The Student’s next post couldn’t be better timed. I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability in relationships recently. If you look back at some of the most recent Experimental Dater posts, vulnerability is a hot topic at the moment. And now it’s time for The Student to get vulnerable, whilst also recognising how the past has influenced her future …
Happy New Year
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
My 2014 has gone off to an unexpected, but familiar start, as I appear to be beginning my 2014 in an altogether similar way to how I began my 2011.
I know, it’s a while ago but the timing of everything that’s occurred in the past week and half has been giving me a serious case of déjà vu!
Let me first take you back to New Years’ Eve 2010/11.
I was a 19 year-old woman (if you will) in a year out before uni, working as a barista in a commuter’s coffee shop in Angel. I was planning a 3-and-a-half month trip around South East Asia and Australia with my closest friends. The world was my oyster and I was ready to learn about the world, people and all of its surprises.
Except for one thing – I was still with my boyfriend that I’d been with since the tender age of 15. The Anchor.
I have nothing wrong with finding that special someone at a young age, but he wasn’t my special someone, and in the six months prior to 2011, I was beginning to ever so slowly realise and come to terms with this. My friends had never liked him and I was beginning to feel the same. I had all of this excitement ahead and I felt trapped and weighed down by him.
I had the ‘it’s over’ epiphany somewhere around the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’d been gradually getting more exasperated by him but as I’d been with him for so long (and as he’d shaped my whole teenage years, helping me become who I am now) I dared not even think about breaking up with him. The thought couldn’t cross my mind without an intense fear of singledom enveloping me.
I didn’t know how to be single; it was an entirely new concept to my adult brain.
So on New Years’ Eve what happened? What made me decide to end things finally?
A boy, obviously. What else? Though I say boy, I mean 28 year old man.
The Anchor and I had decided to spend New Year’s Eve apart. I walked into the bar where my friends had decided to spend New Years’ at and saw him, behind the bar. My first ever experience of lust at first sight. I knew I had to have him right at that moment. I didn’t care that I had a boyfriend (terrible, I know) because I knew that my desire for this man was stronger and more real than any desire that I’d had with The Anchor. I’d been with my boyfriend since before I even understood what sexuality was. This was completely different.
We danced, he gave me ‘generous’ doubles and we talked. When the bar was shutting he asked for my number, I said I couldn’t as I had a boyfriend and leant in to give him a kiss on the cheek. He stole a kiss on the lips. I was stunned; I’d had my first everything with my current beau, so to sneak a kiss from this man was not within the realms of my comprehension! I ran outside to where my friend was waiting and told her that I was having an existential crisis. She reasoned with me to think about things with a sober mind in the morning and then figure out what to do. That I could easily come back to the bar in a few days and see if I felt the same about this guy.
I said yes, fine, good plan. Then pushed her onto her bus and ran back to the bar. It was reckless but I knew if I didn’t take this opportunity I would never have the guts to come back to the bar and never have the guts to break up with The Anchor.
Reader, I went home with him.
I awoke on New Year’s Day in complete disorder. I had no idea where I was, what I was doing, and what I was going to do next. I was dreading a phone-call from The Anchor asking how my night had been – he had an annoying tendency to call as soon as he woke up, keep calling if I didn’t answer, and then shout at me later if I had never answered. Lovely.
Anyway, I was completely in over my head and acting in a way I’d never done. And I’d never felt more myself, more free, more liberated, independent or alive in my entire life. And what’s more I knew, finally, that my relationship was dead and gone. I’d cheated and betrayed my boyfriend of three-and-a-half years.
I feel guilty that I did that but I don’t regret it. I needed to do something drastic to make me realise that I was over him. For me, my betrayal was a sign that I needed to follow, and I did.
Three months on and I was in Paris with The Bartender and he was joking about proposing to me on The Eiffel Tower.
We were together for the next eight months, and he taught me everything I now know that I want in a partner, from the things he did do and the things he didn’t.
We’re still friends now, seeing each other for a catch-up a few times a year.
He broke my heart when we split up. Looking back, perhaps I was a bit too immature and unaccustomed to heartbreak when we were ending. I regret some of the actions I took to desperately try to stay with him. But I don’t regret a second of being with him or meeting him.
Ever since that New Year’s I’ve been a firm believer of listening to your gut when it’s desperately, drunkenly trying to tell you something. Perhaps I should’ve listened to my gut a little earlier and ended things with The Anchor before that point, but c’est la vie.
Fast forward three years and we’re a few weeks before New Year’s 2013/14, and I’ve come home from uni for Christmas and I’ve got a job lined up behind the bar on a boat on the Thames. I start my first shift thinking solely of those usual first day stresses, and not of guys (except the slight hope of meeting a wealthy rugby player at some point over the Christmas period).
By the end of the evening I’m lusting after my co-worker, The Wrestler.
This was not what I wanted to happen at all. I’ve worked at bars a lot so I know that a lot of after-work drinking and socialising occurs. I knew that if I liked this guy enough I would at some point get drunk and let my feelings be known. It’s not exactly how you want to be behaving in the first few weeks at a new job. I’ve also been there and done that with the manager of a pub I’ve worked at previously, and ten guesses why I never returned to work there!
So New Year’s Eve comes and we all know if there’s any night of the year that all bets are off, it’s New Year.
I’m simultaneously dreading it and desiring it. I had the distinct impression that the feelings I held for The Wrestler were mutual, but I still didn’t want to initiate anything that I might later regret.
I kept my wits about me. I didn’t get drunk after work on New Year’s. I was too afraid.
But the next day, everything kicked off.
On the second, four of us had to come to the boat to do a massive tidy up. We finished tidying at half past two in the afternoon, and The Wrestler suggests that all four of us head over to a pub for a quick pint. A quick pint turns into four, tequila shots (at quarter past six – might have been my suggestion!) and a jack and coke. I may have kept my cool on New Year’s, but I wasn’t prepared for the 2nd!!
Reader, I went home with him.
On the fourth, we went out for his birthday and I tried desperately to hide from anyone that our relationship had altered. We didn’t steal a kiss or anything. I’m fine with that; we work together so we should keep our romantic situation private and you’d pretty much be announcing a relationship by letting anyone see!
But I haven’t heard from him since his birthday. Not a peep.
I feel very much like I did in those few weeks after New Year’s 2010/11 – nervous, excited, scared, completely bewildered and very much lusting.
The difference this time is that I’ve been hurt before.
In 2011 I made sure I got The Bartender and kept him. I was fearless, I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there and be vulnerable as I hadn’t yet learned what it was like to be rejected and refused.
In 2011 I would’ve asked The Wrestler out for a drink by now, I would’ve made my life happen.
But now I’m three years wiser and three years more cautious (if you’ll permit a 22 year-old to be wise and cautious). I’d love a 2010/11 New Year’s injection of ‘who cares’. But I can’t do that anymore, I’ve been vulnerable and fearless in the past and I’ve been hurt. In 2010/11 my only baggage and worry was a current partner. Now I’ve got the baggage and weight of previous relationships to remind me that I can be hurt, badly. I know which of the two feels heavier.
We’re working together later and I know exactly how I’ll behave – with a guard up, completely on the defence. And by acting like that I’ll probably push him away because who wants to be attacked constantly by a person? But it’ll be natural to try and protect myself. I’ve shown my cards by sleeping with him and to me his silence is saying that he’s not interested in anything other than that one night.
I don’t regret sleeping with him but I just feel that as a woman we tend to lose the man’s respect by sleeping with them, and thereby he loses interest in you longterm. He ceases to see you as a potential partner and more as someone who’s up for a good time. This isn’t always the case, but the silence that I’ve received doesn’t suggest respect to me… We’ll see what he says later about this!
Anyway, he’s going snowboarding for a week on Sunday and then the next week I’m in Sheffield doing essays and exams (sigh) and then I’m in London again for only two weeks before I head back to Sheffield for my last term. So what is even the point of all this? What is the point of getting attached when a potential relationship is hindered by geography and circumstance?
Well, I like him. So I can’t help it.
I’m leaving soon so it’s all futile but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be sad. There’s still that little lioness inside that’s telling me to screw all the misfortunes of circumstance and dig myself in, and a few years ago I would have. I haven’t liked anyone as much as this for two and a half years, not since I met the guy after The Bartender. But I’m much more uncertain now. I’m worried that by not acting I’ll miss out on something good but I’m worried that if I act on my feelings I’ll be the one that winds up getting hurt, dragging my heels and broken heart as I head back up to Sheffield, again. I wish I could take the risk but I do know if I can bear the vulnerability.
As I said, this evening may alter my feelings. But for now I’m your slightly bruised and terrified,