Wednesday, 31 March 2010

In which I'm on show

“I can’t believe I’ve not seen you since January,” Speckled Lad said when he called one recent Sunday afternoon, the noise of boots being bulled unmistakeable in the background. “I feel a bit like I’ve lost my right arm.”

He's right. We've not gone three months without seeing each other since he was living in Argentina.

“Ah, well,” I said. “Not long now.”

And it’s not. Speckled Lad is coming rapidly to the end of his third term at Renowned Military Academy and the bit we’ve – well, the bit I’ve – been most looking forward to is in sight: the commissioning ball. Cue a ballroom filled with several hundred strapping, young, newly commissioned officers, all in the shiny, newly acquired mess dress of their recently joined regiments. Complete with swords. Oh, and plenty of champagne. Hurrah, and indeed, huzzah.

“So, what time do I need to be with you on the day?”

“Um, ten I think would be best,” Speckled Lad said, catching me off-guard.

“Really? That’s an awfully late start, isn’t it?”

“Um, no, not really – I mean, the parade doesn’t start till ten-thirty, and you don’t want to be waiting around outside for much longer than that.”

“Sorry, Speckled, I was talking about the ball.”

“Oh, that’s not till the evening, but the parade starts at half ten.”

“Oh. Am I coming to that, then?” For all his military precision, the Lad still seems to be terribly bad at organisation. And telling people about events he assumes they’ll turn up to.

“Of course you are. I mean, I couldn’t have got through this year without you. I want you to be there to see me pass out.”

“Oh. Right. Sure, of course. I’d love to.”

“Great! I know mum’s dying to see you.”

“So, er, who’s going to be there?” I said, a vague notion that this might be about to get slightly uncomfortable.

“Mum, dad, the grandparents, my brothers and you. The key players.”

Of course.

A couple of hours in the company of Speckled’s immediate family, the only non-relation, watching him commission into the British Army, after what sounds like one of the hardest years of anyone’s life. So that shouldn’t be at all weird.

I’m sure it absolutely won’t be a morning of hugely friendly, almost familial, chat with his parents, or awkward questions from his grandparents about how we know each other, or trying to ignore the sly glances and giggles from the two youngest Speckleds, who find my dalliances with both their older brothers the stuff of (excuse the pun) unadulterated hilarity. No. Not at all.

Just as well I’ll have the sight of hundreds of gorgeous chaps marching around in their uniforms to distract me. Because I’m going to need it.

Monday, 29 March 2010

In which I consider my sins

I’ve thought about it and, you know, I’m okay with sloth, pride and lust (especially lust). To me, that sounds like a pretty bloody decent Saturday. In fact, each of the so-called deadly sins probably has its place somewhere in life. What I’m not okay with, and is definitely worthy of a spot in the First Circle of Hell is mediocrity. It is just Not Acceptable.

I make this claim on good authority following an evening spent in the company of Lawyer (?) from Bar - a man I apparently gave my number to whilst drunk, and then forgot about. And, having spent some time with him, I’m now in a position to say that it’s no great surprise I forgot about him, because he’s eminently forgettable.

I know it might seem churlish to moan like this when the other gals in Social Circle Blonde are having a properly rough time of it on the dating front, but the evening was so mediocre as to make me want to open a vein then and there, just for something to do.

It hadn’t started so badly. He walked in, nice and tall at over 6’ (ah, even when I’m drunk I’ll apparently pick the big ones), in a good suit and decent shirt. He wasn’t as hot as I’d like, but that’s what you get for picking up boys when you’ve got the gin goggles on. He was well-mannered and polite, and not so wet that my friends would eat him alive (which is, I shall admit, an important criterion to be considered when trialling these men). He was sweet; there was no obvious sign of damaging emotional baggage; and he had all his hair. He was genuinely interested in me, what I do, and what I think. There were no distasteful opinions; no crass jokes; no offensive smells. There was no inkling that he might be gay, already attached; criminal or insolvent.

