Four Reasons Not To See Your Ex

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‘Four big things have happened to me. I started working at UCL. I had a long-term relationship.’

A pause.

‘Who was she?’ I say. ‘I mean, how did you meet?’

‘Oh… through friends. It ended – I ended it – before Christmas.’

‘Why… did you end it?’

‘It had been going on for two years and it was at that point where, if it wasn’t going to be forever, then…’

‘You had to end it.’

‘Yeah. It was a nice relationship but… I didn’t feel we were on the same wavelength and I need that.’

‘Mmm.’

‘But it was very hard, ending it.’

‘It is very hard. It’s like a bereavement.’

‘It is.’

A pause.

‘What were the other two things?’

‘I bought a flat.’

‘And sold the other one?’

‘No. I’ve still got that.’

‘So another one.’

‘Yes. And I bought a yacht.’

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Happy New Year

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CC Image courtesy of Daniel john buchanan on Flickr

When you look through your 2016 diary, you’re annoyed to discover Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday again. Even though you’re single, were single on the last Valentine’s Day and have no reason to suppose you won’t be single in a month and a half’s time.

You embrace the New Year as a clean slate in dating terms, an opportunity to start anew: to put aside bad dating practices such as reminding guys who have forgotten about you that you exist. That includes the guy from Tinder who sent you a ‘Happy Christmas’ message but won’t commit to a date.

At 5pm on 1 January you send him a message saying ‘Happy New Year’.

BUT you won’t be carrying memories of failed relationships over into the New Year. No. You’ve decided – and this applies to both parties, to another human being over whose feelings you have no control, as well as your own, over which you have possibly even less control – that feelings are like annual leave: they can’t be carried over.

CC Image courtesy of cygnoir on Flickr

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What I Did For Love

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CC Image courtesy of Nicobobinus on Flickr

‘Do you listen to podcasts?’ Beatrice says.

‘No. Why?’

‘I heard one the other day I think you’d really like.’

She goes on to recite the story of a woman who crossed the Atlantic (one-way ticket) to declare her love for the guy who had just dumped her over web chat.

On arrival at the airport a customs agent asks her:

‘How long are you going to be in the country?’

Standard question. Except it’s not – to her this is the million dollar question.

She starts sobbing then pours out the whole story to this complete stranger.

‘Is that crazy?’ she winds up.

The customs agent looks her in the eye and says: ‘You gotta do what you gotta do for love.’

 

I’d already made the decision. Facebook told me he was going so I was going. I had blisters on the soles of my feet from a recent holiday, I was exhausted and I had a first date with someone quite promising – also from Tinder – lined up for later in the day. But I was going.

 

‘There’s a faulty lift at Hampstead station,’ a voice comes over the speakers. ‘Passengers for the Christmas Fair, we recommend leaving the train here.’

There’s a collective groan from inside the carriage. Strained looking parents move to lift prams onto the platform.

Outside I start walking. My blisters have other ideas. I catch a bus. It’s on diversion. We file off, join the crowds moving snail-pace up the hill. I wonder how many other people have no idea what they’re doing here.

 

My Tinder date knows I’m in Hampstead. ‘I have to put in a brief appearance’, is how I phrased it, ‘after which I’m all yours (should you want me).’

‘Straight to the point,’ he sends back.

 

But for the next hour I’m alone, lost in a sea of faces, scanning fruitlessly for a spark of recognition.

 

It comes – a guy I met at a party recently and liked.

 

‘Who here is single?’ I say to the hostess.

She scans the room. ‘No one, sorry.’

 

We speak briefly before going our separate ways.

 

The tube station comes into view. I loiter outside. It’ll be dark in an hour or so and the plan for the date was a wander. I glance again at my phone. Nothing. Eventually I text him. ‘Shall we fix on a time and place?’

‘Are you in Hampstead?’

‘Yes, but escaping as fast as humanly possible. It’s ridiculously crowded.’

‘Cramming two dates into one day huh?’

I feel a twinge of guilt. He couldn’t know why I’m here.

He goes on: ‘Where do you fancy meeting?’ Then: ‘If it ain’t good timing we could rearrange to sometime in the week.’

Guilt gives way to irritation. I keep walking, past the tube station, onto the next one, as we propose various meeting places. When, again, he suggests rescheduling, I go with it.

 

Later that evening, we’re chatting on WhatsApp. He asks how long I’ve been on Tinder. I tell him.

‘Good God,’  he says. ‘Has it brought you any joy?’

A bit.’

‘Lead to anything substantial?’

I hesitate. ‘Not really.’
CC Image courtesy of dhammza on Flickr

Listen to the full podcast here.

 

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Mr. Chips: Part I

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‘You’ll meet someone when you least expect it.’CC Image courtesy of electricnerve on Flickr

I laugh. ‘I’m always expecting it though!’

