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By the clicking of my thumbs, someone wicked this way comes

November 25, 2009

I went round to my brother’s house and found him hunched over himself, fingers busily working away, tongue poking out.
Thankfully, he was just texting.

You know in romantic comedies, there’s always that scene where a divorced protagonist asks his friends if things have moved on since he was last on the dating scene? A good one is from Sleepless in Seattle, when Tom Hanks’ friend sums up Nineties’ dating:

“Things are different now. First you have to be friends. Then you neck. This could go on for years. Then you have tests and do it with a condom. The good news is, you split the check.”

I’ve just had that moment. Texting! What has happened to men and mobile phones since 2002? Specifically, when did men fall in love with texting? While I was off having babies, did the government introduce a Talk Tax where men get fined if they actually open their gobs and speak on their phone? When I met DH, we used to speak on the phone almost every day, and this is not a communicative man.

When I was dating, men hated text messages. They were seen as girly – requiring diddly lickle fingers and endless empty hours, and the kind of steely concentration you only acquire by trying to keep track of characters in Hollyoaks. If you texted a man, there would be a brief silence then your phone would ring, indicating that he couldn’t be bothered to arse about with predictive nonsense and would rather get it over with in person.

Today?

Beep, beep
It’s 9am. I have a date tonight with a sandy-haired divorcee from a dating site. “Hi. Just checking u r ok and I will c u tonight? X”
Bit cocky, I thought, not signing his name. How does he know I don’t, in fact, have five different dates lined-up for tonight (except by looking at my photos)? Still, I reply. I’m a girl, my fingers were built for texting.

“Yes. See you [unspoken subtext: Look! I can be bothered to type words out in full] there at 8pm.” I hover over the X key – it seems a bit keen to send him a kiss when we’ve never met, but oh well… “xx” There, now back to work.

Beep, beep
Sigh. Mmm? “OK looking forward to it. X”

Well, isn’t that nice? Good for you. There seems to be no reply needed from me, so I don’t bother.

Beep, beep
Fucksake! “You are lucky in your interactions with people. Light conversations brighten your love-life. Beware of heavy traffic.” Ah, OK had forgotten I’d signed up to MysticMeg’s daily horoscope text service. All good though, back to work.

Beep, beep
Argh! “I will meet you outside. X X”

Reply: “OK” What does he want from me??

Beep, beep
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! “X”

This is not the first man I’d met who loves text-messaging. Several online-dating profiles of otherwise manly-seeming men have signed off with the words, “I love texting!” I flirted with a sexy policeman from UniformDating.co.uk who sent me his mobile number and instructions to, “Text me to arrange meeting up”. (Er, aren’t you too busy to text random women and shouldn’t you have hooge big fingers, built to grip nightsticks and hoodies, not ponce about finding the right letter?)

The only good texts I’ve received were from a man I met twice, from Match.com. He was a writer (so can we forgive texting here? We can) and he used to text me in French. Swoon! I didn’t understand a word, and often just used to send back jokey replies like, “Half past two?” and “Sandwiches”, but it thrilled me when he was the one making my phone double-beep.

The other day, I went round to my brother’s house and found him hunched over himself, fingers busily working away, tongue poking out. Thankfully, he was just texting. In the brief window of concentration before his iPhone beeped and I lost him again, I asked him to explain men’s new fascination for SMS.

“It’s less intrusive than speaking to a girl, as they can reply whenever they want. You can do it at work, when you might not want to get overheard. You have time to think of a funny reply. And, it’s cheap.”

Ah. There you go.

Well, I don’t like it. I like hearing a man’s voice. I like hearing him smiling, not seeing a smiley. I like the background noises that show where he is, what he’s doing. I like knowing I’ve made him laugh by hearing it, not reading a coldly clinical “LOL”. Can you imagine text sex? Surely if it was any good, you couldn’t be arsed to write it all down with one thumb, while the other one was buried God knows where?

From now on, I’m going to ignore all texts from males. This will increase my mystery, my credit-balance, and my chances of one day getting a good old-fashioned phone call.

