What's that coming toward you in the sweaty haze of the bar? It's drunk, it's loud and it looks vaguely familiar. No, it's not your mother at a wedding, it's a soap actor on the prowl, looking for love or at least the closest they can get to it without ending up in the papers. But you must resist.
No good can ever come from becoming romantically involved with someone who treads the cobbles of Coronation Street or rolls in the hay of Emmerdale. Seriously, back away from the Albert Square local, or that one who's in the show where it's all doctors and nurses arguing in pristine uniforms. Soapstars are not for you, and here's why:
The first thing you will notice about your average soapstar is their improbable tans. They spent their entire working lives in cramped studios or filming outdoors at places which have less sunlight than the inside of a cardigan, yet have a bright, golden (orange) hue. A soapstar staple is the huge vat of fake tan they apply for social occasions. It smells like plastic, gets all over your sheets and may or may not feel like you're having sex with a jar of peanut butter.
The second thing a soapstar does with their first pay packet (after buying a ridiculous car) is buy a new set of teeth. You know the ones, those ridiculous veneers which look like they were originally created for Esther Rantzen or Carly Simon but nobody bothered to adjust the size. These gleaming white gnashers, fashioned from porcelain and visible from space, set you in mind of a row of glimmering toilets or washbasins. You're going to have to kiss that.
Red carpet roughness
Soapstars don't get to dress up very often. Unlike their American counterparts, UK soap actors aren't to be found swanning around in designer dresses on-set. So when you see them on the red carpet at awards shows or prize-giving ceremonies for dogs who saved their owners from drowning in the bath, it can come as quite a shock at how awkward they look in their finery. It's like wrapping a pig in an ermine cloak, balancing a diamond on its snout and asking it to open parliament.
And that's before we even get started on what they wear during their downtime: velour tracksuits, garish slogan T-shirts and prison tattoos are the order of the day for the nation's favourites.
It's not just the red carpet style stakes your soap star paramour struggles with. Their home is also likely to be a long, lingering love letter to the very worst of taste. It'll be expensive, it'll be 'designer', but it will also either look like a deluxe prison cell or the kind of room a clown sits in to get costume ideas.
Filming five episodes a week, day in day out, means your soapy lover will be spending a lot of time with their fellow cast members. This inevitable spills out into their free time, so your romantic rendezvous in Stockport Nando's may well be interrupted by 'the girls from the factory' or the brassy landlady.
They're part of a family - a mafia which thrives on dog-eared scripts covered in pink highlighter, slagging off the producers, burgeoning alcoholism and sitting miserably in VIP areas while a blonde schoolgirl rubs an inexperienced hand on their crotch in the hope of a walk-on part for their Auntie Maureen.
Soap stars love to moan about their job, usually in private. In newspapers and magazines you'll read about how they "would never leave the show" and "could play X for ever", but in reality they're spitting down the phone at their agent every time the camera stops rolling, desperate to get away from the wobbly sets and dreary scripts.
There's also the risk that your soap siren may get the silver bullet and be booted off the show. Contract renewal is a time fraught with danger; you don't want to spend two months a year cowering behind the sofa while vodka bottles shatter above your head, your better half wailing down the phone leaking storylines to the tabloids.
Soap stars aren't as unattainable as the Hollywood A-listers, so the gentlemen of the press don't feel anywhere near as reverent as they would toward a genuine Oscar-winning heavyweight. You can expect, then, to see your lover - and possibly you - on the front cover of a gossip magazine, coming out of a supermarket or rough dive of a pub in extreme close-up mode. Or more disturbingly, the picture will be a little too perfect. Your soap legend has probably set up the pics themselves. And you thought you were having such a wonderful time alone.
One thing you have to watch when you're fellating someone who's semi-famous is their hangers-on, the extra little suds gathering around the great big bar of soap.
Whether it's a down-on-his-luck cousin just looking for that big break, or a lifelong school friend with severe trust issues who's convinced they're your lover's only confidant, there's always somebody you have to keep your eye on. Your beloved will either be blissfully unaware of their leeches, or utterly dismissive of them and lapping up the attention. Either way, it's no fun for you.
Soap actors are beamed into the nation's living rooms around five times a week, their faces more recognisable to their viewers than people who were at their wedding, or even sitting next to them on an under-stuffed armchair.
Separating character from actor is quite a tough task for Joe Public, who will run toward you in shopping malls, drooling like the 'infected' from 28 Days Later, calling the name of your lover's character. Soapstars are 'just like us', they think, accessible. Why, they even shop in Tesco!
The hell of Hello! and harsh reality
In an effort to escape the typecasting or being known by the man on the street merely as their character, soap icons will attempt to show the world "the real me". Despite anyone who's spent more than 25 minutes with your average soap actor realising what a terrible idea this would be, your star-crossed lover is unperturbed, inviting the press into their gaudy home for image-heavy features which show them sprawling on a heavily patterned sofa holding a dog. And you'll be there too, of course - paraded in front of the camera like a diamonique brooch on a shopping channel.
As if that weren't bad enough, the endless juggernaut that is reality TV means there are slots waiting to be filled in shows like Celebrity Big Brother. Soapstars like their private lives kept that way, of course, unless there's a big fat cheque and the guarantee of exposure, whereupon they're airing their dirty underwear for all to see with nary a care for the consequences or future ribbon-cutting opportunities. And you will watch at home, squirming and trying to get comfortable on that bloody designer couch, wishing you'd looked to your left that fateful night in that bar and kissed that bank clerk after all. Roll credits.
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