Tag Archives: Dating

My Year of Celibacy

No man is worth losing yourself over. Ever.” – Chidera Eggerue, How to Get Over a Boy.

I last had sex 364 days ago. I know this because the last time I had sex was on my 31st birthday and I turn 32 tomorrow. And when you haven’t had sex for a year you are all too aware of it. The last time I even kissed a man was at Christmas. I haven’t had sex or kissed someone since the last decade. I’m basically a nun. A horny nun.

It initially started after my breakup with B, as I didn’t want to have sex with anybody else; I didn’t want to have to ‘move on.’ And so, six months passed celibate. The country then went into lockdown due to the pandemic and I couldn’t meet anyone to have sex with, even if I wanted to. So, nine months passed. I suppose once lockdown lifted, I could have had sex, but meeting someone seemed like effort. I had become accustomed to not speaking to men; I liked not having the drama. 10 months passed. My competitive side sparked; It was now a personal challenge. I didn’t want sex because I was so close to hitting the year mark. I was on the home straight! And I’d be damned if was going to let a lousy shag with a lousy man stop me from winning, and so I consciously abstained.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Is she really winning, if she’s the one not getting any for a whole year?! But it wasn’t really about the sex (or lack of), not really. Despite what a lot of men think, you don’t need them for your own self-pleasure. There are toys for that. The real nature of my personal challenge was to test for the first time in my adult life if I could be truly content without a man. Since I was 16, with the exception of a couple months scattered here and there, I’d always had some form of romantic involvement with a man. That is 16 years of longing, loving, cheating, fighting, crying, hurting, and losing. I was exhausted. For half my lifetime I had spent days, weeks even, of my precious energy on men (mostly with no equal reciprocation) and I couldn’t help but think what else in my life would have benefitted and flourished more if I had just invested that energy elsewhere. It was finally time to see, and what better time to test it than whilst lockdown in the countryside for six months. So, it was decided. No sex, no kissing, no dating, no texting, no flirting, no contact of any romantic nature. Nothing. Nada. For the first time in my adult life I had the emotional capacity to contemplate other things outside my romantic status. Here’s some of what I’ve learnt over the last 12 months.

What I’ve learnt about society (in relation to women)

Since the day we are born women are conditioned by society to believe that we need to be married and have children by a certain age, and if we don’t then we’re classed as a ‘spinster’ or ‘old maid,’ whereas men are the eternal bachelor. For my whole life, whenever I’m asked the question: do you want to get married and have children? I’ve always automatically responded ‘yes’, as that was the answer I was meant to give, right? Only, when I really think about it, I’m never quite sure. I love the idea of marriage. I love the idea of the ring, the wedding, the honeymoon and growing old with the love of my life. But in reality, it often doesn’t work out like that. There are annoying habits, mundane domestic chores, late nights feeds, family fallouts, financial worries, diminishing libido, job losses etc. Life gets in the way.

Children are a whole different ball game. That is one thing that completely alters your life, for the rest of your life. Sometimes I see a mother holding her baby and rocking it in her arms whilst maintaining eye contact, a blissful bubble of the purest love. And I feel an overwhelming sense that yes, I do want to have my own children, eventually. But at what cost? Some women claim that they were born to be mothers and would want a child no matter the circumstance. And I appreciate that, I do. I’m just not one of them. As a race, humans are living longer with more opportunities open to us than ever before. I know that if I were to ever have a baby, I would love it more than anything in this world, but there is still so much I want to do before having the responsibility of a child. And what about the women who don’t want to get married, or have children, who are perfectly fulfilled in living life on their own terms and to their own timeline; let’s normalise that! Let’s normalise women doing whatever the hell they want, whether that’s husband, or no husband, babies or no babies, without facing judgement.

So, do I want children? Yes, I think I do. But do I want children no matter what? No. There are certain conditions personal to me in which I would want to have children. I understand that not everyone is given the luxury of choice, that some circumstances are taken out of a person’s control and they have to deal with the responsibility regardless, and for those people I have the upmost respect. My desire for marriage and babies is constantly in a state of flux, because if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that no one really ever knows what’s going to happen in five years or even a year! I think I’ll only truly know how I feel about marriage and children when/if I meet someone who makes me believe in it, but the one thing I won’t do is settle.

Over the last few months, I have learnt and continue to learn a lot regarding the society we live in. Mostly around the systemic and institutionalised racism that still exists and the damaging patriarchal systems we live in. Some may argue that these are urgent but separate issues. In many ways they are not. Racism and sexism intersect for a huge number of people. Black women and women of colour, who face discrimination daily for being both that, a person of colour and a woman. So much so that the term misogynoir, was coined by black feminist, Moya Bailey, to describe the prevalent hatred that black women face in pop culture today. I admit that I did not know until recently, some of the different levels of discrimination black women face daily. Whether that’s being told to style their hair differently as it’s deemed ‘unprofessional’ for work. Or being labelled as ‘aggressive’ when raising a point assertively. Or often being fetishized and dehumanised by men on dating apps, in addition to all the other atrocities that women are subjected to.

Women are consistently sexualised by men and the media, often against our own will and resulting in damaging and dangerous repercussions. But when we attempt to own our sexuality, we are reprimanded. We are labelled as a ‘slut’ ‘slag’ ‘whore’ and ‘too easy’, for merely admitting that women enjoy sex too (shock horror). This is why I love Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s latest song, WAP. An acronym for ‘Wet Ass Pussy’, or how I also like to refer to it, ‘Women Against Patriarchy.’ One of the first mainstream songs that consists of two women Hip Hop artists singing about and owning female sexuality. I applaud them. Not only for the memorable lyrics and addictive Tik Tok dance sequences, but for sticking two fingers up to all the misogynists who will happily sing along to a man rapping about fucking a load of women but are outraged when a woman sings about receiving oral sex.

Women do not exist as an accessory to a man’s pleasure, we have our own wants and needs. Recently I was on holiday and overheard a conversation by the pool between two men roughly my age. They were boasting about how many fingers their girlfriends like inside of them and saying, and I quote, “all women basically just love a whole fist up there.” I shook my head but refrained from interrupting their conversation and instead smirked from behind my book. They had no idea. And this has become so apparent over the years that so many men have no clue on how to really pleasure a woman. In an open question on Instagram stories an artist and influencer asked men how do you make a woman cum? ALL of the answers involved how many fingers they would fit in her vagina and how hard they would penetrate her. Not one of them even mentioned the clitoris. Seriously. The only human body part designed solely for female pleasure! And since 75% of women cannot orgasm from penetration alone, a pretty crucial body part to forget. So really boys, you probably want to spend a little less time watching Fruity Female likes Fisting on Pornhub and dust up on your clitoral stimulation skills. And whilst I’m on the topic, cut and clean your fingernails.

What I’ve learnt about men (in relation to women)

Do I miss the company of a man, physical touch, and the excitement of new beginnings? Whether that’s the flutter in my stomach when receiving a text or the contented smile when being spooned on a Sunday morning. Absolutely. But I know over the last six months I’ve also slept better at night knowing that my mood couldn’t be altered by something a man did or didn’t do. Despite the uncertainty of living through a pandemic, for the first time in years I became the master of my own emotions, with zero interference from a man determining my mood, and for that, I slept like a baby.

Never doubt the power of female intuition. If that’s one thing I’ve learnt is that my gut feeling on something is almost always right. Even when my ex-boyfriend, Seb, cheated on me whilst on holiday (amongst the others), he consistently denied it, but I knew he had. He finally admitted to it a couple years later, a few weeks before we broke up. These type of men are very good at gaslighting you and making you feel like you’re the ‘crazy’ one or ‘overreacting’ for even bringing it up. Rather than admit they were wrong they’d rather project the blame on to you instead. But that’s a blog post for another time.

I like to think that I’ve gotten better at picking up on any ‘red flags.’ In the past I would either be naive to any red flags or otherwise clock them and choose to ignore them anyway. But really this is just a form of self-sabotage. By ignoring any issues in the beginning, you are only in denial and setting yourself up for upset later down the line. Examples of red flags I’ve ignored in the past include (but are not limited to): a man being rude to waiting staff on a date, a man not texting to see if I got home OK after leaving his house in the dark, a man’s reluctance to call me his girlfriend despite us dating for 10 months. I could go on.

I don’t claim to know the inner workings of a man, God knows some things they do and say quite honestly baffle me, but I do know this. If a man wants to be with you, he will be with you. It really is as simple of that. If a man ghosts you or only responds (begrudgingly) days later after you’ve doubled texted and claims he has ‘been busy with work’, then it speaks for itself. Everyone is busy, but people will make the time for those they genuinely care about. He is just not interested. Move on. The time I have spent over the years overthinking, analysing text messages to try and decipher hidden meanings and attempting to double guess a man’s actions, is beyond ridiculous. When really, I could have used that same energy on someone who was actually interested or better yet, on myself!

So yeah, if a man wants to date you, he will ask you, if he wants to see you, he will make plans (and stick to them), and if he wants you in his life then he will make the effort to do just that. I honestly think most men unapologetically go for what they want, whether that’s romantically, professionally, or otherwise. If he’s acting shady or distant than that’s a huge red flag. Run. Do not waste your breath or tears on this man, because he certainly isn’t with you. And if I’d have known this simple fact years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of anguish and heartache.

What I’ve learnt about myself (as a woman)

Over the past 12 months I’ve learnt more about myself than in the last 12 years. This personal challenge was more than just about sex; I wanted to find contentment in other things outside of my ‘love life’. Because despite what society tells us, women are so much more than our romantic status. I wanted to push myself and see what new things I could learn and do and question my own thinking. I’ve tried to diversify my reading, whether books or online articles, listen to various podcasts and begin to challenge my own unconscious biases and toxic behaviours. All whilst acknowledging that this is a constant evolving process.

I decided to research Attachment Styles to begin to understand my relationships with others. There are four identified Attachment Styles: Secure, Anxious, Avoidant/Dismissive and Fearful. If you don’t know yours yet, I recommend Googling, it’s an eye opener! I could quite clearly see myself in the Anxious category, where I’m hyper-aware of the other person and overly focused on small details. Interesting. Well they say the first step to solving something is the acknowledgement of the issue, so I’m working on and aiming for the somewhat healthier category of Secure attachment. That’s not to say that my attachment style is alone fully responsible for the breakdown of all my past relationships; although I acknowledge that it may have played a part. The men did a pretty good job of fucking it up at their end too. No, as humans we are complex creatures with a multitude of intricacies. We adapt, change, and grow all the time and sometimes people grow apart. And sometimes it’s just about the timing.

I also looked into Love languages to gain a better understanding of my personal needs and who I might be most compatible with. The five Love Languages are identified as: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. These categories describe how an individual expresses their love to others and/or responds well to. Despite liking elements of all the languages, I knew instantly what my top two Love Languages were. Physical Touch is a high priority, as I’ve always shown affection physically. I love kissing, cuddling, holding hands, having my hair stroked, and I like to have an active sex life (usually!). It would also explain why my previous relationships with men who’s love language wasn’t Physical Touch have always been strained.

I also put great emphasis on Words of Affirmation. No real surprise there considering I enjoy blogging, writing poetry and keep birthday cards that hold sentimental value. I’m known for my transparency and wearing my heart on my sleeve. I tell people how I feel about them, and I like to know how they feel about me in return. Obviously, all things in moderation, I don’t particularly like the idea of a man draped over me 24/7, hanging on to my every word! And as I’ve gotten older and more cautious, I will probably hold my cards a little closer, to avoid getting hurt as much.

I’m still continuing to learn and like every human I will inevitably make mistakes along the way, but it is the willingness to learn and take accountability where warranted which is important. The other day I did an exercise where I sat down and wrote lists of all the people in my 32 years who have impacted my life in one way or another. Nowadays it’s so easy to get caught up in life that you may take family and friends for granted, and I wanted to remind myself of the people I’m most grateful for. Afterwards I looked back at my list and interestingly there were 30 women who I consider as actively having a positive influence in my life, compared to just 10 men. I then consulted my list of people who have impacted my life at some point (but not necessarily for the best) and there were four women compared to eight men. That isn’t to take away from the men who have brought so much to my life (and I can count them on two hands!) because those are the men who give me hope and remind me that amongst the fuckboys and egotistical maniacs, good men do exist.

