Last weekend I went for a roast dinner (my first one in Dubai!) with three women I met via a meetup group (more on making friends in a new town another time). We had all met at least one of the group a couple of times before, but this was the first time we’d spent any time together as this combination of four.

Conversation was ticking along pleasantly, and about an hour in, someone asked “so, who out of us is single?” It turned out, three of us were. I was really surprised – a 75% single rate is probably the highest I’ve found in any social situation I’ve been in in nine months. It feels like everyone in Dubai is married, or at least well on their way to be. In my late twenties in London, I was always aware that I was in the minority as a single person, but as a 30 year old woman in Dubai, I feel very much like the odd one out. Women my age don’t move here on their own. They move with their husbands – either following him a few months after he’s set up here or embarking on the adventure together. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me who I’m out here with (I’m old enough not to need parental supervision), who I live with (just myself, and it is WONDERFUL), or even just as blunt as where my husband is (you tell me love, you tell me).

The relationship status question opened the floodgates. The usual topics of ‘why is Tinder so awful’, ‘why is Bumble such hard work’, ‘why are men so terrified of commitment’ (the constant million dollar question of anyone unlucky enough to fling themselves into the dating fire pit) filled the conversation. Turns out there are single men here, they just all sound they should be gracing the pages of Take a Break magazine. I kicked off proceedings with my most recent dating story, but it turns out ‘he was perfectly lovely for two months, then ran for the hills at the slightest whiff of a relationship’ pales into actually being quite pleasant when compared to:

The story of the guy who rescued the woman he was dating from a not-insignificant adventure sport accident, stayed with her in hospital, provided for her in the 2+ months she wasn’t working, persuaded her to visit him in Oman, then the day before her flight, ghosted her. Communication severed – calls unanswered, texts not replied to, just like that. Only to be spotted on Instagram a few weeks later enjoying a helicopter ride with his new beau.

The story of the guy who lied about his nationality, lied about his job… and even lied about the fact that he was going to pay half the rent of the apartment he was sharing with his girlfriend, effectively leaving her homeless at twenty minutes notice.

The story of the guy who entered a UK-UAE long distance relationship with a woman who was living here, introducing her to all his extended family via Skype (including his nephews), eventually leading (after a couple of years) to her being persuaded to quit her job and return home from the Middle East to be with him, only to discover that said nephews were in fact sons, and there was also a wife in the picture.

Wish me luck everyone, dating in 2018 is going to (continue to) be a bumpy ride!

 

Even when it was only fleeting, even when it never got a label, there’s still the little reminders that you were starting to open your heart to someone, that you were starting to let them in.

The ice cream in your freezer than he bought for you to share.

The extra towel hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

The address of his apartment in your Careem ‘saved places’.

The toothbrush head you gave him, sitting next to yours.

The Skyscanner search for the trip you were going to take together.

The bigger-than-normal bottle of milk in your fridge, now going to waste, so you could both have tea at the weekend.

The reservation reminder in your inbox for the dinner-with-a-view.

The abruptly ended WhatsApp conversation that’s rapidly descending down your Chats list.

Image in this post from the Abandoned Love series by Peyton Fulford, see more on her Instagram.

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The problem with feelings is that they don’t go away just because you do.

And thanks to the invention of WhatsApp (and to my shock AND embarrassment, Snapchat), aided by Dubai’s near constant provision of WiFi, to begin with it felt like I hadn’t gone anywhere at all.

I’m well versed in long distance relationships. Not recently, but I’ve covered off nearly four years of not residing in the same city as boyfriends in my dating past. It doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think it suits me: a week or two to be as reclusive or as wild as I please (because it’s usually one or the other – or more often – one as a result of the other), followed by heart-hurting longing but ultimately the sweet satisfaction of a reconnection. 

This time, connections are severed. I’m clinging onto already fading memories of jokes shared and conversations spoken, of sleep lost and chemistry felt. Memories that are unlikely to be repeated soon, if at all. It wasn’t even a boyfriend this time, but somehow I’m missing him more than anyone else I left behind.

He’s the only one I feel I’ve flown away from forever. Friends are part of my being, I just won’t be able to go on without them. I might not see them this month, or even next – but I will, and it will be again and again.

But he feels gone – or going, at least. The excitement of possibility dwindles, still leaving only ‘what if’ behind. A question that was never destined to have an answer, but one I still can’t stop asking myself.

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Sod’s law says that if something can go wrong, it will.

But what do you call it when you meet a guy you really like (the first one you’ve liked in ages) only days after you’ve decided to leave the country?

What do you call it when you’ve found someone rare: a decent man that actually texts back, turns up on time and makes the bed without asking? A man that you have genuine chemistry with?

What do you call it when he is the right amount of teasing, but complimentary; of silent, but talkative; of just like you, but totally not at all. 

What do you do when he says the very words you’ve been avoiding thinking for weeks, “I wonder where this could’ve gone?”

So of course, you also wonder, because it could’ve gone nowhere, but it equally could’ve gone somewhere too. You wonder if it could’ve been so much more.

But you know that it doesn’t matter what you wonder, not really. The decision to leave is done, is bigger, is still absolutely the right thing to do.

He is still amazing, it was great whilst it lasted.

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I wrote this post a couple of months ago, before Christmas. It’s sat in my drafts ever since. I didn’t know whether to post it, because it’s boring and it’s old news, but writing this was what made me feel like writing again. So I’m going to tweak it and put it up. Because writing is therapy and this is one thing I need to let go…

I really wish I didn’t feel this way, but Christmas changed for me four years ago. I really, really hate that this is still *a thing* in my life, but – sigh – it is.

The week before Christmas in 2013, my ‘One’* (ha) upped and left. I was stunned. I was bereft. Jeez, I’ve written about this loads. Way too much already. For 11 months of the year, he doesn’t even cross my mind. But for the 11 days leading up to Christmas Day, I can’t help but mark (with a lot of thinking and unfortunately also a lot of drinking) the anniversary of the time my heart smashed and my life changed course.

I’m not sad anymore. I know my life is a million times more interesting, exciting and diverse than it would have been if I were still with him. Born out of that shitty time were incredible female friendships that give me life. I love all of those women more than I ever loved him. But I do mourn for the way in which my attitude towards love and relationships has shifted irreparably ever since.

At that time of year, I always remember the bar we were in when the conversation started, the way we sat next to each other on the District line as the conversation progressed. The shouting and the sobbing. The going back home to Norfolk for Christmas, the not leaving my bedroom for several days, the devouring endless chick-lit (FYI: not a helpful coping strategy). He was the first man I’d ever managed to persuade to spend Christmas Day with me (which, of course, never happened). He was the first man I’d ever lived with. He was the first man I’d ever sacrificed real, important parts of myself for.

This year, I spent my fourth Christmas single, having resolutely not sacrificed anything for anyone during any of those four Christmases, or any of the time in between. Because why would I?

And that’s the reason the festive season always feels different now. It’s the time of the year I realise most how cynical and fiercely independent I have become. I realise how much it broke me because I spend so much time reminiscing (and a fair number of evenings drinking… did I mention the drinking?). I do my absolute best to be the opposite of what I was. I was settled and ‘normal’ and on the path to coupled up homemaking. Every December I prove how routine-less, how single, how much more fun I now am.

And then January comes around and without the cloud of forced festivity, I remember I don’t need to prove anything. I’m doing just fine on my own. I’m doing just fine with my family and friends and my sense of adventure.

Christmas might have lost it’s magic that Sunday afternoon, but it unleashed so much more.

*I don’t think I’ve ever actually believed in the notion of ‘The One’, but maybe I’ll save that for another post…