It is often said that the best advice is the advice that is proffered unasked for. I am not sure if this applies to the advice that several of my surely well intentioned girlfriends offered me on the eve of my twenty sixth birthday. I had probably been not so quietly despairing of being single at an age which in earlier generations would have seen me with a brood of children and a husband filling my family home and every spare minute of my time with their demands upon me. I was told to quit complaining while I was ahead. Besides, I was told; twenty six was the best year of our lives.
When I questioned them on why this was, I was given virtually the same response by all of them. “These are your wild days girl, a time for crazy partying, wild abandonment”, and because they are my friends and know me very well; “some of the best sexual experiences of your life”. Needless to say, this latter part piqued my interest, so I decided I would see for myself if twenty six was all it was claimed to be.
That’s not to say I didn’t have my doubts at first. I had, in my years to date only slept with six men. My friends don’t believe me, some of them had clocked up that number by their late teens, but I had always held sex in a more or less old-fashioned regard. That is to say, I believe it should be enjoyed with someone you feel close to, not just something you share out like a box of chocolates.
Again, that’s not to say I hadn’t had a fling, or a one night stand; I’d had both, I’d even been the other woman once, it may have even been more than once, but once is all I know about. I feel very strongly about affairs. My mum had one when I was fifteen, she left my dad for a man who turned out to be a useless alcoholic. I’d recognised this early on, but mothers don’t listen to daughters because even mothers need to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
I’d come up with a list of rules some years ago, I guess to protect myself from too many mistakes. Some of the rules are practical; some of them seem just the teensiest bit eccentric, like me. It’s also not a finite list; the rules can be added to, but I don’t subtract from the rules. This is why before each one is added, it is given some serious thought.
The rules started out as just one rule, no affairs. After my discovery that I was in fact the other woman, I added rule two, no sex for four to six weeks. I figured that this grace period was probably enough time for me to figure out if my date was a two-timing creep, though in actual fact it wouldn’t have saved me from creep number one, with the help of his friends he was very good at covering up the psycho-bunny-boiler girlfriend. His words not mine, but when she threw him down the stairs after catching us in bed; I quickly concurred. Luckily psycho-bunny-boiler girlfriend was rational enough not to throw me down the stairs after him, he’d done this before and she figured I was probably as ignorant of her as the last one had been.
Not long later rule two saved my hide; and my heart from being broken by another lying creep. So I figured it was a good rule, and it has stayed on the list to this day. Rule three; no men back at my house. This rule I only added in the last year, after all if I am going to take this experiment seriously I need to protect from the seemingly endless list of losers and creeps that I seem to attract. I am a princess, and my home is my very own castle.
Rule four was drafted and I gave it even more thought than all of the other rules, for the reason that it was exclusionary and could possibly stop me from dating my very own Mr. Perfect. After a number of years research though, I have concluded that Mr. Perfect may not in actual fact exist, whereas my closet is full of perfect pairs of shoes that bring me delight every time I step out in them. So I think rule four can stay, no men shorter than me in my tallest heels. Eccentric? Maybe so, but how would you feel walking arm in arm with a guy who’s only up to your shoulder when you’re wearing five inch heels? Because I feel downright silly; but that’s a matter of personal preference, my rules are for me, you find some that suit you.
It should also be noted that my friends probably advocated this lifestyle change to me because they hated my ex-boyfriend with a passion. Not a one of them thought he was good enough for me, but to be fair, they only came to this conclusion when I was still sleeping with him over four years after he had broken up with me. For the heinous crime of having slept with other men before him, least ways, that’s the excuse he gave me at the time. When I’ve later questioned him on this, he denied ever saying it. But I think echoes of truth are in there somewhere, I know at the very least that he doesn’t want a relationship, so why on earth I’m still sleeping with him, I have no idea. Actually, that would be a lie. It’s because I wouldn’t have lasted the last four odd years without sex.
Maybe the first step to finding lucky number seven would be to get rid of number six, but that’s not a step I am willing to take right now. Having a half-hearted significant other seems far preferable to the alternative of being completely alone. In any case, that decision has never been entirely in my hands to make, but more of that later.
