Cat Lady Christmas

It’s the weekend before Christmas 2013 and all the other ladies I’m juggling are away from London for the next week or so. I have a couple of Groupon vouchers left over that are expiring soon so I decide to use them, to go out and enjoy what life has to offer at this time of year. The only person available at such short notice is Cat Lady so we agree to meet on Saturday. I’m not thinking of it as a date, but more two friends going out together.

It’s lunchtime as I spot Cat Lady coming towards me as I loiter in a coffee shop in central London. She’s late again because she insists on taking the bus everywhere despite the Tube taking a third of the time. I’ve reserved a table at a novel Japanese restaurant and then shortly afterwards it’s off to see a West End show; this time it’s ‘The Two Guvnors’. Because they’re Groupon vouchers the timing wasn’t of my choosing so when I told Cat Lady of the details I made a point of asking her not to be late. She’s almost half an hour late. I find her constant tardiness annoying. If I were to date her I’d tell her earlier times and if she ever was on time then she could wait for me.

We kiss hello on the lips and I say nothing of her lateness. What would be the point of that? I usher her towards the restaurant which even I’m impressed by. It’s super-modern with futuristic ordering done on the table surface, funky décor and innovatively presented dishes and surprisingly good food. I’ve always found restaurants that put money and effort into the surroundings to be a disappointment when it came to the food, but not this place.

Cat Lady is wearing skin-tight, grey leather trousers and she looks sexy. She does have a good body on her. I think we’d fuck well together, but that’s not what I’m hoping or aiming for. This is just a good, clean fun outing as far as I’m concerned. I notice her stealing glances at my mouth. It takes a little while before I realize that she’s got kissing on her brain. Are my kisses that good to her? She did seem to enjoy my goodnight kiss the last time we saw each other. Maybe it’s that sweet spot in her monthly cycle when she’s horny? It would explain the trousers.

The rushed meal ends and we stride to the theatre where we join the back of the queue for the matinee show. We take our seats just as the curtain goes up. When I’m at work I rush around like a headless chicken, so when it’s my time I prefer to be leisurely about it, to savour the best moments, to enjoy the experience. There’s nothing to enjoy when rushing. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why she has had so many short-term relationships: guys just won’t put up with her inconsiderate behaviour?

‘Two Guvnors’ is raucously funny and I’m glad I made the effort to come out. At intermission we head to the bar on our floor where Cat Lady stands holding her hands, expecting me to buy her a drink, which I do. I find her presumptuousness somewhat offensive, but I say nothing. I’ve been unemployed since I walked out of my job in early August, while I know that she earns a decent amount of money in her profession. I’ve treated her to a meal and show, the least she could do is offer to buy me a drink, but no.

Drinks in hand we make conversation which inevitably leads to discussing plans for Christmas Day.

“So what are you doing for Christmas lunch?” she asks.

“Some friends have invited me around, but I haven’t said yes yet,” I answer.

Various friends have indeed invited me over for Christmas lunch, but I’m tired of feeling like the charity case at the dinner table. The previous Christmas I spent at friends with me and my dating dilemmas becoming the focal point of discussion for what felt like an eternity. I don’t want to repeat that experience. This might surprise you, but I’m quite a private person; I don’t like being the centre of attention.

“Hey, why don’t you come have Christmas with me and my friends at my place?” Cat Lady says excitedly.

I think about it for a second and reply, “You know, I’d like that.”

“Cool. I’ll send you the details later,” she says as a bell sounds, beckoning us to retake our seats.

After the show we rejoin a darkened London and Cat Lady suggests that we go for a walk through Green Park as it’s her favourite park in this metropolis. Initially we walk side by side, like friends ought to, but after a while our arms are couple and I don’t know how that happened. I can’t help wonder if she’s expecting different things from this encounter compared to my agenda. Lordy, could she be hoping for us to spend the night together?

No, this is all becoming too complicated and messy for me. I’ve got Travel Gal and Busty Blonde well into my pipeline; they’re both at Phase 2, i.e. Dating. I’ve also got two little Russians at Phase 1, i.e. Pre-Date. Have I lost control of matters with Cat Lady and she has been at Phase 3 (Pre-Bang) without my knowing and now she wants to move on to Phase 4, i.e. Banging?

We aimlessly wander around Green Park making small-talk while in my head I resolve that if she offers herself to me that I should decline. I know deep down that she’s not The One for me, so why get embroiled in what could turn into a nasty situation for one or both of us? She doesn’t deserve any more hurt since her last relationship and I don’t want to hurt her. I also don’t want to be someone’s rebound fling; it’s not what I’m looking for.

It’s barely 7pm when we find ourselves standing at a bus-stop on Piccadilly. She wants to catch a bus which could take over an hour for her to get home. Conversation dies for a moment, I spot her staring at my lips yet again and decide to indulge her in a little of what she obviously wants.

I lean forward and she instantly comes in to meet me. Our lips gently lock and I feel her breath out onto my chin. We kiss slowly and in less than half a minute she starts using her tongue. I think that’s the first time she’s done that and I take it as a sign that she’s frisky. I counter with my own tongue and she makes sounds of approval as I wrap my arms around her. Cat Lady feels good in my arms; her body is a good fit for mine.

Slowly I unwind myself from her and let my lips be the last thing to touch her. She stands in front of me, biting her bottom lip and looking lustfully into my eyes. Yes, she wants to fuck, but I’m not going to. It seems that neither of us know what to say or do next. She furtively looks away but within seconds looks at me sideways. My dating and sexual adventures have taught me that when a woman gives me that sideways look, it means she fancies me, perhaps even to the point of wanting to get physical with me. It’s always been a wonderfully flattering feeling when I’ve spotted that look, but tonight it’s an unwanted complication.

No self-respecting woman is going to say to me, “Wanna come back to my place for sex?” That’s not how women operate. They expect a man to pick up on their subtle clues and signals, but sadly most men are not as observant as women would like. In my line of work attention to detail is vital and, when recruiting staff, I’ve always leaned towards hiring a woman because I believe women to be at least twice as observant as men. I think it’s an evolutionary thing in that, during caveman times, a woman would spot the danger first and retreat with the child while the man, is sent off to fight the threat. It also plays out elsewhere in that, after sex, the man falls asleep while the woman is wide awake. Should a predator present itself the woman will wake the man to do the fighting while she does the running away. We really haven’t progressed far as a species.

