The Selfish Humanitarian

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Darfur Dream Team School, set up by NBA star Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets.

‘Why is your mum going to Ukraine?’ I heard my son’s friend ask him.

‘She’s going to save the world,’ he replied.

He wasn’t being flippant. For some time now my son has been saying he expects me to become the little old lady who gives up her worldly goods and spends her final years feeding orphans and rescuing stray animals, ‘a Stanley Kubrick version of Mother Theresa’. This is a vast improvement on the years when he called me Anne Frank, because of my tendency to lock myself away in my attic bedroom for days at a time and do nothing but drink Red Bull and write. I did some of my best work then, but probably not some of my best parenting. The image he has of me now is so much better than I ever could have hoped for.

I’m going to be spending some time during September in the refugee camp in Dunkirk, France; teaching English and investigating the provisions for education and child welfare. I think I might take my son with me. I’m aware that its not a holiday destination that most 16 year old boys would choose, but I want my son to see exactly what it is I’m doing and what I’m working towards every time I disappear out of the front door with a rucksack and hiking boots. In the meantime, I will be spending the month of June in Ukraine researching a summer camp program they are running to teach impoverished children how to speak English. I have meetings with education departments and government officials, time in the classrooms to spend with the children and a tour of restricted provinces to assess child welfare in regions that are now commonly referred to as ‘ human rights black holes’. I have a project in mind that could benefit so many disadvantaged children and some days I feel I am on the verge of doing something incredible. Other days I feel I am in over my head and would be better off giving the whole project to someone more competent. Mostly, I just like the feeling I get when I’m working towards something so much bigger than myself.

That’s selfish, right? To gain some self worth and a buzz of excitement for doing something worthwhile for refugee children? Surely we should all be dedicating a portion of our lives to helping those less fortunate and although it should be something we do willingly and not as a chore, gaining actual pleasure is a twisted and self absorbed by product of a good deed well done. I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up too much about the personal benefits, after all, even Mother Theresa had the whole ‘God’s going to reward me for this shit’ going on and I’m still doing more to help humankind than a lot of other people.

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Children playing at the school inside Dunkirk’s refugee camp, thanks to former British headteacher Rory Fox and his organisation edlumino.org 

Despite the feel good factor, I am doing this because I can. I’m fully aware that not everyone would be able to wander into a conflict zone and feel no fear. I know that the sight of blood and guts and poverty and undernourishment are too horrific for many to comprehend and I know that facing a woman who has just been a victim of sexual assault is something too awkward for many to bear. I know that the fact that I can do these things is a rare gift and believe that, when combined with the horrors of my own past, I am perfectly qualified to bring a little bit of light into these people’s lives. I want to set up education centres for children in refugee camps around the world that provides them with the opportunity to learn the English language through play. Hopefully this can give them a stepping stone towards a better adulthood than their parent’s had to endure and a chance at making a real life for themselves in the strange lands they have found themselves since fleeing their own homes. I so want this to be a success and what Lola wants, she usually gets.

So please, dear reader, forgive me if this blog takes a backseat to my professional life for a while. There may be the odd date and the odd drama that I can amuse you with in the future, but if things get a little quiet here at Dating Dramas of a Thirtysomething it is not because I am neglecting you. I am simply saving the world.

The Drought of 2016

sexlife

You may have noticed I haven’t used the phrase, ‘he buried his head between my thighs,’ recently. This is because I am rapidly approaching 6 months of celibacy. I call it celibacy as if my lack of sexual activity is a choice, as if I have purposefully chosen to ignore my sexual self in order to achieve some inner wisdom or modicum of self control. I haven’t. I just haven’t found a single man I want to fuck.

The last man I slept with was Tex, on New Year’s Eve. I feel pretty good about that, given that I was clearly drunk and drunk choices rarely turn out well. He was a man I really liked and had been in a relationship with. He wasn’t a random hook up, I wasn’t adding another notch to the bedpost. Sleeping with Tex may not have been the reunion I had hoped for, but it didn’t leave me wrapped in the stench of shame and poor choices either.