***

It’s been almost a year since I packed up my belongings and moved out of my South London flat, to escape to Mexico for a few weeks after my breakup with B. After a couple months commuting in from Kent at the beginning of the year and then spending lockdown in the countryside, I am finally moving back to London next week. Despite the still uncertain times ahead, I am ready for this fresh new start. I’m also ready to start dating again, albeit with a new, and hopefully healthier perspective. I can’t say downloading the dating apps again fills me with overwhelming joy, but I am looking forward to meeting new people again (if Boris so allows it!). And if not, Rihanna is 32 and reportedly single, and if its good enough for Rhi Rhi, then it’s good enough for me.

Thoughts in Isolation

Disclaimer: This blog post will outline some of my thoughts on the current COVID-19 pandemic, and touch on dating (or rather, the lack of) during lockdown. This in no way is to diminish the severity of the current global situation and the way in which it has impacted thousands of lives. I battled back and forth on whether I should even write this post. I follow one account on Instagram, where a woman posted on her body image dysmorphia and how that has affected her mental health and feelings of self-worth. The backlash was quite shocking. She had received comments from people criticising her for even worrying about such things whilst people were dying from Coronavirus. I was confused, surely people could see that she wasn’t taking anything away from how terrible the current global crisis is, but only raising awareness about an entirely separate issue. One issue of many, that don’t merely evaporate because we are living through a pandemic, but exist regardless alongside it, perhaps making this situation all the more awful for others to endure.

If anything, this global crisis has taught most to be kinder to others. We are living in unprecedented times so there is no rule book to follow on ‘best practice’. We can only follow government guidance and do what is individually and collectively best for us all within those parameters.

Every Thursday at 8pm I stand outside my front door and clap for our frontline workers: the doctors, the nurses, the delivery drivers, the supermarket workers, and the teachers; and I tell myself that I’m doing my part by staying at home. But a lot of the time my conscience weighs heavy and I’m engulfed by ‘survivor’s guilt’. Guilt that I’m safe at home whilst NHS workers risk their lives every day for us all. Guilt that I am still able to work from home whilst so many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Guilt for having the luxury of time to sit at my laptop typing out a personal blog post, whilst parents juggle work with home-schooling young children. Everyday guilt that I could be doing more.

I listened to a podcast the other day in which members of the public had written in on their thoughts and personal challenges during the pandemic. I was surprised to hear from nurses who had written in about their own guilt that they could be doing more. I was gobsmacked. These remarkable everyday heroes also felt guilty. A reminder that no matter how many kilometres you run, or parcels you deliver, or lives you may save; everyone feels like they could be doing more. So yes, we should be kinder to others, but we should also be kinder to ourselves; we are only human after all. The woes of dating may seem like a very trivial subject in the grand scheme of things right now, but it is important to remember that we are fighting a war. A war for our survival so that we can continue to live our lives to the fullest, including even the most trivial aspects, as it is in those very small, almost insignificant aspects, that make us human.

***

April 2020. Day 3,452 of quarantine. But not really, It’s only the fifth week. Actually, it’s not so bad. I appreciate that I have it better than a lot of people. I managed to get out to my dad’s house in the countryside before they announced lockdown in the UK, so lots of open spaces and fresh air. Once I’ve had my one daily government-allocated exercise outside, I’m lucky enough to have a back garden to sunbathe or read in if the weather permits. I’ve curated a nice little daily routine of work, yoga, walking the dog, reading and Netflix. Then bed for a minimum of eight hours. Repeat. Yes, I am lucky. But this doesn’t stop me moaning along with the rest of the population about all our lockdown hang ups. Human, remember. Like everybody else I have good and bad days. Days where I may feel creative and attempt a makeup tutorial, painting, or even dress up as Frida Kahlo (complete with drawn on eyebrows) for the ‘recreate a famous artwork’ challenge. And then there are the other days, where I’ll feel lost and lethargic and where even burning my thumb on my straighteners brings tears to my eyes, surprising myself that they were that close to the surface. These are just a handful of my thoughts during isolation:

Running. I hate it. I have never been a runner, and now all of sudden it seems to have become everyone’s new favourite hobby. I was nominated a week ago to do the ‘run for heroes’ 5K challenge and so far, have avoided doing it. This was truly going to be a case of couch to 5K. Don’t get me wrong, I think its’s for an amazing cause and I donated my money as soon as I was nominated. But the actual running? I’m still psyching myself up for that bit.

Makeup. Why does every woman I know comment on how much better their skin looks now that they don’t wear makeup every day? Am I the only person who has had more breakouts than ever since having a bare face in isolation? I swear my skin was in better condition when I wore makeup and it was exposed to the pollution and grime of the London underground every day. Riddle me that?!

Maintenance. Like many others, I’ve had to be weaned off regular beauty treatments. Luckily, I didn’t have a manicure before lockdown so haven’t been left with chipped half-moons of gel on my nails. My hair is dyed in a low maintenance balayage style, so I don’t have to worry too much about root regrowth, and I haven’t bothered with a full wax down there in a while, because I wasn’t having sex. No, the only thing I’m really missing is my monthly eyebrow threading appointment. Cue the only person I’m self-isolating with – my dad. On my first brow he pulled the wax off so painfully slowly that it didn’t even rip out any hair, instead it just left a waxy tuff which when I blinked my eyelashes got stuck to. On his second attempt he managed to rip the strip off with more speed and conviction, unfortunately he also took 3mm of my hairline off with it too. But it’s OK, next week I’ve been tasked with cutting his hair with kitchen scissors whilst following a YouTube video on barbering. Karma works in mysterious ways.

Houseparty. I have a confession; I don’t like it. After a day of video call meetings for work, the last thing I want to do is log on to a poor-quality call with more people who may or may not be pixelated out. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my friends and can’t wait until the day we can all sit in a beer garden together again. But during quarantine I’ve found that I much prefer the one-to-one Facetime call approach in order to properly catch up, rather than to participate in my fifth virtual quiz of the week.

Tiger King. Everyone is obsessed and I just don’t get it. I watched the first episode and whilst I initially enjoyed the entertainment value of watching an eccentric man with a mullet and penchant for animal print rant about an equally strange woman called Carole; 30 minutes in and I started to feel quite uncomfortable.

Sex and the City. Having only watched a few episodes here and there over the years I decided to finally watch all six seasons from the beginning. A TV series which documents the lives of four single women in their thirties navigating dating in a major city; it has never felt more relatable. Although some of the views are quite dated now and others downright offensive, I felt my emotions rise as certain storylines developed. I didn’t like season 3 Carrie: it was beyond frustrating to watch her cheat on poor lovely Aiden and then complain that she couldn’t find a nice, emotionally available man. Then to watch her ignore all the red flags, and go back again and again to Big, was like watching my dating history with toxic men on replay. And then there was sweet Charlotte, who had a shotgun wedding to Trey before even sleeping with him, only to find out that he struggled with erectile disfunction and couldn’t have sex with her. Poor Charlotte. She was then diagnosed with a ‘depressed vagina’ because she wasn’t getting any. I couldn’t help but look down at my own crotch with a raised (slightly botched) eyebrow.

WhatsApp group chats. Like most people, I usually give the obligatory groan when added to yet ‘another group chat’ and endeavour to keep them all on mute. However, during lockdown I applaud the group chat. The memes and emoji games take the edge off cabin fever and it’s amazing what things can keep you entertained for hours on end. For instance, my friend, Kandice, sent me ‘laser beams’ via the new 3D effects on iMessage, which got me disproportionately over-excited. I then proceeded to spend a full half-hour sending animated blown up hearts and fireworks to everyone in my address book with an iPhone; the longest time I’ve spent on iMessage in probably five years. I especially love my girls group chat. Whether we are discussing the current nomination for our virtual book club, or how hairy on a scale of ‘one to sasquatch’ we will be when we’re finally let out of isolation, there is no subject too bizarre or trivial that we won’t discuss. Like, did you know that 70% of people on your chat will mis-read “do you think I’d look good with a perm?” as “do you think I’d look good with a penis?” or that the cost of a mop in Bermuda is over $40? You do now.

And finally, but certainly not the least, the majestic Quarantini. Like 90% of the population, I also run the risk of coming out of lockdown with a growing addiction. I’ve had to limit my drinking to Thursday-Saturday only, for fear of consuming gin like orange squash.

One good thing about quarantine though, is that I now have an extended excuse as to why I’m not dating. Although, ‘iso-dating’ has become quite big apparently. A couple weeks into the lockdown, I was informed that Hinge “was going off!”. All my single girlfriends exclaimed that they’d never known so much activity on dating apps, with a barrage of messages from numerous suitors and setting up various dinner dates over FaceTime. It all sounded very…time consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that we have these platforms, especially in light of current circumstances, where people don’t have to feel alone and are only a few clicks away from connecting with not just friends and family, but also romantic interests. But for me personally, I knew it wouldn’t work. I’ve been in the dating sphere long enough to know that I have to meet someone in person and ideally no later than two weeks after first speaking, to determine if there’s a genuine connection or not.

I have had too many experiences where I’ve built someone up in my head through texting alone, only to be desperately disappointed when I’ve met them in real life. And hands up, I know that that is completely on me. Through no real fault of their own I’ve projected my own wants/needs on to a person that I’ve never met before in order to re-create a version of my ideal man. A version that they probably will never live up to because they were never that person in the first place.

Nope, meeting someone after three weeks and being hit with the realisation that there is no connection is hard enough; I don’t have the stomach to be disappointed after three months of talking to someone. Besides, there’s really only one person that I wish I could contact during lockdown; but I know I can’t.

It’s been almost seven months since B broke things off with me, and I haven’t had a single date since. They say that it takes roughly half the time you were with someone to get over them. So, if I calculate this right, I should have been over him by Christmas last year… something terribly wrong seems to have happened to my equation. The first three months don’t really count as we were still talking. But from January when we decided to cut all contact, I told myself I’d give myself six man-free months in order to lick my wounds and get over B. The lockdown coincided with this time perfectly and what better excuse not to date than to say that I’m doing my bit for society. But come June, my time will be up, and most likely lockdown will be too.

So, what happens when I can no longer use social distancing as my get out of jail dating-free card? When this is all over and we’re let back out into the wild again? The logistics alone are going to be complicated enough. Maybe, like the film Contagion, we will need to show a wristband proving that we’ve been vaccinated before we could so much as hold hands with someone. Practising ‘safe sex’ is going to take on a whole new meaning. They’re going to need crate loads of PPE just for single people returning to the shag battlefield. Maybe they’ll invent a genital friendly sanitiser or some kind of protective latex jumpsuit that people can wear like a full body condom. Too far? Anyway…

If I’m honest with myself, it’s the fear I’m struggling with the most. Fear of putting myself out there again, only for another man to ghost me. Fear of rejection or not finding someone I like, or worse, the fear of finding someone, only for them to hurt me; shattering what’s left of my already fragile heart. The more I think about the exhausting process that modern-day dating entails, the more appealing a life of solitude with a bunch of cats and houseplants for company seems. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if you so choose, but I would like the opportunity to meet someone again…

The other evening, I was really struggling with my thoughts around B. The day that this post is published marks one year since that night where he zipped up my dress in a wine bar in Clapham. I felt an overwhelming urge to call him, just for the comfort of hearing his voice again and checking if he was OK. My finger hovered over his number on my phone, at the same time a text from my friend, Annie, dropped down on my screen. I confided my thoughts to her, and she coached me through it. She was kinder to me than I was, saying it is completely normal in these times to want to feel close and connected to others; especially someone we have been close to in the past. She asked what I wanted to get out of a call with him; and would I ultimately be hurting myself by doing it. She was right. B had known how I felt; the ball had been left firmly in his court. There was nothing to suggest that he would want to hear from me. Instead, Annie suggested I keep a journal or write a letter, noting down all my thoughts, and then put it away in a box. The letter was only really for me, it would never be sent.

I went to bed that night, emotionally exhausted but feeling slightly more at ease, and let my previous urge wash over me. And then the strangest thing happened, I woke up early the next morning after a night of weird integrated dreams, I grabbed my earphones, pulled on my trainers, and went… for my run. And do you know what, it wasn’t that bad.

