I wasn’t always the cynical, grumpy, anti-romance person I am today.
Before I realised that there are some people who are just better off (and happier) being single and that I am most definitely one of them, I used to do the usual rounds of dating.
London was a daunting place for me in the late 80s/early 90s and I was nearly always working (being a workaholic in those days) and so getting out and socialising in order to meet people was problematic for me at best. Before the likes of internet dating, the best place for singletons to place adverts was in the “Time Out” magazine. Of course placing a personal ad in those days was a bit like admitting you like being spanked: it wasn’t done in polite company. Not that I enjoy being spanked – I’m just making a point 🙂
So one fine day I placed an ad and got myself a voice mailbox.
The next couple of weeks were spent dialling into said voice mailbox and sifting through the responses. There was some right numpties in there, most of whom were quite entertaining to listen to. I didn’t bother calling any of them of course. They were like the vocal equivalent of some of the dating sites now where you get a two word email: the lame “hi, how are you/” and nothing else. I know it’s been a while but I’m guessing that still happens. I’m pretty sure that funnies about a couple of the other contenders will end up here fairly shortly – dating is always good blog fodder.
One of the “applicants” sounded pretty cool though, so I noted down his details and called him. He sounded even better on the phone – we seemed to have a lot in common, got on brilliantly and laughed a lot and both decided that we really should meet up. He lived in South London but was quite happy to come to West London and so we arranged to meet outside a well known local tube station one evening. I only had a rough description of him so was internally chewing my nails whilst I was waiting.
I hadn’t been waiting very long when this tall, dark, dreadlocked demi-god appeared in front of me and introduced himself. Let’s call him John. Oh. My. God. Really? I felt like I’d just won the bloody jackpot. Thankfully I didn’t turn into a gibbering idiot (by some miracle) and off we went for a meal. Nothing fancy. Just a pizza. And a lot of mutual flirting and virtual drooling. And not at the food. 🙂 I don’t remember how long we sat in the restaurant or what we talked about. I remember there was loads of good conversation and a lot of laughter and I don’t know where the evening went but it was soon time to head home so he walked me to my car which is where the real fun started (take your minds out of the gutter please people – this was a truly, honest, romantic evening).
We must have spent an hour and a half saying goodbye, wrapped around one another and snogging. They were the most wonderful, awe-inspiring kisses that were totally addictive (which is why I couldn’t tear myself away). Eventually, all good things must come to an end and we parted: he back to the station and me back home in the car. I don’t think I stopped grinning like an idiot all the way home.
The next day, the phone on my desk rang. It was John. None of this “wait three days” crap – he was happy he’d met me, seemed to really like me so he picked up the phone to tell me what a fabulous time he’d had. Me too.
The honeymoon period commenced with a vengeance. Sometimes 4/5 calls a day – he worked in a call centre during the day and I worked in a legal office. The phone would ring and a voice at the other end would say something very silly like “oh dear, I seem to have dialled your number by accident. Again” and “How are you since the last time I spoke to you, half an hour ago?” We’d laugh, have a brief chat and he’d ring off. It was heady stuff for a 20-something with self esteem issues and I fell, hook line and bloody sinker. We saw one another a couple of times a week when our busy work schedules allowed: I’d go over to his place or he’d come over to mine, stay over and then go to work from there the following morning.
This went on for a little while, during which time I did nothing but smile all the time. I should have known it wouldn’t last. And it didn’t. I’d convinced myself that I’d found my Prince Charming. <snort>. (Yes, I really was that naïve in those days). There were a couple of incidents which I didn’t think twice about at the time, I won’t divulge the details of one particular incident that happened at this flat, but it really should have given me a pointer to his total and utter disregard of my feelings. I was, however, blind. One evening his car had broken down in Surrey and he called me to come and pick him up, which of course I did. I didn’t arrive quickly enough for his liking however and there were a number of nagging calls asking where I was while I was stuck in traffic on the M25 and even more when I got lost in the wilds of Surrey. His behaviour on the way back to his place was also a bit … odd. Nothing I could put my finger on and I put it out of my head at the time. Again I was blind and naïve.
A few days later a friend of mind had come to stay (let’s call her Jane). John came over in the evening and was in a funny mood again. I suggested we went out for something to eat for convenience’s sake – the flat was small and I didn’t really cook much in those days so we piled into my car and off we went. He didn’t say much and it felt like there was a cloud over his head, sucking all the positivity out of the air and getting bigger and darker.
He became monosyllabic during the meal and Jane and I began to feel extremely awkward without knowing why. He sat at the table barely looking at either of us and making any attempt to join in the conversation, despite numerous attempts on both mine and Jane’s part while the mood got heavier and heavier. We cut the meal as short as we could, went home and he “went to bed as he had a headache”, leaving us in the sitting room, with wide eyes and both wearing puzzled expressions. I apologised to Jane for John’s behaviour, saying that he wasn’t normally like that and was really good fun and lively. She was a psychiatric nurse at the time and asked whether I’d ever seen him take any medication while I was with him. I replied in the negative although I had noticed some prescription bottles in the kitchen whilst at his place. Being the non-curious, trusting type, I hadn’t done anything other than notice them – they could have been antibiotics or painkillers for all I knew. Jane said she suspected he may be bipolar and we talked about it for a while in hushed tones (the walls in that place weren’t very thick) and I went off to join John in bed later feeling a little out of sorts.
He was still a little “off” in the morning and then didn’t call me for a couple of days. I eventually called him and he was extremely offhand and dismissive. The honeymoon was over. After that, things petered out fairly quickly: I became needy, trying to understand his sudden change in behaviour and he became permanently sullen, not calling or returning calls until I eventually gave up. I cried. A lot. I remember doing a lot of that in those days.
About a year later, I’d changed jobs completely and was working in Central London. One day, my mobile phone rang. The number looked vaguely familiar. I picked up. It was John. The John that I first met on that first date. We exchanged pleasantries then he said:
“I was driving around the other day and passed by your house …”
He still lived in South London, I was still way over West London/Middlesex and nowhere near anywhere he would just “pass by”. Furthermore, I lived in a cul-de-sac. All in all, a bit creepy.
He said he would like to meet up so we did arrange to meet at the tube station near my office the following day. He never turned up. I’ve never seen or heard from him again although I did receive a couple of “dead” phone calls at home around that time with nobody seemingly at the other end. <shudder>
Shame really. He was stunningly gorgeous and a fabulous kisser. The Prince who turned into a Toad.