The dating period…

The dating period…

I write this with a touch of amusement, a large part trepidation and a whole chunk of what was I thinking?
But really, I wasn’t.

Having recently escaped an abusive relationship, I jumped feet first into the dating game.
I was in a new city, no one knew me. No one knew him. I mean, come on, it’d be rude not to right?

And I do look back on this ‘era’ in a somewhat nostalgic way, even if some of the experiences I had weren’t all good. I learned a lot I think.
I put myself in some situations I probably shouldn’t have, out of naivety. Out of stubbornness. Out of the ‘just because I could’ attitude that took hold of me for a while.

When I came to this city, I had missed out of being a teenager.  At least a REAL teenager.
I never went through the period that most go through where they go out drinking with friends and spend years in clubs and bars.
I had brief interludes sure, but we’re talking a month here, a month there, a few months combined over my entire teenage life.
So I was relatively inexperienced when it came to societal norms and expected behaviours.
From under 16, I had been limited to one person. And even when those rare chances to be ‘single’ came up, I had never really been able to take full advantage of those situations because of fear of my ex, anxiety over people finding out and it getting back to him, and of course, the whole just not really knowing what to do!
And that part hadn’t really changed.

In my early 20’s I got to live my teenage dream really.
There was drug experimentation. Taking up smoking. Drinking… a lot. Going out to clubs alone and going home with random people… or taking them home.
Just as often walking myself home alone, through the city streets at 3 or 4am. And I never ever felt unsafe. Of course, I was usually pretty wasted. But still.
I never felt unsafe.

I had some hilarious interludes…. like the night I met a younger guy who looked JUST like Ralph Fiennes in a bar. I was unbelievably drunk, he was hot. And I decided to take him home after much dance floor grinding and groping.
I was living in my W St flat at that point.
So off we teetered. And when we got back to my place, we arrived in to find my flatmates waiting up for me as they often did. No big deal.. I felt a little queasy so went to the bathroom to skull some water and attempt to make myself presentable.
When I came out, Ralph was gone.
I asked my flatmates where he was… and C told me he’d sent him home. I must have looked shocked… because he launched into a rant at me about how the guy was only 19… and just a baby. He worked in a takeaway store in a tiny town north of our city and his life’s goal was to manage the store.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry… and I remember telling C, that i didn’t actually care. I wasn’t gonna keep him. Just use him and send him on his merry way!!
C handed me a joint and told me to set my bar higher next time.
I think back on that now, and how indignant I was at the time and how hilarious it was even just a day later! And I still laugh.
I was so lucky to have amazing flatmates though. So protective of me.
And that story I remember fondly. Because I instigated everything that happened to me.

But not all of my interactions with men were so positive.
I could tell you a hundred stories of nights in clubs where I’d fight off unwanted hands and body parts. Where I would move 20 times in five minutes to get away from creeps who  wouldn’t take no for an answer, or who thought that it was absolutely fine to grab my ass from behind. Or try to grope my breasts as they moved past me deliberately. Or press their groins against me in the hopes that what, I’d decide “hey I love your fabric covered Ken-esque lumps and why don’t we go home and have sex..” Dreamers.
Some nights you shook it off and dealt with it.
Others you got so frustrated you changed bars, and when that didn’t work you just gave up and went home.

