Just after my 4th date with Whippersnapper, I went to Portugal. My retired parents had arranged a holiday to get some winter sun and defy Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I went out to join them in Portugal for 5 days.
WS left my flat on Saturday afternoon after our date. We had arranged to see each other the following Friday night, after I got back from the airport. I expected to feel sad that I wouldn’t see him for a week, and that I’d even be in a different country to him, but I just felt happy and content that the date had gone so well. He was sending me messages like “well that was amazing :)” and “I loved last night and this morning” which helped.
When I arrived in Portugal, it was dark and rainy and I was a bit crabby after travelling for several hours. I had missed an opportunity for a cup of tea on the plane, because I had misunderstood what the cabin crew person was asking me, and then I was too shy to ask. I normally drink a lot of tea, so I spent the rest of the flight ruminating about that.
I wasn’t sure which apps on my phone would work abroad, so I didn’t know how easily WS and I would be able to keep in touch.
However, we got to the flat my parents were staying in, and there was not only tea, but also wifi, so pretty soon I was a new woman again.
We only had wifi in the flat, but not when we were out and about on the holiday. The lack of continuous wifi was actually really nice. WS and I would send each other WhatsApp messages when I was at home, but when I was out for the day, I couldn’t receive messages, which meant I was free from worrying about whether he’d replied yet.
WS sends me quite a few photos of himself and what he’s been up to. People talk about the younger generation being selfie-obsessed, but with him, I just find it nice to see his cheery face. Maybe the fact the photo is often accompanied by a self-deprecating comment makes it seem less vain.
I’ve wanted to reciprocate, but I cannot take selfies. When I put my iphone front-facing camera on and my face appears on the screen, I always end up crying out “oh, God no!” and quickly whizz my face off the screen again. I don’t know what goes on inside that camera, but it reminds me of the story of Dorian Gray.
In Dorian Gray, he doesn’t age because he has a painting in his attic that ages instead; for me, every bit of ugliness and darkness in my soul appears on the screen when I turn that selfie camera on.
I’d rather WS saw me squeezing a spot, or having explosive diarrhoea, or violently vomiting (all actually fairly likely, if he keeps hanging around with me) than the horror of him seeing what I look like through that camera.
So I end up prancing around in front of the mirror with the normal camera, trying to find an angle where the phone doesn’t appear in mirror, and then giving up after a few minutes.
While I was in Portugal, I thought it was a good opportunity to send him some pictures. Taking holiday photos is something someone from my generation is just a lot more used to. Plus, I’m not sure what the subtext is, for a photo of me in the mirror, where I’ve cropped my iPhone out, but a holiday photo has the benefit of the subtext “what, this? this is just beach photo which I happen to be in (but also please still fancy me)”.
So, I kept handing my iPhone to my mum and asking her to take photos of me. My mum was a primary school teacher until she was in her 50s, and realised she didn’t enjoy it anymore. She then went back to college and studied to be a photographer instead. At the time, the teenage me worried a bit about my parents’ finances when my mum quit her job, but now I think she is an inspiration. I learnt from her that if something in your life is making you miserable, change it.
Anyway, despite being a professional photographer, whenever my mum handed the iPhone back to me, I would always find she had inadvertently put the camera on ‘burst mode’ (I don’t even know how to do this on purpose) and there would be at least 11 identical photos of me standing still, with an artificially natural smile.
When it comes to my love life, I have an unusually open relationship with my mum. My mum struggles to remember people’s names, so we always end up making up pseudonyms for the various men. For example, a few years ago, I had a regrettable fling with my married former-boss, (I would never normally do this, but my moral compass was off straight after my ex-boyfriend died), and my mum would always ask “and what’s the latest with the Glamorous Adulterer?” (or ‘the GA’ in text messages).
I told them about Whippersnapper, but found myself not mentioning the herpes. I’m not sure what they made of the age gap, but they always generally seem happy if I’m happy.
I had a good time with my parents in Portugal, but it was probably the first time I realised I’m not quite myself at the moment. With work being so stressful, the dramas of breaking up with my ex-boyfriend and trying to buy a flat, I realised I was completely exhausted and had lost a bit of weight. I kept having to go for a lie-down or just wanting to be on my own, which doesn’t usually happen when I’m with them.
WS and I had originally arranged to see each other on Friday, the night I got back l, but we ended up moving to this to Sunday instead. This was mainly my fault, because I realised once I had waited for my luggage, got through passport control and got back from Gatwick, it would be a lot later than I originally thought.
As the end of the holiday approached, I was counting down the days to that Sunday, when I could see him again. I missed him.
On my last night in Portugal, there was a bit of a misunderstanding. He sent me a message just before midnight, saying that he really liked me. Then, at 8am the next morning, I got another one saying “I’m really drunk with my work colleague!”. I thought either he’d woken up still drunk or hadn’t been to bed, so I texted him asking which it was. I thought his reply seemed a bit shifty.
I suddenly thought oh my god, he slept with someone!
I’d never been more certain of anything in my life. I was proud of my nuanced women’s intuition, but kind of gutted. I thought it wasn’t a total disaster though – after all, I did sleep with Young Jaguar before our third date, and all it did was consolidate how much I like WS, and we haven’t discussed whether we’re still seeing other people or not. Maybe him sleeping with someone else could have had the same effect for him?
Of course, it turned out he hadn’t slept with anyone else at all. My explanation doesn’t even make sense.
He had actually sent the message saying he was drunk with his friend the night before, straight after the one saying he liked me, but some quirk of international WhatsApping meant it came through 8 hours late. He was ‘shifty’ because he was utterly perplexed by why I was asking if he was still drunk the next day.
Thankfully I realised before confronting him, but I guess this illustrates how nice and calm I was about things by the time our 5th date approached.
I got back from Portugal. I woke up on Saturday, really excited about seeing WS the next day. It felt like it had been a long week since I last saw him. On the Saturday lunchtime I went to see my friend and her new baby.
Just as I was walking down her street, WS texted me saying actually, he was working early on Monday morning, so maybe he shouldn’t come round and stay over on Sunday night. He suggested next Friday instead.
Friday! An extra week longer!
I had been so excited about seeing him, I felt really deflated and crestfallen. I sent a couple of replies trying to convey I wasn’t thrilled, but in a nice way, and then stopped replying as I was pacing up and down on the pavement outside my friend’s flat. It was the first time I actually felt a bit pissed off and let down by him.
Later on, I sent a message suggesting Tuesday instead as a compromise, which he agreed to. My instinct was to withdraw from him a bit and give less away, but for some reason I did the opposite and told him loads about my monthly cycle. The Friday he’d suggested wouldn’t have been a great option for sex, as it would’ve been my period. I then went on “it’s possible it might even come early, on the Tuesday, but I’ll visualise tiny eggs rolling back up Fallopian tubes to try and make sure it doesn’t”.
I’m not sure why I went into that level of detail, but I’m glad I did, because my gynaecological chitchat seemed to pave the way for him to confess that, actually, his main reason for posponing Sunday was that he was having more sexual health symptoms.
He apologised for being flaky. I apologised for being the Plan Police, but explained how I felt. He said “don’t ever doubt how much I like seeing you, I’m just a bit low at the moment with all this business and want it to get sorted”.