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Thursday, 18 July 2013

#14 - Refusing to learn a very simple lesson...

Since I joined my dating website of choice okcupid over a year ago, I have experienced some very weird and wonderful things...people...etc. The weird have been enjoyable in their own, weird way, and the wonderful were, y'know, ok, but it was inevitable that at some point I would have a genuinely rubbish experience.

This story may be about that day....

About 2 months after I moved back to Devon I visited my old flatmates and friends in London for a long weekend, during which I started messaging a man whose profile leapt out at me as one of the funniest I had read in a long while. I wasn't even bothered if he replied to me, I just wanted to tell him how funny I thought he was. I was of course delighted when he did reply to me, and we started sending messages at an alarming rate over the course of two weeks, before we finally met up on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Lesson #1 - when a man shows up 20 minutes late for a date with a raging hangover and a three day old beard, it is not uncharitable to casually wonder if he possibly has a slight drinking problem.

Our first date went quite well, and I was very keen to meet up with him again, which we did one week later. I had been dating a couple of other guys as well up until that point, but felt very strongly that this man was the one to stick with. His messages were spontaneous and funny, we made each other laugh and he seemed very keen on maintaining some level of communication at all times. How refreshing.

Lesson # 2 - when every story a man tells involves him getting drunk with his buddies at the local skeezy student pub round the corner from his flat, it is not unkind to ask yourself, purely hypothetically of course, if he maybe has a slight drinking problem.

Our second date turned into our first night together, which is absolutely fine because we had known each other for a few weeks by then, and it involved watching romantic movies and chatting about random things, which quite clearly indicates that people have feelings and stuff going on here. This is more than just getting laid guys, this is conversation.

Lesson #3 - when the first thing a man says when he wakes up is to jokingly suggest he will start the day with a drink, it wouldn't be unfair to think he might have a slight drinking problem.

We started seeing each other regularly. He introduced me to some hilarious TV shows I had never seen, and I introduced him to me enjoying new TV shows. We ate a lot of chinese food. I cooked meat for him (first time in 8 years, thoroughly impressed I didn't kill him). Life was pretty nice. Then he had to go and sit all his MSc exams so I didn't really see him for a few days.

Lesson #4 - when the man you're dating tells you he can't see you because he needs to have an early night, then posts a facebook status three hours later saying he's getting drunk in a nightclub you know to be populated with chavvy teenagers, it's ok to seriously doubt his commitment to an 80% plus level of sobriety on a day-to-day basis.

After a month of dating I went away for a weekend to work a festival, during which I did not hear from the man I was now starting to think might become my boyfriend. This was fine because there is of course limited signal at many remote camping locations around the country, and besides, I had lots of dancing, sunbathing and merriment to be getting on with. When I returned home I was initially unable to contact him due to him not replying to my messages. Eventually however I managed to get hold of him and we straightened it all out. 

Lesson #5 - when the man who may in fact be your boyfriend ignores you for a week, then sends you a message saying that he can't date you anymore because he would rather drink himslef into an early grave than commit to a relationship with you, give up.


I have dated a lot of men over the past 10 years, some of whom had minor to serious substance abuse problems, as well as depression and self esteem issues. My friends have joked many times that I'm the man whisperer - I fix up lost causes and send them off to win grand nationals/get married/not snort coke off the shoulder blades of hookers, and the truth is this is exactly what I do. For ten years I have subconsciously sought out damaged men with dark pasts and commitment issues that men twice their age would be proud of. But now it's different; now I know what I'm doing wrong, and I can finally do something about it. The lesson I need to learn is very, very clear.

Date a younger, less ruined man....

Sunday, 26 May 2013

#13 - laughing out loud at what others would deem to be an inappropriate moment...

