This is a weird one.
I’m writing this in a Gmail New Message box because I’m at work and don’t want to make it look like I’m slacking. I’m not. It’s a slow day.
I’m not even sure how to start today’s post. Initially I wanted to focus on the fact that the past two “relationships” I’ve been in have ended in ghosting, but I think this theme is far more complex than that.
First let’s examine what exactly transpired. I’ll be brief about the first situation; it didn’t have the impact the second has had despite being conventionally more serious.
Last summer and into autumn I was seeing a very tall man with a somewhat low self-esteem. It was peculiar. He was conventionally very good looking, had a great job, was charming and bonus points, loved dogs. He was so good with my foster puppy.
During our time together he moved into my flat for a few weeks while I was out of town to save time on his commute. He’d broken up with his ex earlier in the summer and was forced to move to his commutable, but still obscenely far, family home.
I returned mentally ill-prepared (ha) from my holiday and he got top points for taking care of me – cooking, surprising me with flowers, planning elaborate dates and generally just being great company.That was until… he wasn’t.
Not long after I returned to work and got back into my routine he took a trip to see a friend out of town. He blanked me the whole weekend and then when he got back was just cold. I knew something was up but didn’t think things were over between us. He became more distant as the days and then weeks passed and then when he moved into his new flat, he didn’t even invite me over to see it. After the move we never spoke again.
This is the sort of situation that 10 years ago would have sent me down a self-shame spiral. What did I do, what did I say, if I only did this and played my cards right we’d still be together! I blamed the breakup or lack thereof on my unhealthy relationship with work and when friends would ask about what happened I’d say he wasn’t able to handle how career oriented I was.
But that was all a lie. Ultimately he was a welcome distraction from my awful job – it was actually the career break of a lifetime, but I wasn’t experienced enough to handle it with the confidence it required. I’d suffered from a severe case of imposter syndrome I couldn’t seem to shake, and he was the emotional support I didn’t want to admit I needed. His loss of interest in me stung worse than a bad 1-2-1 with my CMO at the time, but I couldn’t lose focus over something so trivial.
When we stopped speaking I buried it instead of dealing with it. Things got much worse at work in the weeks that followed so that took up all the f*cks I had left. I shot him one final WhatsApp close to Christmas, but didn’t hear back and that was that.
Hello 2018. New year, new job, new love? Yes, it’s time to get back on Tinder. It’s changed a lot since my heyday on it four years ago. No one really talks to anyone else now, but when eventually I did have a conversation it was a good one.
Mark* and I had friends in common. He’s from the States and obscenely well educated but lived part time in an Asian country I’ve never been to and frankly would have never have the inclination to visit. It was an interesting career choice, but it was well thought out and he was determined to spend a week in London every two weeks.
He was charming and interesting. And I could read his cues, which I’ve struggled with in the past with Europeans. He didn’t ask me if he could kiss me. He just went right ahead and did it. We went from one really nice cocktail bar to the next. He had game but at 5’7″ perhaps suffered from a low-key Napoleon complex. I was into it though. All of it.
I stayed over that first night. Nothing much happened. It couldn’t being that time of the month. The next morning I was dying to get away though and made no effort to hide that fact. I didn’t have my contacts and couldn’t see anything.
He left for Asia again. We didn’t speak much but when we did he told me he missed me. I didn’t say it back partially because it felt cheesy and partially because I didn’t feel the same way. A few days later he told me he was coming back the following weekend and what did my schedule look like? I gave him Saturday night.
As the weekend approached I forgot all about our date. He reminded me after a hard Friday night out and we’d pick a place the following day. Without going into the details, I was looking forward to catching up but was far from giddy with excitement.
We settled on a trendy Mexican place. They had an extensive Marg menu, so it seemed like a good place to start.
This is where I question my own choices. He was handsy at the restaurant but where I think I should have suggested another location for cocktails we went back to the far-off hipster neighbourhood he was Airbnbing out of for the week. Even as I write this I judge myself.
Despite being aggressive in some ways, Mark was an amateur in others. He didn’t seem interested or knowledgable about how to get me into it. It was painful and I stated as much but he for some reason didn’t seem to notice. Or perhaps care. This does touch on an interesting subject of the male pleasure female pain dichotomy. An article that came out on The Week unpacks this concept beautifully with reference to the Aziz Ansari/Grace affair. It’s worth the read.
It touches on the very accurate observation that “bad sex” is experienced very differently for men and women:
“A casual survey of forums where people discuss “bad sex” suggests that men tend to use the term to describe a passive partner or a boring experience… But when most women talk about “bad sex,” they tend to mean coercion, or emotional discomfort or, even more commonly, physical pain.”
He didn’t even have protection. What experienced, adult male goes on a date without it? Worst of all, he fell asleep by 11pm and I didn’t know what to do so I played around on my phone. I felt weird being there. We weren’t serious enough to be hanging out at each others houses while the other slept, but it felt rude to pick up and leave. It was just weird.
I didn’t get any sleep that night. Not for any good reason. I just couldn’t fall asleep. He woke up intermittently, things happened, it was painful, but just like the Aziz situation I could have left or said stop at any time. I didn’t.
The next morning he even asked me what I thought of Aziz/Grace. That was so interesting looking back in retrospect. Other weird conversations that were had in the morning was his insistence on me taking Plan B. He even joked about the value of the citizenship our babies would have.
I mentioned my dog walking side-gig. He joked that I was basically a character out of a rom-com. I cringed, but it was a cute and quirky and not entirely an inaccurate observation. This was all over breakfast in bed, which I noted was a first for me. It was all so bizarre especially considering what happened next.
I left around noon that day. I would have stayed longer, but don’t like to overstay my welcome. He asked me to let him know when I got home, which of course I promptly forgot to do.
By the time I remembered, it was mid-afternoon. I texted him I’d gotten home in one piece and to let me know when he’d like to come over for dinner that week. It was a gesture of thanks for treating me on our last two dates.
He didn’t respond. He didn’t even open the message. Days went by without him opening the message, so I can be certain it wasn’t something I said in there. Three days later was Valentine’s Day. I noted the two blue WhatsApp read checks. He’d opened it, but didn’t bother responding. At least I had confirmation he hadn’t died.
It’s now Friday and there’s still nothing. He flies tomorrow. I’ve long since written him off, but I’m more hurt by this situation than my last semi-serious relationship. Maybe it’s the shock of going from being flooded with attention to nothing quite literally overnight that has me this shook, but what I’m most taken by is how I keep reliving every last thing I said to him.
That morning a girlfriend of mine texted and I was critical of her constant emotional reliance on me. I mentioned the fact that a few years before I had two dates on Valentine’s Day. I bashed a mutual friend of ours. All the semi-off putting things I said that morning played back through my head on loop while I worked tirelessly to decipher where things when wrong.
But ultimately, does it even matter?
There’s no point of going through the what ifs, ands or buts because it didn’t even make it past date number two. The only certainty about the situation is the degree of disappointment I’m wallowing in right now.