I’ve had some viable offers of sex recently. The usual reprobates like The Mountie, Handsome and Mr.Surprise are always available for a booty call, should I ever feel the need to make one, and life has thrown a few additional possibilities my way in the shape of friends of friends. Earth Mother is very keen to set me up with her short and single brother-in-law ever since I said he was cute. In my defense, I was being polite. It is very rude to see someone so excited about potentially finding you the love of your life, only for you to then point out that they are both too short, too stupid and too reminiscent of Mr. Potato Head for you to ever be seriously attracted to them. ‘Cute’ was my way of acknowledging of him as a decent human being, while expressing the fact that he is not remotely my type. Earth Mother didn’t get that hint and I’ve been dodging group Facebook chats with her and the brother-in-law ever since.

Adele also delivered some young, male offering to my door last week but again, I failed to be sexually inspired by him. He was a nice lad. 25 years old, employed labourer, a little taller than me with blonde hair and a grin that came straight out of redneck country, but he was friendly and polite and easy to get along with. When Adele left him at my house so she could have some quality alone time with his friend, the idea of breaking my celibacy streak with this eager young man definitely crossed my mind. I’d drunk enough, or so I thought, and I had been climbing the walls with horniness for the past fortnight. Surely this would be a prime opportunity for some no strings, no repercussions sex to get me back on the horse and in the land of the living, sexual beings.

He tried, bless him. He talked the talk, was affectionate and tactile, made all the right moves. I faked falling asleep on the sofa until he actually fell asleep, then I watched :both Legally Blonde movies back to back with a cup of tea and a joint. That was how I wanted to spend my evening, not faking an orgasm for the ego of a man I didn’t even know. In the morning, Adele was keen for the gossip,

‘Did he get it up?’

She was, of course, talking about his ability to perform given all the shots we had downed the night before,

‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘Twice’.

I told him I’d lied for him. He laughed, but seemed grateful. I thought saving his reputation among his friends was the least I could do, not that I actually owed him anything. I guess I just felt sorry for the boy. Whether we did or didn’t have sex meant nothing to me and my friends, but to him it could have meant the difference between a high five in the morning or a weeks worth of piss taking. He was a nice enough lad, he deserved the leniency.

As for me, I’m still no closer to finding a man I want to spend five clothed minutes with, let alone several hours naked and sweaty. I’m not completely dead from the neck down, I know slutty Lola is in there somewhere and she’s dying to make her comeback, but fumbling around in the dark with wasted twentysomethings just doesn’t float my boat anymore and its proving quite the mission to discover what does. All I know, is that some dirty talk and a few vodkas isn’t enough. I need intellectual conversation, charm and flirtations, to feel attractive, desirable. I need a whole load of things that right now, I’m just not getting. Maybe I’m asking too much. Maybe the whole point of adulting is to do away with the physical pleasures and the sins of the flesh and to start building something more meaningful and durable, but I struggle with the idea of giving up on meeting my sexual soulmate, let alone giving up on sex completely. So, for now, my knees remain firmly clasped together, eagerly anticipating the one man who can shake this drought nonsense out of me and give me a reason to get down and dirty once more. Damn, he better hurry up!

Friends

friends

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…I’ve been fooled a thousand times. People I considered friends have taken advantage of my generous nature and left me a bitter, scorned, shell of a woman. After the betrayal of Perry, Robyn and Weston, I had done what so many people do during times of emotional pain and just switched off. I had told myself there was a new Lola in town and that for all intents and purposes, she was a heartless bitch.

It has worked. By cutting out the scroungers and emotional vampires in my life I have found time for myself, for my work, for my son. My head has become clearer, more focused. When Perry contacted me late one evening claiming some kind of emergency, I had no problems identifying his games and emotional manipulation. I ignored him because I had no desire to be lured into his narcissistic dramas and because I had learnt that letting him into my life held absolutely no benefits for me whatsoever. It felt good not to care, to be able to relax in front of a movie with my son and not be plagued by the events of other people’s lives. Most importantly, it has helped me see how incredible my true friends are, now that I am not distracted by the behaviour of the false ones.

Since my eviction and the problems with former lodgers, Billy has been a solid, unwavering rock of support. Like most young men he finds women’s emotions difficult to deal with, but this hasn’t stopped him from checking in on me, organising social get-togethers and sending me random, humorous messages to cheer me up. It was something as simple as the loan of his car that made me realise what a treasure he is. When I asked to borrow his prized Audi A3, he said yes straight away. No questions as to why I needed it, how long for or when. He just said yes. It was only when he dropped it off at my house the next day that he realised I was using it to get to my brother’s funeral. A simple gesture like lending me his car without query showed me the faith and trust he has in me and that when Billy says he’d do anything for me and will help me in any way he can, he actually really means it.