I’m not going to suggest going back to her place and she’s not going to either, so we’re at a stand-off which suits me. Just to make sure that I’m reading the situation correctly I lean in to kiss her again and this time it’s more passionate than before. In the last year or so I have had women compliment my kissing technique and I know that it turns most of them on, so Cat Lady must be dripping wet. She must regret choosing to wear those leather trousers.

Mercifully a bus arrives and Cat Lady climbs aboard this new version of the old open-rear entrance where she clings to the pole. We make utterances about Christmas Day just as the bus pulls off.

I go home not too sure what to make of this encounter. Is she warming to me? Does she want more than she previously indicated? It doesn’t matter because I’m not that taken with her, largely because she’s just too damaged from her last relationship, just like Krazy Girl is. I need to find a way to let her down gently.

On Christmas Eve morning I get a text message from Cat Lady. She says that she has a bad cold and that she’s had to cancel her Christmas Day plans. I respond wishing her improved health, but inside me all sorts of other thoughts and feelings rage. I don’t believe her story, something doesn’t ring true. Does she feel spurned by my not going home with her on Saturday night? Is this her revenge? Or is this her way of pissing me off to the extent that we don’t see each other again?

If that last notion is her intent it has worked. I’m pissed off that I now have nowhere to go on Christmas Day. I can’t phone around at this last minute seeing which friends have a spare place at their table, it’s just too embarrassing to do.

That’s how it came to be that I spent Christmas Day of 2013 by myself. It was initially a very depressing morning; I felt lonely. Yes, I phoned my usual people that I speak to on Xmas Day and lied about my plans for the day. I even lied to my mother. As the day wore on my mood improved. It felt less stressful than yet again feeling like the spare wheel in a room full of happy couples.

I got to think about some things, mostly reviewing my dating experiences of the year. I even sat down and wrote a few of the things that you’ve read. Although it wasn’t time for New Year’s resolutions, I decided that I need to slow down my dating life and focus on getting more quality dates. I resolve to be more ruthless with women I meet. If the first date is no good, then there’s no second date. I’m learning that, in life, as things start it is generally how they tend to go. I’m tired of being surrounded by people who have a negative effect on me.

As a consequence of these resolutions I decide to not see Cat Lady again. It’s not doing either of us any good. She’s just too flaky to even have as a friend.

I’m hoping that next Christmas will be better. It can’t be much worse.

Yes – Owner of a lonely heart

Rainy date

On the Wednesday night I see Busty Blonde again. This time I’m treating her to a West End show and a restaurant meal beforehand. I’m doing this not to impress her or because she deserves it in some way, but because Christmas is near, the vibe in London is festive and I want to do something nice to see the year out.

I wait for her in a coffee shop near her work and she meets me a few minutes early. It’s rare for a date to be early. I greet her with a kiss on each cheek, a la French style. Again I’m struck by how much older than me she looks. On our first date on Sunday she had mentioned that she had been a smoker, so I’m learning that ex-smokers look a few years older than their actual age. Sweet Thing, The Lost One, Teacher Gal, Deranged Dater, Wild Child, The Randy Russian and The English Shrink were all ex-smokers and, courtesy of extra wrinkles around the eyes, looked older than what they were.

It’s pouring with Winter rain and we make the best of it trying to huddle under my umbrella, but I give up on it and choose to cover her properly with it while I slowly get soaked. We walk over a pedestrian bridge that spans the Thames and at the bank there’s a steep set of stairs. Busty Blonde clings tight to my arm as we descend it. At the bottom of the stairs we encounter a mother with a pram, trying to make her way up the stairs, but struggling to do so. Without a word I force the umbrella into Busty Blonde’s hand and I carry the pram to the top of the stairs. The mother thanks me and I rejoin my date.

“You really are an old-fashioned gentleman. You’re very rare,” Busty Blonde says.

I just smile and move us along to Chinatown for our dinner. As we walk I muse to myself that the world has become a sad place if I am so rare in my consideration for others. To my mind kindness is like manners: it doesn’t cost anything, but it is valuable. I contend that if chivalry is indeed dead, then it was murdered by feminism. Many modern men are afraid of being chivalrous because they are afraid of being called sexist or patronising by a vocal, embittered feminist. I’ve been on the receiving end of such verbal attacks, but I just laugh them off because their behaviour is far uglier than mine. Besides, you can’t reason with an unreasonable person.

Busty Blonde and I arrive at the Chinese restaurant which is found via an unremarkable small door in a nondescript alley but then opens out into a courtyard that has a small footbridge over a water feature in the approach to the dining area.

“Gosh, you’d never think that this was here. You do know interesting places,” Busty Blonde says.

Gosh. Who in this day and age uses that word any more? Then again, who carries a stranger’s pram with a baby inside it up a flight of stairs in a downpour any more? I guess Busty Blonde and I are outliers on some curve somewhere.

We take turns to go to the restroom to dry ourselves off. For the first time in my life I stick my drenched head under the hand dryer. It was tricky but it worked.

We sit down to what I knew would be a remarkable extravaganza of Pekingnese and Szechuan cuisine. I tell Busty Blonde about my travels around China and she’s mesmerised. Her life has been dedicated to work and just the occasional short-haul flight to somewhere on the Mediterranean counted as travel for her. From her words and questions it seems that she is an unrequited traveller. I can’t help but think that we have much in common in terms of what we enjoy.

Dinner ends and we make our way to the theatre where The Commitments is being staged. I got us last minute seats so they’re not the best in the house but are easy to find. Busty Blonde enjoys the show and at intermission we get drinks from the bar. I remember something from our first date of a few days ago.

“So how was your tough day on Monday?” I ask, not expecting much in return.

“Oh, it was awful. I had to make my whole department redundant. I had to call each of them in and give them the news. I think having to sack people just before Christmas is despicable,” she answers.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve never enjoyed sacking people either,” I reply, hoping my words ease her discomfort.