The Boyfriend Diaries: Early Years

Disclaimer: ‘The Boyfriend Diaries’ series focusses on events and actions that happened in the past, some more than 10 years ago. I do not claim to know anything about these men now and their own personal journeys in the intervening years since we dated. Whilst these stories are told from my point of view, and the situations and feelings were real, it is important to remember that past actions may not reflect the person they are today. I hope that like myself, my ex-boyfriends have grown and learnt from their past mistakes too.

***

February 2020. I’m OK. I am. During the day I hardly ever think about B. Right now, work and life are busy and most of my energy is consumed by that. Does my heart skip a beat every time I see a tall, bespectacled man in my peripheral vision on the tube? Sure. When I get into bed at the end of the day, are my last thoughts as I drift off into unconsciousness of B? More often than not. And when I open my eyes first thing in the morning? Yes, absolutely. But I’ve almost gotten used to the dull ache of his absence, almost. This feeling will pass. Eventually.

I’m sticking to my decision to stay away from men for the moment, because if I don’t engage with any then I don’t have to worry about any of them hurting me. Not a single dating app on my phone and in all honesty it’s a relief not to feel the pressure. An errant thought crosses my mind – will I ever have sex again?! Obviously, you will, Jess… It just doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon. Maybe when I move back into London in a couple months’ time, then my interest in men will return. Maybe.

I wish I could be cold towards men. Just find a fuck buddy and not worry about getting attached. But I know myself too well, I only really enjoy sex if there’s a genuine connection. And if there’s a connection, I’ll no doubt catch feelings (which currently has as much appeal as catching Coronavirus). I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and that’s the problem. As my family always says, ‘Jess has so much love to give…’ (and the unspoken) ‘…and no one to give it to’. I really should just get a cat.

But like I say, I’m busy. I’ve managed to fill up the month already with dinner and drinks with friends, I am never more sociable than when I’m not dating. I’m spending the rest of my free time running across London to different yoga sessions thanks to the recently discovered wonders of Class Pass. I stubbornly ignored that day in February, I spent that Friday evening curled up on the sofa, with my nose in a book, with no intention of looking up until it was 15th February. Social media is insufferable that day. A full 24 hours designed for smug couples to rub their smug love in the face of all singletons. I suppose it could have been worse… it could have been Valentine’s Day last year.

A few weekends ago I took myself home to my dad’s in the countryside for some time out from London. I’ve been sorting through my clothes and possessions lately; nothing like life laundry to soothe the soul and decided to look through my memory box. Amongst it, my christening candle, my degree certificate, old theatre ticket stubs, newspaper clippings and a lot of ex-boyfriend paraphernalia. I nostalgically sifted through the numerous anniversary cards, couple photos and even a calendar from 2005 marking the actual date I lost my virginity. Jesus.

I found the note that Seb had given me the day he left to move back to Australia. I was to join him two months later and his message read that I ‘meant so much to him and had been such a big part of his time in London that he had no choice but to take me back home with him…’ I felt a temporary sadness engulf my body. I put the note back in the box and it lifted.

When I look back at my previous relationships it’s so easy to remember the bad stuff, the arguments, the broken promises, the lies and the gut-wrenching heartache of the breakups. You forget those horrible moments were generally more punctuations in a time where you were happy, or at least thought you were happy. I’ve dated a few men over the years, but I’ve only had five (okay maybe six) ‘official’ boyfriends. The Boyfriend Diaries is a series of blog posts which will reflect on and explore each of these relationships. So, let’s begin…

***

At the age of 16 I got my first boyfriend, Neil (I’m really going to enjoy these pseudonyms). I’d had relatively close to zero experience with boys before this. The closest I’d got to a boy had been at a sleepover when I was 13. My friend, Claudia, and I stayed over with two boys from our class (what our parents were thinking, I do not know). We played spin the bottle and I had my first kiss, which was just a lot of tongue being forced down my throat. We then all took it turns to snog each other, obviously trying to perfect our techniques. I remember Claudia and I flashing our semi-developed breasts in return for the boys flashing their semi-developed penises. We all had a giggle, watched a scary film and passed out in sleeping bags. It was all fairly PG.

Anyway, I digress. I met Neil at a house party where he had apparently; unbeknownst to myself spent the evening watching me from across the living room eating Doritos. At 11pm my mum had come to pick me up, and as I went to leave, Neil bolted down the stairs to ask for my mobile number, despite not having said a single word to me all evening. We exchanged numbers and thus began my first ever relationship.

Neil was a year older than me and so had left school the year before. He was in the process of applying to join the army. One day whilst at school, an excited buzz passed through my fellow classmates. Claudia nudged me and pulled me to the window of the humanities block. Sure enough, Neil and his friend had walked into the school grounds apparently looking for myself and another girl. They weren’t allowed to do that. “He’s here to see you, y’know! Are you going to go down and talk to him?” asked Claudia. I blushed, shook my head and hid upstairs in my tutor room until I knew that they had been ushered off site by a teacher.

Once I’d gotten over my initial shyness, I asked my mum if I could invite Neil over to hang out with me for an evening. I couldn’t be sure, but something flashed across her eyes. Surprise? Fear? I can only imagine that parents know that the time will come but are never quite prepared for the eventuality that their eldest child could become (gulp) sexually active. “Let me check with your dad first,” she replied, and I nodded.

Dad agreed to it and I invited Neil over. We could hang out in my bedroom so long as the door was open, and my dad would come upstairs every 30 minutes to check if we ‘wanted a drink.’ Something he had never done in all my 16 years. I also had the ‘talk’, which basically comprised of my dad sitting me down with an A3 copy of The Body Atlas (1993 edition) and turning to the Reproduction chapter. This book had previously been pulled out five years prior to the Menstrual Cycle chapter. My dad was a geologist, and so took relief in the scientific side of these pivotal moments (sex for pleasure obviously wasn’t covered). He then concluded the talk with, “and you should probably go on the pill”.

I did in fact lose my virginity to Neil. We first tried on Valentine’s Day with a room full of lit candles, thinking this would be the optimum of romance. After several attempts it just wasn’t happening; it was like throwing a frankfurter at a brick wall. Then one day it finally happened. We were in his room above the pub where he lived and it was all over very quickly, but I remember feeling different, like I was now a woman. Neil documented the moment by graffiti-ing the date on his bedroom wall. And they say romance is dead.

Then a couple of weeks after we first slept together, the unbearable happened. Neil broke up with me. Actually, he got his best friend, Kyle, to call me to let me know that Neil was breaking up with me. I’m not sure what’s worse, that or being ‘ghosted’ these days. Can you imagine a 30-year-old man asking his mate to call up his girlfriend to dump her on his behalf?! If they could get away with, I bet they would. Anything to avoid the decency of communicating their feelings with a woman *rolls eyes*.

Do you remember your first ever break up? I do. I remember the physical agony of feeling like someone had punched a hole in my guts and then reached up and ripped my still beating heart out through my innards. Graphic, I know. But when you’re 16 and it’s your first love, you can’t imagine a more potent pain. Despite my begging, Neil refused to talk to me on the phone and Kyle eventually hung up. I ran downstairs in floods of tears; I had never known such devastation. My dad, hearing my wailing came running out of the kitchen asking me what was wrong. He grabbed my arms and I dropped to my knees (I can still remember it now, as clear as day) and I tell you why I can remember it, because I will forever be eternally mortified at the next words that came out of my mouth. “He broke up with me!… I can’t believe it… I GAVE HIM EVERYTHING!!!” I sobbed. To my dad. Poor bloke.

It transpired that Neil had broken up with me to get back with his ex-girlfriend. Apparently, she had bigger boobs. My first dose of heartbreak. For weeks afterwards I was beside myself, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t understand why anybody would want to embark on any relationship knowing that there was a good chance they could end up feeling like this. At school I went through the motions of preparing for my upcoming exams. For my art GCSE I painted a Picasso-inspired woman in despair, on her knees with a hole in her stomach (I should really thank Neil for that A*). I’d then spend my evenings curled up on my bed, crying whilst listening to Westlife’s Greatest Hits. All kinds of tragic.

Then just as I was starting to feel OK again and could start to imagine a Neil-free future. He came crawling back (as most men do when they sense that you are moving on). It was the night of my year 11 prom and some of the girls came to grab me from the dance floor. They said that someone was waiting outside for me. Curiously, I made my way to the hotel lobby. Low and behold, there was Neil, outside on his motorbike (with Kyle, obviously) begging for me to take him back. Apparently, things hadn’t worked out with Betty Big Boobs. And when you’re 16, naïve and think you’re in love, you make daft decisions, and so I took him back.

***

It was the summer of 2005 and Neil would pick me up from school after I’d finished a GCSE exam and I would clamber on the back of his motorbike. I wore skirts with bare legs and just a helmet; my dad would have hit the roof had he known. Come the end of summer, Neil was due to start basic training for the army. We didn’t see each other for a whole month. We exchanged handwritten love letters and I attended his graduation ceremony. At the tender age of 16, I was convinced that we would be together forever, such is the beautiful naivety of puppy love. But of course, we didn’t.

I met my second boyfriend, Jeremy, when I started at a new school for sixth form. I was 17 and waiting around for a boyfriend in the army soon lost its romantic appeal, so after a year together, I broke up with Neil. Within a space of a week Jeremy and I were together. Back then, there was no mourning period for an end of a relationship, it was straight on to the next.

From the get-go Jeremy and I were inseparable. We lived in each other’s pockets for the whole two years of sixth form. If we were in the same class, we’d be sat next to each other, if we had a free period, you’d find us in the common room, me sat on his lap until told otherwise by a teacher. At lunchtime we’d go to the local pub with our friends, share a bowl of chips and snog across the table until told otherwise by the pub manager. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other; time not spent naked was considered wasted time. Jeremy’s bedroom was in the attic and the bed would squeak loudly, sending vibrations down through the floorboards. His mum would shout up the stairs, “you pair better not be bonking!” But obviously we were. We were always bonking.

Do you remember being 17? You are never as horny as when you were that age. Except maybe when you hit your thirties, then suddenly you get this second wind; but this time, you are more confident in your powers of seduction (and less willing to fake an orgasm). Anyway, when you’re young, nimble and your hormones are raging, everything and everywhere is a sexual challenge. In my early relationships I had sex in cars, on a pool table, on a pub bar, in the middle of fields and in disabled toilets at restaurants (shameful, I know). You would try every position going even if you were at risk of slipping a disc. Karma Sutra you say? Yeah, completed it mate. Nowadays the thought of even having missionary sex, with a man, in a bed, seems a far stretch.

In the summer of 2007, Jeremy and I sat our A-Levels and I joined him on a family holiday to Florida. But by this point the once hormone-driven lust had started to die away and we were more best friends than anything romantic. I don’t recall there being a big break up as such, I just remember that our once all-consuming relationship slowly but steadily dissolved into nothing. Around the same time, give or take a few weeks, my relationship with Arnold seemed to transpire, an almost seamless transition to my next boyfriend. Just like that.

***

I was 19 when I met Arnold, inside a giant icebox full of dead birds. I kid you not. Throughout sixth form and college I worked part-time at my local supermarket and every Christmas I took on the prestigious role of ‘Lead Turkey Coordinator.’ Which basically meant I spent the two weeks in the run up to Christmas locked in a giant refrigerator wearing an oversized thermal coat, organising various turkeys and birds stuffed inside other birds. I’d then go home and get told off by my dad for walking congealed turkey blood into the carpet. When I wasn’t in the refrigerator, I was on the shop floor discounting turkeys. Bargain-crazy customers avidly followed me around the aisles ready to pounce on any yellow tickets I displayed. I cannot tell you the power trip you get from those yellow ticket dispenser guns. I often enjoyed toying with customers, hovering my gun near a particularly large guineafowl then at the last minute, releasing my finger from the trigger and running off down the aisle with the angry punter fresh on my heels. I held this glamorous role right up until I left university.

Anyway, I digress. I met Arnold whilst working in the refrigerator; he was my fellow Turkey Coordinator (although I like to believe I held a more senior position in the chilled poultry department). Technically Arnold was my third boyfriend, we had the label but because we were only seeing each other for three months, I just don’t really count it.

