Tag Archives: Relationships

The Boyfriend Diaries: Darren

Trigger warning: this blog post contains references of emotional abuse and toxic relationships.

***

April 2008. Three months into my relationship with Arnold, I was introduced to Darren. I remember attending art college one day and my friend, Claudia showing me a photo on Facebook. He immediately stood out to me. Tall, blonde and dressed in a luminous hoody and matching tracksuit bottoms, phwoar. Turns out he was Claudia’s boyfriend’s cousin and she arranged to have us both introduced. And that was the end of Arnold. 

One evening, a week or so after being first introduced to Darren; I left my house to meet him on a bench on the village green. We ended up sitting for an hour in the cold talking. As I went to leave, Darren leaned in to kiss me goodbye; he smelt of weed and aftershave. I then watched him swagger off down the street. I was immediately drawn to his ‘bad boy’ persona. We were worlds apart, I knew that. I was your typical good girl at school and wouldn’t have said boo to a goose, and Darren was, well… the opposite, really. But they do say opposites attract. 

So, Darren and I started to see each other and quite quickly became official. My routine consisted of college, my part-time supermarket job, and spending any free time with Darren. Which mostly involved sitting in his bedroom (whilst he smoked weed), going to one of his friends’ houses (so that he could smoke weed) or else walking from one end of the town to other (so he could pick up weed). At the time I just went along with it because I was besotted with Darren. Never mind the amount of passive smoke I was inhaling or how the weed seemed to give Darren paranoia which often resulted in outbursts of unprecedented rage…

A lot of the time Darren would be what people would consider affectionate and loving, but his rages came frequent enough. Sometimes he would shout, scream and spit out expletives at inanimate objects and other times it would be at me or another poor, unexpecting soul who was in the vicinity. Darren felt that he had been dealt a bad hand in life and harboured so much anger inside and at the world. I tried to suggest ways in which he could help himself, like to enrol in college or an apprenticeship. But forever the pessimist, he would always come up with a reason why he couldn’t. Darren was one of those people who could never accept responsibility to change his own life, there was always something or someone else to blame.

Darren didn’t like institutions. He disliked the government; he disliked the police, to be honest he disliked most things that weren’t marijuana. He didn’t ‘believe’ in banks (no doubt paranoid that Santander was conspiring against him). Instead he kept all his cash from his wages in an old trainer box under his bed. God forbid there was a fire or robbery. I really do hope that nowadays Darren believes in banks (and interest) or otherwise has at least stowed his shoebox in a safe in his house. 

Darren would often refer to me as his ‘missus’. I recoil when I think about that now. Why do men think it’s acceptable to refer to their partners as something which is considered an add-on to their own identity? And whilst we’re on the topic, other derogatory names to avoid calling women, include ‘bird’ and ‘chick’. I cannot stand when men (especially men I do not know) refer to me as ‘darlin’. How about ‘shut the fuck up you patronising git, you’ve probably got the emotional intelligence of a gnat’. But Darren also had other pet names for me, which included (but were not limited to), ‘slut’, ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’. Whenever I got dressed up to go out with friends, he would call me these names as I walked out the front door. And the worse thing about it, was that I let him.

Although I think it was the weed that brought on Darren’s paranoia and consequently his outbursts, as you can imagine, throwing alcohol into the equation only exacerbated things. One time on a night out, Darren got drunk and was arguing, or mostly just shouting abuse at random people. He then turned his attention on me. Anyone that knows me will know that I hate confrontation, I don’t believe in loud slanging matches and prefer a more reasonable approach. My usual reaction to Darren would have been just to cry, but this time I must have told him where to go. He completely lost his rag at this and threatened to punch me in the face. I didn’t really think he would do it and all his friends were clinging on to him, holding his arms back so he couldn’t even if he tried. He had never physically hurt me before, but his eyes flashed with intoxicated fury as he spat out abuse at me. At that point in time I honestly couldn’t say whether he was capable of it or not. And that thought scared me.  

Not much longer after that incident I came back home from university for a weekend. It was Sunday morning and I was lying on Darren’s bed whilst he was in the middle of a rage and there was just a lot of the usual shouting and thumping of the walls. There was a time in the beginning where these outbursts would cause me so much distress that I’d leave his house shaking in tears. But at that moment, I felt nothing. I’d become desensitised to his rampages; they didn’t touch me anymore. Just being in Darren’s presence made me feel numb, I no longer cared. All the while he screamed, I was sat silent staring off into the distance. He punched the wall one more time and I said nothing but got out of bed pulled on my clothes and walked out the room. He called after me as I walked out the front door, but I didn’t answer him. Darren didn’t know it yet, but that was the moment I realised I didn’t love him anymore, I didn’t even like him. The next time I saw Darren was to break up with him.

