I said it before when I wrote about the Return of The Henley Boy – Part One, but this isn’t the post I planned to be writing today!
In fact, as I sit aboard my flight from LAX to Heathrow, I was originally planning to spend the ten hour flight editing the blog and turning it into a book. The original idea was to take at least a week away from blogging following my 30th birthday yesterday, and the completion of the challenge.
And then I received a message from HB.
After the Return of HB about a month ago, I’ve stayed in rough contact with him. When I say ‘rough contact’, I mean several times over the past four weeks, I have shamelessly sent a friendly text, and then three days later (if I’m lucky) received a reply. It will just get to the point where I’ve given up all hope, and then I’ll get a heart-flipping teaser message, apologising for being rubbish and busy, and initiating conversation again. I’ll then respond promptly to his message (as I do when anyone texts me), only to have to wait three more days for a response.
Despite his unreliable communication, I kept trying. I had a poetic notion of organising a final date with him. I even wanted to call it ‘The 31st Date’ playing on the whole American idea of the 51st State. But if I’ve learned anything on this Challenge, it’s that things never turn out how you expect, when things rely on other people.
It’s the part which makes relationships so painfully complicated and uncertain. It always takes two, and no matter how well you think you know someone, sometimes they never cease to surprise you. So when you really don’t know someone at all, it can be ten times worse!
I have tickets to see the musical The Book of Mormon this week, and I thought it would be the perfect setting for the 31st Date. I literally had to book them six months ago, and I figured, three days into my thirties, it would make a neat, symmetrical end to the Challenge.
The response to The Return of The Henley Boy amongst readers has been incredible.
It has since been nominated for a ‘Best Individual Dating Blog Post Award’ after it spiked one of the highest days of readership on the blog so far, with fifty of my Facebook friends commenting on my wall barely minutes after I explained I’d received an unexpected text from him, let alone before I wrote the follow-up post. People I never knew who were reading the blog pitched in with their two cents – from my adoptive Mum (who rather sensibly never wanted me to speak to him again), to one of my closest female friends, who saw us eventually married, with the tables at our wedding breakfast named after each of my 30 Dates, and the top table named ‘Henley Boy’!
Even after his call, the blog’s readers were divided.
And this perhaps is where the reality of the movie ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ comes into its own. Because the majority of the female readers still had a crush on Henley Boy.
Rather than seeing him as the villain of the story, he was the restored hero.
Yes, I know that comes partly as a result of the way I myself wrote it, but I think the ‘female’ reaction to The Return of Henley Boy was illustrative of women’s approach to men. A guy treats you badly, but somehow, he can turn it around and with the most fleeting glimmer of attention, return to your affections. Because you think he’s special.
And if I’m completely honest, in that hour and a half call last month, he did return to my affections.
I’m slightly ashamed to say it, because in a lot of ways this blog has been such an incredibly exciting journey of empowerment, but the little girl in me was still excited that this guy who had taken my breath away was back on the phone to me. Laughing and joking like nothing had happened. It felt like I was back at square one, falling asleep listening to his excitable British boarding school tones.
Was this really happening? Was this the convoluted story of ‘How I Met Your Father’? – as one blog reader optimistically suggested! Had I gone all that way, to end up rekindling things with a guy who had inadvertently sent me on a thirty date adventure around the world?!
But (despite my most recent date with The Hollywood Actor!), real life doesn’t happen like it does in Hollywood.
I came away from my call with HB feeling elated, empowered, and actually sorry for him. I was excited to hear from him, and as he raved about how great my summer sounded, how dull his had been, and berated himself for all the reasons he didn’t see himself as a catch, I felt genuinely sorry for him. I actually believed the reason he hadn’t been ready to date me was because he just wasn’t in a place to date. He talked about our time together in the same way I did. We’d got on well. He’d never spoken that easily and freely to someone so quickly before, etc etc. And I genuinely believed it. I actually thought it was true. It all fitted with the guy I had met back in June.
The reasons he berated himself made sense. They had never been issues for me, but they made sense in the context of the guy I knew. Things he might think would make him anything but ideal boyfriend-material. Reasons to ‘run for the hills’.
I had fancied him so much, that I’d gone in all guns blazing. Packaging myself up as attractively as I possibly could. ‘Hey, this is me! Look how great I am!’ assuming that he was as self-confident as he appeared. As aware of what a catch he was.
Out of my league.
I came off that call with HB seeing things in a completely different light. Had he thought I was out of his league? Had he been scared by how close we got so quickly? Had he genuinely thought so little of himself and his current place in life?
