Valentine’s Day at Salvation Bank began inauspiciously. I was rushing a little to get ready and up on the desk for the open and, wrapping a towel around my torso, approached the shower cubicles in a bit of a tizzy.
Without thinking, I just flung open the first door I passed. There was a man inside. Lavishly slathered in soap, he was intent on building up a rich lather and clearly neither expecting nor desirous of company. Two pairs of startled eyes met. Wordlessly I retreated, closing the door with a bang.
A short while later, I was filling up my water bottle at the tap in the kitchen when Salvation Bank’s most bathykolpian and callipygian hoved into view. In the spirit of Valentine I allowed my imagination its head and my eyes their fill, until a sprinkling sensation on the toecaps of my shoes indicated either the water bottle was now overflowing or I was drooling uncontrollably.
Now I haven’t had anyone make a declaration of love to me since my online bookmaker persuaded me to reactivate my account, so I was not opening my private and company email inboxes on Wednesday morning in the expectation of anything romantic.
Amid the usual dross, though, just the one incoming pertained to Valentine’s Day. It was from an outfit called Babylon, whom I don’t think I know, but they seem to be some kind of online doctor who not only have my address but sure as hell seem to know me intimately as they have been bombarding me of late with targeted messages, focusing on my known debilities: mental frailty and sexual incontinence.
They have been blatantly guilty of profiling because their Feb 14 subject header cheerily instructed me with the following imperative: ”This Valentine’s Day Protect Your Sexual Health.”
I wouldn’t regard myself as the mawkish type who sends cutesy cards and flowers fromageux but I took exception to the nature of their sales pitch and I make no excuses for copying this wholesale.
“Valentine’s Day is officially here. Get ready for roses, chocolates and lots of talk about sex. [The bold is Babylon’s.] There’s no need to be shy. Your sexual health is just as important as your physical health. And with the right approach and info, your bedroom workouts can be way more fun.”
Subsequent paragraphs exhorted me to Get Tested and Know The Risks. For the record, there were no roses, no chocolates (except for a Snickers bar I bought myself), there was neither talk of sex nor the thing itself, and there’s nothing clears a bedroom quicker in advance of any ‘workout’ than informing potential partners not to worry about STIs because Babylon has given me the all-clear.
I have my own prophylactic of sorts: sexual fasting, orgasmic Ramadan. I made a formal complaint to Babylon. It’s bad enough feeling that the romantic phase of your life may be over (without ever having started) but there’s no need to have one’s face rubbed in it so-to-speak.
The kind of liaison for which I would have settled yesterday was the one in which a buyer and a seller of shares, who were about to get together, invited me in for a threesome and we exchanged a little sweet liquidity. Crossing two legs of a trade is inferior to getting one leg over but its possibility exists in the real world, not just the overcrowded realm of my imagination.
I wanted to take out a personal ad in the market’s lonely hearts column... a Valentine's Day special.
"Non-smoking stockbroker, likes pets, younger than he looks, poetic, musical, well-endowed, good(ish) sense of humour (see previous), likes drinking, reading, travel (abroad, preferably, not just to and from the office) the languid contemplation of other people’s misery, eating out on expenses, not joining with events of communal enjoyment, carping from the sidelines and accepting Large Unsolicited Discretionary Orders. Would like to meet wine-drinking, non-discriminatory, modestly corrupt (financially and ethically) slightly myopic, even potentially deaf buy-side trader with huge commissions for mutually satisfactory trading, cuddles, romantic liaisons, platinum Amex lunches and a short-term relationship unless compliance ordains a longer arrangement is strictly necessary.
I never had a romantic relationship with a client, although I could not think of anything more perfect than someone who matched the above description.
There was a very grubby episode after the International Equity Dealers’ Association annual dinner in 1999, but honestly, there was no romance involved; she exploited my naivety and my desperation for her programme business and made me do things I tremble to recollect. I could have made allegations of assault against that woman and they would have stood up in court with other punters joining my suit once it became public, no doubt.
I know people advise it's better to separate business and pleasure, and in an ideal world one should never mix the two but when you’ve never had either, it falls on deaf ears.
There have been a few female clients down the years to whom I have taken a fancy, but if you’ve generally been met with a reception oscillating only mildly between contempt and indifference and then struggled to winkle an odd lot bargain out of them, it would seem futile to ask if sexual relations could be thrown in as a bonus.
There were a few bouquets flying around the floor yesterday afternoon and the recipients looked suitably thrilled if not by the gifts themselves then by the attention they generated and the 'wanted' status they conferred.
I thought of my near-miss in the shower and my wet shoes and struggled to keep misanthropic and homicidal urges in abeyance. As the post room boys made their deliveries, I updated my Top 10 Tossers list. And felt better for it.
People think The Pained Trader is an embittered cynic but he's not at all. He's a disappointed romantic who lives in that gap between the day job compromise and the dreams of sex and money.