This past weekend my girls and I celebrated Vagina Appreciation Day. It was a quieter affair than in years previously, but given the amount of stress we have all been going through recently, a quiet girl’s night in with pampering and wine was exactly what we all needed. Jemima turned up with large, bulky bags full of hair products and nail polishes, fully throwing herself into the girly sleepover spirit of the evening. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before that Jemima is a hair stylist, but she is the only person on the planet I trust near my hair with scissors. She has rectified some truly horrific dye jobs and although I’ve been reprimanded more than once for using cheap, shop-brought dye kits she has never thrown in  the towel and given up on me completely. She spent most of our Vagina Appreciation Day celebrations dying, cutting and styling my hair; a near impossible task given that I was knocking back pink champagne like it was going out of fashion and was too busy rolling joints to sit still for even five minutes. Again, I found it was the little things that showed the measure of my friendships; like Jemima giving up her Saturday night to make sure I felt pampered and pretty, despite her own troubles and desperate need to feel special.

Vagina Appreciation Day also saw Blue arrive at my door with a gift. Blue is quite the arts and crafts specialist but I was blown away by the belated housewarming gift she handed to me. Blue had, with her own fair hands, made me a set of bookends depicting all of my favourite things. The bookend L-shapes themselves were decorated with an old map depicting Eastern Europe, a nod to my wanderlust and Russian heritage. Sat on each bookend was a penguin (I love penguins. Seriously. You have to respect any creature that walks 80 miles for a shag and then another 80 miles for food!) and a pile of books. The book titles were things Blue associated with me; Cooking, The Big Book of Jokes, The Book of Knowledge, A Woman of Excellence, Sins & Secrets and Inspiration. I don’t think I have ever had a friend who knows me that well or who sees me in such a positive light. I was overcome with emotion and, once again, was able to see how truly amazing my pals are now that I’m not buried beneath the debris of the wrong people.

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I don’t know what the point of this post was, other than to show others how easy it is to be blinded to the good things in your life while you’re wading through the bad. I have spent years feeling not quite good enough, like I didn’t fit in or didn’t deserve to. I have spent so much time and energy trying to make life better for everyone else that I neglected myself, I didn’t allow myself to see all the good I had or that I deserved. I can see it now. I see it when Amber calls to check on me since the death of my brother, despite having just lost her own beloved grandfather. I see it when Earth Mother’s eyes light up at the idea of me going on a date, despite feeling jaded and let down in her own relationship. I see it when Adele sends me a picture of her gorgeous new niece, way before any public announcements about her birth are made. I see it when Billy brings his girlfriend Little Miss over for dinner and tolerates us chatting and gossiping all night. These are the little things that make life worth living and make you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. The joy and comfort bought by these things are often overshadowed by unnecessary drama bought about by people who would rather take from you than offer up anything genuine. I am such a lucky girl to have this group of friends in my life. I shall never take them for granted or allow the less worthy to occupy my time again.

Man Hunt: The Supermarket Experiment

food shop manIn romantic comedies there is often a scene where ‘boy sees girl’ at a supermarket checkout line or from behind a stack of breakfast cereal. They are either avoiding each other, intentionally bumping into one another or admiring each other from afar. This idea that single people mingle and fall in love amid the aisles of fruits and vegetables is one that I thought only possible in movie land, but after very little persuading, Adele and I decided to venture to our nearest large supermarket to test the theory for ourselves.

We were practical in our venture. There was absolutely no point in loitering around the shopping centre at 9am on a Monday morning because the types of men we wanted to attract would most probably be at work. Hooking up with fraught young mothers and little old ladies was not what we were after, so Adele and I decided that early on a Saturday evening would be the most likely time to run into some fun loving, available bachelors. We had visions of them collecting groceries for a meal with friends or stocking up on snacks and drinks for a party. This would be happy hour at the local grocery store, I was sure of it.

