The morning after my 5th date with Whippersnapper, we both got ready for work. It was the first time he had stayed over on a weekday. I’m never usually that happy in the morning.
Just as we were about to leave the flat, I went upstairs to get my shoes. I noticed he’d left yesterday’s shirt and his phone charger on the bed. I was about to pick them both up and take them back down to him, when I thought about how good he always smells, and that his shirt probably smells pretty good too.
Is it very weird if I sort of hang on to that shirt until I next see him?
I went back downstairs. “Here’s your phone charger.” I said.
When I got home that night, I stood in my bedroom and buried my face in his shirt.
Oh my GOD.
It was an absolute pheromone fest. I had to sit down. It smelt of his aftershave which I approved of (which he told me he pretty much only wears when he’s seeing me). I haven’t sniffed anything that hard since my cocaine days.
We exchanged some really nice texts over the next few days. He said “when I woke up and saw how happy you were that I was in your bed, it gave me a firework display in my chest”. He was unknowingly talking about the moment I’d realised I was falling in love.
We arranged to see each other the following Tuesday. We were conscious it would be the last time he could stay over for a while, because my ex-boyfriend was moving back in. At that stage we weren’t sure how long Matthew would be back. WS lives with his parents, and doesn’t seem to bring girls back, so we thought we’d have to be either patient or creative with sex for a while (abstinence or pub toilets).
Then, the Sunday before, I didn’t hear from him all day, until the evening. He texted me saying he was in a ‘horrendous mood’, because he had yet another sexual health problem.
This time, it seemed like the treatment for his genital warts had caused his previous skin infection to come back. This was the infection he’d had in between our third and fourth dates. It’s an infection of the foreskin called ‘balanitis’ (since I met him, my internet search history is basically just NHS websites about genital problems). It’s actually not a sexually transmitted disease – it’s apparently quite common in young teenage boys who aren’t sexually active yet, whose penises (or hygiene regimes) aren’t developed enough to wash under their foreskin properly (WS and I have never discussed this aspect of balanitis, but I’m sure his penis hygiene is exemplary).
I think in his case, it’s caused by having sensitive skin and being prone to other things like eczema. It can be pretty serious; last time he got it, he couldn’t wee and was told if he’d waited any longer to see a doctor, he might’ve needed an emergency procedure.
He seemed understandably despondent and frustrated. As well as the physical pain and practicalities of not being able to have sex, there’s also the shame and stigma of having something wrong with your sex organs. I said therapisty things like
- I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It’s so completely understandable to feel the way you are. You’re handling it so well.
- I hope you’re being kind to yourself and looking after yourself until this passes
and non-therapisty things like
- when this is all over, I’m going to shag you really hard
- Maybe one of your ex-lovers has a voodoo doll of you and keeps doing horrible things to its genitals. We’ll just have to have such good sex that it bursts into flames and breaks the spell.
(I don’t know what I was expecting from that google image search, but it certainly wasn’t this! Why does this exist! Terrifying).
It seemed like by the end of the working day on Monday, I’d managed to cheer him up with a combination of nonsense and anecdotes about my day (a pigeon accidentally got on my tube train).
But then on Monday night, the night before he was due to come round, he texted me asking if we could just meet in central London instead of him staying over, because he would be coming straight from the clinic and didn’t think he’d be good enough company.
I felt disappointed really. I had just bought some new underwear, in honour of him staying over. I wasn’t that bothered about sex, which I’d already expected would be off the table, but I’d been so looking forward to spooning actual him again, instead of just his shirt.
I was already feeling a bit shaken up about my ex-boyfriend returning, and seeing WS had been getting me through the week.
However, I kind of understood where he was coming from, and said it was OK.
Tuesday morning, I was at work. As I waited for my computer to start up, I texted my friend saying “I guess he could’ve cancelled tonight altogether, so at least he didn’t do that”. At that exact moment, a message flashed up on my screen from him. Cancelling. He said he wasn’t in a good place and didn’t want me to see him in that state.
Luckily none of my colleagues were in the office at that moment, as I sat and cried at my desk for a minute. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I had felt so excited about seeing him.
Then I had to pull myself together as I had patients to see all morning.
That evening WS was apologetic, but explained he was too embarrassed to meet me straight from the clinic with loads of cream and pills. I would’ve understood it better if the previous week he hadn’t done exactly that – come straight from the clinic with lots of cream and pills – and had a great time. I felt like I’d been at the very top end of the ‘Understanding about sexual health’ spectrum.
