Saturday Night Fever

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CC Image courtesy of pedrosimoes7 on Flickr

Everyday for about a year I woke to the same piece of dating advice. Written in pencil on a scrap of lined paper blue-tacked to my bedroom wall, it read:

If you’re attracted to a guy who isn’t pursuing you, DON’T EVER BE AROUND HIM. It’s masochistic.

At some point, perhaps because I thought it had done its work or because it didn’t meet my stringent standards for interior décor, I took it down.

 

Saturday night…

‘Did he invite you?’

I laugh. ‘No… no, it’s never that simple.’*

Beatrice smiles. ‘No. So, what, he said, ‘I’m going to this thing, you should come’?’

‘Nooo…’

What had he said exactly? He’d said: ‘I might be going to this ball. All Latin and ballroom dancing.’ Then a smiley face.

Cue puzzled face. He ‘might’ be going so, what, I ‘might’ turn up and find he wasn’t there? I recalled a guy friend’s insight into male dating behaviours (‘there are no hidden meanings’), waited a few days, then replied in a similarly ambivalent fashion.

 

By some miracle we are both in the same place at the same time on Saturday night, dancing. Well, he’s dancing. I’m sitting on the sidelines with Beatrice.

‘So, what do you think?’ I say. ‘Does he fancy me?’

‘Do you fancy him?’

‘Yes.’

‘Right. Well… why don’t you suggest going for a drink and see what happens?’

I stare, then spout the usual guff about how it should come from him.

‘Yeah, but what have you got to lose?’

 

Apparently nothing because an hour later I’m sitting opposite the guy in a pub, laughing more than I have in months. Then we’re walking to the bus stop. Then we’re saying goodnight.

 

And the next morning I’m contemplating reinstating the scrap of lined paper.

CC Image courtesy of Dr Stephen Dann on Flickr

*For the record, I am aware that sometimes it is that simple.

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4858397745_fed336e4beBored of hiya, hey! and every other variation in the book, I decide to take matters into my own hands. I did it once before and depending on how you look at it, the outcome was pretty damn good. I went on the best dates of my life, laughed a lot and discovered what is now my favourite band. All of which would never have happened if I hadn’t… listened to Beatrice.

So I do a repeat: I send short messages to attractive prospects on Tinder and OkCupid written in the spirit of the kinds of messages I would like to receive. No heys, hiyas or how are yous (don’t care). And if they don’t reply in kind, I leave it.

Which is how, one Wednesday night, I come to be swapping messages with an attractive, witty lawyer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Karl and Neighboursomeone’s got a type. He also has a similar response time to my arch-nemesis, but like I said he’s attractive, witty and has a job, so what can you expect?

CC Image courtesy of matthew.hickey on Flickr

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CC Image courtesy of marfis75 on Flickr‘Do you think all-over stripes are too much?’

My long-suffering mother thinks stripes are fine.

‘Or spots? Spots are nice.’

Sharp intake of breath at the other end of the phone.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll decide! Oh also…’

We’ve been here before – the so-called afterthought.

‘… did you get my email?’

‘Yes,’ she says, ‘and I replied.’

‘Oh…’

The IKEA bedding department has everything it seems, except Wi-Fi.

‘… I haven’t got it.’

‘Oh.’

‘So… what did it say?’

‘So… you thank him and say Happy New Year to you too, and that’s all.’

‘Yeah that’s what I was going to do.’ I sigh. ‘Yeah.’

 

I contemplate the message. Gone is the dry sarcasm of our early exchanges, the tentative questioning when I knew things weren’t going as I hoped, the thinly-veiled hurt of our final conversations. In their place is a quiet neutrality and it saddens me. I hit send.

Getting up, my eye is caught by a bed set slightly apart from the others. I go over to it and sit down, absent-mindedly stroking the sheets. I rise, walk round, contemplating it from various angles before taking out my phone.

‘Is all grey acceptable?’

Seems appropriate.

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CC Image courtesy of 96dpi on FlickrI’m sitting on the train, bound for a New Year’s Eve party, and for some reason I’m reading old texts from VP. I say ‘for some reason’; it’s probably because I know that tonight VP is just 11 miles away. On finding this out I did something I’ve never done before: alone, at home, I cracked open a bottle of Martini and had a drink.

So I’m reading old texts from VP, from the top. I’ve got as far as the one where I’m telling him about an evening I spent with Perky who incidentally I’m en route to meet before going together to the aforementioned party. Perky’s been a saint recently, fielding endless messages from yours truly containing scintillating bulletins such as:

Tinder tells me VP is in London.

It’s a wonder she hasn’t blocked my number.

So I’m sitting there, reading, when something happens. Something I’ve been hoping for ever since a certain conversation took place in early October but which I didn’t really believe would ever happen.

VP’s messages, six months old, are before my eyes, when up pops… a new message. And suddenly we’re back there: back to holding my phone like it’s a piece of fine bone china, so that I don’t accidentally hit the message bubble, open the window, allow the message to show as ‘read’ before the ink is dry on the page. Back to staring at my phone with the most ridiculous grin on my face, wondering what it means, what to do next.

‘It makes me angry,’ Perky says, when I tell her. ‘He still hasn’t done anything.’

Tell me about it.

And when Karl comes on to me around 2am at the party, I cut my losses and tell him too. He knows about VP, whereas my neighbour – the main reason I don’t feel entirely comfortable making out with Karl in the hallway, or anywhere for that matter – is as yet undisclosed information.

‘You’re the ball of wool,’ Karl says.

‘Huh?’

Even without the four glasses of prosecco coursing through my veins, I don’t think I’d catch his drift.

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’re the ball of wool, and he’s the kitten in this scenario.’

I know he’s right.

‘How do I not be the ball of wool?’

‘You have to not care.’

‘Hmm.’

Like that’s gonna happen.

CC Image courtesy of Alicakes* on Flickr

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‘Did I tell you I spoke to Germany?’CC Image courtesy of las - initially on Flickr

Gus looks round. ‘No – no you didn’t.’

‘No.’ I laugh. ‘I know I didn’t. Well, I did, and I wanted to say thank you, cos your advice really helped. Do you remember the advice you gave me?’

‘No….’

‘You said I’d need to be assertive – or maybe it was something else, a word ending in ‘ient’… not subservient…’

Gus is probably mentally filing for a move of desk.

‘… anyway, I can’t remember what the word was, but I thought of what you said when I was talking to him and it really helped. Because he – he did push quite hard for keeping doing the non-committal thing, but I said no. No. And that was all because of you!’

Gus bites his lip. ‘That’s – that’s quite a weight to bear….’

I laugh. ‘Can you take it?’

‘… but I think you did the right thing.’

‘Oh but I haven’t told you the punchline.’

He looks pretty engaged for 7pm on a Thursday. ‘What’s the punchline?’

‘So, we’d got to the end of the conversation and I thought we were figuring out a way to say goodbye without it being, y’know, sad, and there’s a pause, and then he says – what do you think he says?’

‘What does he say?’

‘There’s a pause, and then he says, ‘I’m moving back to London’.’

‘What?’

Gus is such a good audience.

‘Exactly – ‘what?’ And he said ‘early next year’ – he’s got a new job – here. And I was thinking like, but, well, we’ve just – but that doesn’t actually change any of what we’ve just talked about, I mean, the fact is, he’s still not in love with me. That’s what he said – that’s why he doesn’t want to take the plunge, so to speak, and his moving back here wouldn’t change that.’

‘N-o.’

‘But arguably,’ I say, frowning, ‘it’s easier to be in love with someone when you’re in the same city – is it?’

‘Yes, probably. It’s not very romantic to say it, but it probably is easier.’

‘Yes, because you’re seeing them more, and things remind you of them all the time…’

And you’re probably getting laid on a regular basis, which can’t hurt.

‘… but anyway, that was that, and there’s been no contact since. And I haven’t looked at his Facebook page once, or re-read any of his texts or messages or anything!’

‘Wow, that’s really good!’

‘I know! I don’t know myself! It’s entirely uncharacteristic. Of course, one hopes that by staying silent he’s gonna realise he’s made a mistake and get back in touch, but, well, that strategy hasn’t worked so far!’

‘N-o, but, what you need to do…’

We’re interrupted. Something called work beckons, even at 7.15pm on a Thursday, and I don’t get a chance to revisit the subject before it’s time for Gus to leave. But I’m sure as hell gonna find out what it is that I need to do.

CC Image courtesy of jovike on Flickr

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