I Knew

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That Valentine’s Day, I saw your face for the first time and I knew.

I was tipsy, drinking with a single friend in an empty pub, we were hoping to distract ourselves from our singleness. Not that Valentine’s Day really matters one bit but it felt appropriate to mark it, an excuse for a drink with a good friend. Someone had abandoned a single cellophane-wrapped rose on another table.

You weren’t in that empty pub. I saw your face on my phone, someone had retweeted you into my Twitter timeline. Pouting and wearing a party hat, you were sarcastically marking Valentine’s Day as a solidly single man. I can’t explain what happened next, I felt something shift in my heart. (Perhaps it was the whiskey, but I wanted to know you.)

I followed you, how could I not? I sent more than a couple of ill-advised and ill-conceived flirty tweets, hoping to catch your attention. You were more popular than me, but after two months you eventually followed me back. I wish this didn’t sound so calculating, but I had a plan. Not a proper plan with maps and diagrams and instructions, but a plan nonetheless. (I needed to meet you, I wanted to know you.)

So our conversation moved from tweets, to direct messages, to long and rambling emails about our lives. You didn’t live too far away. We found we knew the same places and the same people. We’d been brought up in similar families and grew up 12 miles from each other as the crow flies. (Why didn’t the crow tell us?) Your brother lived on a neighbouring road to my London flat, it was possible you and I had even crossed paths before. (But I think I’d have noticed you.)

We arranged to go for a drink. I tried not to get too excited, not wanting to get my hopes up like a fool. I tried to be cool, but I might as well have had a Belisha beacon on my head. (Subtlety’s never been my strong point.)

It was July and it was hot, about 30 degrees. I found myself hurrying despite the heat; I knew you were waiting at the bar we’d chosen. I got the bus, I’d never been on such an agonisingly slow journey before, nor since. I tried to swat away the feeling that I was heading towards a moment that would change my life forever. (Don’t be so ridiculous, those things are not for the likes of me.)

I made it to the bar, sweating from the bus. I saw you properly for the first time and finally felt glad of the heat because I could feel myself blushing. You were more handsome than I’d thought, and sweeter. I took in the new details, the shape of your arms, the grey flecks in your hair, your shy smile, the way your t-shirt hung from your shoulders. (I wanted to learn everything.)

We spoke for hours, moving from bar, to pub, to pub. You lived in a village without a station, so you couldn’t stay too late or you couldn’t get home. I suggested you could stay at mine, offering the sofa. Honestly though, I never expected you to sleep there. (You didn’t.)

We went back to my flat, you complimented it. (I wanted to ask you to stay, forever.)

We watched tv with the windows open, it was festival coverage and we talked about music until it was dark. You pretended to yawn and put your arms around me. I felt every cliché becoming real, like a line of falling dominos. (Every wish that I’d dared to admit to myself was coming true.)

You moved in eight months later; we’d spent almost every weekend together so there was no trepidation. That’s the nice thing about you – you’ve always been sure of what you wanted, just as I had. (Every want of mine was mirrored by yours, whether I knew it or not.)

When you asked me to marry you, I was so excited that I forgot to say yes. (I assumed you already knew.)

The Joy of Ex

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Before we begin, if you think any of the exes mentioned here is you, you’re probably right. Hey there! I’ve seen you naked!

Secondly, that picture at the top is misleading. I haven’t written anything much about sex. Sorry, not sorry.

With 15 years of dating under my belt, I’ve collected a decent number of exes. The end results of a range of relationships, from very serious and long-term, to a selection box of fumbles and flings. 

I don’t dwell on them too much (there’s not enough hours in the day), but I do think about the way people have treated me, particularly those who’ve had the pleasure of dating me. A year ago, it occurred to me that I’m in touch (to varying degrees) with loads of my exes, and that made me quite happy.

Last year, my birthday was marked by an excess of grump. My little sister was getting married a few days after my birthday. (Some people do a sharp intake of breath when I say little sister, those people GET IT.) My family was very busy in the run up to the wedding, as you’d expect. I hadn’t yet started dating my brill boyfriend Phil. I was single, getting older and feeling lonely, especially with a wedding to attend as the STEREOTYPICAL DRUNK USELESS SPINSTER OLDER SISTER. (In the event, a role I embraced and excelled at.)

I was cheered up by the most unlikely brigade – my army of exes. Several of them wished me a happy birthday – a small act, but ‘some’ added up to ‘something’. One took me out for birthday drinks. At a time when I felt like the most rubbish unloveable person in the world, my exes somehow (accidentally) rallied round and cheered me the fuck up by just taking the time to type ‘happy birthday’. Or in the case of one of them, taking the time to get me wonderfully stinking drunk. Nice chap, that one. I was a fan.

Recently, two exes have sent chatty emails out of the blue. I regularly have social media interactions (what a wanky term, you know what I mean…) with people that I’ve had some flavour of relationship with. I met up with a long-termer from my teenage era to discuss what knobs we were back then. Another messaged recently to apologise for treating me badly a while ago. I was surprised as I hadn’t remembered him being a dickhead, but appreciated the sentiment. 

Obviously, there’s a few exes that I don’t talk to, nor want to. (The guy who tried to hump me while I slept? You can fuck off.) But I feel really lucky that I can count so many exes as friends, or at least acquaintances I’d not hide from on the tube. I think of it as a huge compliment – you’ve seen my tits, things didn’t work out AND we can still tweet each other? Great! 

Here’s to the good exes. I appreciate you.