In short, as Mondays go (and because I was Skyplussing Glee), it was fine. There was no spark, and I felt no pressing desire to jump him there and then, but it was fine.

But, boys and girls, I’m not after fine. I’m after so much more than just fine. I’m after amazing. I’m after someone whose clothes I want to rip from their body; who makes me laugh until I hurt; who inspires me to be a better person. Someone who’d be worth spending eternity in the flames for.
Settling for anything else seems like a sin.

Friday, 26 March 2010

In which I consider stepping out of the chemistry lab

Over the past couple of weeks, I have largely been pondering the elusive quality that is charisma. It’s something that, as I have bemoaned for some time, so many people seem to lack entirely. Irritatingly, it is also a quality that, by its very definition, is deeply, deeply attractive.

Being the judgey type of gal that I am, I know I’m rather quick to dismiss people after just one date if I feel that the charisma is lacking. However, I’m coming to the conclusion (and not just because I can’t stomach the inevitable number of first dates that would be necessitated otherwise) that it’s something I really shouldn’t be doing. Because, whilst it’s an exceptionally attractive trait, it’s one that shouldn’t be looked for at detriment of other, actually more worthwhile characteristics.

The most charismatic males with whom I’ve recently dallied are Sports Nut and Speckled Lad. Whilst both boys seem to have some kind of magnetic something apparently irresistible to my inner iron filings, things haven't ultimately worked with either of them. Of course, men with charisma aren’t just attractive to me: they’re attractive to everyone. It’s probably no coincidence that the Nut is now in a relationship with another woman, and that Speckled Lad hasn’t managed to be faithful to a girl in the four and a half years that I’ve known him.

And if an exceptionally charismatic type isn’t the sort to be able to resist temptation - Speckled Lad, The Medic, Ex-Married Aussie - then any woman they’re dating is, ultimately, probably going to be on the losing side when their man is faced with another woman who isn’t prepared to accept her target’s current attached status.

Of course, when I stop to think about it, there was no immediate, earth-moving chemistry with Long Term Ex when I first met him - only later did the desire develop to rip his clothes off whenever I was with him. But Long Term Ex is still the only guy I’ve ever been head-over-heels, completely, utterly, disarmingly in love with.

I think it’s too easy to get caught up in someone’s magnetism - or lack of it - to the detriment of ignoring all their other qualities. Being distracted by a lack of immediate charisma can mean you miss kindness, or generosity; by the same token, being swept up in the allure can make you reluctant to see flaws - unreliability, selfishness - that should make you think a little harder before getting involved.

And so I’m going to start trying to put less store in the immediate chemistry I have with the men I meet, and instead enjoy them for all the qualities they have, rather than looking for something that, frankly, hasn’t done me any favours so far.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

In which the men we're dating just aren't up to scratch

The gals in Social Circle Blonde have had the misfortune to have been on some Really Bad Dates. This seems to be an ongoing phenomenon. Over the years, we've dated the gay ones and the ones who've thought Reiki was an acceptable second-date activity. We've been on dates where the other person's been asked for their autograph; dates that have stressed us out and narrowly escaped dates with the ones related to tyrannical Russian despots. And, sadly, these days seem to be no different, with Lady Luck apparently disinclined to throw any bones any which way.

Best Mate recently had a first date with a lecturer she had initially dismissed, due to his generous covering of facial hair.

“There’s something about beards,” she said on the phone as I tried to persuade the kitten down from the cooker hood. “They freak me out. I just can’t… ergh. The thought of getting my face close to them? Yuck. BUT, I thought I should be a little more open-minded, so we’re going out on Saturday.”

Unfortunately, her open-mindedness didn’t go entirely rewarded.

It was some dreadful student theatre review thing, she said in an email the following Monday. Just… urgh. If I’d not been on a date, I’d have left in the interval. And then we went and had dinner, and he had these really weird coloured lenses in his glasses. I mean, I know he’s an academic, but there’s eccentric, and then there’s just odd. So distracting. And I’ve tried, but I just can’t get past the beard thing.