“Now guess what? Today I got retrenched. That’s why I came out early to meet you. I just don’t give a damn any more. I worked hard for them for twelve years, then they make me sack people with families, then once I’ve done that for them, I get sacked,” she says bitterly.

“Never mind. You’re a smart cookie with loads of experience. Something will come along. Perhaps even something better. You never know,” I say, trying to lift her spirits.

“I hope so. I’ve never been unemployed before,” she retorts.

A bell sounds and we retake our seats. I tell myself that I’m proving a pleasant distraction for her after a rough couple of days. When the show ends we rejoin the world outside where the rain has abated. Busty Blonde is starting to look tired and I suggest that we call it a night. I walk her to the nearest Tube station where I wait with her on the platform until her train arrives. We quickly kiss each other goodbye on the lips before she hops on the train, takes a seat facing me, smiles and gives me a brief wave. I smile and wave back just as the train speeds off.

If she hadn’t told me about her work situation I would never have guessed that something bad had happened to her today. Banter between us is lively, just as I had expected. She’s a naturally upbeat person and she always seems to look for the positive in anything. I like that. Do I fancy her? Not really. Do I enjoy being with her? Absolutely.

What do I do about Busty Blonde? I really don’t know.

Travis – Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Date #41 – Busty Blonde

I was swapping messages with Travel Gal when someone else caught my eye. This new woman had words and ideas that intrigued me because I identified with everything she said. The only problem was that she was six years older than me. That was offset by the fact that one of her profile photos showed her in a bikini, sporting the biggest pair of breasts that I had ever seen on a dating profile. I could put the age-gap to the back of my mind and if she was young in spirit then it shouldn’t be a problem. Quite honestly, whenever I thought of her, the image that popped into my mind was that of the bikini photo. I couldn’t help wonder what those breasts would feel like in my hands. In a moment of inspired brilliance I dubbed her ‘Busty Blonde’.

Travel Gal was spending the next two weeks in southern Africa for work, visiting new hotels and game lodges that were hoping she would send business their way. I wouldn’t be seeing her for some time, which suited me fine because I wanted to meet some more women in the hope that I could make an informed choice.

Busty Blonde and I swap messages on the national newspaper’s dating website and we get along as well as can be expected via such a limited, tricky medium. I’m still thinking of Travel Gal’s snobbish way of speaking which irritates me, so I suggest to Busty Blonde that we have a chat on the phone. I have reservations about her because of the age-gap and I’m starting to believe that all women’s dating profile photos are at least five years old. I’m forming a theory that the older a woman, the more likely she is to use old photos.

The Wanderer is sitting on my sofa in my lounge as I withdraw to my bedroom to speak to Busty Blonde one week-night. It’s 8pm and she’s just got in from work. Is this why she’s single – a typical London Girl married to her job, no time for a relationship? Our chat is pleasant enough, but I’m struck by how old she sounds. It feels like I’m talking to a pensioner but I know that voice calls distort our speech which is why I’ve avoided screening calls in the past. Towards the end of the call Busty Blonde sounds serious and sceptical because of the questions she asks me about recent relationships. I find it difficult to discern what someone is saying when I can’t see their face or properly hear their tone. I decide to end the call before it spirals out of control and descends into nothingness.

I’m not too sure what to make of our conversation. It wasn’t sparkling and began to feel defensive for reasons unknown to me. The single greatest thing that comes out of it that I’ve learned that she’s Scottish. That gives some cause for optimism, given my track record with English women. I decide to suggest a date and do so via email, thinking that she’s probably not interested in a man so much younger, but I’m wrong when she responds suggesting meeting this Sunday.

Could she be The One?

It’s a typically overcast grey Winter’s day as I arrive at Tower Hill Tube station’s exit. Instantly I spot Busty Blonde standing waiting for me. The first impression is underwhelming. She looks her age, perhaps a few years more even and I’m not filled with any sense of desire. Lust at first sight is not to be ignored but today it’s missing. I’m not used to dating a woman with wrinkles. She’s wearing an expensive-looking long brown winter coat that covers everything so no sign of those massive boobicles. Busty Blonde gives me a wonderful smile as she recognizes me. At least she has a great smile.

I kiss her hello on the cheek and give her a smile of my own. She’s tall for a woman, coming up to just under my nose. Photos never really give a proper sense of proportion. I can only guess that like most women she prefers her man to be taller than her, which I am, but I’m not sure that I can pick her up if I needed to. On her profile she describes herself as ‘curvaceous’ which is refreshingly honest, but the term can hide a multitude of sins. Those boobies must have extra wobble to them.

As we approach the stairs that lead down to the pedestrian subway, I turn to Busty Blonde and say, “Tell me something, do you like chicken?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Take a wing then,” I say, extending an elbow to her.

She bursts out laughing and a second later slides her arm around mine, shaking her head as she does so.

“That’s so cheesy,” she says.

“Yes, I know, but it made you laugh,” I reply.

That moment was our ice-breaker, the instant from which a bond began to form, the moment when defences started to crumble. I’ve always used that ruse as a way to test a woman’s sense of humour, to see if she would appreciate mine because I can be quite punny. Now I think of it primarily as a way of getting a woman comfortable in my presence.

I lead Busty Blonde to St Katharine Docks, somewhere she had heard of but never been to, despite her having lived in London for twenty years and, as I would learn, worked only half a mile away from it. The world over people do not do touristy things in their own back yard. Instead they scrimp and save, fantasize and plan for the day when they get to see what others take for granted. Funny lot, us humans.

We sit at a table for two in the pizzeria restaurant of the Dickens Inn, somewhere I’ve had dozens of dates in the past year and half. The Slavic waiter who has almost always attended me and my date greets me with a raised eyebrow. Is he silently asking, “Where the hell have you been for the last two months? My tips are down because of you!” Or is he hinting that this date is a little old for me? Maybe he’s thinking, “Ah, the gigolo’s back”?

