Just before Christmas, on a night out with some friends, I found myself in a pub I haven’t been in for years. Unsure as to whether I had arrived before my mates, I wandered the length of the bar to see if they were lurking in a darkened corner. The pub was a blur of people, but one person at the bar seemed to stand out in relief. There, trying to get the barman’s attention was an ex. Not just any ex, but a man who dumped me. The only man who has ever dumped me. My heart did that crazy leap-into-the-throat thing when you get a genuine shock as I was in mid-strut down the pub and was heading right for him. As I got nearer, it was clear he hadn’t seen me, and although I couldn’t get past him quick enough, part of me wanted him to catch my eye. Why? I don’t honestly know. It’s not as though we have mutual friends or our paths regularly cross. The last I heard, he wasn’t even living in Ireland. And here he was a decade on, idling in a pub, with me willing him to look my way.
We went out for about two months a decade ago, and he was as emotionally stunted as they come. An ex-boarding school boy (oh yes, mucho repression here), I thought I could be the one to crack his frosty, intellectual exterior. We worked in the same large company and our dates consisted purely of meeting in the pub. Our backgrounds were very different – he was quite the posh boy – but we liked the same music, had similar views on politics and the world and he was interested in writing. He was quite cute, if a bit geeky, but I really fancied him.
Alas, the sex was pretty dull. He never made me come, not once in eight weeks of going out. I felt like drawing him a diagram and a route map to the clitoris, but decided against it out of sensitivity. He also made one of the most off-the-cuff and unforgettably hurtful remarks to me one night while we were lying in bed in his flat, probably after some forgettable sex. Then after eight weeks of vague dating, we arranged to meet in our usual pub in town. When I arrived, all his flatmates were also there, so it wasn’t the date I had been expecting. Especially not when standing at the bar, surrounded by the emotional buffer of his pals, he told me that he didn’t think we should see each other any more. I will never forget how humiliated I felt. How could anyone be so spineless as to need a ring of friends around them as they dumped a woman while standing at a crowded bar?
I’m ashamed to say that wasn’t our last physical encounter. There were three or four more nights where we met up (one was arranged, the others we just bumped into each other) and ended up spending the night together again. I hated myself for this and I’m normally someone who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and there I was letting this man walk all over me. Deep down I knew we didn’t have a future and that we weren’t crazy about each other, but something kept drawing me back. Looking at it now, it was my first real experience of rejection, and my ego obviously thought I could win him back.
Seeing him again in that bar after close to ten years brought back some unpleasant memories, and yet strangely, I wanted him to clock me. To catch my eye and see that in that Gloria Gaynor way, I had survived and could indeed live without him by my side. But heck, a small part of me wanted him to gaze my way and think “feck, look what I passed up”. The whole encounter reminded me why I never bothered with commitment phobic boarding school boys again – and that the man I’m with now is worth about 1000 of him.