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!

 

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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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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…

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Bought these for myself on vday, just FYI

Over the last few months, the exact same scenario has swept through my group of friends like some kind of love life epidemic. As the months have passed, it’s picked off each one of us (myself included) that have been (un)fortunate enough to embark on a new relationship.

We’ve all met and fallen for lovely, charming, funny boys, we’ve all been on dates that turned into sleepovers, and we’ve all eventually reached the point – a few months in – where we’ve all been smitten and ready enough to want to commit further to the blossoming relationship. Then it all goes a bit weird, the boys get a bit less keen, the messages get a lot less frequent and we hear the dreaded words “you deserve better”.

And do you know what, I’m SO sick of hearing those words. I’m sick of my gorgeous, smart, successful, witty friends being told they deserve better. I’m sick of spineless, commitment phobic boys in their late twenties freaking out and breaking our hearts, only to merely brush themselves down and do it again to the next woman.

The breakup cliché used to be “it’s not you, it’s me”. I used to hate that, I used to think it was a massive cop out. But on reflection, at least it recognises where the full blame lies. It acknowledges that it is nothing to do with the woman. It actually takes some guts for a man to admit that a relationship ending is entirely their fault.

“You deserve better” is the opposite. It is cowardly. It helps project some of that blame onto the woman, making them think that they asked for too much or that they had unrealistic expectations. It forces them to settle.

And they shouldn’t. All these women want is someone to be on their team. (Both myself and one of my close friends began to use this phrase completely independently of each other.) We don’t want or need a Prince Charming. We don’t want endless free dinners or to be whisked to the other side of the world. We want a partner. We want someone who’s going to be on our team through the amazing times and the shit stuff. We earn our own money and can pay our own way; we want someone to sit across from us at dinner or on the plane next to us and challenge us, inspire us, and to just be with us.

I know it can be done. For every amazing single friend I have, I have three more that are happily the girlfriend of or married to equally as brilliant, loyal, intelligent, supportive men. I know couples whose relationship I am deeply envious of, who have the team thing nailed.

So boys, instead of telling us we deserve better, how about just being better. Instead of making yourself feel okay about being a shitty boyfriend, look to your friends who manage to be great ones. We don’t deserve better, we just deserve what you promise us in the beginning. And if you can’t manage to do that yet, then just leave us all the hell alone until the day that you can.

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I don’t want to keep bloody banging on about it, because it’s shit and boring and I want to move on, but a few months ago I went through one of those life altering, perspective shifting break ups. (I’ve written about it already here and here.)

The problem is, I can’t seem to get over it, and it’s starting to annoy me. Over the last few weeks, I seem to have gone backwards on the ‘getting over it’ scale. It’s partly because I started seeing someone new (which, it turns out, I am absolutely not ready for, and it has consequently ended) and partly because I’m missing a big goal and some focus, so my thoughts are drifting off elsewhere. Unfortunately that place is back into the past.

To start with I thought I might rectify the problem with the obvious. The first few months after my break up were so (relatively) bearable as I let myself be completely and totally consumed with training for the Paris marathon. Maybe that’s what I need to do again, I thought. I’ll sign up for an autumn marathon. But as much as I would love to go back to Berlin in September, I don’t think repetition is the way forward.

I’ve already decided on a rather large and scary nutrition goal, which I’ll share more on next week. But for now, I’m feeling a little bit lost when it comes to my fitness life. I’m running WOTN in Amsterdam next weekend which I’m really looking forward to, but I have already decided not to run Run Hackney two weeks later. I am just not feeling in the right frame of mind to train for and run a half marathon. In fact, I haven’t run in two weeks. Two weeks is nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it’s probably been a good six or seven months since I’ve gone that long. I was loving running at the beginning of May, but then my knee decided to get angry with me and I haven’t run since.

So I’m properly on a break from boys and now running has decided we need some time off too. I don’t have a race in the calendar until September and the last of my four planned European run adventures will soon be here and gone. Now what the heck do I do?!