So where do I begin?
I ummed and ahed a lot about this blog post. Because for a lot of people, this should be the final bookend of the challenge. The completion of the circle. Henley Boy began this crazy adventure, surely he should be the one to end it?
But this blog isn’t about Henley Boy.
Early on, some of my closest friends had a bet between themselves about how often I mentioned him in my blog posts. They actively wanted me to move on, and the most visual way of documenting the shift in my mindset towards him, was in watching the blog progress. As the weeks went on, and the blind dates piled up, I began to mention him less and less. Because I was thinking about him less and less. He was no longer the perfectly imperfect guy who had lit up my love life like a firework for a few short weeks, and instead, he had simply become the ignition switch of a far longer-reaching summer of fun!
This blog is about the adventures of Miss Twenty-Nine, my single girl dating persona, and her experiences with thirty different blind dates. And as such, we are still only two-thirds of the way through the challenge!
And so, rather than keep you in suspense any longer, I suppose I ought to tell you about a chapter which isn’t the final chapter of my blog, but simply the next chapter in my summer of dating.
And that chapter just happens to feature a rather familiar character!
As I explained in Part One, after several frosty text messages, I had arranged to speak to Henley Boy at midnight. I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely bricking it …
Why, after two months of silence, could he possibly want to speak to me? What couldn’t he say over a simple text or Facebook message?
From the tone of his text messages, I knew it wasn’t going to be a friendly call. What was he going to do? Accuse me of being a lunatic and blowing a few fleeting weeks of flirting out of proportion? Shout at me for not realising that he just wasn’t into me? Tell me I had been too clingy or too needy? That I looked sh*t naked, or that my cooking was laughable?
What could have been so wrong with me to drive a guy who had acted so unnecessarily keen, so definitively away overnight?
Finally, after two months openly asking for closure, I was about to get my answer.
And I was completely petrified!
I had genuinely never expected a reply. When I posted the Thank You card, I had just meant it to be a final send off. My personal, victorious, full-stop on the Henley Boy saga, and an illustration of how I had taken one of the most upsetting parts of my summer, and turned it on its head.
And then he had texted me asking to talk!
To be honest, he earned a bit of respect for giving me advance warning, and not simply ringing me out of the blue. At one point I toyed with the idea of asking to meet up in person, wondering if he might be less aggressive towards me if he could see the effect of his words on me, but I quickly vetoed the idea. As a close friend pointed out, it can be a lot easier (and more satisfying) to simply hang up on someone, than it can be to try to walk away.
He had promised not to shout, but that meant nothing. I knew, no matter how much I tried to tell myself they wouldn’t, that any words of criticism would sting, because Henley Boy had somehow made it into the elite handful of boys I’ve ever met, who have made a real, genuinely lasting impression on me. And, no matter how much his silence had hurt me, I knew I would still always hold some kind of candle for him (no matter how unwarranted).
My phone rang – Closing Time by Semisonic – the soundtrack to the big finale of ‘Friends with Benefits’, one of my favourite chick-flick scenes of all time. I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and answered the phone cautiously.
His voice was surprisingly upbeat. ‘Hey, long time no see, or speak even!’ He laughed nervously. I laughed, unable to voice the irony of the statement. And so began almost an hour and a half of completely unexpected, banter-filled laughter!
He was well aware what he had done, and apologised several times. He apologised for not thinking properly before calling, and for not really knowing what to say. He said he’d wanted to call me for some time, but as time drew on, the reason to call became more and more awkward and tenuous. My card had been the prompt he’d needed to call, though he didnt seem to really understand its contents and had texted me almost as soon as he’d opened it! He was yet to read the blog, and wanted to speak to me before reading it, to properly gauge the tone of what he was about to read, and work out whether he even wanted to look at it. When I later explained how much his frosty texts had worried me, he explained that he’d tried to remain as neutral as possible, because he didn’t know how bad what I’d written about him on the blog would be.
And so I began to tell him, very honestly, about the blog. About his role in its creation, and the organic crazy way it had grown over the past two months. I told him about my depressing first date with the Normal Fish, and my more comic awful dates with The Pupil and The Burlesque Dancer. I told him about my more exciting crazy dates – The Enigma, The Argentine Matador, The Fake Pimpernel, The Fresh Prince, and the newspaper press and radio airtime the challenge has received.
As we talked, he tried to rationalise his actions – ‘running for the hills’ as he called it. He had some personal reasons, which I don’t feel right sharing on the blog, but what I will say, is I believed them. They fitted neatly with the picture of the man I had begun to paint in the few short weeks I had gotten to know him, and the limited details of his previous relationships which I knew from our nightly phone conversations. Whilst they didn’t in any way justify the complete silence, they at least put his actions into context for me.
One of the issues I have always had with the Henley Boy conspiracy theories, is that they have never really fitted with the man I had begun to get to know, or the logistics of the three weeks we were in contact. The suggestion that he had a girlfriend, for example. Or that he was seeing other girls at the same time. We had literally been in contact 24/7, phoning in the late hours of the night when any partner would try to contact their other half. When we were together he had openly shared the contents of texts with me, and seldom ever used his phone.