I liked Arnold, I did. But I didn’t love him. And I probably shouldn’t have said that I did at the time. But I’ve always been a hopeless romantic and love the thought of being in love, even if I wasn’t. Nowadays I can differentiate between the two, but at the time I just thought that’s what I had to say to all my boyfriends. After a while though, I soon realised that Arnold was quite stroppy and well…annoying. And when he refused to help carry some of my bags on a shopping trip, telling me it was my ‘own fault for buying too much’ whilst he happily swung his stupidly tiny Abercrombie and Fitch bag containing his stupidly tiny low-cut t-shirt, I knew it wouldn’t last much longer. And a few weeks later, I met Darren.

***

I saw on Facebook that Neil recently became a father. There was a picture of the baby boy dressed in a camouflage army outfit. It brought a smile to my face.

I loosely stayed in contact with Jeremy for a couple years after we broke up. One day I heard he had been taken into hospital after being attacked. I went to text him to check that he was OK, when my boyfriend at the time, Darren, asked what I was doing. He then proceeded to launch my phone at the wall, shattering it into tiny pieces. Jeremy and I have not had any contact since. I saw on Facebook that he has a wife and two daughters, and I could not be happier for him.

Over the years I have occasionally bumped into Arnold in my hometown and even once randomly in London. Turns out he was working in the building next to mine – we both have come a long way since the turkey refrigerator.

Rush Hour Rendezvous

January 2020. The start of a new year and in an attempt to regain some control back in my life I gave B an ultimatum; it was either everything, or nothing at all. After two, very long heartfelt messages we agreed to cut all forms of contact to allow us both to move on with our own lives. It was the single hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. The sense of loss felt all consuming. In the long-term I knew it would be for the best; the limbo we had been in for the last three months meant that my emotions were constantly on simmer. It wasn’t healthy and I respected myself enough to know that I deserved more than what B could currently give me. In the short-term, it felt like I’d lost my lover/best friend/confidant all in one. Some days I’d momentarily forget about B and then I’d go to bed at night, shut my eyes and my subconscious would push through a thought of him. It would feel like a heavy weight dropped in the pit of my stomach and a pang of longing, which felt almost physical, would twinge in my heart and then spread through my body like seeping ink. The oh too familiar feeling of heartache. I just wanted it to hurry up and pass.

I debated with myself on whether dating again and meeting other men would help. I applied to be a guest member of the dating app, The League. Apparently I was 46,000 out 57,000 people on the waiting list for London, unless I paid a hefty membership fee to skip the queue *rolls eyes*. I checked in a couple days later to see that I’d moved 20 places down. Bloody hell! At this rate I’d be dating again by the time I was 60. I reluctantly downloaded Hinge instead and stared at the app on my home screen. I really hoped that the last time I had deleted my Hinge profile would have been the actual last time. I sighed; I’d never felt less excited by anything. I created a new profile and watched over a few days as the red notification icon gradually climbed in numbers; potential likes and messages. The anxiety started to creep in. If by the tiniest chance that any one of these men could potentially be ‘the one’, could I even bring myself to open up to the risk of being hurt, again?

I started messaging one guy and it momentarily made me feel good; a little ego boost after the rejection. After a couple days of messaging back and forth, the conservation came to a halt. Maybe he had met someone else? Maybe he just wasn’t interested? Maybe he found your blog, Jess… I laughed to myself. Yep, that would do it. I looked at my other matches and realised I didn’t want to do this right now. A knee jerk reaction and I quickly deleted my profile. Oh, the relief. 

Come mid-January I was run down and lethargic with heartache and New Year blues. I was avoiding my phone (not always a bad thing), struggling to get out of bed in the dark mornings and had developed recurring sinusitis (probably stress related). My friend, Annie, reminded me to be kinder to myself, to not feel like I had to rush into dating. That it was OK for me to just sit with these feelings for as long as I needed to and allow myself to heal at my own pace. Of course, she was right, I knew this; this wasn’t my first rodeo. 

Then, in a weird twist of fate, three weeks after cutting all contact with B, the strangest thing happened. One Thursday evening in late January, I’d left work to go and meet a friend in Tooting for dinner. I was tired and full of cold and had very nearly cancelled my plans so that I could just go home and get into bed, but I’ve always hated letting people down last minute and decided to just suck it up and go. 

I made my way to the Victoria line and ran onto a carriage as the doors were closing. It was rush hour and commuters were tightly packed into the carriages. I hated travelling on the tube at this time, at five foot two I was always wedged under someone’s armpit or balancing between people because I couldn’t reach the overhead handrails. That evening was no different, I was squeezed into a small space with a woman to my left and then to my right a tall man reading his kindle. I did a double take. My stomach seemed to lurch upward into my chest. Was this actually happening? It was B. I lifted a shaky hand and prodded him on the arm. He looked up and I felt an immediate rush of love. 

“Oh, hello!” he said in surprise.

“Hi… this is so weird,” I laughed nervously, my heart starting to hammer in my chest. I paused for a second not knowing what to do or say. “Come here!” B said and pulled me in for a hug. He then spent the next few minutes telling me about his New Year holidays, his family and his evening plans. I nodded along, in a state of shock, my heart at risk of bulldozing right through my chest. Of course I would bump into him when I looked like shite; I was full of cold, no makeup on, unwashed hair, with a spot on my cheek that I’d quickly picked before I’d left work. B however, looked gorgeous, obviously. He chatted away like we always had, like nothing had changed. It was so wonderful to see him and hear his voice again, but I was also crumbling inside. I blinked dumbly at him, I felt hot and my hearing was muffled. Shit, please don’t faint, Jess. And then before I could collect myself and act like a normal human being the tube pulled up in Stockwell; my stop.

I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. There were a thousand things I wanted to say to him, but nothing came out. B smiled and pulled me in for another hug. “It was good to see you, Jess, have a nice evening!” he said, and I mumbled goodbye in reply. Had I been given a chance and messed it up? I stumbled off on to the platform in a daze and turned to steal one last glance at B, he was already nose down into his Kindle as the train doors closed. He was seemingly completely unfazed by what had just happened. I however, had momentarily forgotten what I was doing or even where I was going. I stood frozen to the spot as commuters pushed past me to get on to the tube. 

I swallowed a lump in my throat as tears threatened to spill from my eyes. I was still in shock. Nine million people in London and it was him who was squeezed up against me in that tube carriage. It wasn’t even his usual route; it wasn’t even my usual route. What are the chances? For the last three weeks I had been mourning the loss of B and coming to terms that I’d probably never see or hear from him again. And then when I least expected it, when I looked like I’d been dragged backwards through a bush, fate had dangled him right in front of me, the one thing I wanted but couldn’t have. It felt cruel. I lifted my eyes to the ceiling, ‘Really?’ I asked. Why couldn’t I just catch a break when it came to men? 

I brushed the escaped tears off my cheeks and slowly walked in zombie like motion across to the other platform; trying to replay those last few minutes in my head. It felt like it was just me that had been completely floored by our unexpected rush hour rendezvous. B had looked and sounded fine. Maybe he had already moved on… maybe he had even met someone else… my heart sank. 

The truth is that a week before, I had received an email from The League saying that my application had been reviewed and I was through the waiting list and could now start seeing potential matches. It was less pressure than Hinge with no swiping and just three profiles a day to vet, so I decided to give it a go. I had matched with one guy and we’d exchanged a couple messages and he had promptly asked me out on a date. I thought, what the hell, maybe it was time, and agreed to meet him for a drink. We set a date but all I kept thinking in my head were possible excuses I could give to cancel. The guy seemed attractive from his photos and had been perfectly polite in his messages, so why was I so determined to get out of it? 

The funny thing is I had agreed to the date only hours before my encounter with B on the tube. I knew then, it was a sign. I recognised what I was doing. I was trying to fill the void that B had left with someone else. But I was 31 now, and if there was anything that my twenties had taught me, it was that replacing one man with another was a sure recipe for disaster. As I lay in bed that night struggling to get to sleep, I knew that if I couldn’t have B then I didn’t want anyone else at that moment. I messaged the guy to cancel our date and then deleted the app from my phone. 

I made a decision to forget about men and spend the next six months concentrating on me. If, like that evening, fate decided that B and I would reconcile or I was to meet another man, then fine, I would embrace it, but no more dating apps. I truly believed in what my dad had said, that against the odds, if it was meant to be, then it would happen. The right man would walk into my life at the right time. I wasn’t going to chase it anymore.

So, in the meantime, I decided to focus on the small things I liked doing for myself, like reading, listening to podcasts, exercising and blogging. It was time to pull myself out of my January blues, dust off the remnants of hurt from last year, count the blessings I did have and focus on my goals for the year ahead. I had done it before and I could do it again. I could make 2020 my year. And what a better time than now to reflect on my past relationships, to remind myself of the lessons I had learnt through my twenties, about men, about life and more importantly, about myself.

The One That Got Away – Part 1

It’s been a little while since I last wrote a blog post. In all honesty I thought I’d next be writing about my previous two exes, Seb and Dennis. I’d put these posts off for a while as I thought writing them would bring up painful memories. But this is even harder to write. Most of my blog posts are written with hindsight and a good deal of reflection. This still feels raw and tears make tracks down my cheeks as I write this late at night. You see, I did unexpectedly meet someone, and I fell in love. This is our story.

As with all the men featured on my blog, I tried to give him a pseudonym. But any other name felt wrong. I love his real name, the way it looks, sounds, seeing it pop up on my phone screen. He couldn’t be anyone else but that in my head. So, for that reason we shall simply call him ‘B.’ 

B was always supportive of my blog and we’d always joke about what his blog entry would be. I would say, “but I don’t know the ending yet!” 

To which he would reply – “who said it’s going to end?”

April 2019. After matching on Hinge, B and I had been exchanging messages for a couple weeks. We arranged to meet at a wine bar on Northcote Road on the Friday after Easter. In all my haste not to be late to the date, I had rushed out of the flat to catch the bus, forgetting to ask one of my flatmates to zip up the back of my dress. I arrived at the bar a minute before B and watched him walk in. He was tall and handsome with blue eyes and upon seeing me he grinned to reveal perfect teeth. I smiled back, already hooked.  After kissing B hello on the cheek, I spun round to reveal my exposed back. He laughed and gently shifted me into the corner. I felt him breathe gently against the back of my neck and his hand ever so slightly lingered on my hip as he carefully zipped me up. Tingles shot down my spine. 

We spent the evening sampling wines and eating tapas, and telling each other funny stories. After dinner we moved on to another bar up the road. We tucked ourselves into a corner and continued to talk and flirt; our faces inches from each other. Not being able to wait any longer for B to make a move, I pushed his drink aside, lent in and kissed him. As I pulled away, I lifted my eyes up to catch B outwardly grinning upwards at the ceiling; clearly happy with himself. I laughed and cupped my hand over his mouth, telling him to at least pretend to play it cool. It made no difference. B spent the rest of the evening grinning to himself whilst I took the piss out of him for it. It was 1am, and after a night of dancing, laughing and kissing, B dropped me off home in his Uber and I was the one who fell asleep that night smiling to myself.

The next morning B messaged saying he’d love to take me out again. We met the following week at a street food market in Elephant & Castle. That evening we cosied up on one of the benches sipping gin and tonics and sharing a Greek food platter. Every now and then we’d steal quick kisses. “I’ve having a great time, but I wish there was somewhere more private we could go so I could kiss you properly,” I whispered to B. He asked if I’d like to go back to his house. I nodded. We finished our drinks and walked hand in hand to the tube station. As we waited for a train, I pushed B up against the platform wall, and kissed him feverishly. The train pulled up and we giddily boarded.

Once inside B’s house, I hovered shyly in his kitchen as he made me a drink. B turned and purposely walked towards me, scooping me up in his arms, I wrapped my legs around his waist, and he lowered me onto the kitchen side. As we kissed B slowly unbuttoned my top, planting kisses from my neck down past my collarbone. My breath caught in my throat. “Shall we go upstairs?” he whispered. I nodded.

I followed B upstairs. I noted the relatively tidy room, made-up bed and dear god… was that four pillows! This man was clearly marriage material. As B watched me take in the room, he commented, “I’ve read your blog, Jess. I added the fourth pillow from my cupboard this morning.” I giggled and fell on to the bed with him. 

