Why I only want bad dates

Last Friday, I woke up 45 minutes earlier than usual to get ready for a date that I was almost certain wouldn’t happen. As utterly ridiculous as that sounds (and is!), after almost a month of looking forward to it, I wasn’t going to let that doubt win – just in case I was wrong. Of course, as I was stumbling for my nail varnish in the dark and cursing the bad lighting of the winter as I struggled to shape my eyebrows, I tried to pretend I was putting in all of the effort for myself (“I like painting my nails and doing my hair” and “It’s nice to wear matching underwear just because!”) just in case I was right. But the cold, hard fact of the matter is that I wasn’t risking being unprepared for a date that was intended, undeniably, to be a hook up.

This date was going to be a third date. I want to make that clear for two reasons – not just because it’s typical third date behaviour but because it’s important here to acknowledge that I’d seen this man – let’s call him Liam – twice before. What’s crucial to this particular tale, though, is that I’d had the most incredible date with him the last time we’d been out. We went to a rave, for goodness sake! We talked through the night and fell asleep at 10am, curled up together on his sofa. We spent the day learning about each other, casual, comfortable, entwined under the duvet. He walked me to the station, told me to stop playing games and to reply to his messages faster (!) and he kissed me goodbye.

I couldn’t wait to see him again.

So of course the date didn’t happen.

We exchanged messages constantly in the run up. He asked me questions in every single one, replying fast and often. When I then didn’t hear from him for 24 hours (I was going mad, of course, but we can talk about unnecessary emotional attachment later) I asked him outright if he wanted to see me again. Of course he did! He suggested the third date. He suggested that we have some drinks at his place because we were both struggling with money this month. He sent me messages about looking forward to it.

And then he vanished into thin air.

I texted. I WhatsApped and then, I called. As I was leaving work, on that Friday evening, just to be sure. And then I took my bag packed with overnight things, home. And cried.

Because it doesn’t make sense. Because it isn’t fair. Because I had asked him outright and he had said he wanted to see me again. Because he made the plans. Because he wrote his birthday in my calendar and it’s next week. Because I thought he was brilliant and because he told me he thought I was brilliant.

But most of all because it’s not just him, is it? The best date I’ve ever had was with The Boy – we shared the most perfect day at a festival – and that was our last date before he told me it was over.

So bring on the bad dates. Because at least there might be seconds and thirds. Because I’m now almost certain that having a good date means I’ll never see them again.

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Enough. Enough now.

Or, A small update on The Boy…

I walk past his office twice a day to get to mine. I travel to and from the station he lives closest to, whenever I go to a gig. I look for him (of course I do) and I expect to see him in these places.

Where I don’t expect to see him is in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday, in Victoria Station, bag packed, waiting for another girl. A petite, beautiful girl.

I nearly threw up.

Enough. Enough now.

Relight my fire (or, Dating an ex-)

Picture the scene: it’s the Saturday of August Bank Holiday and it is a glorious day. Heat is pouring out of a festival tent on Clapham Common inside which I am (sweating profusely and) dancing, £6-gin-in-a-can in hand, with one of my #BFFs and Tom (the very same!) It’s SW4 weekend and on the stage is a band(?) I can neither remember nor probably pronounce.

As the beat drops I swing around to my right and, in one of those peculiar twists of chance, find myself about a foot away from a group of boys I’ve not seen since since we were in school. Reckless with gin-fuelled abandon, I find myself actually instigating (ever-so-slightly slurred and shouted) conversation with them, learning in the process that the man who just Happns (see what I did there) to be that same ex-boyfriend is lurking somewhere in the festival.

I KNOW.

Now, the chances of me bumping into him on a regular Tuesday (for example) are – relatively speaking – quite high. We both live in London and we have a number of mutual friends. We both work in the same area of the city and – as I discovered quite recently – I walk past his office twice a day in order to get to and from mine. (The fact that that office is next door to that of The Boy who Caused the Blogging Absence is a coincidence that I can’t even think about right now.) But we’ve both been living in London for eight years and after that length of time, you rather get used to the fact that there are enough other people in this crazy town to not see a specific one of them.