The scariest ones for me though were the ones that took you by surprise.
When you weren’t out looking for anything, and something happened. And you didn’t want it to but you weren’t given a choice.
There is a guy, P who I still know to this day. And he’s a “nice” guy to most people. But I know a more sinister side of him and it’s something I’ve never shared to anyone. And sometimes I feel guilty for never speaking up.
He was part of a circle of friends, and I’d spent a fair amount of time with that group. With no issues. So my guard was well down.
They knew I was new to the drug scene as my innocence was a source of much amusement to them all.
So, one of the older guys B, had an absolutely beautiful girlfriend who I got on really well with! So when we had gone out, and everyone was heading back to their place it seemed fine. Nothing strange.
Then the drinks came out, and some of the guys were smoking, and I had a couple of puffs. Which was still okay.
Then B and his girl started doing spots on the stove. And I was fascinated as I’d never seen anything like it – sheltered upbringing right? And they thought that was hilarious. So they encouraged me to have a go. And showed me exactly what to do and how it worked. They explained it as being just like a joint but with a smaller amount giving a bigger high. 1 inhale as opposed to 6. They were really convincing and she showed me and made it look so easy. So with a big of friendly egging on by the boys, I gave in and gave it a go. Now I was an obedient person, so I copied her exactly. And I’m a fast learner. But I was completely unprepared for the burn of the inhale. My eyes watered, and the boys were chanting hold it, hold it. So I held my breath, my chest on fire and my eyes streaming… until I couldn’t hold it any longer and I breathed out. Then promptly erupted into the worst fit of coughing I’d ever had. I coughed until my head hurt, and my burning throat was raw. I tried sips of water and cold beer to try to ease the pain. And then I pretty much sat down in a chair and stayed there for what I think was several hours. Nursing a beer and drifting as everything literally melted away from me.
I have vague snippets of memory from the evening. Laughing…. coughing… no longer caring about the pain…. the feeling of being feather light and nothing mattered….
And I remember someone putting me into a bed.
Because I was in no state to be going anywhere or doing anything.
And I must have slept. Because the next thing I remember, is waking up feeling like I was being suffocated.
I could hear party noise still. But the room was dark, and I wasn’t entirely sure where I was but I couldn’t breathe properly and I knew someone was laying on top of me. So I pushed… as you do.
And then I started to realise what was going on. That P was on top of me, and that he was raping me. And he started to talk to me, telling me that it was okay and shhhh. And he held my hands while I tried to pull away, and he told me he was nearly done.
I remember his hand on my breast. I remember I could barely feel him inside me because he was so small. And his hands were rough and large. He smelled like cigarettes and alcohol and sweat. He tried to kiss me and I just lay there.
I was in shock. And I don’t know why I made no sound, but I lay still. I let him finish. And then he was off me and within seconds he was snoring.
I think I lay there for a while, wondering whether he was really asleep or not, and as soon as I knew he was I bolted.
I dressed myself with shaking hands and I looked out into the lounge, seeing several drunk men sprawled on the couch focussed on the TV. So I took the opportunity and I quietly moved past them, behind the couch and I opened the door, grabbing my bag and skates on the way out.
I ran barefoot from there. From that house. And I didn’t look back.
I went several streets away and I sat down still shaking. It was barely light yet, so I used someones doorstep and I put my skates on. And I headed towards town. I went home and showered. Then slept for a day. And then I pretended like nothing had ever happened.

I don’t think I cried. I felt strangely numb. Even now typing this, this was something that makes me wonder why there are no tears for it?
Was it the drugs in my system? The almost out of body experience that it was making it feel almost like it didn’t happen to me?
Another time in my life, where I overanalysed every single word and action leading up to that moment where was there something I did? Something I said? Some kind of target painted on my forehead that only men could see?
What the hell was wrong with me? This wasn’t the first time, so why me?

It did make me warier though of the people I was hanging out with. You see, I was really close to some of the guys and I have never told them of that night.
I was much more careful after that though. I have never touched oil again. And my drinking reduced hugely. One beer, maybe two, No more.
I never wanted to be in a position where I was put to bed again. Where I wasn’t capable of getting myself out of somewhere I didn’t want to be. I didn’t trust falling asleep places.
If we went to parties, I went with a plan of how I was getting home, or I didn’t go. Even if it was that I knew I would be able to walk to a bus from there.
And I never went back to that house again.
Whenever someone suggested drinks there, I would always be busy.
I still feel nauseous when we drive past it, even though it’s inhabitants are long gone and aren’t even in this city anymore. The house still holds a sense of dread, and guilt, and makes me want to run.

After that I went on proper dates.
Trying to change the game plan that most men seemed to have. I grew warier and more jaded. So dates happened at restaurants. And I chose whether I left with them, or I left alone. I know I pissed a lot of people off.
But I was looking for something a bit more specific now…. someone strong enough to handle me, truly.
Someone who wanted to, who wasn’t just in it for a quickie or a booty call.

I wasn’t an angel though…. There were still the occasional men who I chose to sleep with.
And they were somewhat cathartic.
One I met in a bar. He looked kind of like a short Vin Diesel. No hair, body builder type. A very good looking guy. And I’d seen him around before as I often used to frequent the same bars. We’d flirted a few times and I’d always left it there. But one night he bought me a drink after convincing me to hang with him a while instead of running off so fast. So I did. We danced and things were going well, so I decided to go back to his place. And it was fun. He was respectful surprisingly…. he let me take the lead but when I fumbled and felt stupid he immediately let me know how cute my mistakes were and he encouraged me to not only step out of my comfort zone, but to own those steps. It was a cathartic experience. And not something I forgot even though I never saw him again and I don’t even know his name…..