I can still remember my first time like it was yesterday – from the film that we watched before the big deed, to the dodgy roll-up he made me afterwards that I pretended to smoke even though I don’t really like cigarettes, and I especially don’t like dodgy roll ups that have a bit of rizla card for a filter. I also remember being really annoyed that, despite much research on my part beforehand to work out what to expect, it had been rather rubbish. No doubt due in part to my own massive insecurities (ahhh sex! What if I’m rubbish? What if I look different to every other girl he’s ever had sex with? What if I look different to every other girl IN THE WORLD? Oh God I’m a freak of womankind, AND I’ve got a spot on my chin...) I was really, really worried that it was going to go horribly wrong, and that somehow I would be a failure at sex, and therefore at life. When it finally happened my main aim was to get it over with as quickly as possible, without saying or doing anything monumentally stupid.

This turned out to be exactly what happened. I can say categorically, without a hint of a lie, that I was a failure at sex that night, despite all my efforts to get through it without any mistakes. As I reflect now on that fateful night several years ago, I can see with perfect clarity where it all went horribly wrong for me, made all the more clear by the fact that I have never made this mistake again.

I did not laugh.

As a fully grown member of the adult brigade I really enjoy the fact that sex is a thoroughly entertaining business. Even the most attractive, lithe and limber couple of greek gods can’t pull off genuinely sexy, non-funny sex for longer than a few minutes at a time, because there’s just too much re-arranging going on! Unless you're willing to stay almost perfectly still in strategically placed lighting that makes everyone look a little bit more tanned and thin than they actually are, then you should be prepared for the fact that having sex sometimes makes you look like an over-excited seal playing find the salmon.

I discovered that sex was unintentionally hilarious when I worked a summer season abroad, nearly a year after that fateful night with the man with no visible sense of humour. For starters, we all lived in caravans.  Caravans are notoriously unsexy dwellings, and we discovered that three people living in a two-bedroom caravan for 4 months did not create a shag-friendly environment. Luckily, we also spent a lot of time wearing fancy dress1 and getting drunk, which is an extremely shag-friendly environment! A summer of living such a carefree lifestyle completely changed my attitude and expectations of sex forever and for the better. For one thing, I actually enjoyed sex! It’s difficult to believe now that for several months I genuinely didn’t understand why everyone made such a fuss about sex – it wasn’t doing anything for me! I had a fling with one of my fellow holiday reps that opened my eyes to the possibilities of sex (how to risk assess sex in public places2 – still one of my favourite extreme sports!) I returned to England with a new found enjoyment of sex and a much better understanding of the importance of intimacy (because you cannot have sex in a high-risk situation with someone you don’t trust!)

1 which led to my best walk of shame ever - dressed as Princess Leia, with a faint blue sheen courtesy of the smurf I went home with

2 do you require an escape route? Is it likely you will be arrested if caught? Is the environment populated with any dangerous flora or fauna? Is there CCTV? If you answered yes to 2 or more of these, then it’s definitely a public place – go for it!

Eight years later and I still feel a little lost in the crazy, strange world of adult relations. Thanks in large part to being single for most of my twenties I have had a fair few sexual partners since my holiday romance3, all of which have been memorable in their own way, for a variety of reasons good and bad. The most vivid memories are really, really good ones, which brings me back around to the point of this long and rambling tale: I am certain that sex is supposed to be fun, and therefore it’s ok to laugh during sex. Recently however I have found myself wanting to laugh for an entirely less savoury reason, and I am laying the blame squarely on the shoulders of one perpetrator: porn.

3 who is now one of my best friends, and has pinky-sworn to invite me on his stag night when it happens – I made him do it because I want to get drunk in Munich and wear a Viking helmet.

‘Laugh at porn?’ I hear you say – and I have done so many times, but never before for this particular reason....For a while now I have maintained a very casual friends-with-benefits relationship with one of my male friends, and even when I lived in London we stayed in sporadic skype contact. He is a very successful artistic type and very attractive to boot (just like me, boom!) and when I first moved back to Devon we had a few nights in together, as two single people are perfectly at liberty to do. I have often thought that a ‘relationship’ like this one is often the best way to enjoy the kinkier aspects of your sexual personality, safe in the knowledge that the only time you will ever have to look the other person in the eye is when you agree on a safe word. This was certainly true of our situation, and as much as I enjoyed spending time with him it was safe in the knowledge that he would never make for a good long term emotional investment4. As much as I respect and admire him as an artist, and enjoy his company (naked or otherwise) he has one flaw that is impossible to avoid – he has sex like he’s in a porn film.

