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.

 

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.

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.

All Along the Watchtower

*ding dong*

I opened the door to find two nice ladies smiling at me.

Lady 1: “Hello! Isn’t it a lovely day?”

Me: “Sure is! Have you come to sell me some religion?”

Lady 2: “Well, we were in your neighbourhood and yes, we’re spreading the good news.”

Me: “Sounds lovely, but I’m fine for religion, thank you.”

Lady 1: “We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and we want to share our joy.”

Me: “How wonderful for you! I’m Jewish and I’m also full of joy.”

Lady 1: “Would you like one of our leaflets?”

Me: “Sure, I’d be more than happy to learn about your religion, if you’re prepared to learn about Judaism.”

Lady 2: “Errrm, not really.”

Me: “Well, if you want me to keep an open mind about your religion then you need to the same with everyone else’s. Have a wonderful day!”

Tents Nervous Headache

When the kids were smaller, we’d go to Camp Bestival every year. One night, I was startled awake by shouting. It was 4am. It transpired that a group of revellers had returned to their respective tents, and were shouting their conversations between them.

I laid awake for a while, listening to them yell about who fancied whom, what a bitch so-and-so was, and I wondered what to do next. I figured that we were at a festival, everyone was there to have fun, I should ignore it and try and sleep. But, having said that, it was 4am, they were so loud it was impossible to ignore them and go back to sleep, and it was disturbing my kids.

I struggled out of my sleeping bag, into my wellies and over to one of the tents. I blinked hello at the young man and woman sat there, somewhere in their early 20s, and tried to find my best “cool mum” phrasing.

“Hey, I know you guys are having a lot of fun. But it’s pretty late now and you’re waking me and my kids up. We’re only in the tent behind you. Perhaps could you keep it down, and in return, I’ll stop the kids making too much noise in the morning when you’re sleeping it off?”

“Oh! I’m so sorry!”, replied the woman politely.
“Yes, sorry about that”, her friend joined in.

I thanked them, staggered back to my tent and into sleep.

We had a busy day on the site the next day, enjoying bands and relaxing in the sunshine. In the evening, we returned to our tent to find that someone had let it down.

Surely they hadn’t…? But that would be so petty… perhaps it was just a co-incidence? I managed to put the tent back up, and we went to sleep.

At 4am, I awoken again by the revellers returning to the field. That time, I got to hear them shouting about how they’d “taught the fat bitch a lesson by letting down her tent”. The young woman who’d apologised earlier was busy doing impressions of me: “Yeah, she was all ‘WHY ARE YOU HAVING FUN? WE’RE AT A FESTIVAL, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MISERABLE!'”

I listened to them cackling and shrieking about me for a while, wondering what to do. I did contemplate going back and talking to them again, but decided I’d probably be better off sticking my headphones in and listening to anything else.

I’m never usually one for revenge, and I’d like to be able to tell you that I rose above it, that I was the better person, that I didn’t let it get to me. Instead, angry and sleep-deprived the next morning, I emptied the girls’ potty onto the doormats outside their tents. If you happen to be reading this, loud festival go-ers, I’m sorry. x

The Art of the Compliment

I lost quite a lot of weight a few years ago.

I was round at a friend’s house for tea. She was busy in the kitchen, when the doorbell went. It was a good friend of hers—someone I’d met before but hadn’t seen in a number of years—and he greeted me with some surprise.

Friend-of-Friend: “You’ve lost weight!”

Me: “Yes, I’ve lost weight.”

F-o-F: “You’ve lost a lot of weight!”

Me: “Yes, I’ve lost a lot of weight.”

F-o-F: “Your husband must love that!”

I was totally thrown by that last sentence; in my world, love isn’t measured or contained by body size. My shape has indeed changed over the years, and it will change again, and it’s no measure of my worth.

Then, there was the insinuation that he used to find me unattractive, but now thought my appearance was acceptable; this troubled me. Why was this guy—who I barely knew—assuming that my relationship and my body were any of his damn business?

I wish I’d picked him up on it.

In a parallel universe, I’d have launched into an eloquent speech explaining all the above. Occasionally, I enjoy imaging myself simply shouting “OH FUCK OFF” as I slam the door in his face.

For the record, I was too flustered to think of a suitable comeback and instead stammered out a factually accurate but deeply unsatisfying reply:

Me: “I’ve no idea what my husband thinks about it. We split up a few months ago.”

The ensuing silence was immense, awkward and well-deserved.

Situations Vacant

It was the first day of a new job, writing training manuals for my new boss and her beauty business.

I tried to plug in my laptop. “Let me do it!” she shouted, diving beneath the desk: “Health and safety! It’s not safe for you to do it”.

She waved a sheath of typed pages under my nose. “This is what I want you to type up. I wrote it on my computer, I just want you to put it into a nice format.”

“If you’ve already done it on your computer”, I asked, “could you email me the file? I could just reformat it then. It makes more sense than me typing it from scratch.”
“No. I don’t want to get a virus from your computer.”
“You won’t get a virus from emailing me a file.”
“No. I don’t want to do that. Just type it up.”
“That doesn’t seem to be the best use of time.”
“Just type it up.”

So, I started typing up the notes while she stood behind my shoulder, watching me type. After ten minutes of this, she finally spoke:
“I don’t think you want this job, do you?”
“Excuse me?”
“Your body language is telling me that you don’t want the job.”
“Excuse me?”
“Look at you, with your shoulders all hunched up. You think this job’s beneath you, don’t you.”
“What? I do want this job. But you don’t seem to want me here.”
“That’s right, I don’t want you here because your body language tells me that you don’t want this job. You should go now.”

Baffled, I closed my laptop and went to unplug it.

“No!” she shouted, diving under the desk again. “Health and safety! I must unplug it for you.”

I grabbed my laptop and left. It was less than forty minutes from arrival to sacking. It remains one of the strangest – and definitely the shortest – jobs I’ve ever done.