If just one more person had told me that I’d find it when I’d ‘least expect it’, you might have just seen me on the headline news for smacking said person in the face. Well, maybe not quite, but hearing the same advice ten times over from people in adorable couples who weren’t really in a qualified position to offer said advice, was getting more than a little bit tiresome to say the least. In fact, it was outright exasperating. I’d nod and smile at them all the while thinking, yes, yes… you really have no idea how heinous dating is in this modern world, but I’ll be polite and pretend that this advice has been useful.
But then, one ordinary day, something just happened. And it wasn’t at all like I expected.
I didn’t find him lurking under the clothing shelves of Zara. We didn’t lock eyes in a cute cafe over indulgent coffees. I didn’t trip over him amongst the shoe racks of Topshop. I didn’t even find him in the depths of Tinder or Bumble. I didn’t bump into him inside the dark of a night club, and I didn’t even see him at first, maybe because I was too busy wishing for my shift to be over, or thinking about my upcoming trip, or maybe it was because gradually, and without my realising, I was no longer looking.
When it finally dawned on me, I didn’t ask him, “Where is this going?” or “What are we?”. He just one day referred to me in a conversation as his girlfriend. He introduced me to his friends. He’d pick me up from work, waiting for me at arrivals. He didn’t, not, text me back; instead, he phoned me. I left him a note one morning, and for once, I didn’t even think twice about this small act that I usually would have spent the following hours worrying had been ‘too cute’ or ‘too keen’ and would surely put him off me. And then one morning, he posted a picture of me and him on instagram.
It was like the noise of the sea – that whooshing sound you hear when you put a sea shell to your ear. The muffling, but kind of soothing noise of having your head underneath the water.
It was in that very moment when I realised that underneath the hoards of the advice; the endless magazine articles; the long conversations amongst friends and all of the hours spent reading those “blah blah man vs women” books that promise to reveal everything you didn’t know about dating, that everything had finally clicked into place. They were all right, and they had been all along. I found him the moment I stopped looking for him.
I’d accepted my eternal single girl fate and as part of my Yes Woman project, I wholeheartedly accepted and embraced being single. I relished the fact that I could be who I want, do what I want and go where I want without having anyone to answer to
except my mum who I still have to answer to aged 30. I said YES to everything from zip-lining across a mountain in Ras Al Kaimah, to taking a helicopter tour of Rio; from going on a holiday alone, to attending impromptu events where I didn’t know another soul in the room, each new thing that I said yes to left me feeling out of my depths, but braver than I’d ever felt before.
The outcomes of my ‘silly’ project were far greater than I could have ever projected or imagined. Since beginning the project, I made new friends and amazing memories, but even better still, is that I’m feeling happier than I’ve felt in a long time. Despite work continuing to be a a major source of frustration, it affects me less than it did before. I started going back to the gym – something that had taken a backseat since last November, affecting my mood and self confidence drastically (my weight somewhat creeping up and clothes feeling snug included) and I let go of a few things that had been bothering me. Where there had been a drought on the dating field, guys all of a sudden started taking an interest in me, and I was asked out on a few dates. (What’s that saying? That men are like buses? You wait forever, only for three to arrive at once.) Only that this time, I genuinely had no time, nor interest in meeting anyone. Declining their invitations, I invested all of my free time and the energy I had previously wasted on dating, on myself and spending quality time with those most important to me. I literally could not face yet another disappointing date or chance encounter that would surely lead to heartbreak or despair, and figured that there wasn’t anyone more deserving of my energy than myself. I turned down dates on the premises that I would rather spend time with my friends because they were always there for me. Even Caroline Flack said in a recent interview that, “Isn’t it always the women in your life who rescue you from the men in your life?”.
While I was busy dating myself, I also stopped comparing my life choices to other people’s as much, probably because I was too busy having fun to notice too much what anyone else was up to. I also had a cull of my social media, removing the people that made me feel bad about myself from girls that spent what seemed like their life in the gym, to people who posted negative stuff. I reasoned that there’s far bigger problems than beating myself up over that extra 6kg I’d been carrying around, but I didn’t need to be guilt tripped and reminded of it every time I refreshed my feed. I cleared out a lot of crap that had been gathering dust in my room, and completed the monumental task of sorting out my emails (I had emails dating back from 2012!!!) and don’t even get me started on the 3k Instagram pictures I had posted – a recent marathon delete fest which has left me with a grand total of less than 200 pics. I tried new foods and invested in massages, facials and other things that made me feel good about myself. I pretty much stopped drinking alcohol aside from the occasional gin or two, slept better, and got acquainted with a Korean skincare regime.