4 for example, I’m fairly certain he has had sex with at least 5 of my friends, which makes for a very strange game of ‘Six degrees of separation’ that my mind can’t quite handle. I’m not one of life’s sharers.

To be clear – I am not a porn prude. I have watched a lot of porn in my adult life, for a variety of reasons including entertainment, personal gratification, educational purposes, masters research and boredom, and have come to the conclusion that porn is ruining people’s sex lives.
I’m certainly not the first person to notice this – Caitlin Moran dedicated a chapter of her book ‘How to be a Woman’ to the topic, and Mr B Gentleman Rhymer raps melodically about the lack of kissing in porn. I spent hours of university lectures discussing how unerotic pornography has become5 and even more hours drinking wine with my friends and comparing notes on how rubbish we think porn is (which makes me a pub quiz level porn expert, at the very least). There are many ways to ruin a perfectly good sex session, and most of the ones I have experienced are related to copying moves you’ve seen in a cheap n’ nasty free porn vid (such as those available on youporn). The more I researched the more I realised that I have, for several years, been the recipient of stealth porn shagging! So many times my concentration during a sexual encounter has been disrupted by an awkward or confusing action that doesn’t fit with the natural rhythm of the moment, but I had never made the connection until recently...they were doing porn at me!!

5 which led to a heated debate about whether or not the table dancing scene in ‘From Dusk til Dawn’ is misogynistic. My personal view was that Salma Hayek effectively penetrates Quentin Tarantino after simulating urinating on him with a bottle of beer in a public place...no one else shared my interpretation.

Some of you are probably nodding knowingly – you too have experienced someone doing porn at you. If however you are still in the dark (or you think you might be a porn-doer!), here’s my top ten list of things I have personally experienced over the past 8 years that indicate someone is doing porn at you...

1.     Foreplay consists of attempting to wear you like a glove puppet, followed by genuine surprise that you don’t really enjoy that very much, especially when only given 30 seconds to warm up.
2.     Foreplay consists of saying hello, removing you clothes and attempting to enter the dangerzone in the space of 2 minutes. This drops to 1 minute 30 seconds if between the hours of 1am and 5am.
3.     Your partner attempts to have sex with you without touching any part of your body except your tinderbox, leaving you cold, stark and very confused.
4.     Your partner indicates, generally very politely, that they would much prefer you with no pubic hair. The reason will probably be that you will enjoy the sex more. It’s all for you.
5.     Your partner does not want to climax inside you5
6.     Your partner changes position every other minute – presumably to get a nice variety of camera angles?
7.     Your partner asks you to call them Daddy6.
8.    Your partner uses spit as a lubricant, and applies it by spitting on you.
9.     Your partner attempts anal penetration the first time you have sex.
10. Your partner attempting to 'sprint-shag' you for ten minutes. By then end it feels like someone has punched you in the cervix.

I am aware that this is not specific to porn, but when accompanied by any two other items from the list it’s a fairly good indicator.
6 yes, this happened to me once. No, I still haven’t completely recovered.

If this list sounds a bit unpleasant, that’s because all of these things are unpleasant to experience7. Luckily for me I have never had all ten in one sitting – can you imagine the therapy bill? Nevertheless these actions and many more like them are cropping up uninvited more and more in my sex life, and I don’t like it! Going back to my recent encounter with my sex friend, I got to the stage where I could no longer be annoyed if he did some porn at me. As unpleasant as some of these things are, they are also fairly ridiculous. When I realised this I very quietly began to laugh. And in hindsight, I think this is by far the most sensible option. Modern porn is unrealistic, unerotic and seemingly designed for instant visual gratification, with no room for lust, desire, romance or prolonged enjoyment. And that is ridiculous. The man in question however, is incredibly sexy and thoroughly invested in mutual gratification. I’m happy to state he’s in my all-time top three, despite occasional lapses of doing porn at me, thanks in large part to his non-porn related skills of seduction and other nifty tricks.