I sent him a message the next day, trying to explain how I felt, in a nice way.
Later that week I was telling my work colleague that WS had cancelled again, because of balanitis.
“Does it cause pain?” He asked.
“When he cancels? Yes, it does!” I replied, clutching my chest. “It really does!”
“I meant does balanitis cause pain.”
I struggled to get through the week. As I wrote in the last post, I felt quite unsettled and jumpy because Matthew was moving back in, and I was starting to accept that he kind of bullied me. Also, I never got over the death of my ex-boyfriend in 2012, and the fact I broke up with him right before he died. Having conversations with Matthew about who was getting what kitchen utensil was causing horrible bereavement flashbacks.
And now, I was falling in love with Whippersnapper, and it was wonderful when we were together, and he constantly sent wonderful messages when we were apart, but out of 6 dates, he had postponed the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th ones.
Would I ever be able to rely on him? Or was it completely understandable for him to cancel? Was I being unreasonable?
Plus I had to move out of my flat soon and the flat I was buying had fallen through, so I had no idea where I was going to live.
It was a bit of a mess really. Difficult things at work which I would normally take in my stride, like a harrowing case involving a dead baby, seemed too much to bear.
Somehow I got to the weekend, and spent a lot of it drinking Strongbow in bed.
Matthew was moving back in late on the Sunday night.
I was seeing WS for our rescheduled 6th date on Sunday afternoon. We were meeting in east London for a Sunday lunch. He had found a pub that used to be owned by the Krays for us to go to.
There was signal failure on the district line, which meant he waited at Whitechapel for ages for me, and I then waited at Bethnal Green for ages for him.
I stood by the ticket barriers and waited. I checked Twitter and tried to arrange myself in a nonchalant position. I tried to work out if I looked more casual with my coat done up or undone.
When he appeared at the ticket barriers, I felt so happy to see him. He was wearing his achingly cool leather jacket.
We hugged, and started to walk to the pub.
As we walked down the street, we discussed his current penis status. He cheerily told me the cream was really helping and it was nearly better. The cream he had been prescribed was similar to something I had recommended, so he kept calling me a genius.
At first, I didn’t quite feel as comfortable as usual with him. I think it was partly because I was still a bit pissed off, but mainly because of Matthew. We walked down the street, and suddenly I gasped and stopped dead. I thought I was about to crash into a bus stop. When I actually looked at it, I realised it was more than a metre away.
We turned down a side street, and he unexpectedly gave me a slightly awkward, sideways hug. I instantly felt about 50% better.
We got to the pub we had been heading for, but it was completely packed and there wasn’t a single free table. Also, I’m not sure what we were expecting because of the connection to the Krays (I think I was expecting it to be an exact replica of the Queen Vic) but it was just a normal, quite pretentious pub.
We decided to go back and find somewhere else. We had a brief kiss as we walked back down a quiet street, and I felt another 25% better.
We walked past a group of people who were playing really loud music and had set up some kind of stall for fixing bikes, and we talked about how much we loved living in London.
Eventually we got settled in a nice quiet pub. I went to the bar and it took a really long time to get served. I wanted to moan about that, but WS always seems so cheery and upbeat, I thought I’d better be good-natured about it.
I sat down with a our drinks.
“They took forever to serve you!” He said.
Oh great! I can moan with you!
After a few minutes of normal chat, I felt the best I had felt all week. I thanked him for cheering me up. I told him he had ‘infectious cheeriness’.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the only thing you’ve got that’s infectious, is it?” I added, putting a hand on his knee to counter-balance the joke. He laughed.
We ate our roast dinners and talked about all kinds of things. I was having such a great time.
A sofa became free, and as we had finished eating, he suggested we move across and sit there. I was really pleased, as it meant we could sit closer together.
We sat down and kissed.
“Every time our lips lock, I get a boner.” He said. Rakishly charming.
We were being the really annoying, snogging couple, but we didn’t feel very bad about it.
We talked about why it had been a tough week for me.
“I really care about you.” He said.
“Aw, I really care about you too.”
Then he added “I really care about you,”, kind of unnecessarily but it gave me clouds in my stomach.
As it got later in the evening, he said he had to go, as his dad was waiting for him to get back so they could watch a football game together.
I thought about what was waiting for me at home.
“OK. It’s one week. I can get through this.”