‘I think our kind of men will be in the alcohol aisle…’

man shoppingI was only half joking. I suspected that picking the right department in the supermarket would also be  key to landing a suitable date. The pharmacy was to be avoided at all costs. Nobody wants to say they met over a tube of hemorrhoid cream or while picking up a pregnancy testing kit. Women’s clothing was out too, for reasons that should be very apparent. Frozen foods was a possibility; single men purchasing meals-for-one for a lonely evening in, as was the aisle dedicated to entertainment. What self respecting single man doesn’t indulge in the odd DVD or console game. We also decided to bypass the shelves containing baby products. I have no problem dating a man with children, but the likelihood of meeting a struggling single new father amid the nappies and wet wipes was unlikely. We were more likely to bump into fraught daddies running errands for stressed out mummies who were stuck at home with a screaming toddler. I appreciate that a man in that situation is vulnerable to a little female attention, but neither Adele nor I are those kind of women. Plus, our nappy changing days are definitely over. Fresh flowers was also a no go area. Sure, we could meet a fabulous man lovingly buying flowers for a sick Aunt, but knowing Adele and I, we were more likely to meet a player making a desperate plea for forgiveness to a wronged woman. Baked goods, cereals, fresh produce, meat and fish, toiletries, magazines and newspapers; all these divisions of the supermarket seemed to be as good as any when trying to find single men. At 8pm, Adele and I entered the hunting ground…

OK, thats not exactly what happened. I’d written all of that before Adele and I were meant to go hunting in a local supermarket, but when the day came she was unfortunately struck down with the mother of all migraines and I had become one with my sofa and a tub of Ben and Jerrys, so our venture was called off. This is not to say I don’t stand by my theories regarding suitable loitering times and aisle selections. It came as a surprise to me when later in the week and completely by chance, I actually met a man in the supermarket. It was near the frozen roast potatoes, or rather, lack of. Please, dear reader, forgive my manipulation of the truth and let me explain…

Aunt-Bessies-Roast-Potatoes

I had invited Blue and her daughter to join my son and I for dinner one evening. Inviting friends over for meals has become one of the joys of my new apartment; it is definitely more family friendly that the former party house I occupied. Anyway, anyone who has ever cooked for children knows they can be fussy eaters, so instead of preparing my favourite Tuscan sea bass or letting my son make his extra spicy fajitas, I settled on the great British roast dinner. It had been a busy day. Work and household chores had swallowed up most of the hours in my day and with Blue’s arrival imminent I was still nowhere near to having the vegetables prepared. I decided that working mothers are allowed to cheat in the kitchen every now and then, so headed to my local supermarket to pick up some frozen roast potatoes. They were never going to be as good as my own, but Aunt Bessie (popular British brand of convenience foods) is a well meaning substitute.

Grabbing a basket and heading straight to the freezer aisle, I was aware of the ticking clock and long list of preparations ahead of me. Blue was bringing dessert, but I needed to purchase wine and wine glasses, given that I’d accidentally-on-purpose smashed all of mine during a moving-house-tantrum. I also needed runner beans, broccoli, chicken fillets and stuffing mix and needed to pop by the tobacco kiosk for my nicotine fix. I was one of many frantic and stressed women running around the store that day, but possibly the only one who was on the border of having a complete nervous breakdown upon discovering the store had run out of frozen potatoes. I mean, completely run out. No big brands, no own brands, not a convenient spud in sight. This is Britain! We NEVER run out of roast dinner ingredients, even the convenient kind! I was mortified and as I let the panic sweep over me in increasingly violent waves, I noticed I was not the only person staring into the abyss of an empty freezer.

Twilight_Edward.pngStood to my right was a pale skinned gentleman with jet black hair. He was dressed for the office in a fitted grey suit with white shirt and pastel blue tie and looked to be in his late twenties to early thirties. I was attracted to him in the way teenagers lust after fictional vampires…he was a little eerie, a little unusual, but undoubtedly attractive. I followed his eyes as they scanned the empty freezer. He wanted potatoes too. I never thought root vegetables would be my way in with a man, but life throws up some weird opportunities at the strangest of times, so I took it and promised myself I would thank life for it’s sense of humour later.

Spudman (Yes, thats what we’re calling him, deal with it!) eyed up the thick cut chips then diverted his gaze to the potato croquettes. I knew what he was thinking for I had thought the same, they were a poor substitute for roasties.

‘No potatoes, right?’ I said, looking at him with the sincerest of solidarity

‘I know!’ He laughed, ‘Whats that about?’

‘Guess I’ve got some peeling to do when I get home,’ I smiled.

Yes, our first interation was this lame, but us Brits are good at talking about the inane, like the weather and bus timetables and, in this case, frozen vegetables. I made plans in my head to postpone dinner with Blue by an hour and make my roast potatoes from scratch, Spudman opted for chips.

