The thrill of the chased

Just after the breakup, I wrote about the ego boost of being fancied by strangers on the Internet. It’s a buzz; to know someone finds you attractive, to receive compliments, to think there might be a new relationship. But in those early days, I was just using it as a crutch. I recognise this is wrong, but those fleeting messages with strangers never got any further than one or two days worth of empty platitudes and small talk.

But now as times moves on and the prospect of a real new relationship feels more enticing, I think I’ve come to realise that I’m one of those wankers who likes to be chased.

The story so far: I went on two dates with a man. I enjoyed his company, but maybe wasn’t ready to date and maybe didn’t find him attractive. I said ‘thanks but no thanks’. A month later, after a very boring first date with a different man I contacted the first man, realising that the first man was probably actually pretty cool. We talked. We met up. We continue to text.

Before my ‘no thank you’, we were texting all day every day, sometimes to the point of boredom. After my attempt to rekindle, we speak less often and in lower volume. Intellectually, I can recognise that this is great – it’s less intense, gives more space, and it means that any conversations are more interesting because we’re skipping the minutiae.

But! And this is the crucial bit. I liked that there was someone who wanted to message me all the time. Someone to ask me about every little aspect of my day. Of course I reciprocated, and that’s quite fun too! Having a person who wants to involve me in their life.

So now that there’s fewer messages , I feel less wanted. I make more effort to start conversation and to try and be more sparkling or interesting or knowledgeable. It makes each interaction feel more charged. Not necessarily sexually, just that there’s more pressure to fit all the personality into a handful of texts rather than a day’s worth.

I’m also conscious that I feel more attracted to him, and I’m thinking more about kissing him.

Is this shallow? Am I being horrible for making more effort only when I felt like he was cooling off? Is this a technique on his part, kinda like playing hard to get? Is this just a natural response to me saying ‘no thank you’ before, because I initially rejected him?

Am I analysing too much? (Again.)

The proof will be in the pudding. I’m seeing him on Saturday. It’ll be our fourth time of meeting. Let’s see what happens.

Attraction is difficult

I only started to have sexual feelings after I’d first had sex. It wasn’t as if I’d never been curious, or that I didn’t want to have sex. But I don’t think I understood sexual attraction until I’d actually lost my virginity and started to think about what I might like and want.

The first time I had sex was with my ex boyfriend. We’d known each other for a month. He was the first person I’d kissed or touched or had a date with. He’d had a couple of short relationships before me, but he was no lothario. We were both 21. Because I was 21, I felt emotionally ready to have sex, so my first time will always be something I remember fondly – not with any pain, or worry, or sense of coercion.

We were together for five years and we were monogamous (I don’t think polyamory is for me!) so he’s still the only person I’ve ever kissed or had sex with. I used to have a lot of worry about that fact, but it’s nothing shameful or weird, it’s just a fact of me.

So it was only after I’d had sex that I could picture what it would be to have sex with a person. So in the idle crushes I’d get, I could understand what sexual attraction was. My ex and I would talk about crushes we had – I still think of this as healthy, because it meant that we were honest about our feelings. And because the crushes were always transient, it meant that we could appreciate what we were to each other.

Obviously it wasn’t perfect because be dumped me. But that’s not the point I’m making.

In this post-dumping wasteland (is it a wasteland? Is it just my same life, now without a boyfriend?) when I’m starting to think about new people, I’m unsure if I’m supposed to feel sexual attraction to a person I go on a date with.

When I met the ex, I can vividly remember how on our fourth date I felt this urge of wanting to kiss him for the first time. So when we finally did kiss, it was lovely and powerful (and public). When we first had sex, it was spur of the moment, and again I have a vivid memory of ‘fuck it, why not?’ So when I’ve been on this small handful of dates, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel that rush as with a lusty crush, or if it’ll creep up on me and I’ll know when the situation arises.

This isn’t hypothetical. I’ve not met up with a man three times and he’s hilarious and intriguing. As in, quick witted, same sense of humour, interesting, varied, layered, quirky. And a handful of other adjectives that are positive. But I don’t have a surge of sexual attraction. Can that build with time? Should I not pursue this because it’s not there right now?

The difficult thing with this is that there’s not answer. I realise that I’m fairly scared of either being rejected or having to reject someone, so the prospect of not having an easy and obvious route is annoying.

Until then, I suppose I’ll just enjoy having someone to laugh out loud with.

Hesitant to talk

I feel quite insular. I think I’ve concluded that over December and into the New Year, I probably did have a bout of depression. It’s something that I’m annoyed about, but I don’t think there’s inherent harm in recognising it or acknowledging it.