***

I’ve never been one to approach guys in public, but whenever I go through a breakup, I seem to get this weird dose of confidence. It’s like the worse has already happened so I just think, what the hell. A couple weeks after my breakup with Darren was my Graduation Ball at university, and a well known UK band were playing. I remember feeling an odd sense of relief and freedom as I danced whilst watching the stage. I was young, tipsy, and the guitarist was hot. Later that night, tired and drunk I followed Guitarist Guy on Twitter and sent him a flirtatious tweet.

The next day I woke up and was mortified at what I had said. I went to go and delete the tweet when I noticed that Guitarist Guy had replied. Interesting. I then searched for his personal Facebook profile. What the hell, I thought, and added him. Not long afterwards he accepted my request. We exchanged flirty messages which got progressively more suggestive as the days went by. We then Skyped each other. Guitarist Guy asked if I’d come and see him in London, where he would do all manner of bad things to me. Christ, I wanted those bad things. So, one day without telling a soul where I was going, I booked a train from Nottingham to London. Guitarist Guy came and met me at Warwick Avenue and took me to dinner at a cute Italian place. Afterwards we walked back to his flat in Maida Vale, where we spent the night having sex. When we weren’t having sex, he showed me demos of his upcoming songs. Jesus, was I a groupie?! The next morning, Guitarist Guy took me to the station, and I got a train back home.

I never saw Guitarist Guy again (although not from lack of him trying once he saw that I’d moved to London) and in hindsight I should have told someone where I was going. But my one-night fling with Guitarist Guy made me feel sexy and confident in my newfound singledom. I was 22, just graduated from university and I was looking forward to what my future held. I just needed to get through the holiday first. Holiday? you say. Yep. Months prior to breaking up with Darren we’d booked a holiday together. That’s right, a two-week, all-inclusive vacation to the other side of the Atlantic, just Darren and myself. What could possibly go wrong… 

We had been paying off the holiday in instalments for months, so, understandably, neither of us were willing to give up their place for free. By the same token, neither of us could find someone else to buy the other person out. So, I decided to be mature and say that I was happy to go as friends, if he was. 

“Fine.” said Darren. “But I hope I get eaten by a shark, so I don’t have to come home afterwards.” He was deadly serious. 

I bit my bottom lip. I’m glad this was resolved over the phone so he couldn’t see my face.

So off to Mexico we went. Apart from a few minor tiffs we were getting on OK. Not in a romantic sense, God no, I’d firmly shut that door, but in a way that was bearable for two weeks. The hotel and beach were beautiful and the all you could eat buffet and unlimited alcohol was a bonus (Darren made full use of that). We even did a couple of excursions including a boat cruise, where Darren won a bottle of tequila. Maybe this wasn’t such a terrible idea after all. 

Then, one evening, I left the pool area early to get ready for dinner. After three hours Darren still hadn’t come back to the room. I was hungry and starting to get annoyed, where was he?! Then as I opened the door to go and find him, there was Darren, stood in front of me, his pants down by his ankles, laughing and crying. He was wasted. Fuck sake Darren. I pulled him into the room and told him to get a shower and sober up, whilst I sat on the end of the bed angrily waiting for him to get ready. 

After a few minutes I heard a lot of cranking coming from the bathroom so went to see what he was playing at. Darren was stood fully dressed in the shower and had decided to lean his full weight on the shower head which had promptly fell off the wall, sending water jets shooting off in all directions. “What are you doing?!” I shouted at him, trying to angle the shower head as it was beginning to flood the whole bathroom. He let out a drunken sob and went to say something but instead vomited all over himself and the shower.

Both drenched in water and vomit, I told him to pull himself together and go to the toilet if he needed to be sick again, whilst I sorted out this mess. As I wrestled with the showerhead and mopped up the sick, I heard retching from the other room. I poked my head around the corner to see Darren sat on the toilet, projectile vomiting on to the opposite wall. Motherfucker.

It was the last day of the holiday and we were in our room packing our suitcases before heading off to the airport. I watched as Darren carefully wrapped his prized bottle of tequila in not one, not two, but five t-shirts in order to protect it whilst in transit. I watched him place the wrapped bottle on the edge of the bed whilst he bent down to make a snug place for it in his case. I watched almost in slow motion, as he turned around and his arm caught the edge of the bed causing the bottle to slip… and audibly smash on the floor. 

