Kicking the habit

I knew the blazing sunshine and balmy evenings couldn’t last. It’s whipping it down. Ugh.

But even though the skies are leaden and the gutters are flooded, my cheery demeanour remains unscathed: since I decided to quit looking for the love of my life, it’s as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

The Darkly Intriguing is gambolling in pastures new, Uni Boy has left the building … so it’s just me, little old me. All by myself, and perfectly happy with that.

As if to validate my decision, I meet a girlfriend for coffee and she tells me how unhappy she is: she’s found out that her boyfriend (or, rather, ex-boyfriend) had been sending intimate messages to another woman the whole time that they were together. And they were together for two years.

Later, another girlfriend who recently got back together with her first love tells me there’s trouble in paradise: he’d carelessly “forgotten” to mention the child he’d had in the inbetween years. Naturally, she’s not so much worried about the child as the dishonesty that has kept it hidden until now.

When I stop and think about it, I know any number of intelligent, attractive ladies, who each have any number of tragic dating stories that range from head-shakingly hilarious to downright disturbing. And as I listen to these stories, I wonder what on earth is wrong with the world? And, more pertinently, what’s wrong with all these men?

Maybe it’s the times we live in, or maybe it’s our time of life, but it’s as if all the good ones got snapped up early on, and all that’s left are the slightly imperfect ones – the shop soiled remainders that think nothing of behaving badly and breaking a few hearts along the way.

I feel as though I’ve got off lightly.

Of course, I do know some couples who seem perfectly content in each other’s company, and who treat each other with affection and respect. I salute them, admire them, and wish I was one of them. I’m also sure there are plenty of men out there wailing and gnashing their teeth, with equally sad stories to tell, but … well … where are they?

Still, I’m convinced that studious abstention is the way to go right now. I’ve got a new job, a new positive attitude … and I just don’t need anyone cramping my style.

Of course, there’s no accounting for random elements that are determined to make their presence felt.

I’m (once again) waiting in line for a coffee when the guy behind me, who’s been juggling mucus between his nose and throat for the better part of five minutes, decides to pipe up.

“It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Just ridiculous!”

I don’t know why, but I feel that someone has to step into the yawning silence this comment has attracted. And of course, since no one else is volunteering, that someone is going to be me.

Wary of risking an over-involved exchange by actually speaking, I raise an affable, but quizzical, eyebrow in his direction.

“I mean, really!” he continues, “How long can it take to make a coffee?”

“Well,” I say, indicating the queue with a sweep of my arm, “it’s pretty busy in here today.”

“Of course,” he continues, as if I hadn’t spoken. “I blame the Germans.”

I bring it on myself, I think, as I mentally roll my eyeballs, he expounds some wildly complex theory about the coffee-snaffling qualities of the German race, and I feel the conversation slip into the absurd.

As I listen to him waffle on, a realisation hits me.

This, I think, is why I’m better off staying away from men, relationships and romance. Because no matter how uncomfortable the situation, no matter how agonising and annoying and undeniably wrong it all is, I have absolutely no concept of how and when to step away. I soldier on, martyr-like, to the bitter end.

Well, not today.

“I’m sorry,” I say, as I push past the raving nutter from Nuttersville, “I’ve got somewhere else to be.”

And I can’t be sure, but I think he even pauses for a second as he watches me go.


A warm welcome and Unsuitable Man #6

I can barely believe it. I’m back in the UK and … it’s warm. Woo-hoo!

It’s just after midnight by the time my plane lands, and I’m bracing myself for impact: a cold wind perhaps, maybe a bit of rain. But no. It’s not cold. It’s midnight and I don’t even need my jacket. How’s that for a warm welcome?

Although I’m a bit sad to say adios to Barcelona, I can’t deny I’ve had ten glorious days … being blissfully ignored by menfolk. Although I met some very nice guys, none of them was interested in me. Or at least, not interested enough to let me know about it.