Looking back, it was recognisable by lethargy. I just wanted to be alone in my house, sitting very still and aimlessly scrolling through social media. That behaviour alone isn’t new for me. But the willingness to do it for days and days on end was a bit of a problem.

Work was hard, speaking to family and friends was hard. I didn’t want to go to the gym and work with my personal trainer. I just wanted to be alone.

This isn’t directly related to being dumped. I think I was suffering from the forced introspection of the end of the year. I can’t say that I had a bad year because I’ve achieved some good things. It’s just it wasn’t the greatest year of my life.

So I was hesitant to talk to my family and friends, partly because of apathy and partly because I didn’t know what to say. I was hesitant to talk to randomers on dating apps, because if I wasn’t feeling sparkling and sexy, what could I offer to prospective new partners?

I could have talked to the ex, although there are long standing feelings of weirdness around how much is normal to discuss with him. Turns out he has similar issues, so I feel like we need to talk about how much we want to talk to each other. But then we’d have to talk, and how can we talk if we’re hesitant to talk? What a stupid cycle.

Saying no and being picky

So I’ve been on a date. There was a little bit of ‘it’s not him’, but mainly a lot of ‘I don’t think I find you attractive’. He was a brilliant person, bright and funny and friendly. But just not for me.

We had a second date. Bright and funny and friendly. But I was able to say no thank you – politely, kindly, succinctly.

It was revolutionary. I don’t often say no to anybody. With the ex, he was my first ever date and then we were together for five years. In being the dumpee, I had no power in the breakup. Looking back, I had more concerns than I’d ever even articulated to myself. But by being dumped, I wasn’t able to process that. I was only able to feel grief.

So I said no thank you to this lovely man. It was the right decision, but with predictable anxiety, I’ve managed to stress over the decision in the weeks following.

It’s good to know that these things can be amicable. I have a baseline fear of being spoken to rudely or angrily, and I was so grateful that he took my decision with grace. I think I’ll need to unpick at a later time why I might be so scared of being shouted at.

The Internet dating continues. Lots of people are a bit weird. But then again, so am I.

Fun, flirty and under thirty

I’ve rejoined Tinder. It was on the insistence of a friend, so over some fried chicken, we made a profile for me.

The pictures look good. I think I’ve gotten the correct mixture of insouciance with some genuine information about me thrown in there. I tend to refuse to put down my job, because I feel like working in healthcare, it’s important to keep a professional appearance in all public spaces if I have my job title attached to me.

Some observations: lots of couples looking for threesomes. Lots of kinky people who use their kink as their entire profile. Lots of people who use ‘gym’ as their only hobby in life.

Some surprises: no genital pictures! Only one overt reference to someone wanting to have sex with me. Lots of people who are happy just to have a chat. No women who are matching back with me… Unsure what to feel about that last one.

This is the longest since the breakup that I’ve stayed on a dating app, so I suppose it shows I’m a little bit more ready. One man did ask me what I wanted, and I answered (with surprising honesty) that I wanted some flirtiness and some dates. That’s quite nice, really. To be ready for the idea of just hanging out with people and seeing where it might lead.

A friend came to visit today. She’s been in a relationship with her boyfriend for a few years, and they’re a little bit patchy at the moment. It’s been good to talk to someone about some of the shitty feelings that can crop up, even though we’re in different situations.

We went to see a fireworks display. I adore fireworks, and the ex used to love watching me love fireworks. It’s a time when I’d feel genuinely loved by him. I’d catch him watching me with a dopey smile, and it’s sad that I’ll never see him look at me like that again.

So I watched the fireworks feeling a little bit heartbroken. But then went to a shop and bought alcohol and chocolate with my two friends. We came home and watched a terrible Christmas movie (because November=Christmas apparently), and I was reminded that even if I’m not loved by him, I am loved.

An advert for Bournemouth

I was in Bournemouth yesterday. It’s a place where we went when we were first dating. I remember pretty vividly (we would have only been a few months in) he knelt down to tie his shoelaces and made a joke that he wasn’t proposing to me. Then, I probably would have followed him to the moon if he’d asked, so it was a little bit of a stab, but it didn’t matter. We went to the oceanarium and saw otters, which is probably the best part of that memory. We played mini golf and I let him win because he complained that he was doing so poorly.

We were in Bournemouth on his 24th birthday. We walked up and down a pier and he talked about how it wasn’t his best birthday ever. We went to a music shop and I offered to buy him a piece of new equipment. He couldn’t choose anything, but we left the shop hand in hand and felt like we had a pleasant enough day.

We were in Bournemouth for his 26th birthday this year. We ate lunch in a restaurant which overlooked the sea. He didn’t enjoy his food much, but had a couple of pieces of my fish and chips. We went to the amusement arcade, and I wonder if I’ll ever go to an amusement arcade without thinking of him.