That night we stayed up laughing and kissing in bed. I told B I was wary about men hurting me and hadn’t slept with anyone in months. “We don’t have to have sex tonight Jess, we can wait,” he softly said as we lay naked together, our bodies wrapped round each other. It took all my will power not to give in but eventually we fell asleep. The next morning my willpower had completely evaporated. My eyes were barely open before we were wrapped around each other again and I happily gave in this time…

Afterwards, I lay on B’s chest and he told me how it was unusual for him to spend the night with a girl. Sure, he’d go out and hook up with girls, but he would never stay over and would never invite them back to his. I inwardly scoffed to myself; surely this was just a line to reel me in. And yet, something told me he was telling the truth. “But you let me stay over?” I said.

“I know… it feels different with you,” B replied, stroking my hair.

For our third date, B took me up to the Sky Garden to watch the sunset. We ended the evening back at his lying in bed together eating Krave cereal for dinner at 11pm. “I really like you, Jess” B whispered in my ear as he spooned me that night. 

“Oh, do you now!” I joked in reply. In all truthfulness, despite it only being three dates in, I really liked B too. But I didn’t want to admit that to him or myself. I’d heard this before from so many guys previously; all of who had hurt me afterwards. 

“I don’t want to date anyone else…” B said, pulling me into him as he drifted off to sleep.

“Me neither,” I replied, quietly. We both deleted Hinge soon after that.

The months that followed with B were some of my happiest. Memories flood through my mind now. The time we packed up a picnic and spent the day lounging in the sun at Richmond Park. We laughed, drank prosecco and made daisy chains, which B weaved through the embroidery in my dress. The day we went to a festival in East London and B had to watch me pull out the wedgie my denim shorts gave me every 20 minutes. The time that we went bowling and I forced B to take his first ever selfie of us. The bank holiday where we walked for hours along Regents Canal from Little Venice to Primrose Hill and fell asleep together in the sun. The time I danced on B’s toes in my dad’s kitchen, or when he pinned me down and licked my face while I squealed with laughter. Gross, I know.

We started to recognise each other’s quirks; B would be consumed by work and I would overthink everything. But instead of holding these quirks against each other we just accepted them. Each month B would go away for a week or so to work on an event, which would take up most of his thoughts and energy. His messages would come fewer and more sporadically during those times. Unsurprisingly this would have driven a lot of women mad but despite missing him I wanted to be supportive. It was worth it to see him when he got back. 

I trusted B. He was the first man in months that I had let my guard down to. I was scared about getting hurt again but it felt safe and right when I was with him. He would do all the little things to make me happy without me ever asking him to. I loved the way he would turn up at my front door with flowers for no reason. The way he would kiss me hello after being away, cupping my face and intently holding my gaze. I loved the way he would stand behind me on a tube escalator and playfully squeeze my bum. The way we could be completely ourselves around each other even if that meant acting like loons (cue very unsexy attempt at Full Monty strip tease and makeshift man thong). I loved the way we would randomly have sex in the middle of the night and not remember the next morning how it even started. I loved the way we’d fall asleep holding hands every night that we spent together. After all these years I felt that I’d finally met my person.

As my feelings for B grew stronger, I introduced him to my friends and family. After meeting B for the first time I asked my sister what she thought. 

“Oh Jess, the way he looks at you,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“When you’re chatting to someone or doing something… he just watches you.”

“Don’t be silly,” I laughed, waving off her comment, dismissively. But I had sometimes seen it too, when I had turned and my brown eyes had met his blue. I had felt the warmth travel up through me and my cheeks pop out as I barely contained my smile. I knew then, I had fallen for him.

September 2019. It was my birthday and B was due back that day from working away. B arrived at mine that evening armed with an orchid and a card that said that he was taking me to Switzerland. I was over the moon! We’d been talking for months about going away together, but what with B’s busy work schedule we just hadn’t found the time. Later that night as we were curled up in bed together, B turned to me and whispered, “Happy Birthday Jess.” I smiled. We’d had lovely dinner out, we were finally going away together, and everything felt perfect between us. I really was happy.

Three days later and everything changed. 

I had organised to go around to B’s for a night in that Friday. I was looking forward to spending some quality alone time together and I’d bought some new sexy black lingerie especially for the occasion. That morning B and I had exchanged a few messages, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But I had a bad gut feeling. I couldn’t explain why, but I also couldn’t shift it throughout the day.  I’d never had this feeling with B before and it unnerved me, as I knew from experience that my gut feelings were almost always on the mark.

I got home after work and started to get ready and pack my overnight bag. My phone flashed with a message from B saying that he was seeing a mate around the corner and would pop by mine about 7pm. Alarm bells rang in my head. “And then head to yours together?” I replied. The message remained unread. Shit. This wasn’t good.

7pm came and true to his word B arrived at my front door. He greeted me normally and so I mentally told myself to get a grip. Once upstairs in my room I turned and threw my arms around B. I must have been shaking because he asked if I was OK. “Yeah, it’s just me being silly… I had this feeling that something was wrong,” I whispered into his neck.

“Actually Jess, there is something I wanted to talk to you about,” B said, pulling away.

And right then, I knew. My stomach dropped and the pain was almost instant. I immediately reverted to the hurt I had felt 18 months prior when Dennis had run out of the very same room. Something I had never wanted to feel again.

B took my hand and gently pulled me on to his lap. “Jess, this is the hardest thing to say to you… and it’s honestly nothing you’ve done” OK…

“…I don’t think this is the right time to be a relationship” What??... But, we’re going to Switzerland??

“I think I want to move to Canada… or Australia.” Motherfucker.

Oh, of course it’s Australia. I am actually cursed.

B genuinely looked anguished. “I don’t understand,” I whispered, attempting to fight back tears. “We’re so good together, we make each other happy.”

“We do! And this has nothing to do with you, you’re the nicest girl I’ve ever met.” He said, earnestly.  I don’t want to be the nicest girl; I want to be THE girl, YOUR girl!

“This is just something I need to do for myself,” he continued. “The last thing I wanted to do was upset you, Jess.”

“Well, it’s too late,” I whispered, and not being able to hold back the tears any longer, I began to sob into B’s neck. “I was too scared to tell you before…but I’ve felt it for a while now. And I do, I really do. I love you.” And then B was the one to break. He pulled me tightly into him and we cried into each other’s arms for half an hour.

“Are you really saying that this is over?” I cried, as B pushed the hair off my face.

“I…I don’t know…I just need a few days to think everything through. I should go.”

“Please don’t leave me alone.”

“Jess, I have to. I need some time to think.” 

“I know, I know…I’m just scared that once you run out of that door, I’ll never see you again.” 

B stopped crying and pulled my face up to his. He looked me dead in the eye, and said, “That is not what’s happening here. This is not the last time you will hear from me or see me. I promise you, Jess.” B then kissed me and walked out the door.

I let out a sob and curled up on the floor in a corner of my room and phoned my dad. 

“Hello… Jess?”

I couldn’t say anything; I just broke down in tears.

“Oh no, Jess…” 

He knew what this call was. This was the third time he’d received it in the last four years.

To be continued…

Fifty First Dates

Between the months of February to April this year, I dated a lot. It was sometimes bad, sometimes fun, but mostly just quite exhausting. You may know what I’m talking about. Your bank account takes a hit and you find you have to drag yourself out on a Monday evening when all you really want to do is curl up on the sofa eating cinnamon bagels for dinner. You also drink approximately three times the amount of your usual alcohol consumption during a week and wake up each morning with a moderate hangover, only to do it all again that very evening. And you haven’t even hit mid-week yet.

March 2019. By some weird, awful twist of circumstances I had a first date lined up for every day of a working week. It had been exhausting enough doing the admin behind each of those first dates. You’d think messaging five guys simultaneously would be fun and flattering, right? WRONG! You have the same conversation about where you live, what you do for a living and how many siblings you have…five, bloody times. Not to mention having to constantly re-read through each WhatsApp chat to check what you’ve actually said to each guy. My initial thought process stemmed from not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket. Never did I dream that all five dates would come to fruition, especially not all in the same week! London men were like London buses; there would be none at all and then they’d all come at fucking once.

My mammoth date week started on a Sunday. I had matched on Hinge with a guy from Hampstead who insisted on sending me voice notes at 5.30am every morning on his way to the gym. I hate voice notes. He suggested going out for a roast dinner at a pub in King’s Cross. I wouldn’t recommend going for a full-on meal on a first date. It’s difficult to answer questions with a mouth full of cauliflower cheese, and the weird cog motion you do with your hand whilst you franticly chew is just plain awkward. The conversation was mediocre at best until it took an unexpected turn and we ended up talking about male suicide rates for 20 minutes. Not quite first date material. After exactly two hours we politely said our goodbyes and departed at King’s Cross never to contact each other again.

The next day I woke up and couldn’t think of anything I’d like to do less than go on another date, especially on a Monday. Nonetheless, I headed to the Four Thieves in Clapham after work to meet the Australian bloke I had been texting. He was attractive but I wasn’t sure if there was a spark. After a couple drinks and some pleasant enough conversation I kissed him on the cheek and said goodbye. I noted that he chose to take the quickest route home rather than walk me to the bus stop. 

On Tuesday, the guy I had been messaging from Essex cancelled last minute. Halle-fucking-lujah!

Wednesday’s date was with a guy who worked in finance at Canary Wharf but also did some modelling on the side. He was clearly gorgeous in all his photos, but his texting chat had been quite dry. I presumed he was a model with no personality that had just sailed through life on his good looks alone. How very wrong I was. I turned up at Powderkeg in Battersea to be greeted by a very beautiful man. Before long I realised that he was also extremely charming and charismatic. I spent three hours drinking, laughing and resisting the urge to pounce on him from across the table. Apparently, that’s not socially acceptable. At the end of the date he ordered an Uber and insisted on dropping me off at my flat on his way home. Before I could even get my seatbelt on, hot model guy had slid across the backseats and cupped my face with his hand, leaning in to kiss me. Oh wow. We snogged all the way back to outside my flat, where I toppled out of the taxi giddy on wine and lust. Once inside, I text, thanking him for a lovely evening, and saying we should do it again soon.

I woke up on the Thursday morning in good spirits despite feeling hungover. I’d had a great date the night before and I was looking forward to my next first date that evening. I had been messaging Alan the most out of all five men. We’d been exchanging messages for a good three weeks and by text he seemed confident, funny and interesting. Alan had booked a table at bar by Clapham Common station and was already there waiting for me. As soon as I walked through the entrance and Alan stood up to greet me, my stomach dropped. 

The dangers of online dating include building up a persona of someone based on Instagram photos and text messages which could wildly differ from the actual real-life person. Before I’d even sat down at the table, I knew Alan wasn’t the person I’d built him up to be in my head. It wasn’t his fault, but I felt drowned by disappointment. And, being typically British, I knew I’d have to stay for at least two hours so as not to appear rude, or at least until we’d finished the bottle of wine he’d already ordered. 

“How was your day?” asked Alan.

“It was OK, how was yours?” I replied.

“It was good! How was yours?

“Um…we already did me,” I said.

Alan giggled apologetically; he was clearly nervous. After half an hour of chatting, my made-up persona of Alan was shattered. He wasn’t anything like the way he came across by text; I didn’t fancy him in the slightest. Plus, he had small hands! I’m sorry but I can’t get on board with small hands on a man. I have this theory; the hand/penis theory. The saying goes, ‘the bigger the feet, the bigger the…’ but bollocks to that. From my experience there has not been enough evidence to support the theory that there is any significant ratio between foot size and penis size. However, I have found that hands do! Not just the size, but also the shape and length of the fingers. If a man has chubby fingers that taper in at the end, then I bet my bottom dollar their penis is also chubbier at the base then tapers in at the top. Long, lanky thin fingers? Then long, lanky dick! Go on, test my theory.

Anyway, I digress, back to Alan. 9.30pm hit and I was desperately looking for an excuse to end the date. I checked my phone for the umpteenth time and saw a message from hot model guy. “Hey, I had fun last night but I don’t feel like we clicked. Have a good rest of the week.” I instantly felt my face drop. Alan must have seen it too. We didn’t click?! Mate, you practically pounced on me in the taxi! How much ‘clicking’ was needed?! Disappointment and frustration washed over me; any obligation I felt to stay any longer evaporated, I just wanted to go home. I told Alan I was tired and that we should call it a night. After the bill was paid, I got up from my seat and headed towards the exit. Alan quickly leapt up to follow me and started massaging my shoulders from behind. Oh God…the hands! I thought, repressing a shudder. Once outside Alan insisted that I catch a lift back home in his Uber. It made sense as his station was on the way to mine. I couldn’t think of a reason to decline… fuck sake. 