There was one guy who caressed my elbow hopefully whilst he very kindly waited with me for the night bus, but an elbow caress is easy to ignore. So I did.

The Bull, however, has been messaging me throughout my trip, but I think I’ll have to nip that in the bud.

He’s a nice enough guy, but there’s still something about him that makes me uneasy. And if I’m honest, although he’s good company, I just don’t fancy him. His attentions are flattering, but I don’t want to give him the wrong idea. So that’s the end of that.

It’s good to know that I haven’t lost my touch with the older generation, though.

I’m sitting in the library, getting on with some work, when I feel someone looking at me. Unsuitable Man #6 is sketching those around him, and it seems that it’s now my turn. He catches my eye as he looks up again, and we exchange a brief smile before I turn back to my work.

I’m quite absorbed in what I’m doing, so I almost leap out of my skin when I find him at my elbow, proffering the fruits of his labour.

“I thought you might like to have this,” he says, holding out what can only be described as a child-like sketch, clumsily executed in blunt charcoal.

“Oh … erm … thank you!” I say, with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. “That’s very kind of you.”

My acceptance of his oeuvre seems to open the floodgates, and he tells me how he’s taken up drawing since his retirement (yes, ladies, he’s over 65) and finds the library a good place to develop his art. He’s been having trouble mastering charcoal, apparently, but he’s sure that if he just perseveres, he’ll get there in the end.

I murmur something encouraging, but actually, I’m itching to get back to my work. I don’t want to be rude, though, so we chat for a few minutes more before he says, with an earnest eye:

“Perhaps I could buy you a coffee?”

“That’s very kind of you,” I say, “but I’ll be going for lunch shortly.”

“Well then,” he ventures, with a twinkle in his eye that I’m keen to quell, “maybe a sandwich…?”

“Thank you,” I reply, a bit more firmly this time, “I’m meeting a friend for lunch. But thank you very much, it’s very kind of you to offer.”

Only slightly abashed, he returns to his sketching, while I’m obliged to gather up my belongings and tootle off for “lunch with a friend”.

As I leave, I have to stifle a smile. I may have decided to give up on searching for the love of my life, but to the over 65s, my appeal remains undiminished.

I just can’t keep the old tigers at bay.

Alone again, naturally

Holidaying on your own is great.

Some people shy away from dinner for one, or days spent in their own company. But I don’t.

Of course, I love it when a bunch of us get together to explore somewhere new, or to traipse over hill and dale before scoffing down a hearty dinner and bundling into a leaky tent. But holidaying on your own gives you so much … well, time alone.

With no one to talk to, and no one to please but yourself, you can indulge in a luxurious amount of reading – the truly absorbing, head-down sort of reading you never have time for at home – as well as an almost indecent amount of navel-gazing. Which is what I have, quite shamelessly, been doing.

And in amongst all this reading and thinking, I’ve come to wonder if – just possibly – I might be happier without a man in my life.

Maybe I’m actually happier on my own.

It seems a bit of a strange thought, all things considered, but as I look back over my various love stories, I have to concede that, in recent years at least, I’m pretty rubbish at being in a relationship.

Falling in love isn’t the problem, however rare an occurrence it might be. No, my problems start when all the hearts and flowers have been packed away and the nitty gritty of real life kicks in.

Maybe I expect too much, or maybe I’ve just not been with the right person, but lately, I seem to have spent a lot of my time en deux feeling underappreciated, undervalued and underloved. And when I feel like that I start to get clingy. And feeling clingy is, in my experience, the beginning of the end: if you feel yourself needing more and more reassurance of the other person’s love for you, either you’re too needy or they just don’t love you that much.

Either way, it’s going to end in tears.

Take the Uni Boy fiasco, for example. (And before you say it, yes, I know this is a bad example, since it was never really a proper relationship anyway. But hang on in there…) The more rejected I felt, the more tightly I tried to hang on. But you can’t hang on to someone who doesn’t want to be there, so I was just setting myself up for disappointment.

