THE WINNING LINES #9: Tales from my dating days (Valentine’s Edition)

I’ve never liked Valentine’s Day. I firmly believe that, if you love someone, you should show them every damn day.

Perhaps you’ve been admiring someone from afar for a while, and think that Valentine’s Day might be the day to show your hand? No. If you like them today, do something about it today. It might not work out, of course, but so much better to get on and get over it, rather than moping around until February 14th.

Anyway. It was Valentine’s Day and I had a boyfriend, although he is not the subject of this story.

That honour goes to an ex of mine. Well, I call him an ex although that’s rather misleading. We’d been seeing each other for a while, but never officially dated; every time we drew together he’d retreat (I’d usually hear him shouting: “I’m not ready for a relationship!” as he vanished into the distance.)

Tiring of this, eventually, I started dating someone else. But the ex (as it were) and I had stayed in touch, agreeing to just be friends.

Valentine’s Day arrived. The first post in my Facebook newsfeed was by my ex. He’d uploaded a video of himself, singing a song “for the woman I love, and have probably lost forever.”

“Oh dear”, I thought, when I saw it. “I wonder who that’s for?”

Then I checked into the website I ran (at the time). He’d posted the same thing there. Oh. It couldn’t possibly… could it?… he wouldn’t?…

On cue, the doorbell rang. The postman needed me to sign for a letter. Turns out, it was a Valentine’s card from my ex.

I watched the video again. Now, you may know “Wonderful Life”. It is a tremendous song, but possibly the worst choice of love song ever. It’s a song abut the singer: how lonely he was. How he needed a friend. How unfair it was. “Look at me”, said the lyrics, “Look at me standing here”. You learn nothing about the person he’s singing to.  Nothing.

None of this was about me: it was only about him. And he’d sent me a Valentine’s card, even though he knew full well I had a boyfriend. What did he think was going to happen, that I was going to immediately ditch my boyfriend and declare my undying love? Did he really think I was that shallow? That’s not love. I was merely a prize to be won, like I was a bloody goldfish at the fair.

I fumed for a while about how to respond. I started composing a restrained “Sorry, but you know I’m not available” text, when I checked Facebook again.

He’d updated his status again. Now it read: “Fuck this, I’m sick of waiting for a response, I’m going back to bed”.

Charming.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

SMALL CO-INCIDENCE THAT WILL NEVER BE MADE INTO A FILM BUT IS STILL QUITE CUTE NEVERTHELESS:

In 2012, it snowed.

Hard.

So hard, I was convinced I was going to die.

I was sitting in my friend’s lounge when the first snowflakes started falling. It was getting late, and it was a 60 mile drive home. Usually, I’d have crashed on their sofa, but I was working the next morning and needed to get home. Driving made sense.

It didn’t take long to regret that decision. The snow fell, heavier now. I struggled up hills, the wheels spinning. I was in the “Divorce Car”, the car I’d been left with when my marriage broke down; a car I hadn’t actually wanted, and couldn’t really afford to run as it was an ostentatious, petrol-guzzling monster of a thing. Plus, it was Rear-Wheel Drive, which I didn’t know is disastrous for snow.

I was now too far into the journey to turn back; at least I was near the motorway, which I assured myself would be gritted, and safer. I was wrong.

It was nearly midnight by the time I got onto the M25, the snow still falling so quickly and so heavily. The carriageway was icy, and I lost control of my car several times, the steering wheel jerking under my hands. I was crying as I drove, muttering an incantation that I hoped would save me (although I don’t know who I was offering it up to, given that I’m quite cheerfully atheist): “I can’t die. I’m a mum, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister, please don’t let me die.”

Then, I was catapulted across the carriageway.

The car spinning, in freefall, towards the central reservation.

Time slowed: “So, this is how it ends.” I thought. I apologised to my kids, that I wouldn’t be there to see them growing up. I thought of my mum and my sister. I wondered briefly if there was an afterlife, and if I was going to be reunited with my dad. I even took a moment to be sorry that I wouldn’t be going on a second date with a promising suitor*.

The car stopped, inches from the barrier, facing the wrong way into the traffic.

I exhaled, and burst into tears again.

I’d been driving for over 3 hours at this point. I gingerly turned the car around, kept driving, crying constantly now, and chanting my new mantra, “Please don’t let me die. Please don’t let me die.”

I eventually managed to wrestle the car off the motorway and, slowly, slowly, some of the way home.

At 4am, I admitted defeat. I couldn’t get the car up a hill, couldn’t turn round to go back down, couldn’t do anything other than abandon the car and walk the final 4 miles home.

As I walked, I fell into step with a man. We started chatting, as you do in weird situations; normal social conventions don’t apply. His name was Jamie and he was an interesting chap, ran an art gallery in town, lived over the other side of London but had got stuck visiting family. We chatted about this and that until we arrived at a house.

“I’m sorry I can’t walk you home”, he said, “but this is where I’m staying tonight.” He reached into his jacket, then handed me a business card, “Text me when you’re home so I know you got back safely”.

I got home some time after 5am. My Converse had frozen to my feet. I cried with relief for a while, and then collapsed into sleep.

Four years later, I was chatting with a lovely lady that I knew, a little. This time, we got onto the subject of art. She told me it’s her family’s passion, and that her son Jamie runs an art gallery in town.

“Oh”, I said, “I wonder if he remembers me? We met the last time it snowed”.

*************

*As it turns out, there was no second date, for reasons that will probably be explained in another post.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #10

We were in a restaurant. I put the menu on the table in front of me, and leaned forward to read it. As I did so, I rested my hands on my elbows.

Him: “You’ve crossed your arms. You must be feeling uncomfortable”.

Me: “I’m fine. I’m just reading the menu.”.

Him: “But you wouldn’t cross your arms unless you were feeling uncomfortable. I’ve studied body language*. Everything you do means something.”

Me: “Yes, it means that it’s comfy for me to have my arms like this, while I’m reading the menu”.

Him: “But you wouldn’t have done it unless you were feeling uncomfortable”.

Me: “I’m fine, really”.

Him: “Are you feeling uncomfortable?”

Me: “Now I am”.

And so it continued. He kept commenting on my body language and facial expressions—despite me repeatedly asking him not to—until I ended the date, forty minutes after it started.

*This isn’t the first time someone’s commented on my body language; I once lost a job because of it. Perhaps it’s me, after all.