In recent days, I’ve drifted away from the usual recipe-based blog post. After more than a month of silence, I posted a poem on Monday and here I am on Thursday night laying caution to the wind and opening up about my online dating. Not that it is something to be ashamed of, but there is a waft of desperation about actively going out in search of people to spend time with. In one way or another, we are destined to spend our lives surrounded by others, so at the start of 2014, I decided that this seemed to be as good a way as any to whittle those people down.
Unfortunately for me, and entertainingly for my friends and family, this quest has had its ups and downs. There was the guy who made me cry into my St. Patrick’s day baking mix (the secret ingredient), the one who walked me to the Atomium (to be written about), the guys in open relationships, the ones in far-flung corners of the world and the ones who introduce themselves to me with messages that cry out for (and result in) screen-shots:
And there have been ups. Nice guys, friendly guys, polite guys. So this really covers the whole #NotAllGuys/#YesallWomen scenario.
For the record, in all the above cases and in the one that follows, I completely acknowledge that these are situations that I allow myself to get into and that a lot of the time, there are language barriers at stake. At no point have I felt physically in danger (I sleep with a hurley under my bed) and no matter what language they have, actions speak much louder than words.
An occasion this past week, nay, this past week itself has prompted me to blog today. I was keeping my friends abreast of the situation, for my own sanity more than anything else, and was asked to write it down while it was fresh in my mind.
The first guy that I met online (on Tinder in February) was Portuguese. I’m not going to identify him in any other way, but there are so many nationalities in Brussels, I think I’m safe enough. We went on a few dates, but then he went to Germany for a weekend and I didn’t hear from him again for about 4 months. We had the odd text here and there, but life rolls on. Two weeks ago, he contacted me to ask if he could stay at my place for a while, as his contract was ending. I was going home to Ireland, so this wasn’t possible at the time but I felt sorry for him (who knew I was such a soft-hearted gobshite) and said that he could indeed stay for a few days. Especially as I would be away for the following weekend in Munich and he said that he would be going to the Netherlands the following Monday to Wednesday (he did not).
He said that he would come on Tuesday. He didn’t, even though I stayed awake late rather than be woken by the doorbell. He said that he would come on Wednesday. He didn’t. Same wakeful situation. On Thursday, I told him that when someone is doing him a favour, he should be doing his best not to throw it back in their face and that if he wasn’t there that night, he would have to find somewhere else to stay. On Thursday night, he arrived with 70kgs of stuff. So. Many. Bags. Of. Crap. Clothes, hats (three of them!), shoes, food, tea, bottles. So Many Bags. My apartment is small, but this made it feel so much smaller.
But I had dug myself a hole at this stage and couldn’t go back on it. I reasoned with myself that I had been living alone for so long that I was blowing everything he did out of proportion. I went off to Munich and got texts every now and then from him, like “You are out of washing powder”, “Where is your iron”, “How do I turn off the fan in the kitchen?” (a reasonable question, as it doesn’t go off), and finally on Sunday when I was on my way home, “Hey baby, I’m going out to watch the match now. When you get home, don’t freak out over all the dirty dishes and pots in the sink. I know you like everything to be really clean, I looked everywhere for the thing to clean them, but couldn’t find it. I will clean them later. Don’t be mad”. My kitchen is pretty small. On the sink, beside the tap, is a huge bottle of Fairy liquid and a bright red flower pot containing a dishcloth and a scrubbing brush. So I don’t know what the missing “thing” was, but obviously it was vital.
I came home to an apartment that used to be bright, airy and lovely but was now stuffy, messy and smelly, dropped my case and went to Devs to watch the World Cup final. I was sitting with my brother, his girlfriend, her brother and his girlfriend and I told them about the whole situation. We decided that the best thing would be to tell Mr. Portugal that my uber conservative Catholic mother was coming to Brussels next weekend and there could not be a trace of a man in my apartment*. He would need to leave on Thursday, because I would need to clean the place on Friday. Sorted.
He was actually fine with this, although it did appear that he was planning to leave all of his stuff in my apartment while he went on holidays for a month. After some nagging on my behalf, he found a friend to put him up from Thursday on, meaning that he was going to spend an entire week in my apartment.
I was planning to stay calm. I really was. What if I have become a paranoid recluse who isn’t used to other human beings all up in their space? This is why I took so long to tell people what was going on. He made one move on me and I told him to back off, just to make it clear that I was doing him a favour and had no designs on him as a love interest. I went on a date on Monday night. I did not go home for anything other than sleep since Sunday. It’s funny what you can find to do when you can’t go home.
The calmness ended on Wednesday morning, when I woke up and everything was so overwhelming. Instead of going for a run, I got up and very loudly and passive aggressively cleaned the apartment. I opened the doors to the balcony, I put on the washing machine, I scrubbed and banged around pots, and emptied the bowl of gone-off black eyed peas that he had left by the sink into the bin. It was very satisfying.
The main issue is that he did not obey the normal rules of being a visitor in someone else’s house. You try to keep you, your belongings and your observations to yourself. He did not. His observations were along the lines of: On my way to training on Monday, as I was getting changed, he said “You can’t cook, can you? I mean, you have all these cookbooks and ingredients, but I guess it is just amateur and you always eat out.” When I got home at midnight, he was in the shower. So while I was waiting to use the bathroom and brush my teeth, I lay on my bed reading my book. He came out, looked at me and said “Oh you read! I did not expect that”. When I pointed out that there were books everywhere in the apartment and that my shelves don’t even have enough space to hold all of them, he said “Oh yeah, I was going through your books, but I figured you didn’t actually read them and they are just for show, to make it look like you are a reader”. I didn’t even know what to say to that.
On Wednesday, he finally went to the Netherlands for the day, sending me periodic updates. The last one said that he was on his way back to Brussels but would try not to wake me up. I didn’t reply as I am not his mother or his girlfriend, and went off to sleep. Around 2.30am, I woke up and there was a weird noise. Like a rustling and a crunching, but the apartment was completely dark and empty. I froze, trying to figure out where it was coming from. I came to the conclusion that he was at the front door, couldn’t find his keys, and rather than knocking and waking me up, he was sitting out there and eating something. If I could hear him, then my neighbours could definitely hear him, so I had to sort it out. I went to the door, but there was no sign of him. The crunching transpired to be coming from the kitchen. Which I could see was pitch dark (there is a window over the door, so the light shines through). Suddenly I remembered that I had left the door to the balcony open. Something must have come in and was now eating in my kitchen. But this didn’t make sense – there was nothing low enough to eat.
With all this running through my mind (and bare feet too!), I threw open the door and there he was, standing there in the dark, crunching rodent-like on these ridiculously expensive crackers that I get with my eco-vouchers in the bio shop. He had come home and fallen asleep on the balcony so as not to disturb me, but had woken up hungry and managed to eat so loudly that he woke me up. He even had the cheek to say “You gave me a fright” when I opened the door. I was speechless for about half a second, then told him that he was f**king insane (sorry Mom!) and went back to bed. This morning, I told him he had to be out of the house by the end of the day. Not by midnight, but by the time I got home from work. In fairness to him, he was gone (after sending about 10 more text messages, including “Do you like coffee? I have instant coffee, but I know you are really picky, so I won’t leave it behind if you don’t want it“), the key was left in the postbox and he said thank you. So there’s that.
As my cousin Martha, whose first reaction was “I’ve only got down as far as the washing up and I’ve got a blotchy rash erupting from my armpits, that’s how stressed I am“, wisely noted: “I am overwhelmed by YOCK. This is the kind of thing that people should read right after they say ‘You know, I don’t plan to live with my future husband/wife before we get married’”
You are welcome, romantics of the world.
P.S. To emphasise that I’m not the only one, here are two eloquent and entertaining women to back me up:
* My mother has demanded a retraction of this, although she is happy to have been of service. She is neither conservative nor uber-anything.