Busty Blonde and I get along like two horny rabbits, only having eyes for each other and thoroughly engrossed in what the other is saying. We’re an obvious intellectual match and have much in common. We both left high school and have made our way in the world by dint of hard work and having the courage to seize opportunities when they presented themselves. We’ve both achieved managerial positions because of our abilities and not our contacts. I respect her for that.

The afternoon rolls by as conversation wanders aimlessly and easily, lubricated by a bottle of South African chenin blanc. I pepper the conversation with open-ended questions, letting her tell me more about herself in a natural manner. She’s open and direct, just like me, so I appreciate that. Busty Blonde is also far more bubbly and positive than what I was expecting. She seems to one of those people who is permanently happy and positive.

After a couple of hours I come to the conclusion that Busty Blonde is a thoroughly good person, imbued with old-fashioned morals and values almost identical to mine. There’s still an innocence about her, an unblemished view of the world that I used to have until I started online dating. My antics and experiences from dating have taken that innocence from me and sitting there talking to Busty Blonde, I realize that it’s never going to return. It’s gone forever.

The sun comes out to bathe London in a hazy light. With lunch over and the date going well, we mutually decide to stroll along the Southbank. It’s a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon, walking past buskers, street artists, scammers, galleries, ticket touts and people who have scrimped and saved to visit our back yard.

Busty Blonde and I walk and talk, eventually ending up in a quiet corner of a Thames-side pub. Another bottle of South African wine goes down easily while banter and laughter flows between us. I’m having a good time and so is she. To me it feels like I’ve reconnected with a long-lost friend, but there’s more it than just that. After months of disappointing experiences with other women, in mere hours it feels like she has lifted my spirits, brought me back to life. She exudes goodness and silly fun and for some reason that I still don’t understand, it makes me feel safe with her.

Her coat is slung over the back of a nearby chair and for the first time I get a hint of her mammaries. Even in the snug confines of her blue sweater they’re bigger than I expected. How does she not topple over? There’s a lot of bounce to the ounce there.

By now we’ve each the equivalent of a bottle of wine in us. Does she notice me occasionally peeking at her breasts? Or is she used to men doing that? Well, she did post that revealing bikini photo on her profile. On a dating site doing that is the equivalent of walking topless down a busy road; men are going to look.

Amidst a bout of laughter, under the slight affluence of incohol I lean over towards Busty Blonde, she responds instantly and we kiss. I do my usual thing of keeping my lips soft and using minimal force before being the first to pull away.

“Gosh, you’re a good kisser,” she remarks, blinking frenetically.

I just smile and continue talking about the topic at hand, as if nothing had happened. I’ve never really enjoyed kissing because it does very little for me physically, but I do enjoy the effect that my kisses have on women. It usually gets their sexual motor running. My having just kissed Busty Blonde sends the signal that I not afraid to escalate matters to the sexual level. Other women have told me that this is where many guys fall short because the woman was interested in having sex with a guy but would never make the first move for fear of seeming like a slut or coming across as desperate or gagging for it which usually leads to only a one-night stand. I’ve never been backward in coming forward so this has never been a failing of mine.

Something else I’ve learned courtesy of all my dates is that laughter mixed with alcohol turns a woman to putty in my hands. If she starts using the same words as me, parroting my exact words and ideas back at me, then she’s mine. Busty Blonde has been doing that for most of the date. I think it’s safe to assume that she’s keen on me.

The atmosphere between us has now been heightened but conversation is not affected by it. We talk some more before I lean over and we kiss again, this time for longer. This repeats itself periodically for the next hour or so. It feels like we could talk all night but I know not to let a good date end on a flat note by letting it go on for too long. Busty Blonde must be reading my mind because she starts saying that she needs to go home as tomorrow is going to be a challenging day at work for her. I didn’t ask what that meant but I was intrigued. In hindsight I should have asked.

By now darkness has spread itself over London, shadows smothering light, warmth giving way to cold. I don’t relish the thought of another Winter alone. What would Busty Blonde think or say if she knew that The Wanderer would be keeping me warm tonight?

I walk Busty Blonde to her Tube station and the banter between us just keeps flowing. This date has been a pleasant surprise, but I’ve learned not to put too much stock into a first date. We kiss one last time before she gets on her train. She beams at me once more from her seat before being whisked away.

Two fun dates in the space of a week. Maybe me and older women are a better match? Maybe I’m seeing things differently? Maybe I enjoyed this date with Busty Blonde because it felt like she had brought me back to life in some way? Whatever the reason, I want to see Busty Blonde and Travel Gal a few times more each. None of us have committed anything to each other, it’s ‘all just dating’. That’s an expression I saw recently that helps make me feel less guilty about dating several women at once.

With that said, is now a good time to mention that I also have the attention of two Russian ladies whom I’ll soon be meeting?

Evanescence -Bring Me to Life

Date #40 – Travel Gal

The Wanderer was sitting on my sofa watching telly when I came across an interesting profile on the national newspaper’s dating site. My subscription to the site was about to expire and I was seeing if there was anyone interesting to meet before I let my membership lapse. The lady who intrigued me lived exactly a hundred miles from me, so ordinarily I would discount her. She was also English, a factor that I have recently forsworn but her profile’s words and ideas were unlike any other Englishwoman’s. She was attractive, well-travelled…and four years older than me. She worked as a travel agent and she professed a love of southern Africa. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and dubbed her ‘Travel Gal’.

I made contact on the site but was disappointed by her sending a canned reply from a drop-down menu on the site that her subscription had recently expired and that was reluctant to renew her subscription. I tried sending her messages via the site that gave my email address, full name or ways of finding me on Facebook or LinkedIn, but the site’s censors were incredibly effective and thwarted my every move. She kept sending me canned one-liners that clearly showed that she was interested in me too.

Then I noticed that the site offered a low-priced, 3-day gift subscription so I bought her that so that we could communicate. I thought it a cute way of showing my serious intent. How could she refuse such generosity? Well, she didn’t and the usual email ping-pong ensues. There’s to my mind a rhythm to email exchanges, almost like a dance and at the opportune moment I suggest that we meet. She agrees.

Could she be The One?

