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?

Stepping Over A Line

picjumbo.com_IMG_1162

It’s been a long time since I felt myself ‘drawn’ to a man, nearly two years now, but I know myself well enough to know that often, not always, I have a ‘type’.
And recently, one of those ‘types’ has arrived at another office I regularly visit for work.

Tall, confident, sure of himself to the point of being a little cocky, well spoken and interesting – enter the Alpha male.
Having been in a place where I’ve avoided even the very idea of being interested in anyone for so long now, it’s taken me a bit by surprise that I’m attracted to this guy.
I’m not sure I think he’s even all that good-looking – oh laws of attraction, you do vex me so!

Obviously the fact that he’s a work colleague means I would never ‘go there’ even if it were mutual (we all only make that mistake once, right?), but, still, I’m drawn to spend time in his company.
He’s several years older than me – at least ten, maybe more – and has been about a bit, travelling around the world before returning back to the UK.

Today, whilst driving and then walking to meet a colleague, we swapped war stories about some of our life’s disasters and found some similarities.
He waved his hand around nonchalantly whilst he told me about the house he’d sunk his money into in France, and the woman who’d walked out on him.
After, he strode forward whilst telling me about the woman who’d stalked him and needed police intervention.
Running his fingers through his hair, he described the motorcycle accident that had almost cost his life.

He slowed the pace and lowered his hand when I mentioned the man who’d threatened to kill me.
He stood stock still whilst I tried to articulate the man who’d messed with my head so badly, and left me so unsure of who I am, that I can’t always find words to explain it.
We shared a wry smile and a raised eyebrow when I described the man I called my boyfriend, whose girlfriend had phoned me at work to ask what was happening between me and her boyfriend.

I have no idea if there is chemistry between us, but in the last few weeks I’ve felt we’ve sought each other out at meetings or before and after.
I know that if there is chemistry, nothing will ever come of it. It can’t.
I know that all the bad men I described were just as Alpha as he is.
I know that just thinking about something that would never happen gave me goosebumps nonetheless.

I know that entering this slightly familiar territory, hearing these different-but-the-same experiences, it feels like walking into an old bombing range – there’s an air of excitement, but you also risk stepping on explosives too.

Thank you for the music

So it took me about ten seconds to Google some info about a subject that will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, ever:
It has been scientifically proven that music affects our emotions and mood.

No shit Sherlock!!

The nerd in me wants to research this link between emotion and music and try to understand it more, but seriously, am I really going to tell anyone in this blog anything they don’t already know? (Click for more, here, if you must)
There’s the science, which is undoubtedly interesting and important, and then there’s just the reality – the raw, tangible, undeniable, goosebumps, tears, smiles or memories we all get when a certain song comes on the radio or we dig out a CD just to hear it (yes, I still listen to CD’s).

Today, the song Wonderwall, by Oasis, came onto the radio and instantly I was taken back in time to the man I spent ten years with, from 17 to 27. He was a huge Oasis fan and whilst he wasn’t a classic romantic, he used to tell me that it was ‘our’ song in his mind. It was his version of giving me roses, and I loved him for it.

So here’s some songs that trigger memories/feelings/times and places in my mind.
I’d love to hear some feedback about what songs are important to other people.

The OCD in me is quietly agonising about whether I should post these three songs in some sort of order (chronological? importance? type of emotion?) but I’m fighting that, and am just going with whatever comes to mind first.

All I See Is You – Dusty Springfield
So yes, I know that Dusty had her heyday WAY before my time, but goodness me, I love her. Her voice, oh, that voice that conveys a thousand emotions in a word. She captivates me in a way I can’t explain.
I sing this song, in the car, every few days, It’s about him, the one who broke me. The one I loved more than anything on this earth. The one who walked away.
The lyrics say it all – they say everything.
“The days have come and gone since you were here,” and yes, “In every way, all I see is you.”

Do You Realise? – The Flaming Lips
Call me weird, but I imagine this song playing at my funeral, with pictures of all the amazingly wonderful people in my life. Like it is my chance to finally point out to them how beautiful they are, and they don’t get to argue back with a whole load of ‘yeah, but’ because we’re all programmed not to take compliments.
Does anyone really realise how wonderful they are? Are we all too busy putting ourselves down and feeling angsty to notice?
I look at my friends and think “wow”, so many amazing people, and how much time do we really take to recognise that? Is it so bad to notice how massively cool we are?

To Sheila – The Smashing Pumpkins
I have no idea who Sheila is, but gosh, to have someone write a song like this, for you.
I just think this is the most beautiful song ever written. I love The Smashing Pumpkins, and Billy Corgan’s voice is extraordinary. I’d say this is my favourite song, ever.
Can you just imagine, just one person in your life, thinking enough of you to write this song?
This song?

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

Aside

Gone

I came across the Ben Folds album Rockin’ the Suburbs just by chance when it was released way back in 2001.
(I had to Google when it was released – yikes, 2001!)

It’s one of those albums I’ve always gone back to periodically and I don’t think there’s a single duff track on it.

