Relax and don’t do it!

So, you’re 18 and it’s your first holiday away from your folks. No more boring treks around museums and old ruins, no more tedious family meals, followed by board games. You want to go clubbing, drink cocktails and get your end away.

I hear you and I understand that now you have reached that age you want/deserve some freedom. But seriously, is there not a better way to find yourself, that doesn’t end with you waking up with vomit in your hair, at an A&E where they don’t speak your language or your only souvenir being the nasty STI you picked up somewhere along the way?

My advice as a non-professional expert is don’t do it! If you are dead set on having a casual shag after 20 Jager Bombs (or that vile-looking concoction in a fish bowl I’ve seen people imbibe  on TV documentaries like ‘Magaluf exposed’ or ‘My parents don’t know I fucked 30 girls on my hols’), do it at home, or a weekend away at your nearest big city or seaside town. Where healthcare is in English.

On holiday everyone goes wild, loses any sense of danger and generally turns into a crazy, stupid version of themselves.

I know – I’ve come close to it – see ‘The naked barman’. And I am grateful to fate/the gods that I managed to escape unscathed. Just think – I could have ended up coming home with a bag of coke up my butt.

For the more idealistic of you, I would also say don’t bother with holiday romances either – they rarely work. When you’re fuzzy round the edges under hazy sunshine or starry skies, overlooking a glistening sea or lake, everything seems perfect, but in the cold reality of normal life, the magic will fade. If you meet someone in normal circumstances and can tolerate one another over wet afternoons, in chain pubs with plastic microwave meals, then you know it’s real.

My first ‘holiday romance’ was on a family holiday in a caravan in northern France. I hated the caravan. My dad loved it. All I can remember is being cramped, hearing everyone snoring, the rain hammering the roof above my top bunk and the four of us bickering as my parents’ double bed had to be folded away for breakfast.

A similar family with an equally deluded dad had pitched nearby. The boy was my age so we were making puppy dog eyes at each other – probably because I was the only English girl his age and he was the only English boy my age. And we were presumably both bored rigid. He was a bit on the plump side but not totally hideous, so I didn’t discourage him. We started by getting permission to go for walks around the site.

Within a day or two we were full-on snogging, as soon as we were out of sight of our respective family tin boxes on wheels. I recall it wasn’t exactly romantic – he drooled all over me and tried to teach me to ‘French kiss’ (ironic when we were in its supposed country of origin). I found the whole thing vile at the age of 15 and tried to resist.

Dave (I can’t even remember his real name) had epilepsy and the whole time I was scared he was going to have a seizure and might die. Obviously now I know more about the condition and would probably know how to deal with it, but at 15 I just knew bits from TV programmes which filled me with fear. To cut a long story short, aside from my dad paying for us to go for a steak dinner at the camp site café, the whole thing was rather dull, my younger brother teased me the whole time and I would have been better off staying in playing Monopoly and reading my book.

Dave and I never stayed in touch. I think he wrote me a letter but I ignored it and only had the photos to remind me it happened at all. Thankfully.

A couple of years later we went to Sorrento in Italy. It was significant, as it was our last holiday together as a family, before I decided I was too old to tag along.

It was also significant as I met ‘James’. I’m sure it was desperation again which threw us together. He was tall, good looking and blonde while I was a grumpy teen, scowling in every photo my dad took and bursting out of my dresses and bikinis – my boobs must have been having a growth spurt at the time.

We got chatting to him and his brother one night and went off to another girl’s room to play cards. Luckily for me the girl wasn’t interested in James, so I stayed behind when she left and we ended up snogging. It went pretty well, so every night after that (over about four days) we would have a kiss and cuddle. The thing that sticks in my mind now was his last day. His family, from the opposite end of the country to me, were due to leave a week before us.

So, James and I snatched a precious last hour together in an empty hotel room. We kissed and cuddled for probably 80 per cent of that hour, then he rolled on top of me and something odd happened. His hips and pelvis began thrusting into me. I now realise this was my first ‘dry hump’.  No clothes were removed and nothing further occurred but I could feel everything against my shorts, through his jeans. It was my first proper arousal. And it was from a posh public school boy from Reading.

After he left for the airport, I couldn’t get him out of my head and as soon as I got home, a week later, I wrote a really long letter. Thinking back, it may have been a little over-keen and scary for him. I also inserted one too many fart jokes… So, he never responded. He lived in Reading, for God’s sake!

So in short, holiday romances tend to be one-sided and often involve people you would never normally want to be with or who would never normally want to be with you. What you have in common, is that you are both there and wanting to enhance your trip/get some action. I know there are exceptions now and then, but 90 per cent of the time you’re better off reading a good book or sightseeing.

I’m about to go away for a week, with a 72-year-old woman and two children and I won’t be looking for someone to dry hump on a hotel bed, not that I would nowadays be a target for such frivolities…


I can’t do this any more

A small tear trickled down my cheek, then another, and another, until I found myself sobbing uncontrollably and burying my soggy face in a pillow.

