Using and used. Chasing and chased.

I’m embarrassing myself.

I hate feeling needy, or like I need someone else for validation. I don’t want to depend on someone else’s words or actions to make me feel better, or pretty, or interesting.

So I had the successful date nearly a week ago. It’s mad that it’s already nearly a week ago, and it’s gone so quickly. We saw each other on the Friday, slept together on the Saturday, and have had boring surface level conversations since Sunday.

I was sad about this. I was telling friends about how I felt sad, and how it was upsetting me that the content of his messages had changed. It had moved from ‘Hey beautiful :)’ to ‘Hello, how’s work?’

God, even writing that down I feel petty. I feel embarrassed. I feel petty and embarrassed that I care what someone who, ultimately, I’ve met twice thinks about me. Or how he makes me feel. I’ve told friends about this. The advice varies from ‘just sleep with a lot of people’ to ‘this probably means you’re soulmates, keep messaging him’.

I feel a subtle shift in the content of his messages, and I don’t like that. There’s only so many times I can ask to meet again, or to try and be funny and engaging with little response before I think maybe this isn’t it.

I still have this guilt about having slept with two new people. I firmly believe that if a friend told me she’d slept with half of the world’s population, I wouldn’t judge her. But because it’s me, I feel like I’m being slutty or wrong. There’s also a part of me that feels used, because that’s now two men who’ve slept with me and then been cold in further messages.

But, if to some degree I was using them for validation, or attention, or sex, does it matter that they’re using me too? Do I care that I’m an adult having short, adult, casual relationships following the end of a long term relationship?

I think the issue remains that I’m stuck in the mode of long term relationships. I’m used to having someone to message and care about. Someone who wants my attention, and will provide me with some validation.

So maybe I do need to sleep with a lot of people. Maybe I need to break this current mindset.

Or maybe I just need to find one long term partner and live happily ever after.

Watch this space.

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.

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.

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.

Do I want to date again?

I met up with him today. It was a source of anxiety, but at the practical level I needed to get my house keys back. On the emotional level I think I needed to see him to remind myself that we don’t hate each other, we’re still the same people and that maybe we could be friends.

But do I want to be friends? It’s been 8 days (8 days!) since the break up, and I have come to realise that no matter how sad or tearful I sometimes am, it’s not because I want him back. I wrote previously about the reasons that actually I have a sense of freedom and a burgeoning sense of excitement about one day finding somebody new.

Do I want to be friends? Do I miss him as a boyfriend or as a person? Do I just miss that sense of having somebody that was just mine and that knew everything about me?

I think that the very fact of having questions is the useful part of blogging. It’s really handy to write it out in slightly flowery language and try and figure out what I’m feeling.

So we saw each other. We had lunch. We chatted a bit about future plans for ourselves. He’s deferring his degree to focus on mental health, which is a massive and positive decision on his part. I’m waiting to see what is happening with my application to study a Master’s. He’s going to some events for his hobbies. I’m seeing friends on various places and hoping to make the most of this ridiculous British heatwave.

We split the bill in the restaurant. An echo of our first ever date. For the last five years, one or other of us has always paid the bill in full and swapped off for the next time. We got bubble tea which tasted horrible. Space Oddity was playing in the background and I sang along. He said the song would always remind him of me.

We said goodbye. We hugged and then both slightly ducked in for a kiss. We didn’t kiss, but there was a beat of tension when we realised what we had automatically begun to do. I made a joke about it. He laughed.

I pretended to laugh. I walked away and cried in my car.

I’m not a frequent crier, and I’ve forgotten how sometimes it feels like a release. I left the encounter feeling positive and lighter. I never once thought about wanting him back, or wondering if he cared or loved me. These were the things which I’d worried about, so it was nice to realise that although I was sad at the ending, I wasn’t sad that it had ended.

So this brings me to my question. Do I want to date again? As in, date again soon and now?

In seeing him, in a strange way it made me feel loved again. When I was a teenager, I never believed I would be loved, and just after he dumped me, I believed that he had never loved me. Seeing him showed me that although he broke up with me for our differences, there was a lot that he still liked about me.

To date again now would feel like searching for proof that I can be loved. It would feel like I was looking for validation, and there’s a part of me that would like to sign up to a dating website just to chat to strangers and feel that buzz of talking to new people. That might be all the validation I need at the moment.