Silence. I daren’t move or make a sound. I watched Darren as he stared at the syrupy pile of t-shirts and broken glass. Then, very slowly, he raised his head to the heavens, his eyes bulging in anger (I braced myself) and in a deathly whisper, he breathed, “Why…. Why. Fucking. Me?” I held my breath. I must not laugh. Why anyone, Darren? Ever considered that.

To be fair, the holiday could have been a lot worse. Darren could have gotten eaten by a shark. But he didn’t, and we landed back in the UK and went our separate ways. Luckily, I have since had a more enjoyable and meaningful trip to Mexico. Salud!

***

For a long time, I didn’t consider Darren’s behaviour in our relationship as abusive. He did some lovely and romantic things in our time together, but these were always overshadowed by him saying something insulting or intimidating to me. There is no way to sugar coat it, it was verbal and emotional abuse. Just because a person can be loving and affectionate at other times does not discount the ways in which they have harmed or manipulated you. It’s strange how your feelings for someone can almost hoodwink you into thinking the way they treat you is OK. But the way Darren spoke to me and intimidated me was not OK. It is not normal and so we should not normalise it. It took me almost three years, but I’m glad that I finally realised and had the strength to walk away from this toxic relationship. It is undeniable that Darren had his own demons and I truly hope that he was able to see someone about that, but that is not an excuse to project that pain on to others.

I heard through the grapevine that Darren is now married and settled down. I don’t claim to know anything about his life or him now as a person, but I do hope that he has found peace within himself and that he is happy. I hope he doesn’t harbour the same anger inside of him and more than anything I hope he now treats the women in his life with respect, kindness and compassion. 

***

Between the ages of 16 – 22 I was constantly in and out of relationships; a consistent relay of boyfriends, with me as the baton being passed on to the next boy. When one relationship ended, the next boyfriend was always ready and waiting at the start line. I spent my early adult years not knowing how to be on my own or even what I was like as an individual without being part of a couple. After my breakup with Darren it would be three years before I met my next boyfriend, Seb, at the age of 25. And in all honesty, I don’t think I knew real love until then. Those early relationships were based on an exhilarating recipe of hormones, lust and the thrill of arguments and make-up sex. It was all only ever puppy love. And not to sound heartless, but they were all disposable; easily replaced with the next boy who could give me that dopamine hit.

Those intervening years as a young, single woman, before I met Seb, were particularly defining in shaping the person I am today. Outside of romantic relationships, those years hold some of my darkest days where I battled with depression and struggled finding my sense of self, which ultimately led me to one of my biggest life decisions of moving to London. One of, if not the best things I ever did for myself.

God knows that I am not the same person I was ten or even five years ago. I have better knowledge of myself and the world around me, experiences good and bad have shaped me, and I’ve learnt resilience in the face of certain life challenges; as we all do. So, whilst I can appreciate that my ex-boyfriends are probably not the same men now as they were back when I dated them, I am also eternally grateful that none of those relationships worked out.  Some of the reasons were blatantly obvious at the time and others I only recognised with the wonder of hindsight. That whether I knew it at the time or not, I did not settle. And for that, I am thankful. I’m looking forward to meeting my person – but until then, I refuse to settle for anything less.

Platform 2, London Victoria

December 2019. I had just arrived back in London from the most amazing trip to Mexico. After my breakup with B, it was the perfect time to get away and gain a bit of distance and perspective. I flew into Cancun and from there travelled to the chilled, vibrant island of Holbox. Next, I set off to the old Spanish colonial town of Valladolid and then to the paradise beaches of Tulum, finally ending my trip in the beautiful lake town of Bacalar. I stayed in hostels for the first time in years, since travelling down the east coast of Australia, back in 2013. I had one eyelid always marginally open keeping a watchful eye on weird, Netflix Guy in our dorm. It was 30 degrees outside, but he spent all the daylight hours watching his iPad in bed. He was obviously a vampire (and the not the Edward Cullen, sparkly kind).

I enjoyed spending quality time with my brother and meeting new people along the way. I lost count of the number of tacos I consumed, and subsequently the number of times I had to run to the bathroom due to a disagreeable ‘al pastor’. I waded through the sea in the rain for an hour to find flamingos, only to see one vibrant pink blur flying away in the distance. I discovered I disliked Mezcal as much as I did tequila, and ate a questionable brownie, supplied by a hippy, resulting in me being put to bed at 8pm. We went sailing with a dog as sea captain and paddle boarding in crystal, turquoise waters. It felt good to get away from the hustle and bustle of London life, to not bother blow drying my hair or wearing a scrap of makeup; where my biggest decision was whether to have banana with my Nutella crepe that day or not (yes, always yes).