And PolitiGal recently had a bad date that ended the only way deeply bad dates can: by making use of the friend stashed at the other end of the phone, ready to ring in with a fictional emergency.

“Urgh, thank you!” She said, calling me back once she’d hot-footed it out of the bar, and out of earshot. “That was terrible!”

She regaled me with the details.

“I wasn’t sure at first anyway – he’s a librarian. I mean, I’m sure that most librarians are lovely, but they’re not known for being the most gregarious types. But, he clearly likes books, and drinks real ale, so I thought I’d go. And we got about ten minutes in, and he admitted that he had been to a fantasy fiction convention thingy and the best bit was at the end of the day, when each ‘clan’ nominated a champion and they duelled with each other, using fish as weapons. They had to desist this year after the gashes on one contestant’s arms began to swell alarmingly. I kid you not.”

If she weren’t my friend, I’d have doubled up with laughter. But she is, and being in the process of trying to find suitable males to date, stories like this don’t fill me with confidence.

“And, Blonde… Urgh. The smell. I thought it might have been someone else, but it drifted away when he went to the bar, and came back when he did. I had to get out of there.”

How, in this day and age, anyone turns up to a date smelling foul is beyond me. I can’t think about that bit too much because it makes me sad.

Of course, precedence past and present doesn't mean that I’m entirely filled with confidence when it comes to my new "dating in numbers" theory. I mean, I like to think that I’m optimistic enough that I can still believe that meeting and dating enough men will lead to my finding the one cracker that's undoubtedly out there. Though, as I've said recently, it's the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over again whilst expecting different results.

Looks like it might just be a matter of time before I find a man, but I imagine he's going to be one of those in a white coat...

Monday, 22 March 2010

In which I diversify my dating portfolio

Given that recent attempts to date just the one man at once resulted in my poor little heart getting rather squashed, I have decided not to put all my dating eggs into one basket.

To which end, and despite having one date already scheduled, I have re-taken Old Friend up on his offer to set me up with several of his eligible friends - the beauty of which deal is that if there are no successes, I get taken by Old Friend out on a platonic date that involves a Michelin-starred restaurant. Le Gavroche, here I come.

In an utterly excruciating email to me and the first poor subject, OF made the introduction in his own inimitable way:

X - Blonde, Blonde - X. Blonde, you'll be pleased to know X is both straight and single. X, Blonde is truly lovely and some of the best company imaginable when it comes to drinking away an evening. Excellently distracting tits, too. I gather you're both free on Friday. Numbers below.

Mortifying.

Once I’d got over the shock, thinking I now had little to lose, I bit the bullet and texted the guy, suggesting drinks.

Of course, given Old Friend’s track record, I wasn’t entirely convinced.

So, OF, what’s this guy like?
Late 20s, tall, slim, athletic, dirty blonde hair (colour, not cleanliness), background as an engineer, planning to rule the world when he's done his MBA.
It sounded fairly convincing but as we know, boys and girls, good on paper doesn’t equal great to date.

Oh, and did I mention he’s an ex-GB triathlete?
I chose to overlook the fact that Old Friend is clearly hanging out with disgusting overachievers (our last trip to the pub involved an ex-World Championship BMXer and her ex-Olympic rower husband) and instead tried to focus on the positives.

I mean, a gal’s gotta eat. And if it’s off the abs of a national athlete, then so much the better.

Friday, 19 March 2010

In which my friends get themselves into the wars

Following several weeks of total radio silence, with my being glued more closely than is healthy to the news, I finally had a phone call from Guards Man, still out in the godforsaken reaches of War Zone.

“Blonde! How are you?!” It was such a relief to hear his voice, especially sounding in such chipper spirits. Rather indulgently, we had a twenty minute conversation in which he waxed lyrical about care packages, and the cake club that he and his men have set up in their little corner of the desert, everyone sharing out the goodies that arrive from home.