Another very healing experience was one that started at work.
And is another story that makes me smile when I remember it.
As I was minding my own business at work when we had a few customers come through. Charming and friendly foreigners who needed some help to get what they needed. But who would have been forgotten in five minutes had one not returned a few minutes after leaving with tickets to a show. Turned out he was the manager and the group were touring the country with a show. And he asked if I would please come and see the show that night, and if I could come for a drink with the lead act afterwards. I was so surprised and must have looked it as the other manager working took the tickets and laughed as he said “she’d love to mate”. I nodded, as I was kinda shocked and really wasn’t entirely sure how to react. My workmate poked me in the side and whispered SMILE WOMAN. So I smiled. And then laughed at the absurdity of the situation as the gentleman left.
He had ended up giving me 4 tickets, so I took my workmate and his wife and a friend along. And that was the beginning of a wild ride.
The show was on a Wednesday night. And I’d enjoyed the night out. We had a few laughs and a few drinks. I was still somewhat confused, and I admit carefully watching to see if the lead act even knew I was there. And he gave zero cues. So I figured it was just maybe them being polite since I was helpful in the store and after it was all done, I waited a little, finishing my drink. My friends had left and I figured since no one had spoken to me I would go to. But as I went to walk out, the manager came up to me and asked if I was leaving. I said I had to work in the morning, so I was heading off and he asked me to stay just a little. He offered to buy me a drink and explained that the acts hadn’t finished up their debrief yet but that M would like to meet me and if I could hang around a little longer…. So I agreed, because free drinks and of course curiousity – that killed the cat incidentally ya know. So I sat, and played with my straw, and generally felt the nerves in my stomach twisting me up inside because I didn’t quite know what on earth I was even doing there. Why was I feeling so obliged to wait for someone who couldn’t even invite me himself? This was the most unusual situation I think I’d ever been in!
And then he came up and sat down next to me, and what a charmer. I have to say. It’s no wonder he doesn’t talk to women himself because I’m pretty sure normal humans vs those baby blues. Not. A. Hope. In. Hell. of escaping them.
He apologised profusely, and right off the bat, he had an easy manner. A way of talking to you like the world revolved around you. And he was so grateful that I’d waited because he was so amazed I had even come along. And he asked my opinion on the show and was so genuinely interested, that it was easy to talk to him. And we talked and drank for a few hours, and he asked me to come back to the house they were staying at just up the road, because the venue were closing, but he didn’t want me to leave yet. But not in a creepy way… he made it seem endearing, and sweet.
He was like honey and cigarettes all at once. Rough and raspy, but sweet as syrup.
I ended up not leaving that house all week.
He kept asking me to stay. Fed me. Made sure I had everything I could possibly need. He even sent someone to get clothes and toiletries from my house. He asked me to be near him for the entire duration of his stay in the city. And to be honest, the I didn’t mind.
I was treated like a princess. As if everything I needed or wanted was in reach and the sexual energy was absolutely electric. Like nothing I’d ever felt before. He taught me a million things and taught me how to demand what I needed and wanted. How to get what I wanted instead of just giving.
And I’m not a clingy, or needy person when it comes to sex. At that point of my life, I wasn’t attached to him at all, but it was somewhat addicting the way he fair worshipped every step I took. He sung to me at night. And we spoke all night about the world, life, our goals and dreams and where we would be in ten years time.
I always knew it was a temporary thing too.
There were little things, like while we would have sex a hundred times a day,  he would never sleep in the bed with me. He would sit in the chair and watch me sleep. Because he was an insomniac and sleep wasn’t something he did well.
He was so intense. But funny. And we spoke of relationships, and life.
He knew I wasn’t looking for anything serious or long term. He could see my pain and aversion and he made comment on it a few times. He knew I held a lot back, but he never pushed me to talk about anything I didn’t want to.
And he never made me feel like I had to stay.
In fact it was almost the opposite. I felt drawn to stay because I felt like this was a tiny bubble we were in and I wasn’t yet ready to leave it. But much like a bubble, it felt like once we reached that moment where it would pop…. that would be it. It would be gone and never return.
It was an intense, fiery affair. And I still remember the day I left him there.
I knew they were flying out that day. And with hours to go, I didn’t want a busy farewell. He had, in a rare moment, fallen asleep in the chair. A smile dancing across his face as he dreamed of who know what. But I’ll never forget that smile and the way he smelled or felt. I ruffled his hair gently and I kissed him goodbye and walked out the door.
I heard from him when he was back home, he sent me a grateful email. He didn’t want a fuss either and he would never forget me. We had fun.
We emailed for a while, catch up every 5-10 years…. and even recently I caught up with him to see how he was doing. He’s finally somewhat settled down. Not with a person – but he has a child now and a failed marriage. It took him years to admit to himself that he wasn’t the relationship type. Which made me laugh. I could have told him that 20 years ago…..
But I have so many memories of that week. And every single one is precious and helped to really shape me into the person I wanted to be. But needed a helping hand to realise that I had more potential that I gave myself credit for. Those memories heal me. They are things I try to remember when things aren’t going well.
They, like he, serve a purpose in my life.

All of my experiences shaped me in some way. Some bad, some good. But they all prepared me for my life.
Because we all know things like life, they never go to plan do they?