Did a part of me hope that B would be there at Heathrow arrivals to greet me and say that he wanted me back?…Yes, absolutely. Did this happen? No, of course not. Because this is not a Christmas rom com with an ‘and they lived happily ever after’ ending, or my sister’s life; where that did actually happen (with her now husband). No, this was my life, and stuff like that just never happens. So, I landed back in London after almost three weeks away, incredibly jet-lagged and dragged my (over-packed and excessively heavy) backpack across the underground, back to reality.

***

B and I had stayed loosely in contact over the two and half months since we’d broken up. I saw him once before I went to Mexico and we had messaged each other sporadically whilst I was away. It had been over a month since I last saw him and he had since turned 30, so we agreed to meet up and go for a drink to celebrate his birthday.

It was the week before Christmas, after work on a Monday, and I nervously waited by the entrance to Market Hall Victoria. I was living at my aunt’s place in Kent until the new year, when I’d be moving into a new flat back in London, and B had suggested it would be best to meet somewhere near my train station. The doors opened and I watched B walk towards me. I felt a physical pang of longing as I saw his familiar glasses and smile. We hugged each other tightly; this had been the longest time that we hadn’t seen one another. 

The evening went just how I expected it to. We drank, we ate, we laughed, it was so good to see him again. Several times throughout the evening we held each other’s gaze a little longer than we perhaps should have, my hand reached up to caress his face probably one too many times, and he stroked my hand from across the table, no doubt against his better judgement. It was useless trying to be just his friend; it felt like we were two magnets being forced apart. I started to get tearful, asking him the same question: but why weren’t we together? 

B suggested we go for a walk. Once outside in the fresh evening air, he enveloped me in a hug. He explained that he still needed to do what he needed to do. I nodded. I knew he did, I just couldn’t get my head around why I couldn’t be a part of it. We had only been together five months, so why was it that over two months later it still felt as raw. It felt like our time together had been wrongly cut short. I pulled away from B and looked up at him, our faces inches apart. B sensing what could happen pulled me back into his chest and away from his lips. 

“Would it really be so awful to kiss me?” I asked.

“No, it wouldn’t… but I don’t want to lead you on, Jess. It’s not fair on you and it’s not fair on me,” he whispered into my ear.

“It wouldn’t hurt me,” I mumbled into his coat.

“But it would hurt me,” he replied quietly. 

“C’mon let’s get you on a train.” B said taking my hand and leading me to the station.

I felt the unfairness of it all well up inside me. “Oh, fine then, let’s just ship me off home! So much easier than just talking to me!” I said, dropping his hand and stomping off down the street.

“Well that’s a bit sassy, c’mon Jess, that’s not fair.”

“No, I’ll tell you what’s not fair, all of…this!” I said, gesturing between the two of us. Anger and hurt pulsed through me. Tears began to form in my eyes, “What hurts me is us not being together.”

Out of nowhere B swooped down and kissed me, stopping me mid-sentence. My breath caught in my chest and I melted into his arms; all of the nerve-endings on my body screamed with pleasure and longing.

After a few seconds B gently pulled away and I sheepishly smiled at him. Next thing I knew, he had picked me up and started to carry me into the station. I wrapped my legs around his waist and joked that he was making a scene. B only put me back down again once we were in the middle of the station concourse. We both laughed with tears glistening in our eyes. It was almost 10pm and London Victoria was still heaving with people. Commuters ran across the concourse with seconds to spare before catching their trains home. Holidaymakers wheeled heavy suitcases around in circles staring up at the departures board. Parents fought to drag screaming toddlers through the barriers and down into the underground. An electronic reindeer was playing ‘Jingle Bells’ on repeat, whilst tears began to roll down my cheeks. It was a surreal moment. It felt like B and I stood opposite each other; frozen in time, whilst the station’s hectic atmosphere was on fast-forward around us.

I looked up at the departures board. My 10.10pm train was delayed, and the platform number hadn’t been announced yet. 

“I don’t know what to do.” I sobbed to B. “It’s been over two months since we broke up and I feel like I can’t move on. We message each other at least once a week and I feel guilty even thinking of trying to date again, like I’d be cheating on you! Which I know is ridiculous!”

“I know…I feel the same way,” replied B. “How can I help, Jess? Do you want me to text you less? Text you more? Tell me what to do.”

“I don’t know… all I know is the thought of not having you in my life at all kills me, but at the moment all I’m getting is crumbs, and I deserve more than that. I deserve the whole cake.”