“I don’t know how I’m ever going to thank you,” he said, suddenly quiet and contemplative. “The blueys and parcels have been so so amazing. They’ve… Well, it’s just good to know people care.”

“Don’t be daft, GM. It’s enough to know they’re getting to you, and being enjoyed. If you really feel indebted, you can take me out for dinner when you get back.”

“Oh, definitely.”

“That can’t be too long now, surely? You must be approaching seven months?”

“Ah, well,” he said, in that slightly sheepish tone that men have when they know they’re about to say something that’s going to cause chaos. “I’ve been thinking about that, and actually, I think I’m going to ask if I can extend my tour. It’s just… Well, when we’re out and about, it’s pretty good fun. I don’t want to miss out on anything.”

Suddenly, there it was on the end of the line. I could hear it in his voice - that need that Hennessey describes so evocatively in his book: that need to be with your men, the need to be part of the action. The need, I imagine, to feel all the adrenaline your body can handle before you’re back on a damp parade square in rainy, grey Britain.

But, for Military Gal, off to War Zone in a couple of weeks, things seem to be ever so slightly different.

A few days ago, an invitation landed in the inbox to her “pre-sunbathing” drinks.

There are two rules, the postscript said. 1. You will all have fun. 2 There will be no tears. (That second one’s for me. Please slap me if it looks like I’m about to cry.)

The situation is different for her to that of my other military friends. Whilst for them the decision to join the Army was made recently, in full knowledge of the situations around the world, Mil Gal was signed up well before that: the Army put her through university, Mil Gal having committed to it whilst we were still at school. All of which, of course, was pre-2001.

It’s bizarre to think, in the post-9/11 world, that she signed up at a time when the British Army had stopped being blown up on the streets of Northern Ireland but wasn’t yet being blown up in far-flung desert fields. And whilst, because she’s a girl, she won’t be out in the FOBs, enjoying a wrangle with ‘Terry’, she’ll still be halfway across the world, in a place full of dust, sand and combat.

So, once again, the Cupboard of Goodies is laden, and the blueys are waiting to go. The only difference is this time, there are miniatures of leave-in conditioner in there too.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

In which I get drunk and talk to boys

The trouble with being drunk in a bar is that boys will ask for your number. The trouble with being drunker than you ought is that you'll give it to them. And the trouble with drunkenly giving your number to boys in bars is that you don’t have the foggiest who they are when they call.

How pissed were you on Friday night? I fired off an email to Hot Flyer Boy, with whom I’d been drinking, at the start of the following week.

Enough that it took me six hours to get home because I kept falling asleep on the tube and ending up in bloody Morden, he wrote. Why?

Don’t s’pose you saw me talking to any guys?

Um, some, I think. [Urgh. Inward cringe.] Why?
I seem to have given some guy my number. He’s texted and asked me out for drinks, but I have no idea who he is.

“He’s now in my phone as X open brackets lawyer question mark close brackets from bar,” I said to PolitiGal (also present at the scene of the crime) when I called her at lunchtime to check. “He doesn’t ring any bells with you, does he?”

“Well, I remember some guy coming to talk to you, but I can’t picture his face.”

Any clues? HFB said later on that afternoon, clearly shirking work as much as I was.

He’s called X, I said. Texts seem to suggest he might be a lawyer.

HFB didn’t take too long to mail back.

Might know who he is. My colleague’s housemate brought his friend. He’s called X. Think he’s an investment banker, though.

A few seconds later, another email pinged into the inbox.

Is this him, on the left? Ignore the costume.
I opened a picture to see two guys and a girl, apparently at one of HFB’s themed, fancy-dress pub crawls.

In a moment of stark realisation, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I might have let my hair down just a little too loosely.

Oh gods, I fired back. I still don’t know.

Then you’re a drunken hussy
, he said, and I can’t help you.

Three people and a photograph later, and I still don’t know whether X (lawyer?) From Bar is the person I think he might be.
So, naturally, we’re going out for drinks. Well. What could go wrong?