I’m half-joking. I might not always be expecting it, but I am always looking for it. Tonight, for instance, it’s Perky’s Christmas party: 50% guys I know and don’t fancy, 25% guys who don’t fancy me back, 20% unknown entities and 5% blood relatives (off-limits, whatever you might have read on here recently). By 2am a really nice couple is trying to help me get with ‘Cream Jumper’ (yes, I’m aware of how desperate that sounds), one of the 25%. Fortunately the cab, taking the three of us south, arrives before I do anything stupid/embarrassing. We chatter all the way, about the psychology of the likes of Cream Jumper (a famous flirt)… to be honest, that’s the only part of the conversation I can remember, but it’s really fun, and when the cab pulls up yards from my flat, I’m feeling happy and relaxed.

‘Thank you,’ I say, hopping out. ‘Good night!’ I close the door and the cab pulls away.

‘Anna!’

I look round to see my next-door neighbour, standing on the pavement, holding one of those horrible yellow takeaway boxes. Here is what I know about him:

1. He works in finance.

2. He’s charming.

3. I fancy him.

(TO BE CONTINUED) 

CC Image courtesy of Jonno Witts on Flickr

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Let’s Dance (Part II)

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(Continued from Let’s Dance (Part I))CC Image courtesy of Quite Adept on Flickr

‘I got you a prosecco,’ he says, wielding a glass.

I take it in my free hand, drink from the beer bottle in my other.  We… ‘talk’ may be an overstatement.  We say words, which roughly make sense.  I don’t mention the girlfriend, though I am thinking about her.  I wonder if he is.

I look at my watch.  ‘There’s not long left – I’m going to go dance.’

He drains his drink.  ‘Am I the one you’d choose to… dance with for the last half an hour of the party?’

I give him a look.  ‘It seems to be a tradition.’

‘Yes.’  He laughs.  ‘I look forward to seeing you at Christmas!’

‘Y-es.’

‘I – I would very much like to see more of you before then.’

I turn to face him.  ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea, is it?’

‘Why not?’

‘Because….’ I glance in the direction of the dance floor.  ‘Oh, let’s dance.’

We danced to Bowie’s classic at Christmas and I listened to it for weeks afterwards.  They’re yet to play it tonight.

 

Matthew and I are dancing.  Nothing untoward.  He’s spinning me (he was complaining earlier about how his girlfriend doesn’t get it when he attempts to turn her) – it’s basic rock ‘n’ roll.  I don’t see it coming.  An older colleague I don’t know very well passes by, engages him in conversation.  They start dancing.  I’m doing a solo spot.  In my naivety I think, he’ll be back in a second.  Seconds become minutes.  I see Colleague on the balcony, go over to her.

‘We need to have a word, missy.’

‘It’s fine!’ I say.  Which invariably means it isn’t fine at all.  ‘He’s got a girlfriend, and I’m emotionally distanced.’

I am, in a way.  Since VP appeared on the scene, I haven’t once looked at Matthew‘s profile.  And tonight I couldn’t be more on my guard if I tried, to the point that I’m not even sure I’m feeling it.

‘Ooook.’  She doesn’t look convinced.  ‘What are you doing then?’

‘What?!  We haven’t kissed or danced in a grinding way – it’s fine!  He has a girlfriend!’

In the space of the next, what, two minutes, my mood undergoes a startling transition, from light and cheerful to blind rage.

I glance in the direction of the floor.  They’re still dancing, Matthew and Older Colleague.  ‘What’s he fucking doing?!’

Colleague gives me the most annoying look of sympathy.  ‘He’s so drunk.’

‘That doesn’t make it OK!’

The next time I look, he’s nowhere to be seen.  I entreat Colleague to join me on the floor.  Just as she does, the song changes. I try not to listen to the words, try not to scan the room for someone who isn’t there.

‘I think I might cry!’ I say.  ‘Mattthew and I danced to this at Christmas!’

We laugh and she hugs me.

 

The next time I see Matthew, he’s on the balcony, smoking with Older Colleague.  I’m fuming to a wasted Ryan, then I’m fuming to Colleague (‘They say that,’ she says, ‘then three years later they have a baby together!’), then I’m leaving.  Matthew is standing near the exit.  I could have ignored him.  I should have.  But instead, for a moment, I put my hand on his arm.  I want him to see me, and once he’s seen me, to say something, to apologise, to vow to leave his girlfriend.  Yes, probably that.  I think he turns, but I’m not sure.  He doesn’t come after me.  My last view of him is cycling away – incredibly in a straight line – down the road.  I get out my phone, say a little prayer that there’s a message from VP waiting for me.  But instead there’s a weird screen I haven’t seen before, some kind of system error.  I turn the phone off and back on.  ‘I really need you to be here for me!’ I say.  Yes, I’m talking to my phone.  There’s nothing.  I’m not surprised, or particularly sad.  It feels like a punishment of sorts, for following Matthew, for dancing with him, for not walking away when he spoke about his girlfriend the way he did.  For letting myself believe, just for a moment, that it was real.

CC Image courtesy of dhammza on Flickr

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