My ex had given me some divorce papers to read and something in the wording had unexpectedly triggered this reaction. I wasn’t crying because I wanted my husband back, but for the finality, reality and sense of failure it brought about. I had failed at being married – something which doesn’t take special skills or qualifications. Somehow, I had not been able to keep it together.

You are probably thinking “Why is she still not divorced?” I agree  – it’s been a long time coming and I’ve been in limbo for quite a while, but it wasn’t like I was going to get married again; I am not sure anyone would take me, even if I did feel like doing the whole ring-exchanging, dress wearing shebang.

While the whole d-i-v-o-r-c-e thing is mutual, it still feels like being dumped. Except a long, drawn out dumping, with lots of paperwork. I remember the good old days of being chucked. It was hellish, but at least it didn’t take a couple of years or involve no longer being together, but having to remain in the same house until one of you could move out. It also cost a lot less – maybe a CD, or pair of socks, but not the bank-breaking prospect of buying out someone’s share of the house/car/dog.

My first memory of being dumped was the 18-year-old groper I went out with when I was 15. The whole thing was doomed from the start – I was too shy to speak to him, other than yes, no and other monosyllables while all he wanted to do was stick his tongue down my throat and his hand down my pants. You couldn’t say it was Romeo and Juliet in the making.

This was back in the late 80s/early 90s, so there wasn’t widespread internet or mobile phone use, so no hiding behind typed words. This meant he used the easy method of that era, i.e. doing nothing and hoping I’d go away. He suddenly stopped phoning me. Every evening, I would wait by the phone, walk past it, check it had not been accidentally left off the hook or unplugged. I became a phone obsessive. I eventually plucked up the courage to ring him myself, but somehow he was always “out”.

When he realised I was going to keep phoning, he must have finally asked his mum to stop lying for him, took the call and gave me the first of many “I can’t do this any mores” – it’s usually that or “this isn’t working”.  Although “I can’t do this any more” always makes me chuckle, when I’m over the break-up, as it sounds like they are constipated or that the whole relationship was down to their hard work and effort – yeah, and I was just passive while you slobbered on me, stuck it in, forced me to watch some dull action movie, put up with your kebab breath…

The other big avoiding-my- calls-break-up was H from uni. He was my third ‘relationship’ before Christmas, but this time, I had completely fallen for him. The guy was a drunk, but he was a witty, intelligent and talented one, who could play guitar and write songs like a proper rock star. I was in awe of him and at times turned into the shy 15-year-old I had been with ‘the groper’, even though by now I had a few notches on my bedpost and knew a little more about what to do with young men.

We were involved for the rest of the year – Christmas until the summer. Unbeknown to me, he was probably counting the days until he disappeared to Northampton and I would be over 100 miles away. Then he could put his no phone contact plan into action. He was either out, asleep, busy, in the shower or up a tree when I tried to contact him. As before, he eventually condescended to speak to me with good old “I can’t do this any more”! He was capable of far better than that, but clearly, this line trips off every man’s tongue.

Fast forward many years later and we can all hide behind text and email, wording it as elaborately or simply as we wish. In favour of writing, though, it does mean you can get things down that leave your head when you are face to face.

I remember seeing a guy I met through an internet dating site. I thought things were going well, the sex was fantastic, we had lots in common and could laugh together. The only warning sign was his lingering anger at his ex-wife which bubbled to the surface now and then. But there were no obvious signs that the axe was swinging over me. Until I got a text message on my way to work. It read: “I can’t do this any more. I am not ready for a relationship – my head is all over the place. All I wanted was a few dates.” I was absolutely gutted and had to keep sneaking from my desk to the toilet to cry.

Now, I think: “Hold on to your head and press it down, and don’t spend three hours in bed with me when all you wanted was a few dates!”

Face to face break ups have been very rare for me, but the best was one from a similar era to the internet guy. I called him Benito in a previous post, so let’s stick to that. Things never really got off the ground with Benito, so I shouldn’t have been shocked when it ended after five weeks. We had got into a habit of meeting for a lunchtime coffee every other week. I thought this was just another such meeting. But no, he had a mission. I will at least credit him with giving a full speech.

And he used “this isn’t working for me” for a change. There was a long ‘presentation’, including things like “we are too similar”, “I want kids but you already have one, so probably won’t want to do it again” (this had never been discussed so how dare he assume!), “you are really pretty, but I don’t feel we are right for each other” etc. etc. Then the pièce de résistance: “I’ve been back in touch with my ex-girlfriend and went to see her the other night and we kissed.” If he had said this from the start it would have saved us from all the other flannel.

I don’t want to portray myself as an innocent victim in all of this – I have delivered some devastating blows in my life and still feel a tinge of guilt for some of them, while with others I know I was doing us both a favour.

But whatever your age, rejection and being told you are not good enough still hurts like Hell and it takes time to recover from being verbally kicked in the stomach, whether it’s face to face, on text, email, fax, letter or flashing up on the scoreboard at a football match…





Encore une fois

Ever make a decision, then ask yourself whether you were too hasty and should have thought it through a little more first? Ever think that aspects of your life seem to have progressed like merry-go-rounds, with you just returning to the same thing again and again?

Does this intro sound like the start of a self-help book?

I cannot be the only one to be guilty of cyclic/’Oops! I did it again’ relationships – the ones where you split up, get back together, split up and get back together again.

There are a number of celebrity relationships where it has happened – Elizabeth Taylor married and divorced Richard Burton twice, as did Melanie Griffiths with Don Johnson – so clearly it’s not an outlandish thing.

But, I have only been married once, so luckily not all my cyclic relationships have had the expense of a wedding or divorce – imagine the cost of all the dresses!

No, this has largely been strictly boyfriend/girlfriend or ambiguous sexual relationship situations.

The first was in fact my cherry picker – referred to here. He was my first boyfriend at uni as well as the first to go where no man had gone before.  He was 26 and I was 18, so while I was idealistic and waiting every day for him to show some emotion or commitment, he was very cynical and probably just hoping to get into my knickers, and then bed a few more girls on my course to show off to his friends the benefits of being a (slightly) mature student.

Tired of his non-committal ways and cynicism, I realised there were plenty more willing fish and cast him aside. He actually got very drunk, tearful and begged me to take him back shortly afterwards, but I didn’t.

We did, however, remain friends and a year or so after I left uni, took a trip to Prague together. We travelled as friends, but after a few cheap beers on the first night, the inevitable occurred. It occurred several times – and he observed that I had picked up ‘some new moves’ since the last time. For me, though, the only thing that stuck in my mind was him accompanying me to the hotel toilet after we returned from a night out and wanting to wipe my ‘front bottom’ like a small child…

My next cycle was rather a torrid one. Another from uni was D, with whom I had shared a rather tempestuous relationship. There were lots of rows, door slamming and shouting, but also good times when we could block out the world, alone together.

Things eventually came to a head and we split after about a year, but continued to live in the same house, which was painful at times. He started seeing other people, as did I. But I still found him irresistibly attractive and he must have still felt something for me. So after ‘talks’, we gave it another try. It lasted a few months, but was never quite the same again. The magic had died. I was glad when it was time to go home for summer and I could finally get away from him.

It was years before the yo-yo effect struck again.  I got through various relationships and added a few notches to my bedpost for around five or six years. This had all left me rather world-weary and sceptical about ever meeting ‘the one’. Then I ran into a very cute younger guy at a work event. One thing led to another and we ended up getting married.

But after a few years, things were not so happily ever after. We seemed to rub each other up the wrong way – both physically and metaphorically. We didn’t seem to be able to get through an evening without having a row at some point. So, we parted. Having a child meant we could never make a clean break and we remained friends.

All the stress and pressure of our relationship dissipated after several months. I tried out a few other men, fell in love with one, but it didn’t work out, while he remained single. So, one evening I invited him over for wine and a takeaway ‘as friends’.  But the drink, the familiarity and ease with which we could sit together on the sofa led to a small kiss, then a mad dash upstairs.

And somehow we ended up in the bizarre situation of being married, separated and dating. Not very easy to explain to concerned/curious friends.

So we tried living together again. But it seemed we were programmed to repel like two north or two south poles on a magnet. The same arguments began, the same stresses emerged. He announced that I was ‘doing his head in’ and he was going to move out – which was funny in a not-so-funny way because the first time we split up I had told him he was doing my head in…

The only positive from this sorry saga was that we could both say we were 100 per cent, totally, utterly certain that we could not be together because we had tried it twice. It was not a seven-year itch it was a ten-year burning, painful, weeping wound.

So, do ‘oops! I did it again’ relationships teach us anything? Could it be that really good books or films have to be experienced more than once so that you can pick up more minute details the next time around? That sometimes one chocolate isn’t enough? You have to eat the whole damn box before you are satisfied or feeling rather nauseous?

We are constantly evolving and learning, no matter how old we are. Sometimes ending a relationship is a hasty, rash decision, and something you thought was right at the time, but later regret. If you are a bit annoyed with your partner, sometimes it needs to be talked about, before it pushes you apart. But obviously 80 per cent of the time, if it’s not working, life is too short to be unhappy, and you need to walk away.

Of course, your plans are scuppered if the other person won’t go back. I will always feel a pang of hurt about a gorgeous barman I was seeing and stupidly cheated on. We broke up on these grounds. I tried to get him back by calling him to arrange to meet up and he spoke to me like I was a nuisance caller/something nasty and brown he had accidentally trod in.

So, why this topic? I am just pondering something at the moment and feel I may have made a hasty and incorrect decision. The trouble is that I know that taking me back would be the equivalent of betting on a three-legged horse.