7 If it sounds unrealistic then Congratulations! You don’t do any of these things!

So my message is this – don’t let anyone do porn at you! Don’t do porn to anyone! Put the porn down for a moment and read an erotic novel, or watch Wild Things, or take up tantric sex. Then find someone who would like to share these things with you and share them, in a lovely, holistic, everyone’s having fun no-pants-dance party. And laugh a lot.

Friday, 22 March 2013

#12 - The golden rule(s)...

I recently celebrated another birthday, and as I sat with my best girl friends drinking wine and discussing all the interesting (or otherwise) things happening in our lives at the moment, I was reminded that my friends, though all of a similar age to me, seem to have made a lot more progression than me in the relationship department. I often wonder during quiet moments (on the bus, during the morning briefing, very occasionally in the middle of a live striptease) about how effective my dating strategies are? I deliberated at length before committing to online dating this time last year, and was pleasantly surprised with the results1. I also discovered that despite spending a large proportion of my adult life singling out tall men with beards to date, that there are some very nice average height clean-shaven men in the world (well...Greater London), and shock horror, that there are literally thousands of single people living in London2 who also wish everyone would be a bit nicer and politer and not randomly send obscene text messages to people they met once on a blind date in a chain pub at 5pm

1including the sex pests - statistically they helped me maintain a high average success rate

2and I presume the rest of the UK, but a lot of that is up north, which is really a bit too far away, and very cold, and despite statements to the contrary, not very friendly

3see #7 - making an exception that leads to a date with a sex pest...bugger the statistical average, it’s just rude

For many years I have lived by my own Golden Rule(s)4 of dating, and although not successfully shacked up and shagged out yet, I haven’t experienced any major disasters5 by following them.

Fanny’s Golden Rule(s) for successful dating

1.     Tall enough that I can’t tell if they’re going bald.
2.     Own teeth

And that’s it. Really, that’s it. Am I missing something? I always presumed that having flexible6 standards would not only offer more opportunities to meet different people, but also ensure that I never became the girl we all secretly hate, who is never satisfied with the appearance, personality or income of her partner (but also manages to never be single!)

4the notion of a Golden Rule implies that, like Highlander, there can be only one. But I have two. So there.

5although looking over my blog does make me question this...

6not low. Just low key.

Some of my particularly honest friends would say that these rules aren’t the sum total of my dating preferences, but I blame this on bringing one too many California boys7 home during my university days. They somehow got it into their heads that I only go for the uber-hotties of the world, but this is a tough one to call because, in my head, all the men I have dated have been uber-hot. It’s no secret that I enjoy a man with a beard (and my current celebrity beard of choice is the Big Hairy Growler, aka Dave the Bear. Phwoar.) but this preference is more aesthetic than anything else. I have also given up on exclusively tall men, as after years of rejecting my best friend’s sage advice (on the grounds that she is 4’11” and has no concept of what it feels like to be taller than your boyfriend) I have come to realise that you really can’t tell the difference when you’re lying down.

7see #6 – discovering how unsatisfactory being shallow can be...

And so as another years passes I have started to redefine my golden rule(s) for dating, and as I creep ever so slowly towards 30 with no clear idea in my head of what I may be doing in 6 months/a year/5 years8 , these rules are becoming more and more useful when making decisions. As with my taste in food, alcohol and trashy television, my taste in men has improved with age, and requires a more clearly defined set of rules to reflect my refined man palette...