So it was a little bit of a surprise when we walked smack-bang into him upon leaving that tent.

Thankfully, Tom and this boy (let’s call him Nick for now) are familiar with each other from years back so I had a few moments to force the sick feeling back down into my stomach before I was forced to look at him. And then:

He looks exactly the same.

He’s looking at me in exactly the same way.

Is he… smiling?

This, as I’m sure you can imagine, was a problem. Throughout our not-as-brief-or-awkward-as-it-should-have-been chat, I was driven half-mad with questions. Was he flirting with me? Was I flirting with him? Were we holding eye contact for longer than is strictly necessary? Was it all the gin?! What on earth was I doing?! It felt just like before. And that was a little bit of a surprise too.

All I can say is, thank goodness for Rudimental. With just enough time to grab (what should have been) the last four gins of the night before throwing ourselves into the masses waiting for their set, #BFF and Tom gave me a loaded shove towards the bar and we headed off into the night, leaving Nick et al. to watch the other headliners. What I didn’t bargain for was the WhatsApp that arrived midway through that set from a number I’d not seen since we broke up…

A couple of weeks later we met up for a drink.

And it was delightful.

Path-crossed lovers

You might remember (or can scroll back down the page a couple of inches to see) that back in January I said there was “absolutely no reason at all to do anything differently” when it came to Tom. What I didn’t mean was that there was no need at all to do anything else. Or anything more. January is also (more often than not) the time for taking things up (running and other such active pursuits, for example). So, in the spirit of being fair and representative of all that January offers – and keeping in mind his Tinder exploits – this is exactly what I did: I downloaded Happn.

If you haven’t ever heard of Happn, let me start by saying it’s like the Marmite of dating apps. I’ve spoken to quite a few people about their Happn experiences and all were either raving about its brilliance (including an ex-colleague who managed to find her current boyfriend in about three minutes on there) or raging app-deleters bemoaning its creepiness and complete uselessness.

Back in January, I’ll admit that my experience fell firmly into the latter category. I dutifully kept my GPS on wherever I roamed and – given that I had only dipped my toe in the online dating scene at that point – had high hopes. There were beautiful men (literally) at every turn! But a week in and I had not one single Crush (that’s what Happn calls its matches) and I’ll admit – I had been steadily dropping my standards to see whether I was aiming unrealistically high. Still, nothing.

Now, I am not the kind of girl who gives up on love easily (think: Louise from the Sex and the City movie) but nor was my self-esteem at such a low ebb that I was convinced it was me that was the problem. I started swiping on every man that appeared across my path (and we’re talking into the hundreds). Then – success! A Crush!

One of six I had in the space of about two months.

Based on those statistics, I might as well be a troglodyte. I’m not (I swear) so I too deleted the app and moved on. (More about that later. Along with the Storage Men; I’ve not forgotten about those.)

Fast forward six months and – being a big believer in second chances – I resurrected my profile.

And the first person who crossed my path was an ex-boyfriend (of four years, about four years ago). What?!

Evidence that Post-Its don’t work

It hasn’t escaped my attention that the last post published on this blog was in April. That’s – gulp – almost 5 months ago. And it was about Valentine’s Day (in February, lest we forget.) Goodness me.

In my defence, I’d like to remind everyone that I had been planning to do this for four years before eventually getting round to it, so I might still call it an achievement. But I accept that it hasn’t really been an, erm, consistent endeavour and so I plead for your forgiveness. What happened? I found a boy.

Of course.

Oh, irony of ironies, I got so distracted by dating a wonderful man that I had neither time nor inclination to make bad decisions, let alone blog about them! I was so swept up in the excitement that a) online dating had actually worked and that b) I was going on dates with someone I was into that I neglected to write anything at all about how it had all come to pass.

Well then.