On a dreary Winter Sunday I drive for two hours to get to a quaint, old market town that has become a haven for all things antique and artsy in that part of England. The pub where Travel Gal suggested we meet is empty when I arrive, so I make myself comfortable at a prominent table near the door. She texts me at noon that she’s running “a bit late”, despite having a less than a fifteen minute drive. I’ve been on enough dates to know what her words mean.

Half an hour later the pub door flies open and someone tall wearing an American waxed-leather, long brown raincoat and leather cattle-rancher’s hat strides in. The figure stops, turns to me and takes the hat off. It’s Travel Gal.

Guess what?

Her profile photos were on the old side.

Where other women have crows feet, she has ostrich toes. Travel Gal has obviously spent a lot of time in the sun as, apart from the wrinkles, her skin is a bronze that a surfer would be proud of. Nevertheless she has mesmerising blue eyes and a friendly smile. She does have a pretty face and I can see that when younger she must have been stunning. The rest of her is hidden under the raincoat and remains so for the duration of the encounter.

I stand and kiss her cheek hello as she stops at my table. We exchange courteous pleasantries and it’s then that I am struck by her manner of speaking. It’s in keeping with the ‘horsey set’. It’s not such much an accent but a preferred way of enunciating and trying to sound upper class. I find it annoying, unnatural and hard work to listen to.

I’ve generally avoided the screening phone-call as part of setting up dates because I believe that it exaggerates accents (we all have one) and gives a distorted, one-dimensional impression of a person. When I have done the screening call, it has usually not worked out in my favour. So much of communication is non-verbal and I believe the telephone to be the enemy of clear communication. If I had spoken to her on the phone I wouldn’t be here now because I would have found her voice off-putting.

I decide to make the most of this. I know that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. My cover is soon to be past its best too.

We sit down next to the log fire and quickly find ourselves engrossed in sparkling conversation. It’s a wonderful feeling as a conversation with a stranger grows and takes on a life of its own, entertaining you, stimulating you and challenging you. We’re definitely a match for each other in the intellectual stakes. As we get lost in recounting travel adventures I find myself noticing her wrinkles and way of speaking less and less. All I see is her eyes and smile and after a couple of hours I can see her soul too.

Travel Gal is a good, decent person who doesn’t want an unreasonable amount from life and intends no harm to anyone. She is gentle, thoughtful and fair. Do we want the same things from the future?

“So if I may be so bold, what is it you’re looking for?” I probe.

“A simple, satisfying way of life and someone to share it with. Too much to ask for?” she says with a sparkle in her eyes.

It’s that moment when I started to take her seriously. We want the same things. How can I ignore that? Yes, she has an annoying way of speaking and she’s not a spring-chicken any more, but I’m realistic enough to know that The One is not going to be perfect, only perfect for me. I move the conversation along before I reveal something that I shouldn’t.

“I get the impression that you like dogs. There’s a great black lab that crops up in your profile pics,” I say, hopefully deftly changing the topic.

“Yes, that’s my dog and main man in my life. Would you like to meet him?” she says.

Um, did she just invite me back to her place? I’m not sure that I fancy her enough to want to sleep with her, well not just yet anyway.

“I’d like that. Where is he? At home?” I respond.

“No, he’s outside in my car,” she replies.

Before I get a chance to say anything Travel Gal stands up and says, “I’ll go get him,” and disappears out into the cold world brooding on the other side of the pub door.

Less than a minute later a black Labrador with greying whiskers saunters into the pub as if he owns the place. He comes straight up to me, looks me in the face and wags his tail. I pet him and stroke his fine hair (not all dogs have fur) which he likes. Dogs and I have always got along. I don’t know if it’s some kind of animal magnetism or what, but dogs like me. Travel Gal gets him a bowl of water and he slumps down on the ground under the table.

I realize that for women with pets it is a factor in their world if their companion likes their man. I think I’ve passed that test. Then another thought occurs to me.

“Is he the puppy in your profile photos?” I ask.

“Yes, it’s him,” she answers.

“How old is he know?”

“He’s twelve,” she replies.

She’s used twelve year-old photos on her dating profile?! I don’t think she realizes what she’s just confessed to, but before she does I move the conversation along.

We drift off again into our own little world, regaling each other with more accounts of exploits under the African sun. The afternoon eases by as we share a meal and a socially-responsible single drink. It’s rare to find a woman who loves Africa and even rarer a woman who loves the part I’m from. For a few moments it feels like I’m talking to a kindred spirit, a fellow scatterling of Africa.

It starts to get dark when Travel Gal asks if we can visit a nearby cookware shop. It turns out she’s quite a baker and that suits me just fine, because I’m quite a cake-eater. The sleepy dog is attached to a lead and we brace ourselves as we head out into the icy darkness. The main street is nearby and it is picture-postcard scenery, with wonky Tudor-cottages and antiques shops abutting art galleries. The dog is like an emperor visiting his realm, paying no attention to yapping dogs and friendly children, the latter wanting to touch him but he just brushes past them.

In the store Travel Gal is very specific about what she wants, some bizarre French baking utensil I’ve never heard. She does take her baking seriously and I’m struck by her refusal to compromise when the shop assistant tries to foist something on her. Is that why she’s single? She won’t compromise? Maybe that’s why I’m still single too.

I sense that now is a good time to bring this date to an end. I have a long drive ahead of me in the dark and I don’t want to blow what has been a good experience.

“May I escort you to your car?” I say to Travel Gal once we’re back out on the street, hoping that she grasps my inference.

“That would be lovely. You’re quite a gentleman. I like that,” she says with a smile.

Finally, an Englishwoman who likes my old-fashioned ways.

At her car the emperor claims his seat. Travel Gal turns to me and smiles. It feels a bit awkward between us, for the first time since we saw each other. Neither of us seem sure what to do next. I’m surprised by this because I should be an old hand at ending dates, but this one seems different. I’ve had an exceptionally good time talking to her. It feels like I’ve met someone remarkable.

I wonder what she thinks of me? I can only think of one way of knowing for sure.