And I did, I really did. I deserved to find someone who felt as strongly about me as I did them; someone who wanted to be with me against all the odds. I deserved to find my person. If B didn’t want to be that person, shouldn’t I give myself the opportunity to find someone who did? 

My train was still delayed. 

“Do you love me?” I tentatively asked B.

“Jess, you can’t ask me that.”

“I know, you’re right. I’m sorry.” I sighed. I never really knew how B felt about me. I knew he had strong feelings; otherwise we wouldn’t have even been in this situation. But I honestly couldn’t say if he felt about me the way I did about him. It felt like I’d never know. I didn’t know how long I could hold on to him (both literally and metaphorically), I knew it wasn’t healthy. I’d have to eventually make my peace with it; to let him go and try and move on.

The tannoy announced that the delayed 10.10pm train was due in at platform 2. B pulled me into him and gently kissed me before urging me through the ticket barriers. I reluctantly broke away from him, trying to drink everything up about this moment. My eyes searched his… would this be the last time we saw each other? I wanted him to give me answers; to tell me what I wanted to hear. Instead, we smiled at each other; I scanned my ticket and walked through the barriers.

I walked towards platform 2; my heart heavy in my chest. I thought B would have left, but out of the corner of my eye I saw him walking round to the next set of ticket barriers; the ones closest to me. We both walked up to the barrier, until only the main gate stood between us, our bodies pressed up on each side against the cold metal. B pulled me into him as much as he physically could, and I wrapped my arms around his neck; kissing him tenderly goodbye. The electronic ‘Jingle Bells’ continued to play in the background; maybe this was a bad Christmas rom com. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care that everyone on the concourse and the platform could see us; all that mattered in that moment was just the two of us.

And then my train pulled into platform 2, and it stopped. 

“Merry Christmas, Jess,” whispered B, stepping back from the gate.

“Merry Christmas, B,” I replied. 

And with that, B walked away towards the underground, glancing every few seconds over his shoulder at me. I turned on my heel and walked towards my train and away from the man I love.

GUEST POST: Me, Myself and Identity

Written by Rebecca N.

Hi, Classic Jess’s sister here. You’ll be hearing from me occasionally, giving another outlook on feminism, sex, relationships and general life.

Unfortunately, you won’t be hearing of any Adonis sexcapades from me as we’re not all that fricking lucky. Instead, I’ll be delving into other aspects of my life, from having the ‘perfect’ married life and holding up to the ideals my family has placed on my relationship, to sexual awakenings, sex parties and BDSM workshops.

There’s a lot to cover so it’ll be over a series of blog posts. For now, I wanted to touch on the beginning of my marriage. The BDSM stuff comes later…

A little over a year ago, I was battling with myself constantly in the run up to my wedding. Was I being completely anti-feminist, playing into the patriarchal institution of marriage? Traditionally speaking, your dad ‘gives you away’ to another man. You are then owned by that man. And to ensure everyone knows it, you take his name as well; you are quite literally stamped by his ownership in the marriage certificate. WTF?

Back when I was 25 and newly engaged, I didn’t consider any of this. Admittedly, I got caught up in the excitement, the idea of having a big party with my nearest and dearest, and of course, being the centre of attention. Before I was engaged, I hadn’t really thought about getting married. It wasn’t something I’d ever strongly desired. I wasn’t bothered by the marshmallow dress, the fruitcake, and the ten bridesmaids. I did always like the idea of having a heavy diamond ring on my finger though… Anyway, as I said, it wasn’t ever a big thing for me, but once P popped the question and after I told him to fuck off a couple of times (I was in shock), I said yes, and then proceeded to get very excited about it all.

But once the initial excitement died down, once we’d had the engagement party and booked a venue, and once I’d asked my sister and bestie to be my bridesmaids, I was left with questions. What the hell am I doing?! Isn’t this against everything I stand for? How could I so easily and quickly throw my feminist values away?

For the record, I am a loud and proud feminist. Definitely a guilty feminist, though. I have been known to try and eat bananas seductively whilst in the presence of men, and I have definitely had unflattering thoughts about other women. But I’m trying my hardest to unlearn patriarchal behaviours that society has thrust upon us since the day we were born, and this has led to intense anxiety around my acceptance of a marriage proposal.

During the year leading up to my wedding, the question I most struggled with was, ‘Do I keep my surname, or take P’s?’. I made a mental pros and cons list. Pros: He has a cool surname, if we ever have kids then we’ll all have the same name, I like the way my signature looks with the new surname. Cons: It is steeped in the old school tradition of ownership, I would lose a piece of my own identity, I shouldn’t have to lose my lovely, double-barrelled surname.