You can see that things might have changed a little. Hello again, horrible world. (I jest. I got very, very drunk a lot of times and things are better now. Almost.)

These last few months have taught me something valuable though: convenience > commitment. The thing about commitment is that you have to want it and you have to mean it. Convenience is, well, convenient – and that makes it easier to choose. That sounds obvious, right? – and I suppose it is. When push comes to shove, how many times have we all committed to something and then taken the easier option? A morning fitness class we’ve ducked out of because we’ve not slept well? Dinner with a friend we’ve promised and then never quite got around to arranging? I’m guilty on both counts. And of course – of not writing about dating because just doing the dating was easier. Even though I’ve had BLOG written on a bright pink Post-It stuck to my computer screen at work for almost 5 months. And even though I’ve often thought about it.

Don’t get me wrong: sometimes convenience is the better option. Sometimes that extra hour in bed will do you more good than any sunrise Zumba class ever could. Sometimes not going on that date in favour of ordering pizza with your housemate is the best decision you could have made that evening. But sometimes it’s important to pay attention to that reminder – Post-It or otherwise – before it’s suddenly been almost half a year with no evidence of commitment. (Just so that we’re all keeping up here: it was much easier [more convenient] for me not to even raise the question of a proper relationship [commitment] with this man just in case he didn’t want it. This in turn made it much easier for him to disappear in the end.)

I know myself well enough to not make any bold statements about commitment here. I’m not making any promises. But I’m going to try really, really hard. (And I might even write about him one day.)

“What are we doing for Valentine’s Day?”*

For many girls, that’s not a question you want to hear. I mean, I don’t know, but I would assume that for those in a committed relationship, surely the idea is that there is at least some semblance of surprise? – and for those who are single, the prospect of spending Valentine’s Day hating on all men and singing female empowerment power ballads into the small hours of the morning is something that only serves to ensure you wake up next to an ill-advised decision on February 15th. Or crying into the small hours of the morning about how nobody even wants a casual one-night affair. (Having said that, last year I woke up next to one of my best friends, looking hella cute, a bucket of KFC sandwiched between us. But I digress.)

This particular question was posed to me across the table of a Wetherspoons in Peckham, about three weeks before the big V-Day. I was taken aback to say the least. The person sat opposite me, the one who’d just dropped the question bomb, was a friend! Granted, he was – and still is – a friend that has slightly more benefits than some of my other friends, and perhaps I should have seen it coming. But who makes Valentine’s plans with their “friends with benefits”?!

It totally blindsided me. And this led me to take a bit of a longer, harder look at our interactions (I refuse to say “relationship” because, goodness knows, it’s already going that way… ) I should also probably take a moment to clarify here that this isn’t Tom, from the previous post. This is Robbie. (There are a few of these men, as I’m sure you expect.)

Robbie is, relatively speaking I suppose, new on the scene. We actually met in a way that nobody in London does anymore, on a Bank Holiday night out in a bar. The particularly awkward bit about the entire situation is that I actually hooked up with (in the most innocent way you can), and subsequently dated, his friend after that evening. Let’s call that friend James – and let’s leave his story for now, other than to state the (hopefully) obvious fact that James and I were not star crossed lovers, and the very day we broke up, Robbie staked his claim. After coming round to my house with a couple of bottles of wine and telling me that James wasn’t worth crying over. That’s a strong start by anyone’s standards. (As an aside, and because I apparently have no self control in leaving a story here, that is also the night that I drank an entire litre of raspberry vodka and threw up into my recycling bin at work the next day. Twice. Let it never be said that I am not a classy girl.)

But back to the man. Robbie is the most charismatic person I have ever met. He can walk into a room, know everyone’s name and have made everyone laugh within ten minutes of arriving at the party. It’s a very, very attractive trait. Alongside that, we have the same (inappropriate) sense of humour, and he absolutely adores me. Which is also nice. (I can say that as a fact because he has told me so. You get the idea.) Robbie owns his own house, and his own (very successful) business, and is one of the nicest men I know. On paper, he is an absolute catch. But he is also very much “not my boyfriend”. And, because I’m trying not to be a complete bitch about this, this is something he knows.

The bit where, perhaps, this might all fall down somewhat is likely to be the part where my actions are not necessarily in line with that statement… At all. In fact, I possibly did tell him that I could, and would consider, marrying him. (Not that there has been a proposal! Yet.) I suppose that’d be one of those bad decisions, then…? Oh, and probably the part where I keep getting drunk and bringing him home. That too. Oh, fuck.

(In case you were wondering, we went on a date on Valentine’s Day. With two of my housemates. And probably ruined some perfectly lovely couples’ dates. But it was bloody brilliant.)

*It probably has not escaped your attention that Valentine’s Day was quite some time ago. Which suggests that there has either been a complete absence of drinking, dating and bad decisions to report on, or that there has been far too much drinking, dating and bad decisions to write down in real time. We’ll let you take a call on what you think… And in the meantime… *furious typing*

 

Forget past mistakes and press onto greater mistakes

January is an awful time of year. Let’s be honest here: it’s dark, it’s cold, you’re broke – and anyone that has ever given up something they enjoy has done it in January. It’s also the month in which a lot of people choose to reflect on the actions and decisions of the past twelve months and (because of a combination of fear, shame or the unfortunate acknowledgement that it’s time to “be a good person”) vow to do things differently. Better.

It’s bloody grim.

So I’ve taken a stand!

OK – so it was an accident. Well, as much as drinking to excess and unpacking your pyjamas onto someone else’s bed can be considered “accidental”. (I hear it is also “presumptuous” – who knew?!) The important point here is that I never actually decided to venture back along this particular, well-trodden path. January was supposed to be about making new mistakes, for goodness sake! But – as we all know – “accidents” happen… And as a result, I have firmly decided that there is absolutely no need whatsoever to change how things were before. In short: I re-made a past bad decision. Twice! And it was really, really good. 

When you wake up next to someone you’ve woken up next to a few times before (if you catch my drift) it tends to either give you cause to wonder how on earth it has happened again, or to question why on earth it is not happening all the time. In the case of this particular someone, however, neither thought has crossed my mind. And I think I know the reason: this person (let’s call him Tom for now) is one of my best friends. (I know – but bear with me.)

I’ll give you some background. Tom and I have been friends since we both moved to The Big Smoke back in 2011. We’ve had some adventures since then (driving to the seaside at 3am on a January morning; being [separately] hospitalised after a night out; screaming at each other about Disneyland Paris, that sort of thing) – and our respective parents think we are both marvellous. (Box ticked!) Tom is the man I’ll marry when I reach 35 and am still single. (We’ve discussed it and agreed – and recently upped the age from 30, lest it sneaks up on us.) He is the epitome of a Storage Man and I think he’s wonderful. (There’ll be more on Storage Men later…)

Tom was my go-to man (and I his go-to girl) for our entire University careers – and then some – despite both of us (and indeed everyone else we knew and lived with) recognising each time that it was a terrible choice. We have made this particular bad decision for so long that on our (now much rarer) nights out, waking up next to him is an almost unconscious expectation. It’s as inevitable as me having to make the tea in the morning while he desperately searches for painkillers – but it is precisely because of this that I’m convinced it shouldn’t change. Just like binge watching Netflix or ordering pizza on a Sunday evening hangover, there’s no point pretending that it won’t happen. These things are convenient, familiar, but downright fantastic – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Tom said of our most recent encounter, “it’s kind of boring when we get together at the start of the night”, because where’s the fun without the chase? And I think that’s exactly what it comes down to. For now? We don’t need each other. He is on Tinder (albeit with varying success) and living in Southampton – and I’m looking forward to making more bad decisions in London. But as it might end up being the rest of our lives, it really doesn’t hurt to get in a few good practise sessions every now and again…