Monday, 15 March 2010

In which I consider my options

I stumbled out of the spare room into Gin Operated’s kitchen around half ten, having been woken by Minor Celebrity’s text.

“Oh, you’re here!” As if by reflex, she took a large mug from the cupboard and filled it with tea. “We thought you’d, um… not come back.” There was a faint smirk. “We didn’t hear you get in last night.”

“Oh, I came back,” I said, yawning. I tightened the loaned dressing gown around my waist and rubbed a hand under the still smudgy eyes. “Definitely came back. Nothing quite like getting a 6am cab and being looked at like a slut by the taxi driver…”

“So, did you have a good night?”

I took the extra-strength tea (with sugar) from her with one hand, and scratched the cat - sitting happily in his basket under the boiler - with the other.

“Huh,” I said. “Eventful, definitely.” I took a large swig. “So, MC thinks he and I should get back together.”

“Ah,” Gin Operated said, somewhat raining on my parade by appearing totally unsurprised. “Well, I did think something like this might happen.”

Did you?!” I said, once again bemused by my total inability to see what other people apparently assume is obvious.

“Well, yes. I thought that it might be on the cards after that conversation you had with him at Hogmanay.”

I thought back to sitting in the pub, being told by MC that he wanted to get married and settle down, but just couldn’t find the right person. I had no inkling that he might have been hinting it was me.

“The thing is, I just don’t see how it could ever work,” I said to Gin Operated as we traipsed into the sitting room with breakfast, mine soaking up remnants of pink champagne and awkward discussion.

And I don’t. There are so many things that count against us.

There’s the age gap - although it’s not particularly eyebrow-raising, it’s enough to put us firmly in different phases of our lives.

There’s the distance gap - being 400 miles apart isn’t particularly conducive to a happy relationship when one party is already insecure if the other is as far away as the other side of the bed. Though, as Gin Operated pointed out, if we really wanted to be together, the distance probably wouldn’t get in the way. As it is, I'm inclined to use it as a reason to be added to the ‘why it won’t work’ list.

There’s the sobriety gap - I have no problem with people using whatever substance it is that gives them a buzz; it’d be hypocritical, given my penchant for a slug of decent red wine, or a large gin and tonic. But when the substance takes over the person to the extent that they’re sometimes deeply boring, or - worse - deeply frightening, then it’s time to call it quits.

There’s also the simple fact of my selfishness: I don’t want to spend the rest of my life known as Mrs Minor Celeb, rather than on my own merits - and I’m not naïve enough to believe it would ever be otherwise (although the thought of being able to move back to Edinburgh and never have to worry about working again is sort of tempting).

And on a wider issue, I just don’t see that our relationship would or could be markedly different to the way it was last time with all its ups, downs and flaws. I never felt I really knew where I stood, and he feels that I was always cold and distant. It didn't really work the first time and I don’t see that either of us has changed sufficiently to make it work a second. It's the definition of insanity, after all, to do the same thing over again and expect different results.

And so, over tea and tiredness, I came to the conclusion that however much I care about MC, I care about myself more - and being by oneself is always better than being in the wrong relationship.

Friday, 12 March 2010

In which the truth is so peculiar it can't compare to fiction

In a bout of ‘you really can’t make this stuff up’, it seems that Sports Nut wasn’t the only person within a week to have a ‘discussion’ with an ex .

It’s a given now that on any trip to the ‘Burgh, I’ll grab a quick catch-up with Minor Celeb, and my recent jaunt was no different.

Dinner plans were eschewed in favour of the party happening at his; leaving a few friends drinking the on-tap prosecco at the Hotel Missoni, I stepped out into the blizzard and hopped into a cab. With the recession apparently yet to affect the millionaires amongst us, I got out at a house I’d not previously seen to be greeted at a side door.

“Blonde!” Kisses and bubbles were thrust upon me as I made my way into the kitchen where, as at all parties in large houses, there were people leaning against the Aga.