It was the idea of losing a piece of my own identity that hit me the most. For 28 years, I’d moved through life being sure of myself, who I was, and what I stood for. I recognise that I’m very fortunate in that respect. So when it was presumed I would change my name, I struggled. To give P credit, he never made that assumption and he always made it clear that he would be happy with any decision I made. No, it was mainly other people’s presumptions of what moniker I should be going by.

So I struggled. Should I cast off my old name for the happy label of Mrs X, as if proclaiming “Forget who I was before! I am now Smug Married, I am loved and owned by a MAN!” Or should I keep my name, forgoing tradition and expectations? Who would I even become, if I were to take a new name?

After months of internal torment, I came to the realisation that I did, in fact, want to take P’s name, and that my struggle was really with how I might be perceived by other feminists. I felt so guilty. There I was shouting about the next wave of feminism, yet at the same time I was getting married and changing my name. It became less about my identity and my literal names, and more about how I identified as a feminist. I needed to try and marry (excuse the pun) my feminist values with my acceptance of P’s proposal.

So I decided to change the way I saw marriage. I decided I didn’t need to adhere to any traditions, and instead of playing into its roots of ownership, I would work with my partner to realise our own version of marriage. 

By taking P’s name, I also decided that I was adding another aspect to my identity. It wasn’t going to take away from who I was before, and it certainly didn’t change who I was or what I stood for. It was merely another chapter in my life. The next part of my story. A public declaration that I really liked my new signature.

The choice to marry is deeply personal, and so is a change in name. But when publicly performed, they become statements of implied social values and virtues. Many of us now have the power to choose what those values and virtues are. We have greater scope to challenge and reshape the gendered norms of marriage. Yes, you can say I played into the societal norm of taking my partner’s name once married. But I would argue I only did that after researching and debating the subject, and having the self-empowerment to make that decision for myself; a true feminist act.

I’m still a guilty feminist. I’m sure I’ll still flirt with the barman to score a free drink, claim “I’m cramping!” to get out of any physical activity, and suggestively suck on phallic fruit for shits and gigs.

But I’m also still sure I am a feminist. I am sure of the role it plays in my relationship and marriage, and what it means as part of my identity. To anyone considering marriage, whatever you want to do; take his name, don’t take his name, have a civil partnership, don’t get married at all… I salute your own decision, your own choice.

The One That Got Away – Part 2

The next morning, I cancelled my birthday drinks and took the first train out of London back to my Dad’s. Tears silently rolled down my cheeks for the full two-hour journey. Was it really over? It didn’t feel right to be over. Dad was waiting for me at the station. I didn’t say anything, just walked up to him and he held me for five minutes whilst I sobbed into his jumper. Once back home, I took myself upstairs and slept for most of the Saturday afternoon, my dad bringing me cups of tea every couple of hours. So British. I hibernated there for the rest of the weekend. It took all my energy to head back to London on the Monday and face the reality of a potential break up.

True to my word, I gave B his space to think. After a couple of days of radio silence, I decided to bite the bullet and message him to ask if he would like a phone call; just to talk. B agreed to the phone call on the Tuesday evening. As we talked it was like nothing was different, even laughing at a couple of each other’s jokes. B suggested we meet in person on the Thursday. Maybe B meant for me to be comforted by the call, but as I went to sleep that night something niggled at the back of my mind. He’s already made his decision, Jess. He just hasn’t told you yet.

That week I couldn’t sleep or eat. I lost half a stone in 10 days. My eczema flared up on my hands – a true sign that I was stressed out. It didn’t help that the flat I had been living in for the past two years in Southwest London; once my safe haven was now somewhere I dreaded going back home to. I’d had some tense encounters with my flatmates over the past few weeks and in all honesty, I couldn’t see a way back from it. I tried to keep myself busy with work, but I felt distracted.

One lunchtime whilst sat in the breakout room, Margaret was watching me absentmindedly stirring my rice on my plate. “I know you really care about him, Jess, but there’s plenty more fish in the sea.” I looked up from my plate and paused. “Yeah… but he was my fish, Mags” I said.

By Thursday I was a nervous wreck. I had convinced myself that it was all over and B was only going to confirm that horrible truth to me that night. 5pm hit and my phone flashed up with a message from B saying that preparations for his event that weekend were running over and he’d have to work late. He apologised and asked if we could reschedule until the Sunday, and in the meantime, he would call me later that night.