Fanny’s Brand Spanking new Golden Rule(s) for successful dating

1.     Manners – whether you are making a joke at my expense, or subjecting me to some latent sexism (and it happens ladies, when you least expect it someone will do some sexism towards you!) then take a moment to consider: am I being rude? If my face looks like a smacked arse then the answer is almost certainly – yes, you’re being very bloody rude. Shut up please (see, manners.)
2.     Consistency – it’s all well and good to send speedy responses to my text messages or phone calls when you think a shag is on the cards, but if you are unable to write a reply to a general enquiry about dinner/the whereabouts of my keys/why daleks are rubbish villains9 in under a week then you are probably just being a bit rude. Because it’s a message, right? Not War and Peace.
3.     Lies – lying is pointless, it only prolongs periods of distress for the person doing the lying. Being lied to is really only a drag when you find out, but you do at least get months, possibly years of blissful ignorance. Liars get months of potential heart failure due to increased stress levels. Don’t lie. It’s just common sense.
4.     Looks – are entirely subjective. I had a conversation recently with a man about how quickly the novelty of a buff gym body wears off, noting that if a man looks like he spends most of his time working out at the gym, then he probably spends most of his time working out at the gym. This also means that a lot of his stories start with ‘So I was at the gym...10’ Do you see where I’m going here?
5.     Love – is easy to find, but less easy to say. I have managed it a few times, and enjoyed a varied range of responses, and in turn discovered that it is never, ever OK to respond to ‘I love you’ with ‘thanks’.  In this instance, manners will not save you.
6.     Own teeth11

8I wrote out my 5 years plan, then hid it somewhere very safe...location currently unknown to me...

9they are overgrown pepperpots. Oooh, I’m so scared, I may sneeze myself into oblivion

10Which is far less entertaining long-term than ‘So I woke up in a skip next to a sign that said “Autobahn”...’

11Because sometimes you need to be a little bit shallow

With my new and improved list of rules I am feeling ready to get back into the dating game. Unfortunately I do still live in the arse-end of nowhere, and there are now only two eligible men left in a 50 mile radius12, so it looks as though I may be heading back to London soon, if only to sit in a room full of people I don’t already know for a while...

12I leave it to you to work out where the third one went – answers on a postcard...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

#11 - Not having sex...

Having bid a final farewell to my French man I returned to England feeling a little alone, and through with love, and other dramatic song titles. In the following months I avoided the dating scene almost entirely, and returned to my home town a couple of days before Christmas feeling generally a little low about the holidays. Despite it being very clear that it was not going to work out the French man had made a suggestion that we spend New Year together, only to then realise that neither of us could afford to visit the other anyway. Moreover, I knew for certain that my poor battered heart could only withstand so much, and saying yet another tearful goodbye to him would probably push me over the edge into plate-throwing territory1

1I once threw a plate at a former boyfriend in a fit of pique. There are no blog companion notes, but I did make a show about it once. Dolly Parton featured heavily. 

Around this time I made the decision that I wanted to move back to Devon permanently - after a good spell in London and lots of additional work experience (plus countless extra-curricular experiences) I secured a new job a grade higher than my current role, and arranged to move mid February. I have been fielding questions about how happy or otherwise I am about this move for a while now, as although I am certainly pleased to be making some career progression, and very much looking forward to spending more time with friends and family, the move brings some unavoidable downsides that I will not enjoy. To put it bluntly, I won't be having any sex.

I shall be moving into my parents house, where I will have my own bedroom and study/living room, as well as a very liberal overnight guest policy and lovely laid back parents who are near impossible to shock or surprise. So good so far, agreed? 


I remember sneaking a boy into my parents' house many years ago, and thinking at the time how clever and clandestine we were. This was, in hindsight, a load of bollocks. My mother knows everything that goes on in her house. She has a sixth sense for sex. I'm fairly certain that this is why her impromptu phone calls always coincide with me waking up next to an unfamiliar face. She's better than an alarm clock, as she always provides a side dish of guilt. I can't have sex within a 5 mile radius of my mother, let alone in the upstairs bedroom - not only will she know what I'm doing, but I can't have sex with the Coronation Street theme tune drifting through the walls. I just end up picturing Ken Barlow's face.

This is not the only reason why I won't be having any more sex of course. The above scenario relies heavily on me having someone to have sex with, and that's scientifically unlikely. Yes, you heard me right. I conducted a scientific experiment, and ran a search on okcupid to find single men in my local area. In the whole of Plymouth and Torbay, my local dating area, I found five single men. I have already dated one of them, and of the remaining four, only one lived within 30 miles of me. It's official - I have run our of men to date. I used to make jokes about the fact that I had dated all the men in Plymouth, and that's why I had to move to London. The realisation that I was right all along was soberingand has left me seriously questioning whether I will ever meet any new men now I am moving back to the man-vacuum capital of the UK.