Of course, it’s easy to be confused by someone who tells you they love you one minute, and reminds you that you’re “just friends” the next. Someone who’s happy to take all the nice parts of being in a relationship … without ever calling it a relationship or assuming any of the responsibilities the title implies. But hey.

The point is that I spent a lot of time tolerating something that wasn’t quite what I wanted, because something seemed better than nothing.

The rollercoaster excitement of the good times kept me going through the bad times; like a junkie waiting for a fix, I waded through all the bad stuff for the glorious moments of harmony and fun that I knew were always just around the corner.

And it seems that’s not my only problem.

Looking back over the years, I can see that when someone says they love me, I just can’t accept that it’s true. I can’t accept that they won’t, at any moment, cheat on me or pack their bags and leave. And the thought of that moment makes me sad and suspicious and I start questioning their every move.

By attempting to not be made to look stupid by their infidelity, I’m actually driving them away. The case of Uni Boy, in which neither of us invested 100%, merely gave me the detachment I needed to see what I do and why.

Now, I know plenty of people manage to have harmonious and stable relationships, built on trust and understanding. I just don’t think I’m one of them. And if I were rubbish at ice-skating, or playing the violin, after giving it my very best shot, I’d give up.

So why am I supposed to pursue a relationship at all costs?

Although that the nameless, faceless entity that is “society” – to say nothing of my mother – wants me to settle into socially-acceptable coupledom, it seems to be something that’s just not within my abilities.

Sure, I’d love to have the whole family thing, with a devoted husband and curly-haired children squealing delightedly in the garden. But what if I’m just not capable? Should I keep flogging towards an impossible goal, hoping that if I fail enough times, sooner or later I’ll get the hang of it? Or is it more sensible to accept that it’s just not my skill, and get on with something I can excel at?

Since I seem to have no choice in the matter anyway, I suppose it all comes down to my attitude … and there’s nothing like a bit of time on your own to make you feel invincible. I can decide to ride the rollercoaster, hanging on for grim death, or I can choose to hop off and accept that I’m doing just fine all by myself.

And since I’m sitting in the sunshine, with pescaito frito and vino blanco for one, you can probably guess which one I’m going choose…

Making an escape

Well, Normal Guy has turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

After his first message, none of his replies have exceeded 20 words, and the few tidbits he’s thrown my way haven’t exactly been action packed. Who is he? What does he like doing? What floats his boat? Well, to be honest, I have no idea.

I thought I’d try to lure him into conversation by writing two whole paragraphs … but that failed, too. At this rate, it’ll take six months before I have any idea of his personality at all.

Anyway, since messaging is free, and there are plenty of people who are vibrant and engaging in the flesh but just don’t cut it on the page, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But I must admit my initial enthusiasm has been squashed a bit.

But no matter, because a new week has brought a new paramour vying for my attentions: The Bull.

Now, you might think this is an overly dramatic nickname for someone, but if you saw him, you’d be nodding your head like one of those dogs that sits on the back shelf of the car: he’s properly beefy.

Beefy isn’t a type that I usually go for, so I’m not sure how I feel about it. But to be honest, I think there may be more problematic aspects to this friendship than physical dimensions alone…

The Bull is one of those friends of a friend who’s been on the periphery of my group for a while, yet I couldn’t claim to know the first thing about him. Although he seems nice enough, there’s something about him that makes me uneasy – but I don’t have a clue what it is.

He’s about the right age for me; he seems bright and interesting and he’s making all the right sort of moves. And yet. And yet…

Of course, my antenna could be wildly off the mark: Lord knows I’m not renowned for my ability to pick a good ‘un, so it stands to reason that my ability to spot a wrong ‘un should be no more accurate.

Maybe it’s just the unusual enthusiasm with which he’s thrown himself into courting me that makes me suspicious, but I have a feeling that he’s a bad boy who’s not to be trusted. At any rate, I’ll keep an eye on my twitching antenna but, again, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. For now.

