Five years ago today I didn’t expect to meet the man I’d marry.
I’d been dating for hundreds of years. I’d had my heart squeezed through other people’s careless hands a couple of times. For the rest, I’d been bored, disappointed, horrified. I’d optimistically thought that if I just kept going, I’d eventually meet someone who didn’t underwhelm me into submission.
Finally I met a self-styled “foodie” six inches shorter than he’d professed to being who, wearing an anorak, took me to Strada on a first date, and presented a 2-for-1 voucher at the end of the evening. On the train home, I reconciled myself to the cliche that was living with the cat, and completely gave up on dating. If that was what mankind had to offer, I told myself, felinekind genuinely was the way forward: I wasn’t going to waste any more time, money, effort, emotion or headspace on men who didn’t come close to meeting the standards I demanded in someone I was going to share my life with. Settling wasn’t an option: I’d rather be by myself.
Months later, and with zero expectation, I went for a drink with a man with whom I shared a mutual friend.
The Writer confounded absolutely everything I’d come to expect from the experience of dating. I found him seriously attractive. He didn’t wear questionable jewellery. He was interesting and interested and intelligent. He was open-minded, honest, feminist. He listened and asked questions. He didn’t bore on about decorating his bathroom in the perfect malachite tile. He didn’t pretend to be something he wasn’t (i.e., gay), waver about what he wanted, have a massive coke habit.
And unlike almost every other man I’d dated, he didn’t play games. At no point did I have that sinking feeling you get in your gut when a text goes unreplied to for hours, days - I didn’t have to ask friends to reassure me that he had probably lost his phone, been captured by the Israeli security services on a secret mission to neverwhere, been eaten by sharks, all the while knowing deep down that I’d been left to slide quietly from the scene. It was just so… easy. It was like dating as it’s sold to you by Hollywood: exciting, full of potential, fun.
Reader, I married him.
But I’m crushingly aware of the fact that it wasn’t because I dated man after man that I ended up with the love of my life. It wasn’t because I put in the time and effort to get out there and date: the time and effort merely resulted in hundreds of hours and thousands of pounds spent in places I didn’t need to have gone to with people I never saw again. In a few cases, it led to tears.
Stubbornness and a refusal to lower my standards certainly played a part: if I’d been stuck in a relationship that was fine, but not happy, I’d never have been in the position to go on the date. Open-mindedness and not being rigid about what I thought I wanted also helped.
But it started, ultimately, with luck. It was luck that we were both free that night, and fancied a drink after a long week. Luck that the bar was quiet enough for proper discussion, and that the restaurant had a late table where we ended up being the last two in the room. Luck that he was single and so was I. Luck that we hit on the topics of conversation that made us realise we had more in common than first appearances might have suggested. Just bloody good luck that in a city of millions of people, we came across each other.
“I knew he was it,” Best Mate said, some years later. “I knew after that first date. The way you talked about it, about him - it was different. It wasn’t like any of the others.”
It wasn’t. He isn’t. Sometimes expectations are confounded and love arrives like a freight train to deliver us into a completely different life.
But we all still need a little luck to help us on the way.
We are archers.
1 day ago