‘Your meal is going to be more palatable than mine, ‘ Spudman responded, ‘I hope your husband appreciates it’.

Smooth move Spudman. I’m not wearing a wedding ring, you know I’m not married but you’re just checking to make sure. Let me reward your curiosity and ballsy approach to discovering my singledom,

‘Actually, I’m cooking for my son. Apparently teenagers need feeding, a lot!’

I wasn’t going to explain about cooking for a friend and her daughter, in case he perceived that as me being a lesbian. There was no room for mixed messages here. The window for using shop delivery delays as an excuse to chat someone up is very limited. Spudman seemed to know this too,

‘Look, I’m going to head to the other store across the road, do you want me to give you a call if they have any?’

Nicely played Spudman. A little pathetic given that I have two working legs and could have visited aforementioned shop myself, but I let him take the win and dictated my name and number as he tapped it into his phone.

An hour later, I received a text message,

‘No spuds there either. Hope your dinner goes well. I was wondering if I could take you for a drink sometime?’

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I eventually landed a date in a supermarket. Catching a man’s eye over the lack of potatoes in the frozen food aisle. I will be sure to tell you all how it goes with Spudman in the near future.

Update #97

beach

It has been a strange couple of weeks. I have genuinely struggled to form even the simplest of sentences, both verbally and in written form, yet have managed to achieve career goals and resolve personal issues regardless. I feel like I’m floating through my life on automatic pilot; focused and determined in all the ways necessary but lacking in the emotional responses that categorise me as a functional human being. On the plus side, at least I am functioning. In fact, I’m functioning well. My head is clear of nonsense and drama and I have the energy and motivation of someone so much younger and less jaded than my usual self. It’s good. Life is good.

So, Paris went well. I loved spending time with Amber and exploring Paris at leisure and was pleasantly surprised when a ‘drink and dial’ mishap, caused by a shameless bar crawl among the most ardent of alcoholic Frenchmen, resulted in not a soul crushing humiliation but the realisation that crushes held as a child sometimes carry the potential to be an interesting turn of events in adulthood. In short, I was very drunk and decided that was the perfect time to reveal my long standing crush on a former work colleague of my mother’s. The following morning I hid from my phone, fearful of the fool I had made of myself and the grovelling, shameful apology I was going to have to make. When I say I hid, I mean I actually hid. I threw my phone under the bed and pulled a pillow over my face, a position that I would happily have remained in had it not been for Amber,

‘Look at your phone. Look at your phone. Will you just look at your phone and see if he’s answered you!!!’

The woman was relentless, for which I would later thank her. The gentleman in question had not only accepted my inebriated nonsense in the manner it was intended, but had penned a near perfect response that saved my embarrassments and boosted my ego no end. This is very likely the last time I will write about him, given that he reads this blog and I’ve discovered that although men believe they would like to be written about, the reality is that they usually do not.

One man, or rather a pathetic excuse for one, that I never thought I would write about again is Perry, yet here I am doing exactly that. I received a message from him on Sunday evening asking if we could call a truce because he was desperately in need of someone to talk to and I am the only person he has ever felt he could do that with. I contemplated my response. I could have called him out on his lack of apology, his complete disregard for my feelings or that of Jemima and I could have raged at him for being so selfish as to only consider contacting me when he needed something. I decided to do nothing. Between Perry and Robyn and Weston I am completely spent in the ‘putting myself out for fake friends’ department. I am pleased I did not respond to his cries of ‘wolf’, because that was exactly what they were. My son had seen him earlier that evening and, although he didn’t speak to him, it was obvious that his presence had triggered a memory in Perry as to how much of a gullible fool I can be. I am proud of myself for not running to his false cry for help. I am proud of myself for not being sucked back into that vortex of betrayal and disappointment. I am proud of myself for allowing my silence to scream ‘no’.

In other man news, Mr. Surprise continues to litter my inbox with messages and missed calls, The Mountie has asked me out on three separate occasions over the last fortnight and even Handsome has attempted to rekindle the rough and passionate sexual escapade that never was. I have zero interest in any of them. Mr. NYC is still a frequent visitor to my Whatsapp account, although binge watching Catfish over the holiday weekend has made me paranoid and I openly doubted whether or not he was actually the person he claimed to be. I mean, what successful international businessman doesn’t have a laptop at home or know how to use Skype? The jury is still out on him.