2right up until the moment I started drinking gin to deal with the fact that I have run out of men to date.

This leads me to my third, and by far most worrying reason for suspecting there will be no more sex for me in the immediate future - my best bet of any romantic or otherwise action is with men I already.....know. Y'know. Know. I don't particularly mind this - the majority of them are fairly nice, normal guys who I get on very well with, but there are reasons why they didn't work out the fist time around. More often than not it was because I got unceremoniously rejected. To even consider further contact with someone with a track record of turning me down feels like a big step backwards. After all, my last boyfriend was a tri-lingual Parisien with three engineering degrees and the most perfect face I have ever seen - it seems that I have raised my standards somewhat since moving to London 18 months ago (see #12 - The golden rule(s)...) 

I wonder if it's ever ok to ask a former lover why they didn't want to keep you around? The question is completely separate from any other dating queries encountered during the first few dates, as sex is (or maybe should) be the final step in the dating process, but this is something I have never been very good at. I tend to jump in3 and ask questions later (and I can't really complain, for every phone call not returned there's a cage fighter with muscles whose names I can't even pronounce). So maybe this is my lesson learned, to put into effect when I move, in approximately 9 hours time. I'm not going to have sex, and in doing (not doing) so, I may be able to track down the final three eligible men left in Plymouth4


4Only two of whom I have already seen naked. So that's progress.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

#10 - Discovering why Paris is called the romance capital of the world, then discovering that this is in fact not really true

3 months later, he still hasn't noticed
 this picture on his camera...
Life returned to normal almost immediately after the French man's departure - I was enjoying my new job, he was on holiday with his family then with friends and we both seemed to be coping very well without each other. In hindsight, we would probably have benefited from stopping all contact for a while as we adjusted to being apart. Unfortunately, we instead decided to talk to each other most days, stay in almost constant whatsapp contact and generally behave as though he had not in fact moved hundreds of miles away. I didn't miss him as much as I thought I would, but I did think about him a lot - I looked forward to every contact, message or skype call, and slowly but surely began to realise that I was no longer in a position to let go  and move on.

This realisation coincided with him inviting me to visit him in Paris. I did not know what to think of this gesture at first - he had made it very clear that he did not want us to continue a relationship, but his behaviour since the day he had left England seemed to imply the complete opposite. After a few days of quiet deliberation I agreed to visit him in Paris for 4 days, and booked my ticket on the Eurostar. Though he had not said anything, I felt that his invitation, coupled with his constant contact was proof that we were both missing each other, and that maybe there was some hope for our short-lived relationship. I boarded the Eurostar two weeks later eagerly awaiting the moment when I would finally see him after nearly two months of separation. I was also a little concerned that, if I were to tell him how much I had missed him and that I wasn't ready to end our relationship, he may not feel the same way. I pushed these thoughts to the back of my mind, and focused instead on remembering my plans for when I arrived - I still had to trek across Paris by myself on the metro once I arrived, and despite having taken every precaution possible to ensure I didn't get lost, I was still very worried that I would get mugged, kidnapped or run over in my pursuit of my French man.

One uneventful1 metro ride later I arrived at my destination, and started pacing the street looking for the man. I heard someone call out my name, and turned around to see the biggest smile across the road from me. Fully aware of how cheesy the moment was about to become, I ran across the road and got swept up in a hug that squeezed the air out of me. All my worries fell clean out of my head, and I spent the rest of the evening in a tangle of laughter, kisses and exquisite cheese...

1minus seeing someone busking with a harp - a full sized bloody harp!

I was delighted to discover there was a
whole row of people doing this with me
All smiles until I saw the size
of the not-stairs queue
The weekend played out like a cheesy romantic comedy, in which I lived the hapless romantic dream of going up the Eiffel Tower, walking around the Louvre2, eating delicious hand-made ice cream, watching a film about polar bears, eating croissants off the chest of a naked man3, lounging about on the grass at Versailles, rowing a boat on a lake surrounded by various flora, fauna and French people, wandering around Notre Dame pretending to be a singing gargoyle, and of course lots and lots of lovely shagging. It was the most perfect moment of my life, and it was with a heavy heart that, on my final night in Paris, I asked the question that would, inevitably, end it all.

Rowing my boat at Versailles

2Yes I looked at the Mona Lisa, and yes it IS much smaller than in looks in The Da Vinci Code
 3Haha not really, that would be gross. It was cheese.

“What am I doing here?” Of course he didn’t understand – he knew I was upset about something4, but perhaps wanted to pretend everything was fine until after I had left, so as not to ruin a perfectly acceptable evening. After three days and nights of blistering happiness, I was rapidly sliding into a depression that would last for the rest of the visit - I did not want to say goodbye to him again. I needed to know why he had asked me to come to Paris. If his answer was that he had realised he was falling in love with me and wanted to continue our relationship, even though he was moving to Hong Kong, because I was worth the uncertainty and difficulties, then I would finally be able to tell him that I felt the same way.

4As it happens, he had also said something at dinner that had ticked me off, but considering I can no longer remember what it was I was probably overreacting

Unfortunately, he told me he asked me to visit him because he thought it would be a nice way to spend a long weekend. I don’t entirely remember the 10 minutes that immediately followed this revelation, but I think there was probably some crying. He was very confused by how upset I became, because as he quite rightly pointed out, if the situation had changed he would have told me so. He had not told me anything, and therefore nothing had changed. He still did not want a relationship with me, and he was definitely still moving to Hong Kong, where he intended to start a new life, without me.

By this point I had a substantial wadge of tissues stuffed up my nose to help stem the runny nose of a broken heart. I looked horrendous, and felt horrendous, and wanted the earth to swallow me up so that I could escape this mortifyingly painful conversation without further delay. Then something quite lovely happened. For all his protestations of solitude and separation, my French man wrapped his arms around me, kissed my forehead and told me I was still just as special and important as I had been before the conversation. His terribly male, terribly French sensibilities were completely out of synch with my own English female ones, and not for the first time the language barrier between us had turned into a gulf. We lay next to each other for the rest of the night, talking, crying, laughing, eating grapes and quietly getting ready to say goodbye for good.

24 hours later we stood outside Gare du Nord, after the most stressful car journey of my life. What had started as a tour of everything we hadn’t had time to visit in Paris had turned into a race against the clock to get to the station in time for my train. We drove the wrong way down a road twice in rush hour traffic, and I spent 5 minutes unable to speak for fear that I would end up stranded in Paris with a man who had, albeit very nicely, dumped me the night before. When we finally did arrive I had 5 minutes to get through check in and board the train. So we said good bye with a hug and kiss, I took my case from him, and walked away.
I expected to cry, but it never happened. Every other break up I have been through had crying in common – it’s how I know it’s definitely happened and they won’t be calling up in a few days to ask me if I fancy some Nando’s and a movie. Even now, several months after that day, I can’t quite cry about it. I still feel very sad about how it turned out, exacerbated recently by him finally moving to Hong Kong, but the tears never came. It’s probably for the best though, as I was able to return to my real life5 without much disruption6. I haven’t returned to the dating websites yet though. Despite some of his less pleasant qualities7 my French man is, to date, the best boyfriend I have ever had. Because when you weigh the pros and cons, he’s got a lovely face, and he took me up the Eiffel Tower whilst eating a croissant. Beat that English boys!

5as opposed to my rom-com fantasy life, in which I am played by a chubby Kate Hudson
6Drinking wine and singing ‘All By Myself’ in a pair of fuzzy pyjamas 
7I believe a man’s break-up methodology is a quality, just like the ability to play the bagpipes, or roll cheese

The best ice cream in the world, eaten by the best Fanny in the world!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

#9 - Flogging a dead cheval...

After a rather shaky start the French man and I began to see each other regularly, taking full advantage of my two weeks gap between leaving one job and starting another to spend a lot of time together, and get to know one another properly. 