That evening I waited nervously for B to call. 10pm came and he hadn’t called. 10.30pm, still nothing. By 11pm I’d had enough and decided to call B instead. It went straight to answerphone. Hot tears streamed down my face. It was 11.30pm before I gave up hope of a call and went to sleep. The next morning, I sent B a message telling him how I knew he was busy but that I was really hurting, and it felt like he’d already made his decision, and nothing indicated that it was one that which involved me. B read the message but didn’t reply.

Later that day I headed to my mum’s place for the weekend. The whole of that Friday went by with no reply from B. Saturday came and went with still no response. I stared at the two blue ticks feeling anger and hurt pulsing through me. I don’t understand, this was so out of character for him. Why was he treating me like this??

Dad dropped by Mum’s that weekend. When in crisis, call in the cavalry. I sat across from him in my pyjamas, staring at my phone screen.

“You will be OK, Jess. You’ve done it before, and you’ll do it again. You’re strong, stronger than you give yourself credit for,” he said.

“I know…but I don’t want to keep doing it, Dad. I’m so sick of getting hurt. My heart can’t take it,” I whispered.

“Well, that’s one of the most beautiful things about you. Despite having been hurt, you haven’t become a cynic. You let yourself fall in love again, and that’s a brave and wonderful thing.”

Would help if the guy felt the same way though.

I listened to my mum on the phone to my sister. She was currently in Next with her husband and was asking about different sofas for their new house. God, our lives are so different. Dad was watching me.

“Y’know Jess, if you wanted to have a baby on your own…I’d be OK with that,” he soothed, tentatively.

I stopped sniffing abruptly and roughly wiped my face. “What’s that got to do with anything?!” I asked, perplexed.

“Nothing… I’m just putting it out there,” he replied, holding up his hands defensively.

I rolled my eyes. Like my biggest concern right now was whether my father minded if I had a child out of wedlock.

I later found out that this stemmed from a whole conservation my dad had with my aunt on the opinion that if I had a baby (donor sperm or otherwise) all my problems would be solved! (On hearing this I manically laughed at the ludicrousness of this conversation, if only to stop myself from crying). When was it that my parents went from doing anything to make sure I didn’t get impregnated to practically shoving pamphlets for artificial insemination down my throat??

“Dad, this isn’t about kids! This is about losing my fish!”

He looked totally bewildered and I wandered off to wail at Mum instead.

On the Sunday evening, I still hadn’t heard from B. In a state of shock and hurt from his lack of response, I dragged myself back to London. He clearly had no intention of meeting me that day. It was 9pm when my phone flashed up with a call. It was B.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Jess? Oh Jess, I’m so sorry,” He said. “I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your message. I’ve just been so busy with the event and I know that’s not even an excuse. I have been thinking about you, but I just didn’t know what to say, and I’m sorry.”

I was emotionally exhausted. I just needed him to put me out of my misery. “B, please…just tell me. You’ve made your decision, haven’t you?”

“Yeah…yeah I have.” He replied. And I heard the tears catch in his throat.

It was over.

B and I agreed to meet in person to properly talk things through. So, on the Monday evening I ordered an Uber to B’s house. I wanted to be mad at him; mad for not replying to my messages when he knew I was distraught, mad for promising Switzerland then ending it only three days later. I wanted to be mad at him for making me believe that I’d finally met someone that felt the same way I did. I wanted to be so mad that I could scream at him at how fucking unfair this all was to happen, again. But when he answered the door and I saw his face; I felt my anger instantly evaporate. B wrapped his arms around me, and I inhaled his familiar scent. God, I couldn’t be mad at him. He had been stupid, and cruel even, not to reply to me, but I knew it was never to deliberately hurt me. I could see in his face that he was hurting too.

We went upstairs to B’s room. B sat on the bed and pulled me in between his legs, and I tucked myself under his arm. “I’m so sorry, Jess,” he said, tears beginning to form in his eyes. “I just have to do this.”

“I know…” I replied quietly. “I just wish I was a part of it. I really thought we had a future together.”

I looked up and held B’s gaze. He started to sob. “God, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, every time I look into your eyes I start crying!” he said, rubbing his face with his sleeve. I laughed softly even though tears were silently rolling down my face too.

“It’s fine, its OK to cry; I’ve been doing it all week!”

“I know, it’s just that I haven’t cried in years… and I can’t seem to stop now.”

B and I stayed on his bed for the next hour holding each other, tears falling, whispering memories and inside jokes to each other.

“It’s getting late, we should really get you home,” B said, softly.

“Can I stay here with you tonight?”

“Jess, you can’t. That’s not how this works.”

“Not to do anything, I just want you to hold me.”