As far as ‘good men’ go, I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have been spending with Billy recently. Calm down, this absolutely is not going to be a friends become lovers scenario. That idea creeps me out because Billy is like family to my son and I. What I simply mean to document here is that Billy has been a tremendous source of support for my son and I recently, particularly as I come to terms with the death of my brother. Billy and I have lunched, and dinnered, and masterminded a perfect plan to get him back with his ex (Which worked! Hurrah!) and generally spent a couple of times a week putting the world to rights and spilling our hearts and our guts all over a box of wine and my dining room table. Its been good for both of us. ‘You just know stuff,’ he said to me the other day, ‘I don’t know how you do it or how you make me think I came up with the solutions all by myself, but you just know stuff!’ Bless him. It’s called being a woman, Billy. It is my superpower.

Another good man in my life is my son. I am so immensely proud of that boy. He has come out of his personal storm a more ambitious and focused young man; a testament to his strength of character and also to my resilience in putting up with his foul mood and general shitty teenager antics. He has taken the position of apprentice to a locally revered chef and seems to have found a happiness in which he can grow. On a personal note, that parenting hurdle was a bit of a bitch and I hope it is the last we’ve seen of it, particularly as I am leaving him to his own devices in June and spending the month teaching little kids how to speak English in rural Ukraine. I have no fears leaving my sixteen year old son alone as he is more than capable of getting himself to work on time and cooking his own meals without setting fire to our home, but I must admit that I will be sending Adele, Blue and Jemima round to check on him and remind him how to use the washing machine and vacuum cleaner! Some may judge me on leaving a teenager alone for that amount of time and were it not for his general maturity and the strength of the support network around us I would never have considered it. I am lucky that he is grown enough for me to further my career in this manner but he is also lucky enough to have a mother that trusts him. Damn that boy if he screws it up!

I must harness this enthusiasm for writing now and use it for good, or rather, use it for pay. My recent stint in writer’s block hell has taken longer than I anticipated to pass and as I sit here now, in front of my laptop with a thousand words spinning around me like little dancing fairies, I believe it would be irresponsible to continue waffling on to you when I have bills to pay and a growing young man to feed. Farewell dear reader, I’ll catch you in the next post.

Sex: 0. Like, actually nothing. Zilch, zero, nada. I’m rapidly approaching the 6 month marker and to be completely truthful, I couldn’t give a shit!

Alcohol: I have a newly discovered love of wine. Not good wine, however, more the stuff you can pour into a bottomless glass without worrying about your bank balance or the fear of ever running out. Billy and I are prime candidates for running a wine program called ‘Shit Chavs Drink Under The Skateboard Ramp’.

Drugs: 0. I’m loving my cleaner living. Drugs are fun, but so is achieving personal and professional goals, something that I was maybe lacking behind in when my weekends were spent with my nose in a vat of free cocaine. Sober, straight-head Lola is proving a force to be reckoned with and I really, really like it.

Mental Health: Really, really good.

Physical Health: Endometriosis is an evil bitch cunt from hell. Other than that, I’m good!

Paris – The Men Pt.2

paris carousel

It was late in the afternoon as I stood by a carousel near the fountains of the Troacdero in Paris, waiting for my date. His name was Enzo; a 28 year old Spaniard who was travelling around France on his own and had contacted me on Tinder to see if I fancied indulging in some tourist attractions with him. Although I believed his enthusiasm would wain upon meeting me in person (Like I said in my previous post, Paris does little for a girl’s self esteem), he had shown an eagerness to practice his English and had offered to help me with my Spanish. Considering I was alone in Paris on a Friday evening, I didn’t see the harm in meeting a fellow traveller and passing an hour or two at the world famous monument, the Eiffel Tower.

Last time I visited the Eiffel Tower I was just a child on a school trip. I ran up the stairs with boundless energy, spent less than a minute peering over the edge at a view I was not mature enough to appreciate and spent the rest of the time flirting and play fighting with a boy from my class. I didn’t understand the opportunity I had been given back then to marvel at this architectural wonder and the exquisite scenery it opened up for the common traveller. This time, Enzo would offer me a very different experience, one that could not be squandered.