For now the challenge has been set, the gauntlet thrown down, albeit inadvertently by my well meaning girlfriends.
I am on the market, looking for love, for Mr. Perfect, for Mr. Right now and maybe, just maybe, for lucky number seven.
To begin with I’m going to go back a little way, to two years after number six broke my heart. I’d been asked out on a date by a guy, we’ll call him Chris, because that was his name. Now to be honest Chris really wasn’t my type, but I told number six that I’d been asked out on a date, two dates in actual fact; because this particular situation had never arisen before and I didn’t know what effect this would have on mine and Six's ‘relationship’. Six told me I could go ahead and go on my dates, that he only wanted my happiness and that my dating someone wouldn’t bother him in the least. He only sought clarity on whether we would keep to our previous agreement, and I being the totally in love fool that I am said ‘sure thing Six’.
As it turned out, I never really went on the date with Chris. He was a friend of a friend, who I’d barely ever spoken to, but we did meet up one night when I was on a girls night out and he was out with the boys, I decided then that he was probably far too shy a type for me, and when our mutual friend told me he was actually a virgin, I concluded he was definitely too shy for me.
Now as I mentioned I’d kind of been asked on two dates. I say kind of, as I wasn’t really sure if Ben had asked me out for a date per say or just as friends. Yes, I am an idiot; no matter how many times this happens to me, I can never tell when a guy is besotted and or even vaguely interested in me. I guess it comes back to my long established insecurities. After all, why on earth would a guy who all my friends thought looked like Orlando Bloom (in none elf mode, to the general disappointment of one of my friends in particular) be interested in me?
Just as a bit of background info, it had been the same with Six, I’d been seeing him as friends for approximately four or five weeks before I cottoned on to the fact that he fancied me as much as I fancied him. Here’s the killer, he wrote me a note, that’s how dense I am; I still have the note, glued to one of my journal pages that I am using as notes for this book. I keep it partly from sentimental value and partly to remind myself to open my damned eyes every once in a while.
Back to Ben though, we had our first date and a very nice date it was too, he came to pick me up and we went to the cinema to see a movie. Great choice for when you want to get to know someone better? Maybe not, but we did go out for a drink later on. It was Ben who first introduced me to my now favourite cocktail, the Raspberry Collins which we enjoyed sitting in a cosy little mezzanine alcove of a bar that no longer exists. Well, I think the building is quite possibly still there but the bar that was once there is no longer.
When I got home early that evening, I was instantly put through the wringer by my then flat mate Rachel who wanted to know all the details. What details? I asked her, nothing happened, we’re just friends. She had a good chuckle over this, in Rachel’s opinion; I was more hopeless than hopeless when it came to boys. It was her opinion that Ben was indeed very interested in me, and she proved to be right. A fact it took me a number of weeks to discover.
During this time, Six often asked me how things were going with Ben, I always answered truthfully that I didn’t know. I told him I wasn’t sure if anything was going to happen with Ben; I told him that he would be the first to know if anything happened. You may be thinking; what business was it of Six’s to ask about any relationship I may or may not have. And you might be right to question him in this way, but I didn’t. We were close Six and I; I only ever wanted to be honest with him, which may have been giving him more than he deserved, but as I say we were close, we weren’t just lovers; he was and still is one of my very best friends.
This time in my life is very painful to recall, as my relationship with Ben developed, I think Six thought he would be brushed to one side. This would never have been the case, but Six has trust issues and never quite believed what I was telling him.
When I finally realised that something was going to happen with Ben, true to my word I told Six. He would tell you different, we have agreed that this is something we’ll just have to disagree about. But for my part I told Six, and his ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude seemed to change overnight. He thought I was phasing him out of my life, I suppose he didn’t get why I couldn’t always talk to him when he called and Ben was around. After all, I would tell him, Ben doesn’t know about my continued ‘relationship’ with you, so it’s kind of difficult to spend two hours on the phone to you when he’s sat there on my bed.