It’s a bank holiday weekend yet again.
And yet again that fact is making me feel very aware of my alone-ness.
And, just for a change, I’m thinking about the guy who broke me, possibly forever.
One day I may blog about him, but I don’t know that I could ever find the right words.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling blue, this song makes me feel a bit stronger.
That’s it. Not happier or sadder or better or angry, just a bit stronger.
And some days, a bit stronger is just enough.

 

Going it alone

This week, I received my fourth wedding invitation of the year.
It’s unusual, having so many in one year.
And there is always a slight mixture of feelings when I open the envelope and find the invite inside.

Victor Hanacek / PicJumbo

There is a mixture of happiness for the couple to see their plans progressing, delight to have been invited to be a part of their special day and, it pains me to admit, just a twinge of sadness that it is unlikely to ever be me sending the invitations.

Of the four, I’ve been to one so far, with a group of friends. Two of the remaining weddings are of people I also share several friends with and will be going along in a group.
The other is the wedding of a wonderful friend whom I have known a long time, but have never really shared a wider friendship group with. At her wedding, there will be one other person I know, who will be attending with her husband.
It is this wedding that is playing on my mind.

The bride-to-be is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, both inside and out and I treasure her friendship. We have that sort of friendship where actually we rarely see other (and I’m yet to meet her fiance) but when we do meet up, it’s like no time has passed at all.
So when she handed me the invitation to her wedding, which is late next month, over lunch one Saturday, I was thrilled.

Ever since that Saturday many weeks ago, I’ve been mulling over whether to show up alone to a wedding where I know virtually no-one but the bride, or whether to find someone to join me, just so I don’t have to go alone.
Despite knowing I’m single, she had been kind enough to add a ‘plus one’ to my invitation, and said it would be fine to bring a friend.

Part of me has been tempted to ask a friend along, which of course then just makes two people who don’t know anybody else, but makes it easier for me so I don’t have to go alone.
The other half of me has thought “no, you should go alone, what’s the big deal?”

And yet, it does feel like a massive deal, like it’s some kind of failure to turn up to a wedding – a celebration of love and togetherness – alone.
It feels like I’m saying “you know that thing you have? The love, the happiness? I don’t have that.”

Going to a wedding, a wedding, alone. Perhaps I should wear a dunce hat.
As we celebrate love and joy and share in a very special day, I’ll be doing so at the same time as knowing I do not have that love in my life, that when it comes to relationships, I’ve never quite got it right.

Viktor Hanacek / PicJumbo

I know that I can walk into the ceremony alone, that I can take a seat, that I can watch with happiness as my beautiful friend says her vows.
I’m also pretty sure that when evening comes and there is dancing, and couples and groups of friends take to the floor, that I can slink away unnoticed.
It is all the many moments in between that it pains me to admit I’m dreading.

You know the bit just after the ceremony but before the meal and speeches, where everyone has drinks and conversation and the wedding party have their pictures taken? I’m not looking forward to that bit.
I have to either stand and be alone, hide in the loo, or become that cliche lonely person who makes conversation with whoever wasn’t able to to avoid eye contact and look away quick enough.

I think the meal will be ok, because I expect I’ll be seated on a table with the one other person I know (and her husband who I’ve never met). Except they don’t know anyone else either, so will be looking out for each other.
And what if having a single person has mucked up the symmetry of table plans?

And you know the bit after the meal? After the speeches? Where people go the bar, chat, laugh? The bit where it’s too early for dancing but the meal is over?
I’m not looking forward to that bit.
I’m not a massively shy person, but I also think I have enough social grace to know when people aren’t really looking to make a new friend, or chat to a lonely-looking stranger – and I think weddings probably fall into that category.

I previously wrote about feeling like other women don’t like the single-girl near their husbands at parties. I’ve never been to a wedding alone before, but I would guess that amongst the guests, it is a time when that feeling of being a couple is especially important, a time when a ‘keen to chat’ other guest is probably least welcome in your clique.

On the one hand, I feel like there will be a few pairs of eyes, looking at me and pitying me whilst at the same time feeling glad they are not the one who turned up alone.
On the other hand, I also know that most people are too busy getting on with their own day to be preoccupied with how you are living yours.
And yet I’m terrified I’ll either cope by getting really drunk and will say something ridiculously Bridget Jones-esque during dinner conversation, or that I’ll end up clock watching until the time when I can say polite goodbyes without seeming rude or ungrateful for my invitation.

Perhaps if the bride wasn’t a woman who was kind and lovely to her core.
Perhaps if I wasn’t truly excited to see her so happy.
Perhaps if I wasn’t so delighted to have been invited to be a part of the day.
Then, perhaps I wouldn’t feel quite so anxious or wouldn’t care about how this day will pan out, because maybe I wouldn’t care about going.
But I do care, I want to see my friend enjoying her big day and I’ll be damned if my own sense of loneliness will overtake that.

I tell myself that I will be a beacon of modern, independent womanhood, that I am perfectly fine just as I am thank you very much and that I push my shoulders back and be proud, not ashamed, of who I am.
More likely, is that I’ll keep thinking I should go and stand in the corner for getting it all so very wrong.

I am perfectly happy going to the cinema or theatre, or even to a restaurant on my own, and yet, more than any other social occasion, there is something about going to a wedding alone that seems especially like a sad indictment of your own failure to find the love or companionship that this day celebrates.

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?