Slowly I step towards her and lean in to kiss her on the mouth, but stopping short, leaving time and space for her to reciprocate. Will she? Oh hell, yes. Our lips touch gently then lock tighter. I put my arms around her, hoping to know something more about her body, but all I can feel is the damn leathery, waxy leather raincoat. I’m grappling with a tarpaulin. I have no idea what her body is like and even in this embrace I’m none the wiser.

Gingerly I pull away from her. As first kisses go, that was good. Travel Gal has a look of surprise on her face, a mixture of shock and satisfaction. We say nothing more as she gets in her car and drives off into the darkness.

Will I see her again?

Johnny Clegg – Scatterlings Of Africa

Maybe tomorrow

I have The Wanderer sleeping in my bed but my heart yearns for The One whom I am yet to find. At the beginning of the year I bought tickets to two pop concerts as acts of unbridled optimism. I believed that by the end of the year I would have found Her and treating Her to artists we both liked would be a nice way to end the year and share our first Winter together. I love the build-up to Christmas in England. There’s a muted buzz in the air as the winds from Siberia arrive, darkness descends earlier each day and Christmas decorations appear everywhere. It’s the perfect time to be in love.

Alas, my plans have not worked out and I have these tickets. Cat Lady and I have sporadically swapped messages via Facebook and WhatsApp, but I think we both know that we’re not meant for each other. She’s still stinging from her last relationship and I’ve realized that I am too, but for different reasons. My trust issues run deep and I’ve recently discovered that I was played by a psychopath. I have little confidence in my ability to assess a woman correctly, hence my little tests and games that I’ve played on some of my dates. They were a crutch for my hobbled ability to trust and a patch for my bruised ego, hiding what was really going on inside me.

Cat Lady and I meet on a rainy week-night to see Chris Rea at the Royal Albert Hall. She’s unfashionably late and Chris is into his routine as we squeeze into our seats. I hate being late because it seems rude to me, but sometimes it can’t be helped. People around us make it known that they don’t appreciate our disruption. Cat Lady whips her phone out and starts taking photos of everything around us; she even photographs the ceiling. A steward comes over to ask her to desist because of the flash. She apologizes, but no sooner is he gone than she continues photographing. If I was thinking this to be a date then I would be very unimpressed. However, I know that this venue and outing is new to her and she’s seeing it all through tourist eyes.

Irritated patrons around us tut-tut and I ask Cat Lady to put her phone away. She fiddles with it, disables the flash and continues photographing the architecture of this historic building. Her pig-headedness is breath-taking and it just reinforces my belief that we would not get along in the long-term. She’s just too stubborn with a bit of selfishness and inconsideration thrown in to make it extra annoying for any man involved with her. This might be a reason why she’s still single in her early forties, never really having had a long-term relationship.

After the show I walk Cat Lady to her Tube station and we make polite small-talk. I do find her easy to talk to and having a common additional language gives us another sense of humour that we can share. At the Tube station I try to kiss her good-night on a cheek, but she moves her head quickly and kisses me on my lips. I’m surprised and give off a laugh. We look at each other, blink and then kiss again, this time deliberately we go for each other’s lips. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing for me and felt like harmless fun.

“Damn, you’re a good kisser,” she says with big eyes as I pull away from her.

I say nothing, she smiles at me and then spins around and disappears into the station. I laugh to myself, wondering what that was about. She is just a friend who likes how I kiss, that’s how I perceive her. Could there be more between us? I don’t think so.

A few nights later and it’s Saturday. I take The Wanderer to go see The Simple Minds at the old Millennium Dome. She’s been a little depressed, she’s tried to hide it, but I can see it. I’m hoping that a night out will lift her spirits. The Wanderer is impressed by the spectacle of shops and restaurants that are inside the dome, so it’s off to a good start. The warm-up act is Ultravox and seeing as we’re both fans of 80s music it comes as a pleasant surprise. The Simple Minds take to the stage and kick the show off with a spectacular lighting display and deafening rendition of one of their famous hits. As is the norm at such events, everyone is standing, which is fine by me because I’m over six foot tall, but The Wanderer is petite and it isn’t long before she is sitting.

She makes for a sad figure and I feel very sorry for her. Life hasn’t been kind to her and I was part of her recent disappointments, something that I feel bad about. I don’t like letting people down. I’ve realized that I should have been even more choosy about my dates earlier in the year, but I told myself that profiles rarely capture what a person is about. If I had been pickier and stuck to my stipulation that single mothers were a no-no for me, then I wouldn’t have met The Wanderer and I wouldn’t have ended up hurting her. I am to blame.

I can’t just leave her sitting there like that, so I sit down too and give her the best smile that I can. The Wanderer feigns a smile. We’re both feeling low. It’s the strangest thing, feeling alone in a crowd. She complains of back-pain, which I believe to be psycho-somatic; her mind is poisoning her body. She’s in a negative spiral that I can’t help reverse.

If she felt about me that the way I felt about Baltic Babe and Krazy Girl, then it can’t be easy sleeping in the same bed as me. To her credit she has behaved herself, whereas I don’t think I could have with the two aforementioned young ladies. Being with me has probably been a mixed blessing for her in that she has a place to stay for a while, but she has had to watch me sit at my computer and swap emails with women on dating sites. If I’ve had to speak to a prospective date on the phone I have always gone to another room. I wouldn’t be surprised if she can’t wait to get the hell away from me.

We’re amongst the first to leave the concert. Once on the train The Wanderer snuggles up to my shoulder and falls asleep until we get to my town. I know that I can only be friends with her and I want it to stay that way. A younger, less-experienced me would have made love to her by now for very silly reasons that I would have regretted the next day. I am growing up after all.

My thoughts turn to the women I’ll be meeting in the next weeks. It’s going to be a busy time for me, which is exciting, but I find myself doubting my being ready for a serious relationship. If I do find Her, then that question is likely to evaporate.

My next date will be number forty. Forty! The common denominator with all these dates is me. There must be something wrong with me. What is it? I need to figure it out quickly because I’m running out of enthusiasm for this dating scene. How much longer do I need to walk on this lonely highway? I’m starting to feel like a desperate hitch-hiker under a desolate sky, hoping that the lights slowing down for me will be someone friendly, interesting and safe.