In writing all of this down, it sounds like I don’t have particularly fond memories of him and Bournemouth, but I do. It feels like he’s all over that place.

I’ve been several other times. Once for a particularly boring hen do, once for an afternoon tea with two friends. Yesterday I was there for a comedy show. I like the aviary that’s in the public gardens. I like the seafront. I like the cat cafe in Bournemouth, and its policy of hiring staff from diverse backgrounds.

But I was still thinking of him a lot. Which is shit, because I’m so much less sad about him, to the point where the sadness feels unfamiliar and intrusive, rather than my default.

I’m supposed to be seeing him in two days (not in Bournemouth). We had a short text conversation about an hour ago and arranged a time to meet up. I’m wondering just now, however, what I want to get out of seeing him.

On the one hand, he’s probably the only person in the world who would understand why I feel sad. He has all of those memories too, and probably has even more that I can’t think of. He’s recently been to Amsterdam, so it would be pretty cool to hear about his trip there. I could tell him about this comedy gig I saw, and about how much my mother’s been irritating me.

But then there’s the question of what I get out of this. Why do I need to see him and have these conversations, when really all I’ll feel is a sense of missing him and a big question mark over why we needed to break up.

I could ask him some things about the break up, some of the things he said. Would that give me closure? I could ask him if he ever wanted to move in with me and build a life, but I think I probably know the answer to that one.

So now, at almost midnight on a night before a 13-hour shift, I feel like I want to enter into a goodbye text conversation.

I want to tell him that I loved him, and that I’ll always be fond of him. I would tell him that I genuinely hope he has success in his music and his career. I would tell him that despite how petty I sometimes feel, I want him to meet a person who completed him in a way I never could.

And then I would want to tell him we shouldn’t meet up any more. It doesn’t give us anything, and they’re occasions that are platitudes as a shadow of when we would talk about the world.

But I can’t do that over text at midnight. So maybe I’ll have to tell him at lunch on Sunday.

New normal

It’s honestly wonderful to get to a point where I don’t know how many weeks it’s been since we broke up.

I like numbers. I like patterns in numbers, and collecting numbers and dates and amounts. So to be in a place where I’m not quantifying how long it’s been is wonderful. It’s a new normal, and it’s nice to be on this even keel.

Of course there are bits where I miss him, but as I’ve alluded to before, it’s no longer about him in the specific, and more about missing having a someone who is there for me.

My example this week is that I’ve had a cold. He was never that great about looking after me when I was unwell, but he is a kind soul who would listen to me whine about how grim I felt. So I’ve missed the opportunity to be pathetic in my minor respiratory virus, but I didn’t miss his brand of comfort specifically.

In other news, I’ve applied for a dating show. For any British person that might read this – I’ve applied for First Dates. It’s a big show, and it must of thousands of applicants. It was a fun diversion to spend a bit of time writing about who I am and who I’d like to date. It also gave me that little fix I was getting from downloading multiple dating apps – the validation of knowing that someone might fancy me, and the satisfaction that I could act upon these urges if I wanted to.

I don’t think I am particularly desperate to meet anybody at the moment. It remains pleasant to just worry about myself, although that does mean that my house is a shithole, because I’m the only one that’s been in it for weeks. And the cats definitely don’t care if there’s dirty dishes in the sink.

The one slightly tricky thing about applying for the dating show was that it asked who I’m interested in. In an effort to attempt to be a good bisexual, I chose the option of ‘looking for men and women’.

The reality of that remains scary. I went on a little extended daydream about what would happen if I were accepted onto the television show, and what would happen if they matched me with a woman in order to make good television, and what would happen if my friends and family saw that.

Of course, it’s incredibly unlikely that I would be accepted onto the show, but what if? What if?

Assigning meaning to things

When I was a child, a family member died. My grandfather had died when I was 5, but I think I was too young to take that in fully and appreciate the meaning.

When I was 8 or 9, my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband died. (The Scottish side of my family were all very close). He’d been ill for a while, not that I knew that at the time. My parents and I had visited their house several times, and I can still clearly remember the big picture window they had in their living room that looked over a beautiful part of the North of Scotland.

Because I was a little older, I understood the reality and finality of death a little bit better. Although my parents weren’t religious, I attended a school run by the Church of England which to this day still gives me a complicated relationship with God and religion.

Long story short, I used to pray to a string of dust that hung from the ceiling. It’s ridiculous to type that out, and I’m sure it’s a ridiculous thing to read.

I was scared to go to sleep. I’d have little panic attacks nightly about death. When the lights turned off, the glow of the streetlights outside would catch this string of dust. The string used to move, and as I was a child, I couldn’t conceive of why it would move if God wasn’t the one moving it.

