As I drove through town last week (after missing the bus from where I live to the centre of town) a big hairy figure crossed the road in front of me. He had wild, curly hair way past his shoulders, a big crazy beard reminiscent of Robin Williams in Jumanji and a woolly hat pulled down to just above his eyes. What with all the hair and headgear obstructing my view, and the fact that he has gained a few stone, it took me far too long to journey from curiosity to recognition to disgust. It was my ex.
I got on the bus to the city for the first of my concerts and sat pondering. I have been single for just over a year. In that year I’ve graduated from university, started a Masters, won awards, been on tv and become an accidental political activist. Seems quite impressive when you see it all written down. I thought about how different it would be if I had stayed with my ex. *cue dream-like music*
Let me take you back to 2010 when I was hopelessly devoted to a boy from uni who seemed completely clueless about my feelings. He was shy and had never had a girlfriend. I pined after him for months. We went out on a date-type thing then he didn’t see me for weeks. I went to London via Bristol with a guy I’d met the year before. Bristol Boy came over in Summer ’09 to visit my friend Al, he was one of her friends from uni. Al was convinced he fancied her so begged me to be constant chaperone for the duration of his stay. At the end of his visit, it turned out he didn’t fancy her, he actually liked me and we spent his last half hour in Norn Iron kissing in her living room. Anyway, Bristol Boy and I went on a little adventure to London but nothing happened between us. When I came home, I realised that I needed to get over my crush.
That week I started helping out with an outreach team made up of the different churches in my town. Two guys around my age became my shadows, following me about relentlessly. My church friends decided one of them must fancy me… On the last night, both asked for my number. Only one of them started using it, texting me all the time. I went away on a family holiday and came back to this guy (let’s call him Mickey) wanting to meet up. We randomly went to McDonalds (romantic, I know) and met up for coffee. He then tagged along with Al and I one night, ending up back at my house. Al was staying over so I drove him home and he kissed me. Less than I week later he asked if we ‘could make it serious’ and if he could call me his girlfriend.
From the start we had very little in common. We were both Christians and lived in the same town but that was where the similarities ended. He had left high school at 15, trained as a gardener/tree surgeon, volunteered at the National Trust but was essentially unemployed and in his spare time liked to ride his bike with his friend. I was finishing my degree, researching and writing a dissertation. But I guess our differences was what was exciting about it. Any other guy I’d dated had always been older, and usually slightly condescending. Mickey didn’t care how clever I was, he was a year younger than me and so excited to be with me. I’m not the most romantic person in the world but Mickey was. He was forever holding my hand or wanting to be close to me. It freaked me out a bit but I went with it, thinking that it would only last a month or two, like all my other relationships.
I didn’t reckon on the L word. I felt closer to Mickey than anyone else and he always made his feelings clear. It was still a shock when he said he loved me. He knew I would need time to process so blurted it out just before a goodnight kiss. It took me weeks to work out how I felt and if I was there yet. Then one night, snuggled up watching a movie I realised how happy he made me and a few days later I was able to say it back.
It wasn’t the perfect fairytale romance though. After three months or so, cracks began to appear. He became distant and little things like calling me twenty times a day, began to annoy me more than ever. I didn’t want to give up on us but I couldn’t go on the way we were. We had A Serious Conversation during which I broke down and started crying. I had just found out I had polycystic ovary syndrome and had 13 cysts on one ovary. The doctor had told me it would be difficult for me to conceive and recommended I get pregnant as soon as possible. The crying scared Mickey. I was never emotional and was always the one in control. He upped his game.
A few weeks later, we stumbled again. Our relationship wasn’t exactly ‘chaste’ but there had always been a line that we didn’t cross (a line I had to draw repeatedly). After a very close encounter I had to initiate a Sex Talk. Although we were both Christians, I discovered we had different ideas about the physical side of our relationship. Neither of us had ever gone further than kissing before and while we had enjoyed experimenting together, I just couldn’t have gone the whole way with him. All I could think was what a hypocrite I would be if I slept with my boyfriend yet continued teaching Girls Brigade. He understood and was willing to wait but made it clear that he was very ready to do it as soon as I was.
Part of me wishes we had broken up because of something like that. An obvious difference of opinion rather than the rapid deterioration and awkwardness that caused our break-up. Around this time I had been put on a new treatment for endo, injections to put my body into a state of artificial menopause. I didn’t know how it would work and, since he knew about me being sick, I warned him that things might get tough. He seemed to be brilliant with it and took it all in his stride. Then, in the depths of menopause hell, we went to a formal. He ignored me all night and sat playing on his phone.
We didn’t speak for a week then eventually met up to break up. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. He barely spoke. I cried. Damn hormones.
It was the right decision. He was just a boy and even though he did try to understand what was wrong with me, he just couldn’t cope with it. I missed him for so long but I know now that I’m ready to move on and leave him behind me…