We paid the entrance fee of 17 Euros to take the lift directly to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. Most people only bother with the second floor viewing platform, the larger space in which you can wander around and take selfies among hoards of other tourists and visiting school parties, but Enzo and I had established an ‘all or nothing’ attitude during the first few minutes of meeting. We were determined to make the most of what Paris had to offer. I was surprised to see so few people as we  obeyed security protocols, stepped into the lift and stood awkwardly alongside a heavily mustached Tower employee. I was sure more people would be interested to see Paris by night from such a vantage point, but was relieved that the lack of crowds meant Enzo and I could chat and explore uninterrupted. 

Let’s just pause this for a moment so you can fully appreciate the romance of the situation. I was in Paris, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, at sunset, with a Spanish toyboy. Seriously, you can’t make that shit up. A bottle of champagne and a marriage proposal would have sent us into romance overload and possibly have seen me vomiting rainbows with hearts and flowers bursting out of my eyeballs, but luckily for both Enzo and I, our romantic endeavor stopped short of that. Instead we revelled in a truly magnificent view and a shared a can of French lager. Hey, I’m no snob. The lager was a perfect addition.

As for Enzo, he was truly gorgeous. Olive skin, short dark curly hair, eyes such a deep brown that looking too intently into them was like slowly falling into a whirlpool of rich, melted chocolate. I have no idea what aftershave he was wearing, but as he pulled me closer to him with his perfectly toned arm and shielded me from the wind, he smelled divine. His English was poor and so was my Spanish, but between the two of us we managed to point out areas of Paris we had visited, share our fascination with the orange and red swirls on the horizon and joke about the tiny glimmers of people milling around hundreds of metres below us. If I was ever going to fall for a stranger in Paris, this was it. He was gorgeous, adventurous, funny and smart, but for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it.

After our Eiffel Tower visit, Enzo and I wandered around the streets of the 7th District before settling in an overpriced bar for a few drinks and to rest our weary traveller legs. The conversation flowed as easily as it could given our strange amalgamated language of French, English and Spanish and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to enjoying the envious looks of the beautiful women walking past. Enzo certainly attracted attention, so why wasn’t I melting at the vagina? Why wasn’t I drooling over this lovely man and trying to drag him back to Amber’s empty apartment? What the hell was wrong with me?

Enzo was keen to continue our evening with dinner, but having spent so little time with Amber on my visit I felt the need to decline and head back for a good old fashioned girly chitchat.

‘Maybe we can meet again? Before you go home?’ Enzo asked as we paid our bill and put on our coats.

I agreed and we made plans to meet for dinner on Sunday evening. I also made it clear that we would be meeting as friends and nothing more.

‘So what happened?’ Amber quizzed as we debriefed after my date.

‘I don’t know. He’s lovely and I’m looking forward to hanging out with him again but honestly, it was more of a ‘gay friend’ vibe than anything else’.

Amber, quite understandably, looked confused, ‘but he’s not gay?’

‘No. Not gay’.

I don’t know why I wasn’t attracted to Enzo. All the requirements were definitely there. I guess sometimes you click, sometimes you don’t. A logical person would say that I was putting up natural defenses because he was too young, lived too far away and the language barrier would have eventually become a hindrance. Maybe a logical person would be right, but whatever the reason, I just didn’t feel that all elusive spark that makes me want to pursue anything other than friendship. I even weighed up the benefits of breaking my four month unintentional celibacy with a quick fling but decided against it. Truthfully, I just couldn’t be bothered. Paris may be the City of Love and with a man I actually loved I can see why, it oozes romance and nostalgia from every brick, but I wasn’t in love and no world famous monument or beautiful view was going to change that.

For the record, Enzo and I have remained friends. We visited the Pere Lachaise Cemetery together on the Sunday and spent the evening drinking far too much wine over dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and extended an invitation for him to call me should he ever find himself in or around London. After all, how could I not remain in contact with the Spanish toyboy who gave me a beautiful sunset first date in Paris?!

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Paris – The Men Pt 1.

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I am meant to be studying right now. I woke up extra early to make sure I could put in enough study hours so as not to berate myself later on for procrastinating and falling behind. So far I’ve studied for an hour, taken a shower, made too many cups of tea and updated my Facebook status. Apparently, an early start just means more time for me to procrastinate. It does, however, also give me a few minutes to update you on the men I met in Paris. I’m saving all the travel writing stuff and the specifics about my dates for my other blog, Around The World In 80 Dates, but there are a few things I can share with you, my faithful Dating Dramas readers, in the meantime.