When will I find Her? Maybe tomorrow? I have a date set up that I’m looking forward to. Maybe tomorrow…

Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow

Loneliness and The Wanderer returns

Late at night, not every night but only some nights, Loneliness takes me by the hand and drags me silently into a cold, dark, murky corner of my world. There he beats me up, brutalizes me with words that hurt my feelings. His intent is make me give up, to forget about finding love, but I don’t break. Instead I shout back that I shall find Her, that She does exist. I tell him that it’s just a sick game our mutual master called Life is playing and that, if I stay the course, I shall be rewarded. That belief grows in my chest and shines like a bright light from my heart out through my rib-cage. A light so bright that it dissolves that bully called Loneliness and the darkness releases me, falling like shackles around my feet. I defeat him every time. I do not fear Loneliness, because every time he comes to visit, I feel better for it.

I have no problem with being alone. Lately, however, I’ve begun to feel lonely. I’m starting to suspect that it’s more than that: I’m starting to feel unloved. I’m not one for day-dreaming or living in a fantasy; I deal in reality. My reality is that nobody loves me. It’s the focus of every day for me to find someone who loves me as much as I love her. I go about my days doing the things I need to, but that feeling is always with me.

All I want is a cute, pretty, younger blonde, non-smoker who doesn’t want children and is baggage free. All I seem to attract is chain-smoking, cat-hoarding, single mothers older than me of various shapes, sizes and colours. Finding someone that I share an incredible connection with seems like a far-off luxury right now.

Wherever I go, I see them, the women I like the look of. At train stations, on trains, in shopping centres, in the streets, everywhere I go, they’re there. It’s pretty much every second young blonde. I cant help it, attraction isn’t a choice. I see them, but they don’t notice me. Almost never do I catch one of them looking at me. I’m invisible to them. I’m like a ghost, moving about in lonely isolation, devoid of meaningful interaction, bereft of recognition. I’m amidst a whirlpool of women that I want to get to know better, but when I reach out to one of them, they recoil disdainfully with a feminine shrug of a shoulder and carry on spinning around me, teasing me, toying with me, hurting me.

I now have the conversational skills and confidence to talk to any woman, but I know that I’m almost certainly wasting my time. I’m fighting Nature in that I don’t want to have children, but almost all women do. A random stranger in the street is not a good use of my time and emotional capital. Online dating is my best avenue for love because it does all the filtering for me.

I’m starting to think that the woman of my dreams lives exactly there, in my dreams. Life for me revolves around working long days and then spending weekends meeting women who turn out to be just more hay in my haystack. That needle has to be in here somewhere.

The optimist in me has also been thinking about what a relationship will be like. I have some reservations borne out of my new-found view of women. I have questions that I would like answers to. 1) Do good looking women gravitate toward a man with money as a deep-seated seating way of dealing with the inevitable fear of what would happen once their looks fade? 2) Are all 9 and 10s stuck-up, snobbish little bitches? 3) As much as I want to share my life with someone special, I know that I value my sense of freedom that I’m enjoying at the moment. Do I have to trade one for the other? I’m in no hurry to want to live with some, but do want to spend a good amount of time with her. Do we have to live together? I think not. I hope She’s of a like mind.

I also have some new shifts in my paradigm that I’m coming to terms with. 1) I’m realising that a woman having the perfect body but defective personality will not work. A great personality and okay body will last longer with me. 2) I’ve realized that many of my dates were unnecessary. My inner-saboteur was at work. I went on some dates because I wanted something fun to do and, more importantly, it was providing a measure of positivity in my life at a time when I was unhappy at work. I need to be more selective in my dating. 3) I have noticed something else about myself. If I’m with a girl on a date and I catch myself checking out another woman, then the one in front of me is obviously not attractive enough for me. I know that if I’m with someone I do fancy, then other women become invisible to me. I literally only have eyes for her.

The problem is that it feels like I’m entering an emotional Winter. I just don’t feel ready for a relationship any more. I find myself contemplating another Xmas as a singleton, afraid of becoming a charity case again. I’m happily writing away, recounting my experiences. Perhaps the cumulative effect of doing so is the cause of that feeling. However, the experiences of the past year have drawn in to perspective how long my road has been so far and the end is nowhere in sight. It might take me several more such years and so be it. I think of it as a marathon, so it’s okay to take a breather surely?

My dating site subscriptions are starting to mature and I feel no desire to renew. One by one they feel like weighty doors closing to me, noisily and emphatically slamming closed, followed by resounding echoes that shout out my failure. Well, for the time being at least.

I know that in the new year that there will be a deluge of women who have made a New Years’ resolution to “get back out there”, some egged on by well-meaning friends, some fed up of having been the spare wheel at the Xmas dinner table. I know the feeling.

Perhaps I should be like other people and lie about my age on my profiles? I don’t look my age and often get told that I look 35. If I was a real bastard, I would say on my profiles that I am looking to have children. I could have my pick of women by comparison. Then when I grew tired of their nagging for children or their looks faded or any reason good enough for me, I would say goodbye to them and find a replacement. However, I’m not like that.

I am so not the person I was before I began online dating. Who or what am I these days? Am I a player? Am I hopeless romantic? Am I a modern-day Mr Darcy? Am I all of these things…or none? What am I becoming? I’m not sure. The pointers on my moral compass are bent; I’m not sure what is right or wrong any more. On top of that I feel like I’m perpetually in the shadows, observing, rarely seen and never acknowledged. It can’t carry on like this.

The Wanderer contacts me from the icy confines of left field. Her plans for a new life in London haven’t worked out and she finds herself on the brink of being homeless. I take pity on her and let her come stay with me for two weeks until she returns to her native Ireland. She’s wandering again. My kindness is also driven by a sense of guilt because of how things had turned out between us. She was taken with me, thinking me to be her ‘The One’. I wasn’t of a like mind and had to let her down as gently as I knew how. I know that I hurt her at a time when she couldn’t handle any more pain.