“This is Blonde,” MC said, introducing me to friends I’d not met previously. “Be nice to her - she’s stuck around despite the fact I’ve not always treated her as well as I should have done.” Slightly taken aback at the first instance I’ve heard of MC admitting to anything other than ideal conduct, I settled into my glass of champagne.

The party went as parties do: there were people, music and laughter. Then, in the medium hours (they definitely weren’t so small by that point), people began to peel back home, and MC and I curled up on the sofa to have a proper chat.

We caught up on life, his current projects and imminent trip to LA, recent daft doings by my clients and various other things in between. And then, as if from nowhere, we suddenly found ourselves deep in the middle of a discussion about “what went wrong in our relationship”.

Tempted to suggest that it might have been his incessant coke-taking, instead I listened as I was told that I’d spent the months we were together being “emotionally distant”. My attempts to explain that I was never really sure where I stood went unheard as we had an hour’s totally circuitous discussion, in which I still feel I was being wilfully misunderstood.

And then, in a surprising conversational leap, he suddenly started telling me how fabulous I was.

“Blonde, you’re… You’ve always been there for me and supported me, and you’re just really… kind, and…” He reeled off a long and complimentary list of characteristics, not all of which I recognised as being mine. “You’re everything I want in a woman. Look, as far as I’m concerned, our situation’s not changed. We’ve still got this… connection, we get on, the attraction’s still there…”

“Celeb, what are you saying?”

“I think we should get back together.”

If I hadn’t been curled into the corner of the sofa, I’d have reeled in shock.

Here was the man who put me through the most explosive end to a relationship that I’ve ever experienced; who apparently felt genuinely rejected that I slept on the other side of the bed as opposed to curled into his chest (I thought that was just a daft whine; I had no idea he was being serious); and who happens to be in an entirely different place in his life - both metaphorically and geographically. But that didn’t stop us having yet further hours of conversation about why being together isn’t a good idea.

Exhausted, with the situation spinning in my head, I left MC, and crawled into bed at Gin Operated’s flat some time after 6am.

By 10.30am, there was a message waiting for me on the phone:

Blonde, baby… Sorry if I was over vocal in my frustration - it’s just I feel we only ever scratched the surface of what we could have had. Where do we go from here - your choice.x
Some vague understanding of men would be my first choice. Too much to ask?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

In which I reassess the situation

“I had an out of office from you this afternoon,” said Best Mate calling from her car, sounding somewhat disgruntled, “telling me you’re away for FIVE DAYS. Since when?! And where on earth do you get off disappearing for so long and not filling me on the Sports Nut situation?!”

She was right: in a piece of fortuitous, spirit-lifting planning, I’d booked a long weekend away in my beloved ‘Burgh that just happened to start a day or so after Sports Nut had declared that he was ‘making a go of things’ with his ex. I had, however, neglected to give Best Mate any of the salient details about any of it. And, thus it was that I found myself giving her a run-down of the previous few days whilst standing in the middle of Waitrose in Morningside, finding something to cook for my hosts, Gin Operated and The Architect, for supper.

“And you’ve not spoken to him about it?” she asked, then muttering under her breath at some driver who was clearly about to cause her a bout of the finest road rage.

“BM, I couldn’t - he’d caught me whilst I was on the train. The last thing I wanted to do was burst into tears in front of a load of middle-aged men in suits. Not cool.”

“Hmm, no, I suppose not. So, what did he say, exactly?”

I relayed the brief conversation to her. “I'm not thrilled, obviously, especially given that I had no idea of the situation. He could at least have given me all the information and let me make my own mind up, rather than letting me think he was actually, properly single.”

“Hmm… Well…” She paused.

“What?”

“Look, maybe… And, I’m not saying it wasn’t a really gitty thing to do, because it was, obviously, but…” I could hear her considering whether what she was about to say was a good idea. “Has it occurred to you that he might be telling the truth?”

“Huh?!” My attention turned sharply from a raspberry brulée cheesecake and I paused, listening.

“Well, I just mean, from everything that you’ve told me, it sounds like Sports Nut’s a pretty decent guy. He put in an awful lot of effort if he was only after a quick screw. Men aren’t really like that, are they? I just think maybe you shouldn’t be too hard on him. It sounds like maybe he did think things were over until she called. I know you asked, and everything, but maybe he geniunely didn't think there was anything to tell you about. Just… Give him the benefit of the doubt, won't you?”

I adore Best Mate, but she isn't particularly patient when she thinks she's having to suffer a fool. And so, wandering the short wander back to Gin Operated's flat, clutching bags full of organic salmon, I thought about what she'd said. By the time I'd got to the front door a few minutes later, I'd come to the conclusion that, not only is Best Mate someone I always want fighting my corner, but on this occasion, maybe she might be right.

Monday, 8 March 2010

In which definitions differ

The thing with dating guys who work in PR is that when they tell me they’re busy, I’m inclined to believe them, given the manic pace at which my days generally run. So I wasn’t too worried that it had been a week since I’d seen Sports Nut: I took his busy schedule at face value, and was looking forward to the possibility of catching up with him for a quick lunch in the middle of the madness before I headed to the beautiful ‘Burgh for a long weekend.

My phone went one evening as I was sitting on the train home.

“Hey you, how’s your day been?”

There was some light chatter about days, colleagues, early mornings and apologies for going a bit quiet, but work had been really busy.

“But there is something else as well that I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

I felt a slight knot form.

“I had a call from my ex, and we, well, we never really finished things, and she wants us to give it another go, so...”

My heart fell into my stomach.

“I’m really sorry – the past few weeks have been great fun, but...”

In shock, surrounded by fellow commuters, all I could utter was, “Oh.”

“I mean, my head’s in a really weird place, and...”

And at that point, I don’t really know what else he said because I couldn’t really hear him any more.

Thankfully, once I was in the privacy of my own home, I didn’t have to bite the inside of my lip to stop the stinging, angry tears as I called The Metrosexual.

“So, what? I don’t get it? He has a girlfriend?!”

“Apparently so. Or, at least, an ex, with whom things don’t appear to be particularly ex-like.”

JESUS. What a twat.” I love my friends. They do moral indignation when I don’t feel like it. “And he didn’t tell you?”

I chuckled wanly, not having the energy nor the inclination for rage, and thinking back to our first date. “Not only did he not tell me, Met, I distinctly remember asking him, over manchego and quince, because of my previous luck with men, whether he was a) straight, and b) single.”

“Bloody hell.”

“And on our last date, we had a discussion about previous indiscretions; he just apparently didn’t think a current situation worth mentioning. I wouldn't have minded if he'd explained there was a sticky situation - I'd just rather make my decisions based on all the information.”

“So what explanation did he give?”

“He didn’t really, Met, and he’d caught me on a train full of people. I was hardly going to have the conversation, was I?”

There was a pause.

“Jeez, hon, how do you pick ‘em?”

“Don’t know. Thought I was doing okay with this one.” I took a deep breath as I felt the tears start to prickle.

“And you had no idea there was anyone else in the picture?”

“Nope.”

“God. Shit, I don’t know what else to tell you. We’re all shits.” He paused. “You liked this one, didn’t you?”

Eyes wet, I nodded at the phone.

"Well, if it had to happen, better that it happened now than six months down the line."

Ten minutes and some platitudes about kissing frogs later, I put down the phone, to find a message from the Nut.

Listen, I honestly thought it was cut and dry. Maybe I’ve been a bit naive. I apologise for catching you in the crossfire.

Naive’s not necessarily the word I’d have chosen. But then, we apparently had different definitions of ‘single’, too.

Friday, 5 March 2010

In which I'm advised to look for kindness

Foreign Correspondent and I were having a couple of after-works drinks and discussing pretty much everything from allegations of MI5 colluding in torture to the state of Yemen, via the dating scene in London. All serious stuff.