But one person for whom the benefit of the doubt has well and truly expired is Uni Boy. Suffice to say that we had a minor disagreement that escalated into a major disagreement … and ended with me pouring a beer on his head.

Now, I know that sort of thing isn’t big and it isn’t clever, but sometimes words just don’t cut it. Part of me is dreadfully sorry that I did it, but I’ll confess that part of me thinks he had it coming. And that’s the part that hasn’t got in touch to apologise or make amends.

So it’s probably just as well that I’ve been given the opportunity to get myself out of town for a while. Being able to drop everything at a moment’s notice is one of the few benefits of being single. And when someone offers you the run of an apartment in the centre of Barcelona – no questions asked – you’d have to be an idiot to refuse.

It took me about an hour to accept and book my flights.

As of tomorrow, I’ll be leaving behind all thoughts of Uni Boy, Normal Guy and The Bull and filling my head with thoughts of sunshine and sangría. And who could complain about that?

Arriba, abajo, al centro … pa’ dentro! Cheers!


Ohmigod. The unthinkable just happened.

I just got a message from a guy who seems NORMAL.

Oh, wait a minute. Did I mention I went back to the dating site? I went back to the dating site.

Actually, I was just planning to re-instate my membership, have a quick snoop around to check for any new faces, then de-activate it again. But it turns out you can’t do that. No, once you’ve decided to snoop around, you have to be active for at least a week. Rats.

So, quietly biding my time until I can once more hit delete, I’ve been fielding (read: deleting) quite a few uninspiring messages:

“So what is it your looking for yummy” [sic]

“Hey babe you look horny LOL”

“U look like a hot one LOL!!”

Even reading these moronic missives, I can feel my hackles rising, and my aversion to LOL is back with a vengeance. I mean, really, what’s there to LOL about?

Anyway, in the midst of all this mildly priapic spam, I get a message that simply says:

“Hello! How are you doing? How’s your week going so far? I’m look for new friends as well as a partner and, as we’re not too far apart, I thought I’d come and say hi.”

I have to read it twice just to check I haven’t missed some salacious subtext. Nope. It seems like a message from A Normal Guy.


I click to his profile: 36, tallish, darkish, handsome-ish; athletic build (he says); fluent in English and Greek, with an intelligent profile that contains not a single LOL.

I’m immediately suspicious. Ah wait. He’s a Christian, and I’m definitely not … but in the face of so many other positive traits I’m prepared to reserve judgement, especially as it’s only the second time I’ve corresponded with A Normal Guy on the dating site.

(The first seemingly Normal Guy was intelligent and fun in correspondence, but turned out to be rather reticent about making any real-life contact. I couldn’t even persuade him to come for an innocent coffee.

Now you can call me picky, but I consider meeting someone a pre-requisite for any form of friendship, never mind a relationship, so that one never really got off the ground. Still, he remains an intermittent pen-friend and advisor on the State of Things from a male perspective, which is nice. And, occasionally, maddening.)

Anyway, I’m so joyously overwhelmed by the outstanding normalness of Normal Guy’s message that I feel compelled to reply, and reply with haste. So I quickly compose an equally normal message and, with fingers crossed, hit send.

Also in my inbox is a message from Uni Boy. He’s finally being transferred, to a city that’s not too far away – but far enough.

I’m pleased for him, of course: it’s a promotion, and a good step up for him. But while part of me is glad that we’ll finally step off the merry-go-round of our own making, I admit that part of me will miss him.

Because even though he was never mine and could, at times, drive me to distraction, his hugs really did warm me to the bone. And although we’ve had the craziest arguments about the most ridiculous things, when it was fun, it really was fun.

But sometimes Cupid knows what’s best, and steps in to make sure that things happen as they should. So off Uni Boy goes, and here I stay.

And that’s all there really is to say, except thanks, Uni Boy, and good luck. And keep a hug to one side, just for me.