I fetch The Wanderer with my little car and load her worldly possessions into it before driving back to my little shag-pad where I unload it all into a now impracticably crowded apartment. She has a back condition and I’m too big to fit on my sofa, so we have to share my bed. I know that I can resist the temptation to have sex with her. I’m now big enough a person to realize just how much that would complicate matters between us. She makes no approach and nor do I. It’s cold and we feel asleep spooning, sharing body heat. I’m not at all tempted to rekindle a romance with her. My mother used to say, “You only know someone when you live with them,” and her words are proving true. I’m an early-bird while The Wanderer is a night-owl. We’re chalk and cheese in so many ways. A relationship between us would never have worked. I feel vindicated in my decision about her.

Unexpectedly some new faces appear on the radar screen that is my preferred online dating websites. It seems there might be some hope after all. A busy run-up to Christmas is in the offing and I’m excited again at the thought of finally finding Her. This Grey Knight is going to be stepping out of the shadows.

The Rasmus – In The Shadows

Date #39 – English Shrink and the psychopath revealed – Final part

My Exgf is the archetypical psychopath!

I watch the programme in stunned and frightened fascination. After it ends I go research the topic on the internet in great detail. My findings and the memories that they stir in me are chilling.

Every single character trait listed as psychopathic behaviour is her stand-out personality trait. Her lack of empathy is legendary. Her always wanting to be in control of every little situation got on my nerves, but now I know why she was like that. She only ever acted out of self-interest. I thought earlier this year in my own little view of the world of humans that she was a Taker; the reality is that she’s much worse.

She is street-smart and can sell a pork sausage in a synagogue, such is her charm. If anything bad happened it is always someone else’s fault; usually mine. She can be extremely impulsive, hence the outrageous sexual shenanigans that she became involved in, only some with me while others I read of in her diaries. She is easily bored and that mixed with her impulsiveness leads to many mis-adventures. She is a consummate liar and when I witnessed this I was always impressed and scared at the same time. I should have known then that she was all wrong for me.

My Exgf had done all the things she did with me recently not so much out of desperation to win me back as I had perceived it, but largely because it gave her a sense of power over me. If she thought that doing something, no matter how depraved or humiliating, would get her something more valuable in exchange then she would do it. It’s all part and parcel of the transactional nature of a psychopath.

I remember reading in her sex diaries how, if she was spurned by a guy she wanted, that the very next guy she encountered, even hours after the first, she would fuck him. She did this not because she enjoyed the sex, but because it gave her a sense of power, an intoxicating rush of feeling in control. If she ever felt that a situation was out of control, that was her worst nightmare and she just had to do something about it.

Her recently ending our fuckbuddy relationship now made more sense to me. She was reclaiming control. Prior to that she perceived matters to be such that she was in control, steering events and would be deriving something, i.e. me, in return, but when it became evident that this wasn’t going to happen, she switched tack so as to reclaim control in proceedings.

A casual observer would merely think her an insecure control freak, but that is just part of a much bigger picture. Control freakery, as I now understand it, is just an indicator, a warning sign of a larger malaise.

I also realize now that the course and nature of our relationship was characterized by an endless clash of wills. Everyone has their own will and mine is as strong as anyone else’s, but a psychopath looks to overwhelm another person’s will so as to feel safe, to feel in control. Now some would say that this is just insecurity, but apparently this is all part of their ways to achieve dominance, to extract what they want from the person they’ve sunk their claws into.

As I sat watching this programme it became obvious to me that psychopaths are emotional vampires who suck their victims dry before moving onto a another host. They are a parasite who needs their victim more than their victim needs them. They understand this and thus moderate their behaviour so as not to give their game away for fear of spooking their prey.

I started to remember all the new people that my Exgf came into contact with and how she would often label them as “useful to know” or “a good contact to have”. I naively thought that this was just her networking modus operandi but I now see it as the arcane inner workings of a predator stalking its quarry.

Her love-life was marked by endless short-term flings and love was never spoken or written of. I was her longest relationship – five years – so what does that make me? A love-fool, I guess. How could I have loved such a person? I realize now that I didn’t; I loved the version of herself that she acted out for me. The real her – the psychopath – was a stranger to me.

She had a history of petty theft that always bothered me but was a warning that I ignored until I found out that she had defrauded me and our business partners of a sizeable sum of money. They still don’t know about it; I haven’t the heart nor see the point in telling them.

In a social setting she just has to be the centre of attention. So often she would embarrass me in public, but now I have a deeper understanding as to why she did this. She couldn’t help it, it’s how she is.

Apparently the reason for all this behaviour is a deformed part of the brain called the amygdala. That part of the brain deals with empathy. Psychopaths are, in essence, brain damaged and it’s congenital. They’re born that way and there’s nothing that can be done to help them. The rest of society needs educating about how to deal with these people. Being able to identify them is the first step in avoiding being worked over by them.

A similar personality type exists that is labelled a sociopath. There are common traits but apparently the biggest difference between the two is that a psychopath lacks empathy. That characteristic is what sets them apart from other from each other as well as people. This lack of empathy frees the psychopath from having a conscience and allows them to be as ruthless and selfish as they are. There are also professions that these kind of people gravitate towards. Perhaps you work with one or more of them?

After some reflection I realize that one of my closest male friends is a psychopath. Musician Gal is one too. A couple of people that I’ve worked with in my career I now also see as such. I take from all this that anyone devoid of empathy is to be avoided.

What I saw and read also gives me a deeper understanding of what I had been dealing with when my Exgf was concerned. It makes me think about some of the negative notions that I carry with me as a consequence of my Exgf, primarily ideas that most women are out to use men. I’m left thinking about how toxic she has been to my life. The subtleness of her behaviour bothers me, but what bothers me most is that I had missed what she was doing all along. She has been the backbone of my not trusting women. Unfortunately many of my dating experiences have reinforced this notion.

I find it strangely coincidental that on the night I meet a psychiatrist I then go home to watch a programme on television about psychopaths. Is there an unseen hand that is guiding me?

If you would like to watch the programme that opened my eyes to this aspect of life, then here it is:

Channel 4 – Psychopaths

Billy Joel – The Stranger