“We can’t…I can’t…I’m sorry, Jess, it would just be too hard to then let you go.”

And then the realisation that this was really over hit me like a giant wave and I broke down in tears. “I don’t know if I have the strength to walk away from you and go home,” I managed in between rasping sobs.

B gently wiped the tears from under my eyes. “Ok…how about I come with you and I’ll put you to bed?” I nodded silently. B ordered an Uber and we sat in silence cuddled up in the back seat, my hand in his whilst he kissed my forehead.

At 11.30pm we arrived at my flat. B sat patiently waiting on my bed whilst I took my makeup off and undressed. He wrapped his arms around me from behind as I brushed my teeth. Once I was ready, B pulled back the duvet and let me climb into bed. He pulled up the covers and rested his head on my stomach, looking up at me through teary eyes. “Don’t ever forget how amazing, funny and beautiful you are, Jess.” B whispered.

“I don’t want to lose you completely,” I replied stroking his hair.

“And you won’t, I meant what I said. I’m not running out of the door, never to see you again. I promise.”

And with that B got to his feet, lent over and kissed me, and it felt like the world stopped.

He closed the door and I heard every step he took, as he made sure to walk and not run out of the flat. And my heart shattered, as I knew I loved him all the more for it.

***

When I was 24, I quit my job without having another lined up and moved to London. At the time I thought I was having a quarter-life crisis. I now recognise it as the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Now, it feels like I’m entering my third-life crisis. Losing B had turned my world upside down. The dream of a future I would no longer have had been pulled up from underneath me leaving me emotionally crumpled on the floor. I had to get out of my flat; I had to get out of London. So, in a desperate attempt to regain some control in my life, I called my landlord and told him I was moving out in three weeks. Instant relief flooded through me. Fuck it. I then picked up my laptop and booked flights to Mexico for the following month. My brother was currently out in Guatemala learning Spanish, so I planned to meet him in Mexico and travel down the Yucatán Peninsula together. I’ll be away for most of November, hopefully enough time to help sort my head and heart out.

The intervening weeks before moving out went by in blur. Flat viewings kept me occupied for a couple evenings. Once they were finished, I would head upstairs exhausted and be left with nothing but my own thoughts, usually resorting in me crying myself to sleep. I spent the days keeping busy at work and the evenings attempting to pack. B and I exchanged a few messages over this time, checking in on each other. It was amazing how a single message from him would lift my mood, and how if he didn’t reply it would crush me. The news filtered through my friendship groups resulting in a flood of supportive messages; offers of cooking me dinner or taking me out to lunch. They were all insistent that it was nothing I had done and any guy would be lucky to have me. A reminder of the amazing friends and family I have around me.

It was weird; I’d never had a break up like this before. Most of my previous relationships had ended because the guy had either cheated on me or treated me badly. I could use my anger at them as energy to get over them and move on with my life. This time was different. I still have a huge amount of respect for B. He taught me that there are good men out there; men that will treat you right. I want him to do what’s right for him; I want him to be happy.

I miss him so much. It’s funny how when you lose someone, certain words and intimate details you shared flick through your mind like a show reel of your relationship. Isabella Plantation, rhubarb gin, Pergola, yummy buns, belly button, Jeffries chicken burgers, grey hairs, Tooting Common, pain au raisins, Borough Market, pancakes with bacon, Kew Gardens, Oyster Bay, Daquiris, gritty bits, Tango Blasts, The Hurlingham Club, Longback, Littleback, Basement Sate, escalator kisses. All these little things, so insignificant to anyone else but carefully woven threads which formed a relationship between two people. Thoughts of them make me both happy and sad all at once.

So at the age of 31, for what felt like the hundredth time in my adult life; I boxed up all my belongings and moved out of my flat. The sexy black lingerie with its labels still intact was carefully folded and packed away. I left behind the small housewarming cacti from Dennis and donated the watch Seb had given me to a charity shop, but I took the orchid B had given to me. I felt weirdly protective of the orchid. Which is annoying as they are notoriously hard to keep alive.

I’m not mad at B for his decision. I’m sad for what could have been. I mean, what do you do when you’ve found your person, but it’s the wrong time? One evening whilst on the phone to my dad, he shared his wiser words of, “I really believe that if it’s meant to be and that if it’s true love, you will find a way back to each other, Jess.” Maybe this isn’t the end for B and I; maybe it’s only the beginning of our story. But I know for now, whilst B pursues his life dreams in other countries, I know I have to move on and live my own.

So, tomorrow I leave for Mexico, with just my passport and backpack. Any extra baggage? Just a broken heart.

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