Firstly, it is absolutely impossible NOT to get a date in Paris if you are a heterosexual woman. I had my doubts to begin with but Amber had reassured me that as soon as I logged into Tinder I would be inundated with requests to meet from a broad range of attractive men,

‘They don’t really do online chatting here,’ she’d told me, ‘just a couple of messages then you arrange to meet’.

She was right. Coffee here, drinks there, sex right now, the offers came in so quickly that after 48 hours in Paris, I disabled Tinder. Tattooed men, creative men, academic men, short, tall, beared, bald, suited, swim suited, tanned, black, white, musicians, lawyers, builders, every type of man you could possibly imagine was blowing up my Tinder account. I couldn’t handle the constant ‘super like’ notification beeps going off in my pocket every few minutes. I had never had this kind of response back in the UK and couldn’t figure out why, in this city so famed for romance and love, all these beautiful, well educated, cultured men were bothering with me. I’m an overweight thirtysomething who has the look of ‘worn and knackered’ about her. I scrub up alright when I make the effort and I’m regularly told I don’t look my age, but in comparison to the women walking around Paris, I was a veritable pig.

Parisians, both men and women alike, are skinny. Not toned or fit or slender, skinny. Acceptable fashion includes skinny jeans, flat shoes and simple classic lines in neutral colours; black, navy, beige, cream. Hair is quaffed and controlled, sunglasses and a scowl are a permanent fixture and everybody smokes. Everywhere. I kind of liked that last one, but as a wild spirit with a love of Doctor Marten boots and long flowing hair that I haven’t been able to control since the 90s, I was most definitely the ugly sister to a city of Cinderellas. In truth wandering about Paris, past patisseries and restaurants, parks and historical buildings, simply being surrounded by beauty and symmetry every where you go, well, it can ruin a girl’s self esteem. It ruined mine.

On the Friday evening Amber had to work and I was more than content to sit in her apartment with a bottle of wine, a book and a hefty supply of cigarettes. If I was feeling sociable or restless, I’d vowed to take a walk and find a quaint little bar or cafe to sit in. I was sure that my own company was much better than forcing Lardy McLard-Arse, the non-French speaking philistine onto these stylish and perfectly manicured natives. Amber had other ideas. She was not going to let me sit alone.

‘Get on Tinder. Now’.

We swiped, we drooled, we swiped some more. I was approving men so beautiful that even adding them to my wank bank was considered batting out of my league and yet, by some miracle, these men were actually liking me back. After a while it began to make sense to me. I’m English. That’s a perk pretty much wherever you go (I said ‘pretty much’. I’m fully aware we are a much hated nation as well). And I’m not skinny. Some men, even Parisian ones, like women with boobs and bums and thighs that jiggle a little when they walk. Some men like to see a woman smile, or be silly, or not give a damn about her hair. In Paris, I was unique and greatly sought after. As Amber headed off to work, I headed off to meet a bar manager called Ralph. He seemed the least intimidating of all my potential suitors with a friendly face and an excellent grasp of the English language. He had listened to me when I said I worked in the field of Human Rights and was very excited to be taking me to The Marguerite Durand Library in the 13th district. Opened in 1931, the library holds the personal collection of journalist and activist Marguerite Durand, including some incredible pieces on feminism and the French suffragettes. Unfortunately, Ralph’s masterful first date plans were thwarted by a rare early closing of the library. Instead, we sat in a trendy little cafe, drinking coffee and exchanging stories about our friends, families and travelling experiences. 1-bibliotheque-marguerite-durand

Ralph was lovely, if a bit of a liar. His Tinder profile had photos that were at least ten years old and although he claims he had never been married, there was a very distinct white tan line on his marriage finger. He said he drove and would pick me up in his car, but at the last minute had called to give me instructions for the Metro. He asked a lot of questions, but answered very few. I knew within minutes of meeting Ralph that there would be no holiday fling or last tango in Paris, but I was appreciative of the effort he made to meet me, his chivalrous behavior and to meet a friendly, smiling French face among a crowd of less hospitable ones. I left Ralph with my gratitude and the obligatory kissing on either cheek.

‘How did it go?’ Amber asked with enthusiasm,

‘Like meeting a distant relative. Nice, friendly, comfortable but a bit dull and with absolutely no chance of getting laid’.

My second date in Paris, a few hours later, would prove to be very different…