"Don't sleep with them on the first date," FoCo said gravely. "They'll only wonder how many other men you've done the same thing with."

It’s quite refreshing to be given pragmatic dating advice by someone who’s managed to nail down a successful relationship. I do love my friends, but in Social Circle Blonde, it does tend rather to be a case of the blind leading the stupid. So it’s perhaps unsurprising that, despite an evening's worth of intelligent discussion mostly about International Relations, it was Foreign Correspondent’s parting words that stuck with me as he dropped me off at the station:

“Is this guy kind, Blonde?”

I paused briefly to consider the time I’ve spent with, and talking to, Sports Nut. “Yes, I think he is.”

“Then you’ll be okay.”

“It doesn’t stop me being scared, though.”

“Maybe. But doesn’t that make you feel alive?” He leant over and kissed me on the cheek. “You’ll be fine, Blondie. Just enjoy it.”

And so I have been.

It’s been several weeks, making this dalliance the most successful I’ve had in some years. And, despite being gripped by the fear since our first date, I’ve been doing my best to ignore my deep-seated instincts, and just let myself fall.

And so following dinner and drinks one night, in a cab that was dropping me at the station before Sports Nut headed back to his flat, I leant my head against his shoulder, and asked quietly whether he might come back with me. Which he did.

And anyone who can find it in himself to entertain a kitten at 6.30am whilst I’m getting dressed, despite having had the soles of his feet scratched as an early wake-up call, is probably one whose levels of kindness I could cope with.

Although we’re going to have to do something about his choice of reading material; there were enough sideways glances from the other station regulars that, whilst we waited for the train, I was wrapped up in the arms - and under the umbrella - of a man they’d not seen before. I won’t be causing such scandal in the Home Counties as to out myself as having acquaintances who read the Guardian, too.

Monday, 1 March 2010

In which I make a confession

When the phone went at 6.30am following my first date with Sports Nut, there was pretty much only one person I wanted it to be. And, to my delighted surprise, it was. Battling our respective hangovers, text messages were exchanged for most of the morning, until we got into our offices and exchanged emails instead.

It progressed in much the same vein over the next 48 hours until, with after-work messages suggesting we were both in the same vicinity, I called him. Being within five minutes’ of each other, a decision was made not to wait until the following week for date number two (already scheduled), and to hit the pub then and there.

“Urgh – I didn’t think this through,” he said, as we sat down with drinks. “But I may as well just admit it, because you’ll have noticed anyway: yes, I am wearing the same jumper as I was on Tuesday.”

I smiled, and breathed a sigh of relief – the scruffy shirt/jumper combo I was rocking was definitely not a sanctioned date outfit either.

For an impromptu date, it was great. In fact, for any date, it was great. Really great. We covered a whole raft of stuff that we hadn’t got round to on date one (parents and families; what we want out of life; how amazing CJ from the West Wing is). And after a couple of drinks, with Sports Nut’s hands wrapped round mine, I felt something that I’ve not felt in a very long time: utterly petrified by the fact that I really quite liked him.

The fear was so strong that I did something I’d rarely do: I told him.

“It’s not something I really do,” I explained, as he brushed his thumb over the back of my hand. “Just... falling for people like this.”

I thought back to Minor Celeb: despite being together for nine months, at no point did I even countenance the fact that we were in a relationship. Emotional distance – whether a good thing or not – is something I’ve learnt to cultivate rather successfully in most of the dalliances I’ve had. I’m sure there’s a whole world of therapists out there who’d tell me it’s not a healthy way to conduct oneself, but hell: I’m British. I can pull off a little reserve, especially when it comes to matters of protecting the heart.

“I’ve been burnt, and have no intention of letting it happen again. And I’m quite scared that there’s burning potential here.”

He looked at me with steely grey-blue eyes. “Look, I tend to go into these things all or nothing. And I like you too...”

And then, in terribly terrible rom-com fashion, he kissed me. And I didn’t really stand a chance.
 

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