I’ve told you the ‘girl’ reaction to it all. The same reaction as I had.
Yesterday, planning the future of this blog, I actually posted on Twitter asking what peoples’ favourite parts of the posts were. And one regular reader replied ‘hearing how it all ends up with Henley Boy.’
And deep down I don’t blame her, because I guess no matter how much I denied it, there was still a little part of me wondering how it would all end up too.
Don’t get me wrong – this summer has been amazing. I have had so much fun, and met guys who I hope will stay friends with for life. There are also one or two who I could see something potentially developing with.
But at least a part of me – the little girl who grew up in a fairy story; the clueless, idealistic Ted Mosby character in How I Met Your Mother, who still thought perhaps Henley Boy would end up being ‘My One’, and perhaps this Challenge was all just a pre-ordained route to us getting together.
I’ve said there were mixed responses to Henley Boy. That the female response differed from the male one. And interestingly, every guy in my life who cares about me hated him! Even after his return.
Don’t get me wrong, there was an insane amount of interest from guys about what HB had to say! The day after his phone call I literally had a queue at my desk at work at one point – all male colleagues, wondering what he’d had to say for himself!
And as I told them, their responses would always be the same. They would shake their heads, and mutter some expletive!
Because sometimes it takes a player to recognise another player.
And whilst none of them had understood his original actions, this time they saw themselves in his response and his excuses.
I tried not to worry about it too much. I was the only one who had met Henley Boy after all. None of them knew him – they hadn’t seen those couple of weeks we’d had together. It had all made sense. His answers had fit the reality of our time getting to know each other. It had made sense, and that was all that mattered.
And besides, I wasn’t actively pursuing him. I had ten more dates to do, a couple of guys I was genuinely interested in meeting up with again, and so much going on in my life, that even if he’d asked me on a date that week I wouldn’t have been able to make it.
But the little girl inside me kept in touch with him, telling myself it was just a journalistic interest. The perfect end to my 30 Dates Challenge.
And so I suggested the 31st Date.
And he didn’t refuse. In true Henley Boy style, he just didn’t reply.
It got to the point where I just texted to say ‘I’ll take that as a No?’ To which he replied, telling me I hadn’t told him when or where the show was.
Still not a No, but not a Yes either.
And so the game continued.
After a week, I gave up. Book of Mormon tickets are like gold dust, and this guy was fannying around, refusing to give me a straight answer either way, and asking questions I’d already answered.
I invited one of the 30 Dates I’d had a really fun time with, not that he could make it, and then made other arrangements instead.
I wasn’t going to wait for Henley Boy any longer … and if I’m honest, I was disappointed in myself for even asking HB in the first place.
Ironically, during our ‘rough contact’ in the past few weeks, HB and I had become Facebook friends. It’s weird, I hadn’t seen a photo of him since I was on Plenty of Fish all those months ago, and as I flicked through his Facebook pictures, I realised I’d kind of forgotten what he looked like. And yes, he was good-looking, but really, he wasn’t that special! In fact, I had definitely met more attractive guys during the Challenge! I guess it’s funny how a spark can work. And (much as I loathe the vast majority of Pick Up Artist game-playing) the power of playing hard to get. (and perhaps I’m not quite as superficial when I come to men as I like to make out!)
Yesterday I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. And the successful end of the 30 Dates by 30 Challenge. I had reached my goal, and turned a random Facebook suggestion into three of the most interesting and entertaining months of my life.
I had turned Henley Boy’s rude rejection back in June into an internationally read blog, which I finished in style with a date hiking to the Hollywood sign with a Hollywood actor! My inbox was filling up with emails from newspapers, magazines and television researchers.
I’d found empowerment in rejection.
Inadvertently, because of some random guy who I’d had a fleeting connection with three months beforehand, I was sitting in the Chateau Marmont, seeing in my thirtieth year, and discussing the next phase of the blog. On a holiday that probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t due to the Challenge.
This was the end of Part One of 30 Dates by 30.
The end of the story. It wasn’t to end it all with a 31st Date. It would simply end with all I had originally hoped for – a fun summer of dating, and thirty completed blind dates.
And then, the day after my thirtieth birthday, I’m sitting in the Departure Lounge of LAX, excited about my return to England, and the huge Gatsby themed party I have planned this weekend. I open up my laptop to check my emails before I board, and I have a message from Henley Boy.
A message politely telling me (bearing in mind I haven’t heard from him in over a week!) that I should probably invite someone else.
(That part was the message he should have replied a week ago)
He also suggested perhaps I take the ‘best of my 30 dates’.
