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.

Hot Mess

My friend Jane invited a bunch of us round for a house-warming supper;  she’d just moved out of her parents’ place and into her own flat, and was ever so excited about it.

She scooped us all a generous serving of dinner: some sort of brown splodge and rice.

As we hungrily raised our forks, Jane thanked us for joining her: “…and I know you won’t believe it, but this is the first time I’ve ever cooked! Bon Appetit!!”

Oh.

The rice wasn’t just undercooked, it was still raw. And I’ve still no idea what the brown splodge was actually supposed to be (tumours au gratin? braised dysentery? hot misery?)

Whatever it was, it remains the second-worst meal that I have ever eaten.*

We exchanged panicked glances over our heaped bowls. Jane beamed at us: “Are you enjoying it?”

She was one of life’s genuine sweethearts, a thoroughly lovely person. It would have been like kicking a puppy. “It’s delicious!”, we enthusiastically lied in unison.

Being a well-brought up type, I forced down every last horrifically crunchy mouthful. My friend Matthew later confessed to having tipped his bowlful into a pot-plant.

We all declined seconds. “I’m so full, I couldn’t eat another mouthful!” Well, half of that sentence was true.

I didn’t even let her make me a cup of tea after that

*There’s a chance that the creator of the third-worst meal that I’ve ever eaten will see anything I write about it, so I won’t be telling you about that one. But at some point I will tell you about the worst-ever meal that I’ve ever eaten. Because I made that one. (I’m usually a pretty good chef, honest.)

Goodbye, Steve

Me: “Hello?”

Steve: “Hello, it’s Steve from Scottish Power
here. I understand you’re thinking of leaving us for another utility company because they’ve offered you a better price?”

Me: “I’m not thinking, I’ve already switched. And it’s nothing to do with price, it’s because your customer service has been terrible.”

Steve: “But the price must have had something to do with it?”

Me: “Really, no. I’ve had a number of problems with my account since I’ve been with you, and the people at customer service have been friendly enough, but totally incompetent with it.”

Steve: “Can you give me a few more details please?”

Me: [there follows 10 minutes of me detailing numerous incidents where Scottish Power have totally failed to sort out problems]

Steve: “Fair enough, I totally get why you’d want to leave us. But, if I offered you a really good deal on your fuel, would you consider staying?”

Me: “No.”

Steve: “A really really good deal?”

Me: “Seriously, this isn’t about the money. It’s about the customer service.”

Steve: “Is there anything I can do to make you reconsider your decision to leave?”

Me: “No. There really isn’t.”

Steve: “But it’s my job to stop you leaving.”

Me: “Steve, I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s your company’s customer service.”

He said he understood, and we hung up. But still, I hope Steve is OK. I hope he goes on to find other customers (and that they get treated better than I did). I hope he learns to love again, or whatever.

“I have to touch your bump”

I was so pregnant that I waddled. Everything ached. Although exhausted, I was still looking forward to supper with friends.

As I reached the restaurant, a man stopped me. He was lounging against the wall; later, I realised that he was probably too drunk to stand up straight.

“You’re pregnant!”, he slurred.
“Yes. I’m pregnant.”

I tried to walk past him, but he grabbed my wrist and started telling me how he’d never wanted kids, that he’d make a terrible father, that he wished he’d loved someone enough to have children with them, that he always wanted to have a son; the sentences clashing, contradicting and bumping against each other. He talked and talked at me, while I thought of my friends sat inside, and wondered how to get myself free. He held my wrist, talking and talking.

I suffer from extreme politeness. I stood there and nodded, horribly aware that in being polite to this man, I was being rude to my friends as the time got later and later. And then:

“I have to touch your bump.”

Now, I’m not comfortable being touched at the best of times. My skin is quite sensitive and it can be rather overwhelming. And when it’s someone I don’t know, I get really uncomfortable.

“Really? Do you have to?”
“Yes. Let me touch your bump and then you can go.”

Today Me is typing this with shame and anger. Today Me wants to go back in time to that moment and shout at the guy, leave her alone, let her go. I wish I’d handled it differently. But I didn’t, I muttered, “OK”. I was desperate to go and it seemed like a decent trade-off.

He let go of my wrist, but grabbed my top and started trying to put his other hand up inside it.

Enough polite. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

“I want to touch your bump.”
“OVER MY CLOTHES.”
“No. It has to be your bare skin or it doesn’t count.”
“NO. I NEED TO GO NOW.”

I forcibly removed his hand from my top.

“Fine. But take my email address. You need to tell me when you have the baby what sex it is. But don’t bother telling me if it’s a girl. I only want to hear if it’s a boy.”

I waited, furious, humiliated, hot-cheeked, while he scribbled down an address on a scrap of paper and handed it to me.

I joined my friends at the table, apologised for being late, and waited to stop shaking.

Anyway. I had a girl. I didn’t email him.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #7

We’d been seeing each other for a while. One morning I awoke to find two texts from him.

The first was sent the previous night: “Just to tell you how beautiful you are, and how much I love you.”

I was thrilled to read it.

Then I read the second text, which had been sent a few hours after the first:

“I sometimes send texts in my sleep. If you’ve received any other texts from me in the last 12 hours, you should ignore them, I didn’t mean anything I said.”

I was no longer thrilled.

BLOODY PARENTING ANECDOTES #832: Thanks, sweetheart

My Middle Daughter came running up to me and gave me a massive hug.

MD: “I love you mummy.”

Me: “I love you too sweetheart.”

MD: “I’ll leave flowers on your grave every day when you die.”

Me: “……… thanks, sweetheart.”

This is far from the only time my children have said this sort of thing to me. Does anyone else’s kids do this, or are mine just unusually sinister?