The situation became very unpleasant for all parties concerned. Ben didn’t know what the hell was going on; he just knew my ex was ringing me a lot. Six felt like I didn’t care about him anymore, which is about as far from the truth as you ever could get. If I didn’t care, and I would tell him this, why on earth would I feel like I was being literally torn in two?
I never really knew if Six was aware of this, maybe he was, maybe that is why he was always asking me when I first started dating Ben, but around the four week mark, when Six would have known I’d be starting to think about sleeping with Ben, he gave me an ultimatum of a sort. He said that the situation couldn’t go on, and that I should now choose between Ben and my continued ‘relationship/friendship’ with him. He told me I shouldn’t find it hard to decide, after all our relationship had spanned over two years and I barely knew Ben. He’d also ask me just how long I thought my relationship with Ben would last when he went away to university in a few months time.
I knew Six was right; I’d had my doubts about my feelings for Ben all along. Whilst I knew I should be moving on with my life and finding a new man, one who actually wanted to be in my life, I don’t think Ben was it. Besides which, I really couldn’t envisage my life without my closest friend in it. I suppose the clincher came when Six actually got down on his knees, in tears asking me to finish it with Ben. He told me that if I did he would even admit to the world that he was still in a relationship with me.
I knew that if I complied, that this wouldn’t last for very long, and I told Six so. He insisted that it would be, even though both he and I knew it wouldn’t work, he was only saying it through fear of losing me. So I told Six that I couldn’t let him do that. I told him I would finish with Ben and maybe he and I could start over, slowly.
So I rang Ben and I told him what Six had said. I told him I couldn’t lose Six and that maybe this time our relationship would work, I think I was lying to myself, in any case Six and I were ok for all of two days before he said he had changed his mind. I was devastated. Even though I’d been unsure about my feelings for Ben and my future with him, all I could think was what could have been. I tried to fix things between Ben and me. I didn’t ask him if we could get back together, more if he didn’t hate me too much if we could continue to be friends.
A night or two after this strained reconciliation I got a message from Ben, it was his birthday and he was going in to town for drinks with friends, he wanted to know if I wanted to meet up with him. I walked into that bar not knowing what to expect, I didn’t even know if Ben would be able to look me in the eye. I hadn’t met many of his friends in the few weeks we’d been officially dating, so I didn’t know if they would be awkward with me now that I had split up with Ben. As it was, for the first half an hour or so it was a little awkward between Ben and me, then one of his friends arrived late and demanded an introduction. Ben introduced me simply by name; his friends reply ‘ah, this is the famous girlfriend? We were all thinking you didn’t exist! Nice to meet you at last, Ben why haven’t you got your arms around your girl? Someone might run off with her if you’re not careful.’
Ben put his arms around me, he had barely looked me in the eye up to this point, now with his arms around me he looked me in the eye and smiled and said to his friend ‘yeah you’re right, I don’t want anyone running off with her’. Little bit sarcastic? Maybe so, I think he was genuinely trying though. We managed just another couple of weeks together, but things were never quite the same. I never had sex with Ben, I’d suggested it the night of his birthday, but unsurprisingly I think he saw through my futile attempt to patch the rift, and turned his back on me in bed stating simply that he was tired.
After that debacle of a relationship, I think I decided that maybe I was better off as I was. I am happy with the situation that I’ve got, but even I have to admit that I’m not cut out to be alone. Yes I like my own company, but I’m an emotional person, and I need someone to be there for me, and Six can’t always be there. And I shouldn’t expect him to be. Yes, we’re still very close friends, but he hasn’t been my boyfriend for a very long time and I came to accept a long time ago, around the time of Ben, that he never would be.
So Six and I are still friends, and long may it continue. In the meantime, apart from that briefest of encounters with Ben, I’ve been out of the dating game for over four years now; and as previously stated I was never very good at it, so I may need some considerable practice.
Maybe what I’ve been told is true, and my twenty sixth year will turn out to be filled with all sorts of delights. Probably not as many as some of my friends would have me believe, I still have my rules after all. But I think it’ll be an interesting experiment nonetheless, and if I stick to my rules then neither I nor anyone else will be hurt, so I can’t have anything to lose can I?