(Well, thank you for the suggestion. I could probably have worked that out for myself! And did do so, before Henley Boy kindly suggested as much!)
He could have stopped there. He didn’t.
What he then went on to say was to tell me that he didn’t see anything romantically happening between us again. And that actually he’d started seeing someone else, and that he didn’t want to spoil something potentially ‘really special’ by meeting up with me again.
Which on the one hand might sound really noble.
But when you remember the only reason I’d come off the phone last month thinking he wasn’t a complete jerk was because he reminded me how abnormally well we got on, and then alluded to the fact we were getting so close that it scared him because he wasn’t in a place to be in a relationship. Because he didn’t have any confidence in what he could offer a relationship.
So being told so bluntly that he could never see anything with me but that he’d possibly found something ‘really special’ that he didn’t want to jeopardise … I guess it spun my head even more than his original first text message.
I don’t know if Henley Boy understood the irony of his timing. Literally the day after my 30th birthday. The Challenge was over. And he returned. And he had given me true closure.
It just came ended up coming in the form of a very brutal Facebook message! (and one which he even ended with a kiss!)
I was about to reply.
Unlike the Henley Boy, I always reply. I’ve always communicated best in writing, and was about to unleash my own curt literary two fingers up in response.
And then karma threw me a reminder of all I’d achieved this summer – in the form of The Airport Guy …. I literally couldn’t have written it myself!
In the line for airport security, I’d caught the eye of a guy a few people up ahead. As we filed up and down the cattle grid queuing system, he caught my eye a second time, and we ended up stopped facing one another, each walking in a different direction of the queue. I recognised the badge on his t-shirt – Redingensians, the local Reading rubgy team. On a guy in LAX airport?!
New ‘confident, carefree, been on thirty dates, just be myself’ me, pointed it out, and we chatted briefly about it in the queue. He wasn’t from Reading, but had lived there for six years, and was travelling back from New Zealand to the UK for a job interview.
The queue continued on through security, and I found my departure gate. I sat down on a chair at the gate, opened my laptop up, and saw the message from Henley Boy.
And then just when I was about to reply (I literally had the reply box up open in front of me and was trying to find the words) The Airport Guy sat down beside me and commandingly struck up conversation.
A conversation which involved all of his cool travels around the world. sporting tales, and books he’d read about dating. As I told him about the blog, and how I hoped to turn it into a book, he explained his general approach to life, that if you want something enough, the universe will provide it to you.
‘Sometimes the Universe sends you messages’ he said midway through our conversation.
And I smiled to myself, and realised that actually sometimes it did.
I had needed Closure on Henley Boy. Wherever this blog is to go in the coming months, it can’t go on with HB in the background. He’s had his five minutes of fame in my life. He’s served his purpose – a genuinely awesome summer, reconnection with hundreds of my friends, and a host of new ones.
And I was right when I flicked through his Facebook. HB wasn’t all that special after all.
And neither was I, for him. In the words of ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’, on this occasion I was the rule, not the exception.
The world is full of Henley Boys (and ones who will touch my life for more than just a few short weeks).
Sometimes I just need to open my eyes and remember it.
I walked through an airport, caught some guy’s eye, and the next thing I knew, I was having a two-hour long conversation.
As I told him about my final date in LA, he laughed and said it reminded him of the movie Friends with Benefits. And when we began discussing the book The Game, he rather wisely confirmed my own view on something – if you like someone enough you shouldn’t have to worry about showing it. If they like you back, they’ll appreciate it. If they don’t, then they’re just not the right person for you (ahem, cough, cough, Henley Boy!) It’s something I’ve often told other people, but sometimes the hardest part is listening to your own advice.
Before you all get too excited (because I know a fair few of you will at the sniff of romance!) no the guy in the airport isn’t ‘My One’. In fact all I know about him is his first name.
But he was the perfect reminder of what this Challenge has been about the past three months. And he was the rational voice I needed to hear, as I sat looking at my laptop, and feeling my stupid teenage heart implode ever so slightly.
Rejection I had been able to deal with, when I finally thought I understood the reason. Rejection now embodied as ‘something potentially really special’ with someone else, I really didn’t need to hear!
Not only was The Airport Guy a reminder of all I’d achieved this summer – sitting there laughing about my bad date tales, and taking notes about my best Challenge dates, but he also, importantly, stopped me from reacting in the way twenty-nine year-old me would have reacted to HB’s insensitive message. Because thirty year-old me has learnt a fair bit this summer. (God that sounds old!!).
I’ve spent enough time and effort on HB. It’s time he got a taste of the silent treatment.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
(P.S. Yes I am still gonna call myself that!!!)