We went on a lot of dates - a first for me. Although now well acquainted with the first date, I have not been on a second, third or beyond date with a man in several years, and having mainly dated boys from Devon for the majority of my adult life I was in uncertain territory as we embarked on our first steps towards a relationship. There were some really fantastic dates, like the night I took him to see The Hurly Burly Show before explaining as gently as possible that my shows will never look so polished (see my Art of Fanny blog for the review), or the day we went and sat in a park by the canal for two hours, or the day we spent an afternoon in his room watching movies of questionable suitability and pointing out the plot inaccuracies, or the day we watched the Olympic Men's 100m final whilst discussing the possibility of Usain Bolt returning to Rio 2016 as a long jumper. Not exactly the stuff of great romance, but certainly the most fun I have had a very long while. My French man was reminding me that I'm not quite as old as I think I am (I blame the children I work with - there's nothing like a 13 year old with a better phone than you to make you feel decrepit), helped along by the fact that he is two years younger than me, and was still studying at university when we met.

After three weeks of dating he went on holiday for three weeks, and I was left to contemplate where exactly this was going. I enjoyed his company, we had enough similar interests to ignite conversations, but were different enough to have excellent debates* when we disagreed on something. I missed him while he was gone, but told myself very firmly that there was a fixed end date to the romance, and although certainly fond of him I was not about to get romantically attached when he was planning on leaving England for good at some point in the near future.

*arguments, followed by truly outstanding shagging

About to discover sex toys and beyond at Cyberdog
Once I had got this wishful thinking out of my system I set about hiding my now fairly deep infatuation from the French man upon his return to England. I could tell he had missed me because he had stayed in contact with me for the duration of his trip, as well as telling me he had seen me logging in to my online dating profile while he had been away (and I won't lie to you dear readers, this freaked me out a little bit). Therefore my plan was to make the most of the time we had left together (which turned out to be three weeks, oh the drama!) to ensure he left England thinking that us English girls were the chien's nuts, and he would never be able to forget me!

I had started my new job as a teaching assistant by this point, and he was finishing his dissertation, so I initially though we would not get to spend much time together. I hadn't factored in his approach to his studies, which very much centered around doing it all in three days and not worrying too much about it. Therefore we spent the majority of our time having fun, with an occasional deep and meaningful conversation thrown in every so often as we slowly began to realise just how much we would miss each other when he left England for good. 
The coat I bartered for in Camden market, proving that
English girls are definitely better than...ALL other girls!

His final weekend in England was one of the best of my life* - he took me out to dinner; we went fur coat shopping in Camden Market; we went out in our best (and most hilarious) fancy dress costumes to Club de Fromage (most fitting, I thought); we had a thoroughly French brunch with his friends then spent a few hours wandering around Spitalfields Market buying random things; we went to watch Brave at the cinema, only to discover that despite speaking fluent English, he still does not understand a word Billy Connolly says. I made a hundred or more memories with him in a few days that I will treasure for a long time, including the moment when I had to say goodbye to him on the Monday afternoon. 

On the wall of the O2 Academy Islington - fame at last!!
*see #10 - discovering why Paris is called the romance capital of the world, then discovering that this is in fact not really true

After finishing work I met him with a takeaway coffee and we made our way back to my flat, where he had been staying for a few days after giving up his own apartment. We sat in my room for an hour or so, lying side my side on the bed as I cried and he stroked my hair in silence. I don't think he was prepared for how sad I would be, which made me cry even more. At that moment I regretted not telling him how I felt about him, but it was far too late to do anything about that, so I told him I would miss him, and then didn't say anything much else.

Before he left he gave me a rose plant, despite countless warning from me that I can't keep a basil plant alive. let alone an actual flower that probably needs special plant food, or at least someone who will remember to water it. No matter though, as no one has ever bought me roses before. I found a space for my rose on the window sill, then walked him to the door with his bags. I asked if he wanted me to go with him, but he preferred to go alone. I was quite grateful for this, as my face had begun to resemble someone mid-anaphylaxis and I didn't want to have to travel back from the station alone, crying and hugging my scarf for emotional support.

We said a final goodbye. He left me, and I closed the door. I cried for an hour, then got up and went to the launderette to catch up on the backlog from a week with no washing machine. Life continued.

Because I too am extra tough. Though alas, not German.