I decided to be celibate for a while, to get my head together and get over a breakup.
Then, about 2 days after me making this announcement to my friends and family, I unexpectedly got a message from a guy.
It was a guy I met in a club, a few weeks earlier. He was the tall, bearded South African man I mentioned in my post about phone mishaps, because I thought something went wrong when I gave him my number.
My phone was in my coat pocket in the cloakroom, so I just told him my number and he gave me a missed call so I had his.
When I left the club, and got my phone out of my coat, there was no missed call. I immediately assumed he had got my number wrong and that was the end of it.
I was a bit disappointed really, because I had enjoyed kissing him. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but that club night has a Facebook page and I looked on there to see if there was any way of reconnecting (they post photos of people on the dance floor each week).
Then, a few weeks later, I woke up on a Saturday morning and saw I had a message from someone who wasn’t in my contacts.
“Hi [Dater Analysis]. We met a while ago at the underworld in Camden. Apologies for not getting in touch sooner: I had some personal stuff come up. Anyway I hope you are well. Sorry I was such a handful that night (I had had far too much to drink!) Let me know if you’d like to have a drink or two with me at some point (I’ll avoid having as much as last time.) cheers. [Bearded South African Man].”
I have no idea what happened with the missed call, then. Maybe he had no signal when he called me, and it didn’t go through. We were in a basement underneath a pub.
I was pleased he got in touch.
I also thought it was sweet he apologised for being a ‘handful’. I couldn’t remember him doing anything that bad, apart from having roving hands. A couple of times I had to fish his hands out of my bra.
I relied “Hey, it’s a lovely surprise to hear from you!
Totally understand about personal stuff coming up. Hope things are OK now.
“You weren’t a handful at all! You might’ve had mildly busy hands but that’s an occupational hazard when kissing boys in clubs.
A drink sounds good. How’s your weekend so far?”
He replied saying “Shit! I’ll try to keep that in mind next time I kiss a boy in a club… ”
I thought that was really funny. Then he said something about working over the weekend.
Then he continued “I have a couple fairly loosely planned social engagements.”
Loosely planned social engagements?
Why are you talking like an alien that’s just finished reading a book about humans?
A few more messages went back and forth, over the next week or so. We arranged to meet for a drink the following Sunday afternoon.
As the week progressed, I started to have mixed feelings.
On one hand, I had decided to have some time off dating, so maybe this wasn’t a good idea.
On the other hand, I did want to see him. We didn’t talk much in the club, but he seemed both really nice, and really cool. He was also definitely handsome, even if I don’t like beards, and a good kisser.
I thought OK, I’ll come out of sex retirement for that.
From his texts, he seemed pretty funny, interesting and kind.
However, he also had a bit of a weird turn of phrase that occasionally made him sound like a robot.
Then another dilemma came up; a few messages in, we said what our jobs were. He does something very artistic and creative involving computers.
I told him I’m a therapist who works with people with anxiety and depression.
He said “Holy shit, that’s crazy. I got diagnosed both those things two weeks ago.”
(Brenda from Bristol, being told there was going to be another General Election.)
That wasn’t really my reaction.
Everyone I’ve ever been out with – even people I’ve just had a few dates with – they’ve all had mental health problems. I don’t think it’s that remarkable, I think it would actually be hard to find someone who hasn’t had some kind of struggle at some point, even if they didn’t get a diagnosis or treatment.
The statistic often quoted is that one in four people experience mental health problems, but the Guardian recently reported a survey that found it was two thirds of people. I’m not surprised – life is really, really hard, and we’ve ended up with these strange brains after millenia of evolution, that don’t fit perfectly with modern life.
I think people just find it easy to tell me about their mental health on dates, because of what my job is.
If I did encounter someone who has never experienced anything like this, I’m not sure how much we’d have in common.
I certainly don’t go out of my way to look for mentally ill people to date, and if people start telling me about their mental health before I’ve had a chance to get to know them (which the Bearded South African Man was running the risk of doing), it puts me off a bit. It’s not like I flick through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and wank myself off to it.
It’s more that I find qualities like depth, kindness and humbleness attractive, and those things tend to overlap with having suffered a bit.
I do find vulnerability a bit attractive too. I don’t know why that is. I fancied Roger Federer much more when he cried after winning Wimbledon the first time.
I guess when a man seems vulnerable, it’s easier to imagine closeness, than when he seems super-strong.
I’m obviously not going to judge anyone for having a mental health problem. I work in mental health and I have had my own problems.
It’s just that every relationship I’ve had, the other person’s mental health has had a big impact.
Of the people I’ve written about on here, Whippersnapper felt he couldn’t be with anyone, because of his body image. I broke up with Matthew because he had anger management problems. I didn’t want to go on any more dates with Daniel because he brought back every conversation to being sectioned. Even Young Jaguar had social anxiety.
My ex-boyfriend who died had problems with depression and alcohol. My first proper boyfriend had OCD.
Sometimes things haven’t felt equal between us, or they’ve taken their problems out on me, or not been able to give me what I need. (I’m sure all these things also come up in relationships where no one has a mental health problem too.)
So when the Bearded South African Man (BSAM) said he had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety two weeks ago, I thought Of course you have.
I guess the dream would be to meet someone who maybe experienced mental health problems a few years ago, but now they’re OK and we’d need equal amounts of looking after.
A few days before the date, we had a bit of a weird text conversation.
It had been going well. We’d been having fun flirting via emojis. This had escalated from us using the aubergine and melon emojis flirtatiously (🍆🍑🍉) to us sending suggestive photos of our dinner ingredients (a cucumber, a strategically placed banana and two tangerines, and then some salmon).
Then, the next morning we were texting before my late shift. He said he didn’t want to complicate our vegetable-based erotica, but he had some questions about mental health. He had been referred to a similar version of the service I work for, and wanted to ask me about this.
I said “Yeah, it seems obvious if there’s stuff I know about, that you want to know about, I should tell you anything I can to help!
“But I’m also cautious about wanting to see you as the whole person you are, and not wanting to jumble you up with how I feel about people at work or let you get defined by mental health in my head.”
I suggested we just had a ring-fenced five minutes for me to give him mental health advice, and then we could try and keep things separate from the vegetable erotica until we knew each other better.
The conversation ended up going a bit weird. I thought he’d ask me something specific and concrete, like “what does CBT stand for?”
But I’m not sure what he was asking me. He sent me some messages about how he’s felt about previous therapists he’s seen, such as ‘thinking he’s more intelligent than them’.
Telling me your problems might not be a boner-killer, but complaining about your last therapist is.
Oh dear. I thought, as I tried to work out how to respond.
The worst thing is he had a therapist that kept getting his name wrong, and calling him something else. I totally agree with him – that is really bad.
But now, for some reason, I keep calling him the same wrong name in my head.