So I’d pray to the string as a conduit for God. I’d ask Him to look after my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband. And, later, when my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister, and my grandmother’s brother died, I’d pray that He’d make sure they were happy too.

I’m quite firmly agnostic now, as much as anyone can be ‘firmly’ agnostic. I look back on the string of dust and wonder why I ever cared so much or ascribed so much meaning to it.

I don’t mean to trivialise these thoughts on death and religion, but thinking on this made me think about how I assign a lot of meaning to small actions of others. Even more so within the context of the breakup.

It’s been seven weeks now. We saw each other two weeks ago and I read into every action of his. That means he’s sad about the breakup, this means he misses me. Maybe he said it like that because he knows that will make me miss him more. Maybe he still loves me.

I’m starting to accept the finality. A few people at work asked about whether he and I would get back together. That knowledge and belief from an external person gave me some feeling that it could happen, but I’m starting to see the reality that it probably won’t.

Am I sad? I’m still trying to navigate this. The freedom and the opportunity are still tickling at me.

Is it possible to be friends?

I saw him today. It’s been six weeks since he broke up with me, and I still struggle to call him ‘ex’ but that’s fine. I saw him because it turns out that his passport was in my house following the anniversary trip that we took in April, four months ago. We met for lunch and I gave it back to him.

(Thankfully because I felt like some kind of mafioso withholding it from him even though that was never my intention)

We updated each other on our lives. Not much to tell. His hair is longer, and I struggled not to brush it out of his eyes, or to dust the crumbs off his t shirt. It’s hard not to hold his hand or kiss his cheek, but I feel like that will get easier.

A couple of strange moments: he sat next to me rather than opposite me while we ate. He asked me to send him pictures of the holiday I’m taking next week with friends. I think we’re both finding it tricky to traverse these new boundaries and find out where this tentative friendship is going to sit.

So can we be friends in the future? I feel like we can, but I don’t know if that’s just because right now we miss each other and there’s comfort and history there. I’ve been told by four different friends that it’s not possible, but I think I’m willing to try.

I went to a wedding

It’s been nearly four weeks. Where did that go? How has it been four weeks since he loved me?

How melodramatic.

It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I remember in the early days of our relationship, I used to count every day and week. Our anniversary was April 19th, so on the 19th of every month for at least two years, I was so excited that we’d reached another milestone. Now I’m counting that time in a different direction.

It does feel easier. I don’t often have that same pit of dread when I think of him, and I can make jokes more easily about our relationship and the natural imperfections that we had (that everyone has).

I can’t contemplate the reality of dating somebody. It would be nice to jump straight back to when he loved me and to enjoy the things we enjoyed, but I can’t think of anybody else touching me or kissing me. Or even talking to me – but let’s ignore my little piece of introversion.

I’ve deleted the latest dating app that I has downloaded. It started to feel so pointless, and I did start to feel like I was leading people on with my online presence and my unwillingness to reply. These are people who want to be with somebody, and all I could focus on were the minute grammar errors to use as proof that they weren’t worthy of my time. So it also started to feel like I was being a dick.

I went to a wedding yesterday. My friend of 8 years was marrying his partner of 6 years (fiancĂ© of 2 years). I went along with my friend of 5 years to replace the boyfriend of 5 years who decided he didn’t love me anymore.

(I can’t stop saying that phrase, is that a problem? Do I have an issue?)

It was a lovely day. The ceremony was lovely and I cried. The speeches were lovely and I laughed. The music was shit, which it always is with any random DJ that someone hires for the best day of their life. I felt happy for my friend – never jealous (which I was relieved about, because that would’ve been another dickish thing about me this week).

So, this shit DJ. He played a lot of breakup music. Weird thing to do at a wedding anyway, but in that golden alcohol haze after a bit too much gin, it felt like every song was directed at me.

The sad breakup songs became poignant. The triumphant breakup songs were too much. The songs about loving yourself after a breakup were annoying, because I don’t right now.

Then he played Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. It’s strange and catchy and it was everywhere for one summer five years ago, so it became our song. We had talked about Daft Punk when messaging on Match. We listened to Get Lucky and complained about how it was following us. He learned to play Get Lucky on guitar at a guitar camp he went to that was our first trip away together. It was our song.

I looked around at all of the couples on the dance floor. There were so many happy, comfortable people who just seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I looked at my friend, and despite how much I love her (platonically) and think she’s brilliant, she’ll never be someone who is just for me like he used to be. I started to cry, slowly, silently, privately.

I sat down. Pissed about on social media on my phone for 10 minutes and got up and pretended I was okay. I feel like this might be a theme for a little while.