It was somewhere in the middle of this life overhaul, that I got his first text message, and when it came through, I didn’t think anything of it other than a friendly message. He was really handsome with a super athletic physique and while I’d have probably felt a little intimidated before, I didn’t think twice about him in that sense since I wasn’t dating anyone. If I am honest, he was the kind of guy I’d have possibly overlooked before, but not because I didn’t find him attractive; quite the opposite! He’s athletic, I am not as much, plus… I can’t resist chocolate and it shows! It’s just that I’m a hurricane of a girl, and he’s very put together man. I assumed (wrongly – so do not assume, people!) that he’d like a certain type of girl, and it didn’t ever cross my mind that he’d want to be anything other than friends.
Anyway, in the beginning, he had invited me along to a few different things but each time, I had been genuinely too busy to accept the offer. It wasn’t until, as part of my yes project that I took him up on his offer of a 50km cycle in the sweltering Dubai desert, that I began to see him in a completely different light, and realised that I had (unknowingly) misjudged this guy, and he was not at all like how I envisioned him. (lesson learned about being judgemental here…) He definitely didn’t make me feel stupid or unfit, despite my current state of fitness (or lack of it) and didn’t laugh at me for having to rent the world’s potentially smallest helmet to accommodate my tiny pea sized head. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone except myself that day; and so, I didn’t care that I was sweaty or had no make up on, I was just being my whole, raw and undiluted self. It was after this, that we gradually started hanging out. Just as friends, or so I thought… A dinner invite here, a cinema night there. As time passed and we spent more and more time together, I came to realise that I actually really liked this guy.
And so, fast forward to present day, and everyone’s modern day dating dilemma.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll have seen the post where I discussed the minefield combination that is social media and dating, (read it here if you didn’t before) “When is it okay to post a picture of someone you’re seeing?” and one of the three scenarios is when your beau posts a picture of you first.
I had always been apprehensive to post pictures of anyone I’d dated before, for more than a few reasons. One being that despite putting my thoughts and pictures out there for all to see, I am generally quite a private person, sharing only what I want to be projected*, (isn’t that what we are all doing?) and reason number two being what if I jinx the relationship??? Stupid – I know, but I feared that the minute I made it public knowledge that I was dating someone, surely it would only be a matter of time before the relationship went, ‘tits up’, and no doubt, my friends would surely message me asking how it was going with so and so, only for me to hang my tail between my legs and reply that it was going as fast as a dead dog. Better to keep your options open, Pam, I used to tell myself, because so far it’s never worked anyway, and therefore you can keep your rejection and failures hidden from nosey buggers who don’t want to see you do well (I see you). When I shared this thought with a friend, she argued, “But Pam, 99% of relationships fail, until people get married, and even then, most marriages fail these days too, putting you back to square one anyway. You can’t just hide away because you’re afraid. Plus, 99% of your friends relationships are failures ’til they find The One, so you’re not alone if it fails. We’ve all been there”. God, what a bleak outlook, I thought… but deep down, I knew she was right.
“Are you going to post a picture from yesterday?” He asked me. “I will, but I need to find a good one first.” I told him. A couple of hours later, just as I was about to do my last scroll of IG before bed time, the first picture that popped up as the app opened was a picture of us.
Him and me.
Me and Him.
As I double clicked it, I felt a warm fuzzy feeling, and ten minutes of photo editing time later, my fingered hovered over ‘post’.
“What if it all goes wrong?” I shouted through to my flatmate. “What if it all goes right, Pam? And if it doesn’t, well, a man’s rejection is God’s protection. God know’s you don’t need that shit in your life, girl! And for God’s Sake at that caption, add a bloody love heart or something!”
I last minute added a love heart, took a deep breath, a hit “post”, cause after all, you only live once.
We will never know how anything will work out in the end, – even when something seems perfect in the here and now. But all we really have is now, so my advice is to jump right in with both feet, anyway, because in the worst case scenario, there’ll always be new experience to write about, or a funny story to tell (after you’ve cried about it, obvs!).
*Okay this might sound a bit hypocritical since I just mentioned a 3000-photo cull on instagram, but generally speaking, us Virgo’s are notoriously well known for being able to trick people into thinking that they know us, meanwhile, after a two hour conversation, you actually don’t know us at all. So, same goes for IG. If some fool believes they know me just because they see what coffee I’m drinking and what shoes I’m wearing on the daily, then more fool them. They don’t know me at all.