It’s impossible to blog about dating and not to be likened to Carrie Bradshaw.
The world’s most famous dating writer.
Yes, she’s fictional. But when any female puts pen to paper about her love-life, the comparison is destined to be made.
It’s a connection I’ve made myself. Though I would argue in a lot of ways I’m a more rounded version of all four SATC girls. I have Charlotte’s first name and fashion tastes. I also (still!) have her romantic idealism. I have Miranda’s drive and legal background, Carrie’s free spirit and love of writing, and Samantha’s tomboy-like attitude.
In recent weeks, however, Carrie’s is a name I’ve heard more and more frequently.
And not just because a few weeks ago I got my first by-lines in a national newspaper as Miss Twenty-Nine! (The Guardian and Observer included my dating advice as part of their papers A-Z of Dating supplements.)
No, it was actually Mr SC who made the connection. Admitting to feeling like Mr Big when he first read the write-up of our first date.
It’s funny, because I have never searched for a Mr Big.
Mainly because I disliked the character when I watched the TV show. It didn’t help that I never saw the attraction. But I also could never relate to the way Carrie dated. I’ve always been a relationship-oriented girl. I’ve never really done casual flings, f*ck buddies, or just ‘seeing’ someone. I grew up wanting to put a label on things. Wanting to be someone’s girlfriend.
Arguably it’s this need for affirmation which has often been to my detriment. I’m often far too keen to know where I stand in a situation, rushing into relationships, or forcing a guy’s hand.
Part of it is impatience. A trait since childhood. Part of it is probably attributed to how unstable my last eleven years have been. How rootless being orphaned can make you feel. And part of it is probably just being a girl, and liking that feeling that you are the most important person in someone else’s world.
Right up until the movies, Mr Big never provided that for Carrie.
He could never offer her that commitment. Always flitting in and out of her life. And because I couldn’t understand the attraction – his looks and more mature charisma went over my head – I could never understand why she would drop everything for him, time after time.
I am, and always have been a hopeless romantic.
And when this blog picked up pace and global attention, I began to wonder if I’d stumbled into my own ‘How I Met Your Father’ story. Because in all honesty, I will always be far more like Ted Mosby, when it comes to love, than Carrie Bradshaw.
At the start, I’ll be honest, I still thought maybe Henley Boy would turn out to be my handsome prince. That there would be some completely forgivable reasons for his disappearance, and that once my 30 Dates were over, he’d return on the scene and we’d live happily ever after. Or that maybe by complete coincidence he’d actually end up being one of my 30 Blind Dates!
But real life doesn’t go like that.
Then there was The Enigma. The best of my 30 Dates. What better a ‘How I Met Your Father’ story than the tale of my 30 Dates by 30? ‘Oh yes, I scheduled in 30 Dates with complete strangers, and he just happened to be the only one who got 10/10….’
I liked the idea of The Enigma, because he was never someone I would have picked out of a crowd. After months of being told I was too picky, he seemed like the sensible option. A guy who had proved himself, without the subjectivity of online dating photos. A complete stranger – a friend of a friend of a friend – who had won me over purely by creating my perfect date.
Looking back, I think I liked the idea of The Enigma more than I did The Enigma.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a lovely guy, and one who I definitely have a connection with. But he just seemed such a neat solution. The embodiment of the lesson I had taught myself with 30 Blind Dates. Manage your expectations!
But I don’t necessarily want to manage my expectations. If I did, I would have settled down years ago.
I’ve lived a very unorthodox thirty years. Part of that is circumstance. Being orphaned at a young age, I could either sink or swim. And my idea of swimming involved travelling the world, and throwing myself into one challenge after the next. Living my life to the full. It was always something inherent in my character, even before my parents died, but when they passed away, that side of me became amplified.
And so the majority of my adult life has been filled with adventure, and travel, and random ambitions.
Whenever I’ve imagined my perfect partner, he’s embodied those same qualities.
Not a carbon copy of myself, but a well-travelled, ambitious guy, who sees the world like an adventure playground, and spends his life seizing every opportunity.
After six months of serial dating, and having met literally hundreds of single men, all over the world, I had begun to wonder if my expectations were unrealistic.
Am I that unique that I’ll never meet my match?
Dating had begun to feel like an obligation by the time I met Mr Second Chance.
I turned up on our New Year’s Day first date with zero expectations. He was just another guy, who I would be spending another afternoon in London with.
And then he walked out from behind the Christmas tree in Waterloo Station, and for the first time since my date with Henley Boy, something inside me flipped. Lust. I fancied this guy at first sight.
A few hours later and I realised it was more than just his looks.
I genuinely connected with the guy. So much so, that of our action-packed nine and a half hour first date, the last three hours were by far my favourite. Having driven me home from London, we sat chatting easily on my sofa, and it was clear both of us could have happily carried on talking all night. That night I told Mr SC things my closest friends don’t even know.
And so began a painfully familiar romantic whirlwind. But a whirlwind with a difference.
Because whilst I bounced around work, Cheshire-cat style again … this time Mr SC admitted to doing the exact same. He told me straight that he couldn’t stop thinking about me, and that he’d been walking on air since our first date.
And yes, I’m sure the internet trolls will think me naïve for letting my guard down, but I knew he wasn’t lying to me. I knew from the way he was acting – texting and calling at every possible chance – that he was feeling the exact same I was about everything. And it was really exciting!
A reality neither of us had thought to properly address in our fleeting four days of normality.
I don’t think either of us appreciated just how much things would change when he went back to Sandhurst. I guess Mr SC had been so wrapped up in the excitement of it all, that he’d forgotten the reality of the boarding-school like set-up. A world where 21 hours of his day, minimum, are pre-ordained. A world where he doesn’t have the liberty we take for granted, to check his phone at any time, take a twenty-minute break during work, or even veg in front of the TV for a few hours in the evening.
Torturous as that may all sound, this is a career choice which means the world to him, and which he has devoted the last five years of his life to.
A ball which he won’t take his eye off, for any reason.
(And which I know he’s taken his eye off at least a couple of times in the last six weeks, for me.)
Real life has to take a back seat.
And when you remember that his real-life also involves a young daughter, it means that as far as that metaphor goes, I’m not even on the back seat. Plain and simply, I have to be in the boot.
It was a role I was happy to play.
After six months of serial dating, and having met hundreds of single men, I knew that Mr SC was special. The first guy to genuinely interest, excite and attract me, with absolutely no buts.
Things which would previously have put me off only interested me more. His daughter, and the way he’d changed his life because of her, were parts of his life I wanted to learn more about. Rather than seeing his army career as something which would take him away from me, it was an adventurous, fascinating area of his life, which illustrated his drive and sense of direction.
Last week on the blog, a reader asked me what I have to give to a relationship.
I think it was a slightly catty comment, posted on an early blog post where I admitted to being rather picky when it comes to men.
The reader asked me to write a post about the things I have to offer a potential partner. It’s not really a way I tend to approach dating. I’d much rather someone find out these qualities for himself, rather than marketing them on an online profile before we’ve even met.
However, aside from being a self-confessed romantic, one thing I will admit to offering a relationship, is a steely determination to overcome a challenge.
When my parents first met, they lived on other sides of the world, and didn’t speak each others’ language. Even after they were married, immigration in the seventies meant they didn’t see each other for several months, and that their relationship over that time was built on international cards and postcards.
Even long into thirty year-long partnership, my parents weathered several storms. And so I guess I’ve never been under any illusion that good things come easy.
So when it comes to relationships, I tend to be a fighter. And if I recognise a good thing, I’ll be as accommodating as possible to make it work.
And then there was Sandhurst.
The reality of Sandhurst meant that the affectionate, excitable guy I’d gotten to briefly know in the outside world evaporated. Replaced by an over-worked, constantly tired and stressed soldier, with huge daily pressures placed upon him, and little time to think about himself, let alone a girl he’d barely known for a month.
Even out in the real world, I was at the back of the queue for his attention. Because, rightly so, whenever he gets chance, his daughter is his first priority.
The problem with a new relationship is that you’re testing the water. Working out patterns of acceptable communication. What you can and can’t say. How frequently you can text. How long the other person takes to reply.
Out in the real world, Mr SC and I were very similar. Neither of us played games, and we were open in our excitement and enthusiasm.
And then that all dried up.
What made it worse was the communication changed on a weekly basis.
In his first few weeks, I didn’t appreciate just how much he was trying. So whilst I felt sidelined only receiving one or two texts a day, in reality that was one or two texts more than anyone else in his life.
And then he had a week on exercise where he couldn’t take his phone (or sleep for a week!), and when he returned, and was hospitalised with an illness, almost all communication disappeared.
The fighter in me continued.
Trying to market myself as the model army girlfriend. I sent cute texts, and care packages. I tried not to take it to heart when I didn’t hear from him for several days, and tried to take a step back and not act like myself.
Part of me knew it wasn’t about me. That he was beyond busy and stressed. That he’d been ill and would be catching up with an impossible mountain of work.
But then part of me was vulnerable.
Opened up to an exciting new relationship, and to a whole range of possibilities, I had begun to look to the future. To the idea of being his bona fide girlfriend.
And that side of me began to worry.
Why wasn’t I hearing from him? Had I overstepped? Was I being too cute and caring? Was it too soon? We’d only known each other a month. But he was ill … And my Sandhurst friends said they loved getting care packages. Should I send him something?
Pretty quickly my own happiness was being governed by whether or not I heard from him.
I’d lost all the power.
I’d gone from a situation where a guy I really liked was calling and texting me all the time, to one where I was waiting by my phone, and reading into every message. Second guessing myself before I replied, and trying to resort to games and dating behaviour I would never recommend to anyone else.
Granted, I know it was the situation.
And having spoken to most of my closest friends about it, they’ve all agreed they wouldn’t have done any better. And most probably wouldn’t have stuck it out as long as I did.
The weekend before last, I got to a point where I needed to say something.
I’d had one hurried text all week, and was feeling miserable. I tried to come up with a workaround. A way of stepping back a bit, but keeping in touch.
It was Mr SC’s weekend off (though he was spending it with his daughter). It took him 36 hours to reply to my message, and only then because I chased him. As we sat on Skype late on Sunday night, trying to have the adult conversation we’d both been avoiding for weeks, I could tell he didn’t have even ten minutes for me. He had a list of chores still to do, and no time to do them in. And he needed to be up again at 4.30.
I had become yet another task on a long list of tasks.
One he didn’t have time for, and unfortunately, the only one which was expendable.
In our hurried Skype chat, I actually felt bad for bothering him. Even though I’d given him time to process what I was asking, and it was over a day later, I felt bad for bringing it up.
I backed away, and left him to his normal Sandhurst Sunday night mayhem, not 100% sure where I stood, but feeling like we’d just broken up.
And then less than twenty-four hours later, he texted to ask if he could come over. He’d been given the evening off at the last moment, and could spend it with me.
By the time he appeared at my flat, he was shattered. And whilst I appreciated the fact he wanted to spend time with me, we were in no position to have the chat I knew we still needed to properly have. And so I acted like nothing had happened, and a week later the cycle repeated itself.
I’d barely heard from him all week. I didn’t know when I might next get chance to see him, and I didn’t want to bring up the issue, because I knew he didn’t have time.
I realised he would never have the time to end things with me. But that if things carried on the way they were going, we’d have ruined anything between us by the time he actually had time for me in his life.
And so I made probably the most adult decision I’ve made in the last ten years, and ended things with Mr SC.
To be honest, I’m completely gutted.
Because I know how rare it is for me to find a guy I click that well with on all levels, and having seen the way he was with me in the ‘real world’, I have a feeling if we’d met at another time, things would have ended very differently.
But I would be being a hypocrite if I didn’t take my own advice.
Just like every other singleton out there, I have to treat myself like a valuable prize.
I need someone who sees me as a prize too, and treats me accordingly. I need to treat myself with respect, and whatever the reason, less than two months into a relationship, I deserve more than a couple of rushed text messages a week, and Skype chats which make me feel guilty for asking to talk.
The side of me which has always fought for something I want is really disappointed in myself. To be honest, I feel like I’ve failed. I saw Sandhurst as an obstacle I could defeat.
And to be honest, if Mr SC had been a regular Sandhurst cadet, maybe I could have defeated the obstacle. But he’s not. He’s far more complex, and has far more going on in his life than most cadets … and ironically that was part of the reason I was so drawn to him in the first place.
The side of me which fancies the pants of Mr SC, and had been excited to see how things progressed, is completely gutted.
Everyone loves that feeling of having a crush on someone. Of waking up in the morning with a grin on your face, knowing you might hear from the person you fancy. The unknown excitement of what is to come …
But I know I deserve a boyfriend who has time for me. And who has time to share that same excitement. Someone who also wakes up grinning, because he’s thinking of me. Someone just as intrigued by the unknown elements of what is to come.
Mr Big could never provide Carrie with what she needed.
And right now, Mr SC can’t give me what I need.
I do want to underline just how highly I still think of him. And that I don’t in any way blame him for what happened. One of the reasons I’m so frustrated by the situation is because I genuinely didn’t want to end things, but I couldn’t see any other solution. It really is a case of completely crappy timing.
I guess, if he really is my Mr Big, then he’ll reappear at some other point in the future, when perhaps he is in a position to reciprocate a bit more.
But if not … and if this is Mr SC’s final appearance in the story of Miss Twenty-Nine, then what have I learned?
I’ve learned I’m not fazed by a guy being a single parent.
I don’t actually mind dating someone in the army.
That maybe I am quite a needy girlfriend, in terms of communication … but that I don’t think that’s abnormal, or even asking too much when you’re still in the excited stages of getting to know someone.
That being an adult, and making adult decisions can really suck.
That sometimes, when you least want to, you have to listen to your own advice.
That I can pull a really hot guy, despite turning up on a date looking like one of the minions from Despicable Me!
That you shouldn’t over-think a date before meeting him – because I’d have never guessed how well Mr SC and I would get on from simply his Tinder or POF profiles.
And, possibly most importantly … that my expectations in a guy aren’t that outlandish, and there are men out there who I find interesting, and exciting and challenging.
On January 2nd, the day after my first date with Mr SC, I posted a blog post about it – The Eighth Date of Christmas. And almost immediately afterwards, someone on Twitter asked if I ever fall in love with any of the guys I date. I’ve no idea if the person commenting had actually read my blog post, or whether he’d simply seen the number of dates, and commented accordingly.
At the time, I replied casually, saying not yet, but that I wasn’t adverse to the idea.
A few days later, Mr SC actually admitted that he’d seen my tweet, and his heart had fallen. I’d giggled nervously and wondered what I had been meant to say? ‘Yes I fell in love at first sight with the guy I met yesterday?’
I’m not twelve. And I’m not going to suggest anything as idealistic as love at first sight, or even anything as profound as love in a few short weeks.
But what I will say, is that yes apparently I am capable of falling for one of the guys I dated on this blog, and unfortunately falling quite hard. And I think it’s gonna be a painful couple of weeks ahead, picking myself up from the fall, dusting myself off, and getting back onto the dating wagon. 😦
God, being an adult sucks sometimes!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx