Fifth wheel keep on turning

I’ve never particularly been a fan of Tina Turner, but ever since the weekend, a version of Proud Mary, with the lyrics wrong, has been stuck in my head.

105H (2)

Ryan McGuire / Gratisography

I’d had plans to meet up with two girlfriends for dinner and drinks on Saturday night and was looking forward to seeing them both. One has been married several years and the other is the friend who married this June and whose wedding I took a deep breath and went to alone.

On Saturday morning, one sent me a text to confirm which restaurant she’d booked, and by the way, she’d realised she’d forgotten to tell me the husbands were coming too.
My heart sank. My night with friends was going to be an evening of feeling the odd one out, making the seating layout awkward, arriving alone, leaving alone, and generally feeling like a massive gooseberry.
One husband, I’ve met once (at the June wedding) the other I’ve also met once, when he was the groom at the June wedding, and likewise that’s the only time they’d previously met too.

Despite a sinking disappointment, I responded with a cheery ‘looking forward to it!’ lie and then spent the rest of the day dreading it.
By early evening, I’d realised that I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to pretend I wouldn’t feel like a loser going to dinner with two couples and sent my friend an honest text – apologising for being a party pooper, but that I was going to stay in, was feeling a bit like a fifth wheel and didn’t want to make ‘couples night’ awkward.
She said she was disappointed but understood, we’ve exchanged a few messages since and all is well.

But since the weekend I’ve been left with a strange and unsettled feeling.

Was I being a bit pathetic by not going? Or had my friends both forgotten what it was like to be the one who had to rock up alone and then stare into their food when husbands/wives were focused on each other?
I mentioned it to some other friends on Sunday and their instant reaction was that it had all been pretty insensitive and I should have been told earlier, rather than finding out Saturday morning and leaving me the option of looking either a) like a sulky singleton or b) smiling through a fairly grim evening for the sake of saving face.

I don’t think either friend would ever be deliberately thoughtless or insensitive, it’s just not their way, but I wonder how quickly the social safety of coupledom makes you forget the lonely minefield of navigating everything alone?

I have other friends who are couples and who I’d call both of them friends, and it never feels awkward being around them. So perhaps this occasion was partly so dreadful because I know neither husband, they didn’t know each other and so the evening wouldn’t have the relaxed, easy atmosphere of established friends.

So many social occasions feel like fire-walking when you have to go it alone and you don’t have the carefree easiness of your twenties to fall back on, when most of those around you were single too.
There’s a time when you realise you’ve hit the tipping point and the nights when you have to put on your best brave face and walk into a room like you’re delighted to be alone in a sea of couples outweighs the nights when you and a couple of friends chat your way through a bottle of wine and nobody cares whether its a cat or husband waiting at home.

I try so hard to resist the social stereotypes that assume that a happy life only comes in a twinpack.
Most of the time, I do have a happy life and I am fortunate that I have lots of very lovely friends to spend very lovely times with.
So why was Saturday a step too far?
Why was being the fifth wheel something I just couldn’t manage this time around?
And are we supposed to be honest when we’re feeling a bit punctured and worn, or slap a smile on and keep on turning up anyway?

Link

Covering my ears

Deutsche Fotothek

Deutsche Fotothek

I know they’ve been around for a while now, but I’m still bemused by the baffling array of subjects that BuzzFeed manage to make lists about.

Mostly, I just ignore them when they appear on Facebook etc, but today I came across a list of 24 things not to say to someone single.
Before I even clicked the link, I knew I could guess what some of them would be and, of course, the list was entertainingly predictable.

Many of these are things I have heard so many times that whilst the list is funny, it can really get me down.
A few, ahem, ‘favourites’ from the list are here (together with what’s happening in my head when I hear them):

Number 2 – It’ll happen when you least expect it.
Why? Because there’s loads of great blokes out there, just waiting for me to stop expecting it before they show themselves? Are we playing hide and seek?

Number 5 – Are you seeing anyone?
This one bugs me so much that it is a candidate for a future post of its own. Seriously, it seems like it’s the only question that anyone ever has on their minds. I can guarantee it is usually the first thing I’m asked. Why? Why is it THE most important thing you could find out about me today?

Number 6 – You should try online dating….
The reaction of the guy in the picture says it all.

Number 13 – You’re just too picky
Too picky? TOO picky? I’m sorry, are you so desperate for me to be in a relationship that you’d have me settle for someone who isn’t right for me? Do single people offend you that much?

Number 14 – Just don’t turn into a crazy cat lady.
Some might say that ship has sailed. I on the other hand, would say yes, I have a cat. Millions of people have cats. Why when it’s a single woman are we put in a ‘crazy cat lady’ box? It’s a pet, it doesn’t make me any more crazy than the 10 other people in my street who have a cat.

Number 18 – You have to love yourself before you can love someone else.
Oh please. What a big pile of wank. Does anyone even know what that means? This one also assumes that every single person is miserable, ALL of the time and as soon as we cheer the hell up, Mr or Mrs Right will leap out of the woodwork.

Ooh I’ve got more and more cross just writing this post!
For a very silly BuzzFeed list, it is worryingly accurate. It is also a window into the world of comments I get, pretty much every week, from people who ask me about my relationship status (I try to have more interesting conversations) and then feel the need to judge or make empty platitudes.

Good work on a good list BuzzFeed, I salute you.
Everyone else? Maybe you could enquire after my health, my job, my home, my thoughts on world affairs, my family, my interests, my thoughts on the weather. Ask me what book I’m reading, what film I last saw, where I’m going on holiday.
Come on, there’s a whole world out there of more interesting stuff to talk about.

I almost forgot – here’s the link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyperez/24-things-single-people-are-tired-of-hearing

A Moral Maze

I went to see the film The Other Woman a few days ago and it reminded me of an incident that happened a couple of years ago.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d once had a relationship with a guy (five months) before I found out he had a girlfriend (seven years).
I met the guy – let’s call him Bozo – through a mutual hobby and we started seeing each other fairly regularly, and then it actually all moved very fast and we were seeing each other very often and he was making all sorts of declarations about love etc. I’ve never been one to rush these things and I think it frustrated him because he perceived it that I was holding back on him.
He also told me that he’d recently broken up with a girlfriend, so I guess I was keen not to be the fall-back girl.
Aside from feeling a bit bulldozed by him, I didn’t have any reason to be suspicious.

Until I was at work one day – yep, AT WORK – and my phone rang, and a voice asked me what was going on between me and her boyfriend.
She introduced herself as Bozo’s girlfriend and wanted to know what was happening between us.
There followed a somewhat lengthy phone call where she wanted to know in grim detail what had been happening over the last five months.
It turned out they were taking some time out, she had gone to stay with her parents and believed that he was home alone every night. And when the arsehole wasn’t with me, he was with her. What a guy!

Despite this being one of the weirdest phone calls I’ve ever taken, I should mention that she actually seemed like a really nice girl. She knew that I didn’t have a clue what was going on, she didn’t shout, she didn’t swear, she didn’t blame me, she just wanted to know the facts.
Don’t get me wrong, this was no scene from a Cameron Diaz movie, but I did end up putting the phone down thinking that she seemed like someone I’d be friends with in another world and I admired her bravery and level head.

Aside from being pretty hurt by Bozo and saddened to have been nothing more than an unwitting mistress, I walked away from that mess with my head high knowing I hadn’t deliberately done anything to hurt anyone.
I have never spoken to him again and never intend to.
I believe she stayed with him and have seen them together at hobby-related social occasions. We give each other a wide berth and effectively pretend each other isn’t in the room. I imagine that whilst she never blamed me, I don’t suppose she wants to see all that much of me either.

But this incident has had me thinking. At what stage, if ever, should you tell someone their other half is a cheater and a liar?
I wrote in my previous post that there has been a number of married or attached men who have tried it on with me, thinking that because I’m single, I’m happy to sleep with another woman’s husband/boyfriend.
Each one of these men has been sent packing (obviously!) but I must admit it has made me feel bad for the wife/girlfriend who probably doesn’t have a clue what a shithead she is with.
I’ve never said anything to any of them, because to tell someone their other half cracked on to you feels almost vindictive, like playground bitchiness that would cause upset between them deliberately.
Or is it a dis-service to not flag up to someone ‘hey, he’s shithead’?

You obviously won’t be the last one he tries it with and eventually she’s going to discover he’s been sleeping with someone else.
So should you speak out or stay the hell out of it?
Is there a difference between another woman you know? Or one you’ve never met?

If you knew someone was planning to burgle someone else’s house and steal their most precious things, would you tell them in advance? Or wait for it to happen and then show sympathy for something you could have prevented?