As we waited outside for the Uber to arrive, I must have been shivering because before I knew it Alan had wrapped his scarf around my shoulders. “Oh, thanks,” I said, giving him a half smile. Next thing I knew, Alan had enveloped me from behind in a tight hug and started swaying me from side to side. I froze. Dear God…make it stop! Againbeing too British to say anything, I awkwardly stood on the pavement, my arms dropped by my side, whilst Alan, completely unaware of my inner turmoil, continued to rock me like a baby. When the taxi eventually pulled up, I practically threw his arms off me and bolted inside. I placed the scarf on the middle seat to act as a barrier between us (there would be absolutely no sliding across the backseats on this date!). 

As soon as I closed the front door behind me, I got out my phone and texted hot model guy saying, “no problem”. At least he hadn’t ghosted me. I then constructed a message to Alan. I thanked him for the evening but explained that there was no spark for me. Sent. I breathed a sigh of relief. What a week. It felt like I had gone full circle; all that energy, money and the hangovers and I was right back to where I started. This dating malarkey was draining.

I decided to give Monday’s guy a second chance; he was attractive and seemed nice after all, maybe I was just tired at the time. We saw each other a couple more times, and by our third (and what would be our last date) he invited me round to his to ‘Netflix and Chill.’ However, this was taken in the literal sense. We laid on his bed fully clothed and watched an entire film, only pausing when I noticed that he’d fallen asleep…again. This was a third date; surely, we should be overcome with lust, ripping each other’s clothes off?! The film finished and I made a comment about heading off home soon. He nodded and gave me hug. A minute later and he started to kiss me, but I just felt like we were going through the motions. I opened my eyes and looked down to see one of his hands awkwardly squeezing my boob over my top. I felt like a human stress ball. Just close your eyes, Jess. He then decided to weave his hand down the collar of my top to grope my breasts; his elbow sticking out awkwardly in my face as he dry humped me over my jeans. This was the least sexy thing ever. After 15 minutes of this I gave up, thanked him for a nice evening and made my way home. He didn’t walk me to the bus stop. Again.

Come April I decided to take it easy and just date one guy at a time. I had matched with Malcolm, a lawyer who worked in the West End. Malcom was tall and kind of goofy but in a cute way and we immediately hit it off. For our second date we met in a bar off Oxford Street where in true classic Jess style I managed to lock myself in a toilet cubicle. After a panicked 15 minutes calling out to random women in the bathroom, I was eventually rescued by the bar staff. “I thought you’d had an accident or something…” said Malcolm, as I re-joined him, ever so slightly flustered. We then headed around the corner to Swingers crazy golf.

We had a fun evening; drinking and kissing in between playing the holes. As our timed golf session came to an end, Malcolm suggested going back to his. I quickly weighed up my options in my head. I didn’t want to sleep with Malcolm that night as I already knew he was off in a few days’ time for a solo holiday to Brazil. No way was I about to have sex with a guy before he went gallivanting off for three weeks; I did not need that kind of anxiety! But I also didn’t want the date to end, so I agreed to go back to Malcolm’s to hang out. That night, we stayed up to 4am chatting; we were completely naked in bed the whole time, but I was adamant that we weren’t going to have sex. And we didn’t. We eventually fell asleep spooning. The next morning Malcolm was very sweet, he let me use his toothbrush, ordered me an uber home and gave me a banana on my way out (not a sexual pun). He kissed me goodbye and said he’d see me when he was back from Brazil. That was the last time I saw Malcolm.

We exchanged a few messages whilst he was away and although Malcolm was friendly enough, I found it was always me that was initiating the conversation. As the days in April rolled by, the messages became fewer and fewer whilst each new day (according to my Instagram feed) saw Malcolm follow approximately 50 different Brazilian girls. I couldn’t blame him; he was obviously enjoying his trip. A lot. But I didn’t want to be just an option in a pool of women he had matched with on dating apps, in the UK or otherwise. So, I decided to date other men and make Malcolm the option instead. 

Throughout my two months of intensive dating I didn’t allow myself to get too close to anyone. Most dates ended with a kiss on the cheek, a few with a snog and only a couple went beyond first base. “You can’t catch feelings from the finger,” as my flatmate, Jasmine  said. And it was true. I didn’t sleep with anyone in five months. By having sex with any of these men I would have allowed myself to be vulnerable and I just wasn’t prepared to do that. So, I kept any exploits strictly PG.

I have a love/hate relationship with dating apps. On the one hand, it’s amazing to have access to all these seemingly eligible men at the swipe of a finger. If you wanted a date or shag one evening you were only a few clicks away from obtaining it. Genius. On the other hand, as with everything where there is too much choice, people tend not to put very much effort into it. There are always other options, endless conquests to be made, plenty more fish in the sea… So, why bother sticking with the mackerel you went on three dates with when you could be simultaneously dating cute cuttlefish, gorgeous guppy and sexy sea bream. Even if you did quite like the mackerel in the first place! Ok, enough about fish.

Gone are the days of men trying to woo a woman with surprise picnics, flowers and turning up in convertible cars to declare their undying love (see, Richard Gear in Pretty Woman). Men no longer make the effort. They are too busy lining up their next conquest, and it’s all in plain sight on Instagram. Apparently, the grass seems greener on a new girl’s profile. Rolls eyes. I wanted a man who walked me to the bus stop, who messaged to check I got home OK, who didn’t follow the other hundred girls they had matched with on Hinge. I wanted someone to prove to me that romance was not dead. And none of these guys I dated could.

The reality is that none of these men were right for me and I wasn’t willing to settle. Not anymore. I wanted someone who added to my life, supported me and would do the little things just to make me smile, because they wanted to and not because I asked them to. Someone who could make me feel wanted, secure and special whilst also setting my heart racing. I wanted a man with big hands! So, after a couple of months of dating, I made my peace that it would probably be a while until I met someone that could match up to that and that I may as well enjoy the upcoming summer being single. And then, as the cliché goes, when I was finally content in my own skin, when I least expected it… I met someone.

The Fuckboy Chronicles: Cameron

The whole concept of ‘sliding into the DMs’ cringes me out a bit. I’ve never done it myself but have received a fair few messages from spam accounts inviting me to follow X-rated profiles or the odd message from a middle-aged Asian bloke propositioning me with running away together to Hawaii to live on the fruits of the land and make sweet love under the stars every day. Seriously, I got sent that. So, it’s no surprise that most messages that crop up in my Instagram’s ‘requested messages’ folder tend to go ignored. 

February 2019. After my two-month social media and dating app hiatus, I eventually reactivated my Instagram and re-downloaded Hinge. After allowing myself the Christmas period to heal after all the Fuckboy drama at the end of last year, I was ready to try dating again. After a couple weeks back on Hinge, Cameron slid into my DMs. One scroll through his profile showed me that he was very good-looking and appeared normal enough. Apparently, he had come across my Hinge profile then decided to look me up on Instagram. We exchanged messages over a couple of days and I soon found out that he lived in Surrey but occasionally came into London for work, and even had a cat, of which he sent several photos. He asked if I wanted to meet for a drink and we arranged a date for the following Saturday evening.  

Saturday morning came and Cameron messaged asking if we were still on for our date. I replied saying yes and asked where we should meet. By 5pm Cameron still hadn’t replied. I text again, asking if we were still on as I would need to know what time to arrive and plan my evening around that. Cameron eventually replied with an apology, explaining something had come up with friends who had surprised him with a visit, and asking if we could reschedule for another day. I frowned, why did it take for me to message, for him to tell me that? “Sure. Just let me know if you want to meet another time,” I replied, unconvinced.

“I definitely do! What days are you free this week?” he text.

I listed the days I was free. Cameron read the message but didn’t reply. 

Five days passed and I didn’t hear anything else from Cameron, so I resolved that that was that. Just another guy who was all talk and couldn’t even commit to a drink. Then, unexpectedly on the Thursday morning (Valentine’s Day), whilst at work, my phone screen flashed up with a message. Cameron. He apologised for going off the radar, saying that he had been super busy with work but he was in London and was I by any chance free that evening for a drink? What? A first date on Valentine’s Day?! Maybe he hadn’t realised what day it was. I myself was fully aware of said day, being my first Valentine’s Day in years where I found myself single with close to zero romantic interest. 

I was surprised to hear from Cameron. I honestly thought that I had been ghosted and had already made my peace with that. My initial reaction was to ignore the message, but after screenshotting the text and sending it to my flatmates asking for their opinion, they said I should just go for it as it wasn’t like I had any other plans (brutal, but true). So that evening, I headed to The Northcote in Battersea to meet Cameron.

I walked through the pub door with the usual hum of nerves in my stomach, in the anticipation of meeting someone for the first time and knowing within the first three seconds whether I fancied them or not. I spotted Cameron casually sat on a barstool. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned to face me. Ding fucking Dong. Tall, broad-shouldered, with sandy hair and a gorgeous smile, Cameron was hot.

We spent the next three hours chatting, drinking and flirting. At 10pm we decided to move down the road to another bar. The bar was dark and full of couples out celebrating Valentine’s Day. We found a table in a corner with a pile of stickers. I looked round the room to see people playing the ‘traffic light’ game. Red sticker for in a relationship, amber sticker for open (or willing to cheat, I guess) and green sticker for single. Cameron and I drunkenly started planting stickers on each other, on the back of our heads, across our mouths and even playfully on to each other’s crotches. I pulled a sticker off Cameron’s mouth and leaned in to kiss him. 

We continued to drink, kiss and dance until 1am when the bar lights came on, signalling the end of the night. We stumbled out on to the street and Cameron checked his phone. “Ah shit, I’ve missed my last train home,” he said, although seemingly completely unfazed. 

“Oh.” I replied. 

“Shall we pick up a bottle of wine and head back to yours?” Cameron suggested nonchalantly. 

I frowned. This wasn’t the way this date was meant to go. My last date was back at the end of November when arsehole, Aaron had done a runner five minutes after we’d had sex. It had knocked my confidence in men so much that I had promised myself once I started dating again I wouldn’t sleep with a guy on a first date. 

“Ok, but just to manage your expectations now, we are not doing anything. You can sleep on my sofa.” I said. 

“Sure,” replied Cameron, grinning. 

No, seriously I’m not having sex with you tonight. I’ve had a good time but if that’s what you’re after then I suggest you start walking back to Surrey now.” I said, crossing my arms. 

Cameron, sensing that I wasn’t joking, hastily nodded and said, “Of course! I just want to hang out with you a bit longer, is all.” 

We took an Uber back to my flat, to find my two flatmates, Jasmine and Tanya still up in the living room. Ah, he wouldn’t be able to sleep on the sofa then. After spending a few minutes chatting with the girls, Cameron and I headed upstairs. We kissed and had a bit of a fumble in bed, but I was adamant we were not going to have sex. Cameron tried, several times. Red flags all over the place of course, which I wilfully ignored.

I was tempted to sleep with him but the thought of what happened only a couple months prior with Aaron was enough to deter me, and my knickers remained firmly on. We stayed up cuddling and chatting for most the night, with Cameron telling me how I should come round to his house in Surrey for a ‘Come Dine with Me’ style evening, and how I could stay over and play with Bat Mouse (the name of his cat, not an euphemism.)

The morning came and so did a new wave of persistence from Cameron. “Oh, c’mon baby, it’s basically like our second date now,” cooed Cameron in my ear, whilst stoking my inner thigh.” Pah ha! Honestly, the lines some of these guys come up with.

“No, it’s not, but I am looking forward to an actual second date with you,” I replied, pushing his hand aside and getting up to shower. I got ready for work and showed Cameron out. Despite feeling tired and hungover, I felt a glow kissing Cameron goodbye; we’d had a fun first date and I was looking forward to seeing him again. 

Over the course of the day Cameron and I exchanged flirty messages, until I mentioned meeting up again. Cameron read the message but didn’t reply. I tried not to overthink it, reminding myself that it was a Friday night and he was probably busy out with friends. Saturday morning came and went and my gut feeling kicked in. It was Saturday evening before I heard from Cameron again. He mentioned that he’d been busy and made a light-hearted joke about his cat but he ignored my question about seeing each other again. This didn’t bode well. It wasn’t until the Sunday afternoon that everything clicked into place and made sense. I was mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram when I clicked on to a story Cameron had posted. Motherfucker. It was a picture of him at brunch sat opposite a girl, quite clearly on a date. The picture only showed the girl’s hands, but some quick detective work and I realised who the girl was.

Never underestimate a woman’s detective skills when it comes to social media. A mission usually begins with a gut feeling (which is almost always on the mark), taking onboard any previous comments the man has made, even if they seemed like the smallest of throw away comments at the time – a woman will mentally note these. She will then commence investigating. Starting with photos, then tagged photos, then profiles of other people also tagged in those photos, then profiles of their tagged friends, followed by photos of the tagged friend of a friend’s family members. Next thing you know you’re on the profile of the aunt of the primary school teacher to the cousin of the best friend of the girl who was tagged in one photo with the guy in question on a holiday to Zante back in 2009. Anyway, you get the gist, there are no limits to a woman’s investigatory skills; especially a woman scorned.

So, it was no surprise that it only took me a short while to find the girl from Cameron’s Instagram story. It was the same girl he’d mentioned in passing on our date. Apparently, someone he’d only been on three dates with, who had got upset because he wouldn’t go on holiday to Canada with her, so he called it off because “she’d gotten way too intense”. He had also made it seem like he’d had nothing more to do with the girl; simply a past romantic fling. Lies. Cameron was on date with this girl and had quite clearly been seeing her for some time. Typical. He obviously, like so many Fuckboys, wanted his cake and to eat it too, and I had just been his side serving of apple pie. Just a joyful convenience that he was in London on Valentines Day and wanted to make the most of his excursion out of Surrey. Thank God, I didn’t have sex with this prick.

Despite feeling disappointed and angry, I was thankful that I’d found this out now before I’d slept with him or developed any feelings. I unfollowed Cameron, deleted his number and have had no further contact with him since that day. I’m just sorry that I didn’t get to meet his cat. Cameron, however, continues to watch all my Instagram stories and occasionally likes my posts. Men never cease to baffle me.

I recently heard about the term ‘orbiting.’ This is used to describe how someone who has usually ‘ghosted’ you (although not always) but will continue to watch all your social media stories and/or like your posts but will never respond to your text or engage with you in any other way. Basically, they don’t want to date or talk to you but aren’t prepared to completely delete you out of their life. Personally, I think orbiting is a very male thing to do. I don’t know many women who have a desire to follow the every move of a man she has previously decided she is no longer interested in. Women tend to take the ‘two-fingers up and block’ approach. Seems far healthier and you get a better sense of closure. It’s funny how most of the Fuckboys I’ve dated have ghosted me and yet they are always the first to watch an Instagram story I post. Yeah, I don’t get it either.

In all honesty I think I was upset for the grand total of an hour after seeing Cameron’s story with the other girl. A few years ago, seeing something like that on social media would have floored me and left me devastated for days (or at least until I was interested in another boy). Nowadays it doesn’t surprise me, or it’s happened so often over the years that I’ve built up a kind of immunity to it. I mean you have to. I can’t just fall apart every time a guy I went on one date with decides to be a dick. Let’s be honest, I’d spend more time in pieces than I would actually being happy. 

Nope, these days I simply do not have the time or the energy to waste dwelling on the transgressions of Fuckboys, commitment-phobes and the emotionally unavailable. I spent so much time through my twenties worrying about if I was good enough, smart enough, cool enough to be with the guy in question at the time and never questioning if they were actually worth my time! I was always the one to ask the ‘so what are we?’ question and be acutely aware of not ‘putting pressure’ on the guy. So much so, that I once dated a guy for a year, A WHOLE YEAR before he ‘allowed’ me to be his girlfriend! I later found out that this was just him trying to justify cheating on me the whole time we were together. A charming bloke.

I don’t claim to be a perfect girlfriend, but I am loyal, kind and caring and would do almost anything for the man I love. It took years of men taking advantage of this and making me self-doubt, but I now know my worth, and any guy I choose to date should know it too. So, to all the men who ghosted me, cheated on me, or could never fully commit to me; it really is your loss – happy orbiting.

The Fuckboy Chronicles: Aaron

There’s only one thing worse than a Fuckboy, and that’s a Fuckboy masquerading as a nice boy. Or as I like to call them; a Fuckboy in sheep’s clothing. These particular men are the worst. At least Brandon and Chad owned their player identities. They didn’t pretend to be anything other than the Fuckboys that they were. With them, I knew to a certain extent what I was getting myself into, even if I tried to convince myself otherwise. But I didn’t see Aaron coming.

Late November 2018. It had been a week since Chad had ghosted me and I took myself home to my dad’s near the Cotswolds. I needed a weekend to get away from London and the men in it. Having had enough of the type of guys I kept meeting on dating apps, I flicked opened Hinge with every intention of deleting it, when I saw a message pop up at the top of the screen. Aaron. Curiosity getting the better of me, my thumb moved from the ‘deactivate account’ button to scrolling through his profile. Tall, athletic with attractive, sharp features, I was like a moth to dick sand, I mean a flame.

I replied to Aaron and very quickly we exchanged numbers. He was very charming, and after a weekend of intense messaging, he asked me out on a date. We arranged to meet on the Friday evening. In the week leading up to our first date, Aaron would message me constantly throughout the day. By the Tuesday afternoon he asked if he could call me that evening. I was a little taken back as I rarely even chatted on the phone to Dennis, my last boyfriend; never mind a guy I hadn’t even met yet. “Um…sure, why not?” I replied. Did people do this…talk on the phone before a first date? Surely, that’s what WhatsApp was invented for? What if he asks for my landline? I don’t have a landline! It’s 2018, no one does, Jess.

“Great, I’ll give you a call around 9pm,” he messaged.

By 8.30pm that evening I was a nervous wreck. I paced anxiously around the flat, constantly checking the time. More than once I checked to see if I’d accidentally put my phone on silent. Should I be ready and waiting in my bedroom for the call? Should I be busy cooking dinner or watching TV? What would we talk about? What if his voice sounded funny…oh God, what if my voice sounded funny?!

“Yeah it’s a little unorthodox,” said my flatmate, Jasmine, watching me go from sitting on the sofa staring at my phone on the coffee table, to abruptly standing and picking it up for no reason. “But, it’s quite nice if you think about it. He obviously just wants to get to know you,” she continued. I nodded in agreement.

9.02pm. I was laying on my bed when my phone rang. “Hello?” I nervously answered.

“Hey, Jess,” Aaron replied with a strong North London accent. “Wow, you sound posher than what I was expecting…I thought you were born in Essex?” he continued. I laughed, feeling instantly at ease. We spent the next two hours chatting and laughing. That night, I laid in my bed smiling to myself, replaying the phone conservation in my head, catching myself giggling out loud when I thought of something cheeky Aaron had said. Throughout the entire phone call he had made comments about introducing me to his friends and talking about places we could go together. Oh, so he’s looking for something with longevity. He said how much he disliked social media and didn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account. Great, I don’t have to stalk you or the girls whose pictures you like. Even though we hadn’t yet met, I lapped it all up, wanting to believe that there were men out there that weren’t just after one thing only. So fucking naive, Jess.

Over the following few days, Aaron continued to message me around the clock and when he wasn’t texting me, he’d call me. He called me when he was in the car on the way to work. He called when he got home from a dinner with friends. He even called me as he was walking out of a stadium after a football match. He’d make jokes and tell me things he obviously thought I wanted to hear. I wasn’t used to this kind of attention from a guy, but it felt refreshing to have someone take such an interest in me. 

Friday came and I’d never felt such a high expectation for a first date. The plan was to meet in a bar in Holborn for a couple drinks before going bowling. My nerves at finally meeting Aaron were off the scale. I sat at a table in the bar and watched as Aaron swaggered in. “Sorry I’m a bit late, I couldn’t find anywhere to park,” he said. I found it weird that he drove when we’d clearly be drinking, but quickly dismissed the thought. “No problem, I haven’t been here long myself,” I smiled. Aaron grinned back and pulled out a small vape pen, cursed an eye round the bar, and then shiftily took a puff. I blinked. I don’t smoke or vape myself but I’m pretty sure you didn’t do it inside? “Um, shall we order some drinks then?” I asked. Aaron nodded, tucked his vape pen in his jacket and beckoned a waiter over. 

After we’d ordered our drinks, the waiter asked if we’d like to see the food menu. Aaron said nothing and just flicked his wrist slightly, dismissing the waiter. I flushed red, embarrassed at his rude gesture. I thanked the waiter as he walked away, turning back to see Aaron puffing on his vape pen again. Seriously, dude? 

Despite his arrogant first impression, I was determined to give Aaron a chance. We had got on so well by phone after all. As we flirted over a couple of drinks, I began to warm to Aaron (trying to ignore his completely indiscreet puffs on his stupid vape pen.) He was also coughing quite a lot, claiming he was suffering from the beginnings of a cold. I asked if he was ok, and Aaron waved away my concern, claiming he was fine and had dosed up on paracetamol before coming. After we left the bar we headed to the bowling alley. 

By the time we’d finished bowling it had gone 10pm. “What would you like to do now? We could find a bar and go for a couple more drinks?” I asked, although thinking that he’d definitely have to have soft drinks because he was driving. 

“Sure, but let’s just pop to my car first, cos I’ve got some pic n mix for you,” Aaron said. Oh, I thought, this was because I’d made a reference to liking sweets in one of our phone conversations; that was nice of him. I nodded in agreement and Aaron swung his arm around my shoulders and led me down a residential street to where he’d parked.

Once in the parked car, we chatted some more whilst we ate the sweets. Aaron kept rubbing my knee and after about 10 minutes lent across his seat and kissed me. The kissing became quite heated and Aaron began running his hands through my hair and then down to my blouse, unbuttoning the top few buttons. I could see people walking past out of the corner of my eye, peering into the car. Nope, no, I’m a 30-year-old woman; I’m not about to have sex in a car parked down a street in central London! I pulled away from Aaron, saying just as much. His breathing still heavy, he suggested we go back to mine. I bit my lip. I hadn’t planned for my first date with Aaron ending up like this… I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do anything more than kiss him. Sensing my hesitation, Aaron said, “Look, we don’t have to do anything. I can just drop you home, maybe come in for a cup of tea and then I’ll just drive back to mine.” 

40 minutes later we arrived at my flat in South-West London. I made Aaron a peppermint tea and gave him some more paracetamol. No sooner had he finished his drink then he stood up and walked across the kitchen to me and started kissing my neck. He pulled my blouse down over my shoulders and unhooked my bra. I sighed, feeling myself give in. We headed upstairs to my bedroom and closed the door…

Afterwards, something had changed, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but Aaron’s demeanour was different. The sex had been good so I just put it down to him feeling under the weather. He got up from the bed straight away and started scrolling through his phone. “Everything OK?” I asked, leaning up on the bed.

“Yeah. Do you have any cough medicine?” he replied, rubbing his chest. 

“No, sorry, I don’t think I do,” I said, as I walked into the bathroom next door. I went to the toilet and checked the cupboards for any medicine. Three minutes later I walked back into the bedroom to find Aaron fully dressed, pulling his trainers on. “I’m going to drive to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy. Text me your postcode and I’ll come back afterwards,” he said, picking up his car keys. He felt that ill?

“Oh, OK…” I replied, taken back. We were literally having sex five minutes ago. I was still naked. Aaron grabbed his wallet and ran down the stairs before I could even lean in to kiss him.

1am. I sat on the sofa in my dressing gown waiting for Aaron. Another half an hour passed and I still hadn’t heard anything from him, my postcode remaining as two unread, grey ticks. I messaged asking if everything was OK. 

“Yep, all good. Got some medicine and just going to head back to mine to sleep it off. Didn’t want to keep you up all night with this cough,” he replied.

“Oh, OK. Well text me when you get home,” I messaged back. But I knew he wouldn’t. I took myself upstairs and curled up in the bed, feeling the shame wash over me.

I didn’t hear from Aaron again after that. Albeit there was no love lost; he was arrogant and rude, but I had never felt so manipulated and used. Had he planned for this all along? A week of buttering me up with messages and calls; telling me things he thought I wanted to hear, all with the intention of sleeping with me on the first date and doing a runner five minutes afterwards? That night as I lay in bed waiting for a message that would never come, I made a promise to myself. Never again would I sleep with a guy on a first date.

Now, I don’t have anything against sleeping with someone on a first date. There are all these stupid rules (no doubt made up by men) that if you do then you’re ‘too easy’ or you’re a ‘slut’ or they won’t want to date you after that. Which is a load of bullshit. I know loads of long standing couples that slept with each other on their first date. It’s also an individual’s prerogative whether male/female or otherwise when they first choose to sleep with someone. And if you’re both two (or three, if that’s your thing) consenting adults, then what’s the issue? ‘Slut-shaming’ is some of the worst kind of misogyny; it’s an out-dated, double-standards notion. Whether you’ve slept with two or 52 people, it does not define you or your worth.

Now, whilst I’m all for female sexual empowerment, I also realised that I was starting to get emotionally bruised by these Fuckboys who were only after one thing from me. So, with the exception of my one night of weakness with Brandon in the New Year, I didn’t have sex for five months. Oh sure, I dated. I dated a lot. After my two-month Hinge hiatus over Christmas and New Year, I re-downloaded it in February and dated a variety of different men; learning as much about myself as I did them. What I liked, what I didn’t like, what pushed my buttons and what I wasn’t willing to put up with. 

But I decided the next guy I’d sleep with would be someone who had gained my trust and showed me the respect I deserved. So, I dated, I blogged and my knickers remained firmly on. It’s amazing how much writing you can do when you’re not shagging.

Healing Heartbreak with Hendricks

Throughout my twenties, I saw a few guys on and off and I’d always be pretty upset when things didn’t work out. But in the last four years I have gone through two particularly painful breakups. You know the kind, where it physically hurts? Both times my mental health took a serious dive. My self-esteem plummeted to an all time low and it was all I could do to drag myself out of bed each morning and face a new day.

Many people turn to alcohol as a form of escapism when going through the rollercoaster of emotions that follows a breakup; a way to appear like you’re enjoying your new found singledom whilst numbing the pain of heartache. I’ve never been a big drinker; even throughout university and my early to mid twenties I would rarely drink and even then it would only be a few drinks on a night out at the weekend. To be fair, I’m a massive lightweight and it only takes me a few cocktails. I find the nearest coffee table to dance on and wake up the next morning with a raging hangover. But when these two particular relationships ended, I found myself turning to alcohol more than I had done so in previous years. One or two G&Ts or glasses of red wine by myself on a weeknight were slowly becoming the norm. Night outs following these break ups became black out booze fests where I was quite literally drowning my sorrows.

The first of these two momentous breakups was back in 2016 when I was 27. I had just moved back to London from Brisbane after I had moved out there to be with my Australian boyfriend, Seb. After two years together in London, Seb’s UK visa expired. So, I quit my job, moved out of my house share in Bermondsey, sold half of my possessions and moved to the other side of the world to be with him. After four months living together in Australia, Seb ended it, saying he “wasn’t ready for the commitment.” I was devastated. I flew back to London the next week.

I will go more into depth on my relationship with Seb in future posts but for now let’s focus on how I handled this breakup once back on British soil. A few short weeks after returning to London my friends Raquel and Greta organised a girls night out. We headed out to a bar in Clapham and after a few drinks I was starting to almost enjoy myself. A few of Raquel’s mates turned up and one in particular took a liking to me and kept pulling me to the bar for shots. Now there’s one thing you should know about me, and that is that I hate shots. Tequila, Sambuca, Sourz, (don’t even get me started on Jägerbombs) you name it; they are ALL my nemeses. I am a self-confessed lightweight and shots have always been my downfall. Quite literally. 

So after being dragged back to the bar for my fourth tequila I was starting to feel pretty woozy and the last thing I remember was stumbling to the girls toilets… the rest I only know from what Raquel and Greta have told me. Story has it that after 45 minutes had passed; Raquel was starting to worry and texted asking where I’d gone. She managed to decipher from my broken messages that I was still in the bathroom. Raquel and Greta eventually found me slumped in a cubicle, still sat on the toilet with my knickers and trousers around my ankles, passed out on my own shoulder. After half an hour of coaxing me to stand up, they finally hoisted me off the toilet and pulled my trousers back up. One arm around each of them, they attempted to carry me out of the bathroom. 

Just as we were about to cross the threshold back into the main bar I shouted in outrage, “I’m not going out there! My flaps are hanging out!” 

The bouncer outside the toilet door shifted uncomfortably.

“What?!” asked Raquel, straining from holding up my weight.

“My flaps! They’re hanging out…it doesn’t look good” I slurred. 

What I was actually referring to was the body I was wearing. The poppers that secure the bodysuit at the crotch were undone and the two ‘flaps’ of material were hanging out over the top of my trousers. Not a great look.

For fuck sake Jess, you have vomit all in your hair and you can’t walk and yet you think your bodysuit is the problem here?!” yelled Raquel. 

“Well duh yeah…its embarrassing” I hiccupped. Utter disbelief flashed across Raquel’s face and with that she pushed me up against the bathroom wall and furiously stuffed my ‘flaps’ back down inside my trousers. 

Once we were out of the bathroom, the bouncer escorted me off the premises and we got an Uber back to my house share in Elephant & Castle. Raquel and Greta, the fantastic friends that they are, then stripped me off and ran me a bath. It still scares me to this day that I have zero recollection of them taking my clothes off. Once naked, they hoisted me in the bath and began washing me, whilst I garbled to myself in a dream like state, “Smells like spaghetti Bolognese… with Parmesan.” I know this, because as Greta kindly washed the vomit out of my hair, Raquel was taking great pleasure in filming me. Yep, there is video evidence of me; a grown woman being bathed by her friends, nipples out, mascara smeared across my face, singing Natasha Bedingfield’s, ‘I Bruise Easily.’ You can’t make this shit up.

Apparently, having seriously questionable song choices when heartbroken and drunk is a common reoccurrence of mine. When Dennis (my second significant relationship in recent years) broke up with me, I went out on a boozy brunch with Raquel to take my mind off things. It was a fun day. If you consider fun to be watching me smash back cheap prosecco, burst into random fits of tears, face plant my friend Jonny’s lap in the middle of the bar and pass out. Topped off with me stumbling down Clapham Common in the rain, wrestling with an umbrella, whilst tunelessly singing Frankee’s, ‘Fuck You Right Back’ at the top of my lungs. Again, thanks to Raquel, there is also video footage of this precious moment. “Fuck all those nights you thought you broke my back, well guess what yo, your (hiccup) sex was whack…” You can thank me later for having that stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Not too long after my breakup with Dennis I went to a bottomless brunch in Shoreditch for Greta’s birthday. The original plan was to make the most of the two-hour slot and then head home for an early night. LOL. I ended up getting completely wasted with my friend, Karlos. It was 5pm and whilst everyone else headed out of the brunch and turned left to go to Blues Kitchen, Karlos and I paused, shrugged our shoulders and turned right…

The next thing I remember was waking up at Raquel’s flat the next morning, stamps on one hand, a wristband on the other and a bruise the size of a satsuma on my upper arm.

“What happened?!” I asked Raquel, rubbing my throbbing head.

“I’m not too sure, Jess. After the brunch you went AWOL for three hours then turned up outside Blues Kitchen at 8pm with Karlos, both absolutely wasted. They refused you entry so we all came out and went to a different bar.”

I groaned. “Did I do anything stupid?” I asked, scrambling to find my phone to check I hadn’t messaged any ex-boyfriends.

“Well you seemed fine at the next place we went to. Until you saw some girl that knew Dennis, then you were literally hanging off of her crying.” Oh, Christ.

When Karlos turned up at the flat a couple hours later I begged him to recount what had happened in the three hours in between the brunch and Blues Kitchen. He said his memory was hazy but from evidence on his phone, we had gone to three different bars (that would explain the multitude of stamps on my hands). There was a video from the first bar where I’d managed to get down into the basement and harass the DJ setting up for the night ahead. There were photos from the second bar of me draped over Karlos surrounded by empty shot glasses. Of course. And then there was Karlos’s memory of the third place where we were sold a bottle of wine and three shots for £10. This is where I attempted the jump from Dirty Dancing, obviously missing Karlos completely and landing onto a table surrounded by an unsuspecting hen party. That would explain the bruise.

One night after going out with Raquel, I woke up at 5am the next morning, climbed out of bed and stood in front of my bedroom mirror in the semi-darkness. I had just had my hair and nails done the day before to make myself feel good again. I didn’t. I stared at my reflection and burst into tears. My self-esteem had reached an all time low. I had never felt so unattractive and unwanted in all my life. I actually stood blaming the girl who looked back at me for somehow being the reason that every man I’d ever loved had left me. Raquel woke up and looked across the room at me slumped on the floor by the mirror, not knowing what to say. This wasn’t an ordinary hangover. My heart was broken. The alcohol was only fuelling my anxieties, its numbing effect was only temporary and the crushing realism of everything would hit me with full effect the next day. I decided from that day on to go teetotal until I started to feel like me again and could actually go out without breaking down in tears.

After a couple months of going alcohol free, I started to feel a little better about things and decided that I’d have a few drinks for Jonny’s birthday at a bar in Shoreditch. I was actually enjoying myself, surrounded by friends, laughing, dancing, with no thoughts of Dennis invading my mind. I’m not sure if it was the drink or just the good mood I was in, but as the night was drawing to an end and the bar staff started cleaning up, a bit of the old Jess sparked up inside me…

Feeling an adrenaline rush, I climbed up on to a beer pong table (standard), and locked eyes with the attractive bar manager, who smiled nervously, his eyes flicking towards the security guard. I grabbed a Flash bleach bottle from the side and began serenading my unsuspecting victim to Frank Sinatra’s, New York, New York, using the bleach bottle as a microphone prop. My friends cheered me on as I contorted my body into what I hoped were dramatic cabaret style dance moves (definitely not). As I reached the grand finale, I theatrically knelt up on the table, flung my head back and fist pumped the ceiling; spritzing bleach into the bar manager’s face. Shit.

“NEW YORRRRKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!” 

The bar erupted into applause. I clambered off the beer pong table and bowed. And even though my attempts at seduction had definitely failed and I was escorted off the premises, I’d had a great night and for the first time in months, I didn’t feel sad. 

And that’s when it hit me. Drinking could be fun but it wasn’t the answer to healing my broken heart and neither was finding a replacement boyfriend. Over the years I had placed so much into needing a man to feel loved that I had been blind to how much love actually surrounded me from the good, constant people in my life. The people who turned up on my doorstep with a McDonalds and heart shaped balloons when I wouldn’t eat. The people who would text me every morning for four months just to ask how I was feeling. The people who were there at arrivals when I broke down at Heathrow airport after a 28-hour flight back from Australia. These were the people who healed my broken heart. So, let’s raise a Hendricks to them. My Mum and Dad, my gorgeous siblings, Ella, Raquel, Jonny and all my other amazing, supportive friends, you guys are the true loves of my life. 

So now over a year on from my break up with my last boyfriend, Dennis, I see a different reflection in the mirror. I see an independent, better-rounded woman, who’s content and grateful for the people in her life. A woman I’m now proud of.

The Man with the Mo

Beware the man with the mo, that cheeky little so and so.

He’ll take you out on a first date, surprising you with his hairy nose mate.

You’ll spend the next 4 hours drinking, laughing and interacting, despite his mouthbrow being awfully distracting.

What a lovely evening it will be, you won’t want it to end. It’ll become obvious this hairy dude is more than just a friend.

So into his pockets will go, his wallet and phone, he’ll hoist you up and carry you home.

He’ll tickle your top lip when he gives the tongue the slip. You’ll tell him watch himself, behave! But he still won’t bloody shave.

You’ll taste his drunken midnight snack – is that a Maccy D’s Big Mac?? You’ll get all fun and flirty and start to think a ‘tache could be kinda dirty…

Then you’ll get a surprising feeling, this 80s pornstar seems suddenly appealing. 

And so they grow, the feelings and the mo. You realise this man ain’t so bad; he’s just supporting his fellow bros.

– JLW, 2018