Of course there was the thief theory – disproved when I realised all my possessions were safe! And the alcoholic theory … And then there was the very basic idea that he just wasn’t as in to me as I interpreted, or that he was just a massive player only after one thing.
None of those theories properly explained his actions, the way our ‘relationship’ has progressed, or the way he behaved with me. And I think that was the main reason I’ve always wanted an answer. I just wanted an answer that actually fit what I knew.
As we discussed the blog, I decided the best approach was to be as open and honest about it all- How he’d made me feel. My own silly fears about what I thought I’d done wrong (all of which he really sensitively rubbished). I laughed about the conspiracy theories – and he even agreed that the thief idea was pretty warranted. I didn’t hold back my punches – I told him how unnecessarily he had hurt me, and explained how much of a difference a simple dismissive text message would have made. But I did it conversationally, making digs at him for being a now ‘internationally renowned love rat’.
I think the thing that surprised me most about the conversation, other than obviously the fact that rather than be angry with me, he seemed genuinely apologetic, and almost confused at his own behaviour, was how insecure he seemed in a lot of ways. I think I had always just been so awed by him. I had assumed someone so attractive and confident must be aware how great a catch he was, and use it to full advantage. And yet in our hour and a half long conversation, I began to realise how little self-esteem he has about certain things, and perhaps how that had affected the way he treated me. Again, no excuse. But it wasn’t about me forgiving him. It was about me trying my best to understand.
And a lot of you will be shouting at me for saying this, but I genuinely began to feel sorry for him. And frustrated that he had never had the confidence to tell me some of the things he told me last night, two months ago.
There will always be cynics who will say he was just spinning me a line. Telling me what he thought I wanted to hear. Out of guilt. Or in order to redeem himself on the blog.
Maybe that was the case.
But I’m not only an optimist, but I’m also a girl who has sent two months looking for answers, which made sense in the context of the relationship, and guy, that I knew. And the answers he gave me last night did make sense, at least for me (and I guess, really that’s all that matters).
He apologised numerous times, and understood what he’d done. He gave examples of things that had reminded him of me, and the corresponding times when he had gone to phone me, only to realise he had no idea what to say. Rather than yell at me, he was patient and did his best to try to explain stuff. Rather than criticise me, anything he said about me was complimentary. And instead of brushing it all aside and just telling me he hadn’t been that in to me, several times he commented on how surprised he had been at how well we’d got on so quickly – also making me feel a bit more sane and less like I’d over-egged it all at the time!
What he did two months ago was inexcusable, and he knows that. Something which could have been dealt with in one simple call or text message, dragged on for weeks of silence, until I was finally forced to accept the bitter reality.
But I think ringing me last night took a lot of balls. And whilst it was two months too late, I needed to hear the things he had to say, to join up the dots in my personal Henley Boy-shaped puzzle. If anything, to prove to myself that I’m not that bad a judge of character, and that I’m not as naive about guys and relationships as I’d begun to feel.
Not only did he ring me, but he chatted to me for almost an hour and a half. Some of the parts of the conversation were really personal, and I could hear in his voice sometimes how uncomfortable some of the stuff he was telling me was, and for that, he did go up in my estimations.
After the call ended, he read the blog, and then sent me two texts before bed – one telling me how much he had enjoyed it, and that he’d found parts of it funny. And the other telling me it was good to talk and that he’d been nervous as he’d had no idea how the conversation would end up going.
Waking up today, it genuinely all felt like a dream. From the moment his name flashed up on my phone at work, none of it seemed real, and if I didn’t have the evidence of it on my phone, I’d genuinely think my over-active imagination was playing tricks on me.
But it wasn’t. And two months too late, I had got my answer. I’m sure a lot of you reading this wish I’d shouted at him, or hung up, or given him what for. You don’t trust him, and think he made whatever it was he said up, whilst really just being a player who wasn’t that into me.
But I genuinely don’t think a player who wasn’t that into me would bother calling me 2 months after it all happened. Or even remember my name and number! And why spend over an hour talking about it all with me!
The reality of the situation, is that in the end only I need to believe him.
Because much as I have shared my love life with the cyber world for the past two months, this particular chapter of my life was about me and Henley Boy. And what he said on the phone, and the way he said it, was the best step towards an apology that he could have given me.
One of the reasons Henley Boy had made such a big impression on me in the first place, was that whenever we spoke, I spent the entire time laughing, and smiling from ear to ear.
I don’t know what will happen now. Perhaps those two texts I got last night will be the last I ever hear from him. Perhaps we’ll meet up as friends for a drink one day?
What I do know, is that I got an answer that I believed. And that I got it in the best way possible. Laughing for hours down the phone, and smiling from ear to ear.
I picked up that phone expecting to be belittled and criticised. I put it down, with an apology and as honest an explanation as he seemed able to give. After two months of silence, I never expected that, and I don’t think I could have ever expected more.
So thank you Henley Boy, for the closure.
You were, and always will be, The One who Made me Grin like a Cheshire Cat.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx