2012 was the year my marriage became irretrievable. I found myself single for the first time in nearly 14 years and it was tremendous. The freedom to be entirely self-centred in my own way in my own space was joyous. I revelled in the silence of my own home and the cocooning effect of being surrounded entirely by my own stuff.
After a while, however, I began to miss the intimacy and affection that comes with having a boyfriend, as well as just having someone to hang out with, so I started to dip my toe into the treacherous waters of dating as an adult. It has not been a success.
First there was The Colleague. A school trip to Spain working with a guy I had always shared a mutual attraction with, fuelled by sun, sand and senselessness, led to a romance of sorts. On our return, failure to communicate properly meant that weeks of flirting was only made flesh a couple of times before he suddenly and inexplicably went mute (a male habit I was to experience several more times this year) over the summer holidays.
Unbowed there was then The Barman’s Friend. It was with this guy that I experienced for the first time the strange phenomenon of ‘phantom dating’. This is when a date is arranged, only to be cancelled at the last minute; in hindsight it is clear that the male in question never actually intended this date to happen. Why organise it? We’d only been out once before - really, he wouldn’t have broken my heart if he’d just said that actually, he didn’t think I was his cup of tea. He even led on the arrangement of another phantom date, only to cancel once again a few hours before kick off. A layer of sudden, inexplicable muteness on top of the two phantom dates and another one bit the dust.
Bank Holiday weekend brought The Hippy into my life. Beautiful, sweet and interesting, this one goes straight to the top of the ‘I would let my friend date them’ pile for being not only beautiful but the only one to actually have the cojones to tell me that he didn’t think it was going anywhere and therefore we shouldn’t waste our time. I completely agreed with him (though I would have wasted a bit more time – did I mention he was beautiful?) so we parted happily.
The Colleague decided this would be a good time to start pursuing me again. Two phantom dates and a sudden, inexplicable muteness later and he’s back with his ex. They’re welcome to each other.
Next came Twinners. Instant mutual attraction, physical and mental, led to weeks of flirting before a proper meet up. One lovely day followed by complete rejection and sudden, inexplicable muteness. See the pattern yet?
With my self-esteem in tatters, I finally met someone who I could reject before they rejected me! What a hideous world where this seems like a good thing. Red was a good-looking, nice guy, but his grammar was terrible and he had annoying eyebrows. Game over, I’m afraid.
Dating disasters of 2012 finished with Beardy. A breakfast date that lasted all day with texts that evening and a second date planned for the next day all combined to make it appear that the tides were turning in my favour. But no. Stood up. Merry bloody Christmas.
Logically, I should now be swearing off dating for good. The evidence suggests there’s something fundamentally undateable about me, but I say screw the evidence! I love that feeling of flirting with someone new, of getting excited when the ‘phone makes its text message sound, of going over and over every word they’ve said in your head. If boys knew the extent to which I dwell on every possible version of our future together, having only known them five minutes, they’d be terrified, but it comes from a place of hope and indefatigable romanticism, not psychosis. Not all women want to stop you seeing your friends and control your life. Some women want to be with you in order that both your lives can be enriched and enhanced. Some women really do want a partner, not a browbeaten shelf-fixer.
James Dyson said of his vacuum cleaner, “I made 5,127 prototypes of my vaccum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure.” I’m not quite at 5,126 failed dates yet, but I have learned to move on from the sudden, inexplicable muteness much more quickly rather than clinging on to some hope that it will pass. I have learned that after one phantom date, he’d better do some serious ass-kissing to get a second. I have learned that very few men are brave enough to actually say what they feel; I don’t know whether this is arrogance that they think I’ll be devastated or cowardice that they think I’ll be horrible to them, in reality neither of these things will probably happen, I’ll just be grateful not to have any more of my time wasted and move on. Most of all, I have learned that when you have the right person, you should hold on to them with all your might. James Dyson may have moved on from failure 5,126 times but he was also smart enough to stop at 5,127 and not tinker with what worked.