The truth doesn’t have to hurt

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’ve made another bad decision. It’s one that has had unexpected consequences and one that I can’t do anything about, at least for another month or so. And it’s one that is driving me mad.

I’ve given up midweek drinking for Lent.

You might have noticed by now that I’m not usually one for giving up. The combination of being unreasonably stubborn and a hopeless optimist means that giving up – at least in the context of dating – isn’t something that I’m used to. And for the past couple of years during Lent I’ve taken something up – learning a new skill or running 5km – anything that moves me further towards that well-rounded person goal. But – alas – it appears that 2017 really is the year for making bad decisions!

One of the biggest problems with giving up midweek drinking is that it covers so many days. Despite valiant protests that midweek is really only Wednesday, my Monday to Thursday (Friday is part of the weekend: on that I will not be moved) are now resolutely alcohol-free. And, because I’m a twenty-something girl in London, this means date-free.

So I’ve taken up Sunday drinking. And Sunday dating.

I know that this is not exactly an unexpected consequence, but the realisation that I was now going to have to date on Sundays came as a bit of a shock. Sundays are for roast dinners and long walks and hangovers and almost certainly not for being at your best and meeting new people and exerting yourself (oi oi). Right? What does one do on a Sunday date?!

The answer is bottomless Sunday brunch.

Before I go any further it’s important to add this caveat: this Sunday brunch was not like my typical bottomless brunch experience (read: I did not get so wasted I had to throw up in the middle of the day). Instead, my date – Joe (another of those Tinder types) – sent me a list of the best rated brunches to choose from and we ended up in a cute little place which was all smashed-avocado-on-toast and table service (read: there is some limit to how much prosecco you can drink.) It was delightful.

I’m usually hesitant about going for food on a first date because it seems like an unnecessary amount of pressure not to drop things down yourself or get spinach stuck in your teeth or to make conversation with someone for a significant amount of time – any of those other things that you just don’t consider when you go for a drink. But brunch is different – especially when there’s a 2-hour time limit and there are cocktails involved.

There’s a second caveat to this: I also had excellent company. Joe was talkative and interesting and interested and didn’t have any terrible eating habits (win!) We managed a respectable number of drinks and then went on a hilarious adventure through the rain to find a pub that was open (I’ve found that there can never be enough drinks.) We talked well into the evening – the conversation never stopped – and then he kissed me…

…And I felt absolutely nothing.

The simple truth is that it felt like I’d been out for an afternoon with one of my closest friends.

I’d had an absolutely fantastic time and I couldn’t fault him if I tried – but there was zero romantic connection at all. Even after all of the drinks. Damn.

So I told him the truth.

If you only take one thing from reading this, I hope it’s that: I told him the truth.

I’m sure we’ve all heard that old adage: the truth hurts. But I think that’s total crap. It might be uncomfortable or unwelcome or unpleasant to hear – but it doesn’t have to hurt. Of course – I didn’t tell him the moment we broke apart. I didn’t tell him that evening. I didn’t arrange to see him again to tell him in person. I spent a long time trying to think about the best way to turn down a second date – and then I texted him the truth. I had had a wonderful time. I would absolutely enjoy seeing him again – but it would be as friends. I apologised that it wasn’t a nice message to receive but I wanted to be truthful. Because I think everyone deserves that.

And you know what? He thanked me. He thanked me for not leading him on. For not ghosting him. For not pretending to be something I wasn’t and for not leaving him in that unknown space where you wonder if there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. Because we’ve all been there, right?

If we see each other again it’ll be by chance. But it’ll be a chance reminder that there are wonderful people out there – even if they’re not meant for you. And that’s pretty good for a Sunday afternoon.

Love don’t cost 70p.

Last Monday, I met a man in a bar that was selling pints for 70p. I kid you not. It was astonishing!

And that is where the astonishment should end.

Just in case you were thinking for a brief moment that my surprise (I can’t use that word again) was over meeting a man in a bar, I should be clear that this was another Tinder date, and not that (almost impossible) natural meeting of two people in a place that serves beer. I should also be clear that the man wasn’t literally selling the pints – that was the bar (or rather, the bar staff, I suppose…) but now I’ve overthought the semantics of that opening sentence and…

ANYWAY.

This man was called Stuart. We’re using his real name this time – and if I’d have thought about it enough, the fact that he was called Stuart should probably have told me all I needed to know. (I just can’t see myself ending up with a Stuart… Can you?) He lived and worked around an hour outside London (second red flag – I don’t know what I was thinking!) but he had nice hair and a nice face and that nice pretty-boy thing going on and, well, I’m powerless to resist that sort of thing. He also messaged me first, and often, and suggested that he would come into Central London for our date, so I was – understandably –  feeling pretty confident that he wasn’t going to be Like All The Others. Then when I arrived at the bar just before 7pm and was met with the unexpected news of a 70p pint – sold! This was going to be a great night!

To give him his credit, he arrived on time – as good looking as his pictures suggested and with the added bonus of being well over 6ft tall, which – as I’d panic-texted my housemate – was much taller than I was expecting someone that good looking to be. (I have learned rather fast that there are real expectations and then there are Tinder expectations…) He bought us all of the (more expensive!) drinks and he was charming and talkative – we covered all of the usual date conversation ground and even managed to make it through a not-so-subtle-moving-in-for-a-kiss moment. Twice. At the end of the evening – after the bar staff had ushered us out of the door – he walked me to the station and told me he really hoped he’d see me again. Textbook.

When I woke up the next morning he’d sent me a text reiterating what a good a time he’d had – along with extolling the virtues of chicken nuggets (he’s not wrong) – and then he sent me a topless Snapchat asking me how my day was going. That’s two different types of getting in touch – I’m onto a winner, right?!

I’ll admit, Snapchat wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for in terms of post-date communication – and he was probably a little disappointed with the Snap he got back (who even does that?!) – but I figured he was making enough of an effort that we’d be seeing each other again. We carried on messaging…

And then he vanished.

What?!

Again?!

I’m astonished.

And not even because I didn’t see it coming.

I’m astonished because just like all the others seems to be just the way men are – and it’s baffling that so many men can spend so much time, money and energy on not getting laid.

So it turns out that love don’t cost (a thing) 70p. But at least that’s all I spent on this attempt. On to the next.

“Good things come to those who wait.” Or, an exercise in the unexpected.

You know that moment, in the films, when The Girl walks into a party, spots The Boy from across the room and the rest of the world disappears around them? Complete fiction, right? Well, I used to think so too. Until this weekend, when it happened to me.

To set the scene properly, it’s probably important that you know a couple of things:

1. It wasn’t the first time that we’d seen each other. I’d met this particular boy – let’s call him Ciaran – at a mutual friend’s house party around 18 months ago. We had – of course – spent most of the evening together, fuelled by too many drinks and the pursuit of innocent-enough attention. But he was living in Leeds at the time and I had gone home with Robbie (that friend-with-some-benefits who you might remember from this Valentine’s post).

2. I had spent around 90 not-exactly-sober minutes on the phone to an ex-boyfriend the previous evening, discussing how we probably shouldn’t hook up the following night, but that we were very good at spooning and my house would be quite convenient after the party… (In case you were wondering, this ex- would be James, also name-checked in this post. Sigh.)

For complete disclosure it’s also worth pointing out that I had already had to put myself to bed that afternoon as a result of one-too-many mimosas at brunch, but had somehow found a second wind and been at the pub for several hours before stumbling into the Uber across town… I am nothing if not committed to the cause.

Clearly, then, as I arrived at the party and threw myself into acquiring (even more) gin, Ciaran couldn’t have been further from my mind.

And then I saw him. And he saw me. And then he was rather closer to my mind (read: face) than he had been in a fair while.

And that’s how I ended up taking him home at 6am.

To tell you the truth, I don’t even know how it happened. He was (so I am told) far from the most attractive man at that party and (one thing I do remember) he was absolutely not who I thought was going to be waking up next to me on Sunday morning. I had even agreed with my housemate that we’d “call it” at midnight as to whether this ex- of mine and the man she is on/off sleeping with would both be waking up at our house!

But it was almost as if it was a done deal from the moment we saw each other across the room. (Albeit a bit less romantic than the films would have you believe.)

Perhaps it’s because we’d never quite managed to meet for a drink (read: hookup) although we’d spoken about it quite a few times. Perhaps it’s because we were – at last – just in the same place at the same time, after missing each other at several parties since that first one. Perhaps it was just the easiest option because we live in separate cities and there could be no expectation past that night?

Or perhaps it’s because neither of us have any self-control.

Whatever the reason, it just goes to show that not everything in those films is made up That time-stands-still moment can happen in real life. It’s just that the real life version ends with a kiss in the taxi as The Girl waves The Boy off to get the train back home. And that’s happily-ever-after enough for me. For now.

“Never make the same mistake twice.”

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.)

SO.

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.”

“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone”

A couple of months ago, I found myself in a Holiday Inn Express in The North (don’t ask) glued to Ibiza Weekender, listening to that line and shaking my head woefully at the youth of today and their glorious ideals of sexual abandon. Believe me, it’s not a moment I’m especially proud of. But it is one of an increasing number of late that are reminding me that The Big 3-0 is on the horizon (albeit still quite some distance away) and marriage, children and eternal happiness are, well… not. Not that this is a problem, mind you. That’s not the point. The point is that I think – gulp – I am reaching the stage where one night stands with strangers make me feel much worse than I will imagine and so, I’ve kind of… ruled them out.

Don’t get me wrong- that’s not to say that I’ve ruled out all casual encounters. I’ve not completely lost my mind. It’s just that the strangers bit doesn’t appeal like it may once have done.

Given the world of online dating (which I’m painfully aware I’ve not really talked enough about thus far – must do better) you’d be forgiven for thinking that this might make things a bit difficult. After The Boy who Caused the Blogging Absence (are you keeping up?) I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that I downloaded Tinder with the express intention of finding someone to screw myself cheerful. But I also promptly invited Tom to visit over SW4 weekend (see: LINK) and drank about 4 bottles of wine. Only one of those actions led to the desired result and I’m not at all ashamed to admit that it wasn’t Tinder. (You’re right – maybe the wine had something to do with it, but we’ll gloss over that…)

Let’s be honest here: not everyone feels the same. I’ve certainly had my fair share of seemingly charming young men disappear into the night when I’ve made it clear he wasn’t getting any as part of (or in one instance, the sole activity of) our first date. But I’m also – thankfully! – finding that Tinder isn’t a one-night-stand one-stop-shop for everyone. And, unlike Happn, it’s not through lack of matches, but rather an active choice to at least go for a drink or two first. (That almost sounds like a good decision, eh?!) Perhaps it’s that it’s still considered a bit of a taboo, to meet up with someone from the internet, for sex. It’s somehow different from taking someone home from a club. Perhaps there’s the fear that you’ll end up hooking up with someone who looks nothing like their pictures and you feel obliged to follow through? Or perhaps it’s the realisation that it’s just not going to be really good sex, is it? And surely that’s what you want, if sex is all you want?

Back in The North, as the kettle boiled for my camomile tea (!) and the Ibiza Weekender ended with a WKD-fuelled disappointment of a fumble (sigh) I realised that maybe, actually, they were right. Maybe the best way to get over someone is to get under someone. Just someone you know a bit. Someone you like. Because everyone deserves the best in life, and that includes in the bedroom. Make bad decisions to go home with inappropriate people, but not because you’re desperate to feel something. Compromising yourself and lowering your standards is the worst kind of bad decision, and the depths of self-loathing that follow are an unnecessary burden after you’ve (probably) just endured some terrible sex with a 3/10. You’re a 10.

Leaving the house at 7am on a Sunday morning is nobody’s friend, but – if I have to – I want to be walking out with my head held high. I mean, I should be walking out at midday, bad decision in tow, to grab some food before returning to the safety of the duvet, but I’m trying to be realistic. At the very least I want to wear yesterday’s makeup proudly, and not be ashamed to be on the Tube in the clothes from the night before. I want to own that bad decision, not be someone else’s.

And after the second date, they’re not a stranger anymore, right?

(I would also like to take this opportunity to confess that I woke up next to Tom on New Year’s Day. And then I showered and got breakfast and went home at 4pm. What a winner.)

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.

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.)