice of this nature. They don’t hear: “I’m only trying to help you.” All they hear is: “You’re barking mad and belong in an asylum for the criminally insane.”

Any mention of the words treatment, therapy or shrink – no matter how well intentioned – is liable to be met with a reaction that does little to dispel one’s original suspicions.

When that didn’t work, I suggested we spend a few days apart. It was the only way I stood a chance of finishing the Sunday papers.

If a woman thinks spending time apart is a good idea, she wants to be the one to suggest it. My mentioning it first was a clear breach of protocol and therefore carried with it the implication that we either never saw each other ever again or one of us had to die a violent death right there and then. And it wasn’t going to be her.

Moving in a crablike fashion, I edged onto the verandah and sat down. I once watched a documentary in which David Attenborough advised that when confronted by an enraged animal, it was best to move very slowly and quietly to a neutral space and pretend everything was fine. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t say anything. That’s where I went wrong. I mumbled something under my breath.

“What was that?” she shouted from three rooms away. Women develop supersonic hearing when there is an argument in the offing.

“Nothing,” I said. In a flash, she was at my side. Grabbing a handful of my hair, she said: “What did you say?” I had a teacher who used to do that to me. Funny how some things never change.

I have a lot of hair to spare, but I’d rather it were cut than torn out by the roots. I knocked her hand away and went back to the newspaper.

Like most men, I would sooner emigrate to Kazakhstan than have a confrontation with a displeased woman.

My face didn’t even see the slap coming. It felt like it was delivered by Serena Williams with PMS. She followed up with an impressive combination of pinches and kicks.

She’s half my weight and twice as fast. It was like being attacked by Tinkerbell after a night of huffing angel dust with the Lost Boys.

I grabbed a plastic chair and fended her off, lion tamer style. When I reached the front door I dropped the chair and ran away, as any gentleman in my position would.

This isn’t the first time technology has left my head spinning. A few years ago, a girlfriend intercepted an sms from a previous girlfriend. It wasn’t even meant for me, but I got whacked anyway. She was a police reservist and a reformed perlemoen poacher. I’m lucky I didn’t get shot or have my eye gouged out with a tyre lever.

Right now around the world phones are going brrrr or beep or toktoktok. And men and women – but mostly women, Oscar Pistorius notwithstanding – are reacting to the sound with carefully staged disinterest.

There was a time when the words “I love you” sent a frisson of fear down the spines of men. No longer. Now, the most terrifying three words are: “Who was that?”