Brace yourself – this is going to be a long one.
There exists a school of thought that goes, ‘You can never make the same mistake twice, because the second time you make it, it’s a choice.’ And I have to admit that I’d agree with that, to a certain extent. It’s also not directly at odds with the other school of thought, that goes ‘I don’t make the same mistake twice. I make it three or four times, just to be sure.’ And of that, I am a big fan. Clearly.
Because I made plans to see Liam again. Thrice.
Now, the first thing that we have to acknowledge here is that he reappeared. Just when I had completely given up hope of ever hearing from him again. Just when I had actually stopped thinking about him – mostly because it hurt too much – wham! A WhatsApp in the middle of the morning while I’m cruising through the countryside on a train to Wales. Shocked is not the word.
Not only did he offer a pretty good explanation for his disappearance – he had lost his job – he actively said that he would love to see me again, if I’d not found the love of my life in the meantime (his words). And so, I made my first mistake. I read his message again and again – and then his second message, in which he – rightly – apologised for a joke that he’d made in poor taste – and tried to find a reason to doubt him. I couldn’t – or I didn’t want to – so I agreed to see him again.
You’re probably expecting at this point to hear that he didn’t turn up and, to be honest, I don’t blame you – I wasn’t expecting him to. (At which point it’s important to acknowledge that hoping and expecting are two very different things.) What happened instead? We had a wonderful evening. He arrived on time, he was charming and charismatic, and he asked me within the first ten minutes when he could next see me – there was a Christmas party at his previous work the following week, would I like to go with him? (I’ll just mention now, for context later, that I’m not originally from London, so I relocate for Christmas.) It was amazing. And when we’d exhausted the atmosphere of the not-so-upmarket chain pub we met in, we walked – at his suggestion – hand in hand across the city to a bar he knew, and he introduced me to some of his (real-life actual proper) friends. He rode the night bus home with me and took the train with me to work the next day – when he told me that his friends thought I was lovely. And – in lieu of the Christmas party – we arranged to see each other three days later – for a sober date!
That morning, I woke up 45 minutes early for a date that – this time – I hoped would happen. I packed my bag again, spent the day messaging him back and forth, and duly trekked to the heights of Zone 3 North London to meet him at his station. And? He was where he said he was, when he said he’d be there. He had ordered us food to arrive when I arrived. We lounged on that same sofa and scrolled through boxsets, to pick one to watch together now and when I got back from Christmas. We talked about everything. We laughed, we kissed and we were entirely sober the whole night. We went to bed and – we had sober sex! (Can you remember the last time you did that with anyone?!) He made me a cup of tea in the morning and walked me to the station.
And I never saw him again.
Now, I hasten to add that it wasn’t that I didn’t speak to him again. In fact, we spent much of that day WhatsApping, and the following week or so was much the same. I headed ‘home home’ for Christmas and we compared our – ludicrously different – ‘seasonal celebrations.’ Ahem. Over the next couple of weeks our conversation was sporadic – but I thought nothing of it – it was Christmas, and we were both living separate lives. (You’ll remember that I had quite the eventful New Year not even thinking about him, after all…)
When I got back to London, I saw that my last WhatsApp hadn’t been read, so I sent him a Facebook message chatting about my newly-acquired accent and whether we should go for a Diet Coke as a New Year gift to things. He replied straight away and the date was set.
And the date came. And I’d packed that bloody bag again. And he disappeared. It had happened before, but it couldn’t happen again, right? We had made an actual plan this time! So I messaged. And – miracle – I got a response within seconds. But it wasn’t happening. Again. He was stuck at work and not going to make it back in time but could we please reschedule? Hun. xx.
Despite appearances – and actions – I am not a fool and, of course, this threw me into a chaotic whirlwind of feeling furious and upset, certain that he was a lying scumbag and absolutely convinced that it was somehow my fault. I am sure you know this feeling well. But I so desperately wanted to see him again – the sober date!! – that of course we could reschedule. And we would have. If he had ever responded to that last message.
But of course, he hasn’t. He hasn’t even read that message. It has now been a week and I have heard nothing at all. Of course.
It’s important at this point to mention that during this time I began reading ‘Fight Like A Girl’ by Clementine Ford which, if you haven’t already, is absolutely worth giving your time to. It’s brilliant. And it also began making me really, really mad. What kind of man thinks he can treat a woman like that?! Why are women so conditioned to believe that if a man doesn’t want to speak to her, it is her fault?! Why do we constantly strive for and desire male approval and feel worthless without it?! (Perhaps this is an exaggeration for some women, but you get the idea.)
Empowered and utterly fired up with feelings of my own self-worth I decided to make it quite clear to Liam that this woman (hell, any woman) deserves – at the very least – a couple of seconds of his time, especially considering his recent actions, to be told where she stands or told to eff off. It’s just being a decent human, after all. And I know it should have already been clear that he didn’t want to know, but I have all kinds of heart hope about finding that Big Love (and beautiful ginger men) so I just… needed to be sure.
(Note: I also spent several hours crafting this message so as not to appear too needy, or too angry, or too unreasonable, or too ridiculous or too anything else that might be considered inconvenient and then ran it past a friend to check again. I’m still working on the feminism.)
And that’s when I learnt that being ignored triggers the same chemicals in your brain as physical pain. And then my resolve shook a little bit and my heart hope turned into heart hurt and I messaged the BFFs in desperation. And the sum of their responses is what I want to share most of all.
You are always worth it. And this too shall pass.
Alongside all of the others, there is one more school of thought that declares that it’s important to make mistakes. ‘You learn from your mistakes’. ‘If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.’ Maybe the second time you make a ‘mistake’, it is actually a choice. And maybe we will all make that mistake/choice hundreds of times before we’re really sure it’s wrong for us. But it’s all important. And it’s all OK.
So, onwards and upwards. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. “But this too shall pass.”