Don’t text me photos of your erection, pls thx

November 25, 2009

For a month after DH left, I fantasised about the moment he’d return – standing on the doorstep, tears and raindrops mingling on his eyelashes, lips trembling with cold and passion, bouquet drooping in his hand. I would just open out my arms and silently let him in, enthroning him in Love and Womanly Understanding. (Then give him huge amounts of shit later, after we’d shagged.)

It’s been 59 days since DH* left. I haven’t written about those heady, messy days, and I never will. They are buried deep in my brain, though the recycling box still contains evidence (58 frozen-pizza cartons, 287 Amazon receipts for books ranging from Stop Your Divorce to Mars & Venus: Starting Over, and 9 empty Duracell packages, which we won’t talk about).

During those 59 days, I have been through the five stages of grief as identified by eminent psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:

Banging On
The first stage of grief, when the Urge to Talk is overwhelming and you don’t care who to. Friends, parents, friends again, Mum, more Mum, Dad very briefly then lots more Mum, friendly (that is, still keen) exes, the cat, dangley-earringed pretenders on Psychic Interactive… I had long, tearful conversations with middle-aged, surprised, women in the park who’d just come out to walk their dog and didn’t expect to have to give tissues to a wild-eyed, red-eyed redhead with a toddler son. In a weird way, I used to like the negative status of being A Woman Dumped. Especially with strangers, whose response would reliably be, “Oh, you poor, poor girl”, not, “Well, what do you expect when you never Hoovered?”

Dairylea
I thought I was meant to go off food during heartbreak? Why am I finding myself hefting my bulk off my computer chair at 11pm every night to waddle into the kitchen for another five rounds of Dairylea on crackers? Why can’t I stop chewing? Is this a biological response to misery? Does saliva contain soothing properties?

Make-up
Far from sobbing unwashed in a dressing gown, I used to leap into the shower at 6am and emerge for the schoolrun like Beyonce on her way to the MTV Awards. I know why I did this. It was bad enough that everyone knew DH had left me. I did not also want them to think they knew the Reason Why. (I.E., that I was traffic-stoppingly hideous.) As a smug-married, I felt secure enough to stagger to my older son’s school wearing yesterday’s make-up, last week’s hair and 2001’s trousers. You might speculate here that that’s why DH buggered off… Oh shut up, onlookers.

Through a haze of FrizzEase and spray-tan, my newly dumped brain was computing that simply Looking Lovely would solve everything. It would encourage DH to realise he’d made a mistake and want to come back. OR it would encourage other men to want me, preferably friends of DH, preferably friends of DH whom I could hump in front of DH, thus encouraging DH to want to come back. [Note: this seemed saner before I wrote it down.] OR at least I would be able to hold my head up when I passed reflective surfaces, and not just give up the Ghost dress completely.

It didn’t work. All that happened was my bedsheets looked like someone had crapped on them from all the fake-tan, and I fell over on the school run in four-inch patent heels. I fell over five minutes away from the school, which was even worse, as it meant all the Mums just saw me staggering in, crying, with ripped tights and a bleeding chin. So not only did I look Dumped, I looked Domestically Abused.

I created a very frothy online-dating advert. It displayed no sign whatsoever that I had a functioning frontal cortex. It was ideal.

Hope
For a month after DH left, I used to actively expect him to return. I used to fantasise about the actual moment it would happen – him standing on the doorstep, tears and raindrops mingling on his (long, dark, thick) eyelashes, lips trembling with cold and passion, bouquet drooping in his hand. I would just open out my arms and silently let him in, enthroning him in my love and womanly understanding. (Then give him huge amounts of shit later, after we’d shagged.)

This was because Hope came to stay. Hope was a terrible friend. She used to make me replay years-old arguments I’d had with DH, like CrimeWatch reconstructions, trying to explain why he’d gone. She used to encourage me to spend hours crafting witty text messages to him, believing that one funny message would be enough to undo seven years of silently escalating misery and get him jumping into clean pants and hopping in his van to return. In the end, I had to kill her.

One evening DH was here fixing a new toilet seat. (He offered to do any household maintenance jobs that needed doing.) (This job genuinely needed doing, but I admit the irony of it pleased me.) As casually as I could – in slinky black dress, knee-high boots and gold hoops, you know me – I asked, “Do you think you’ve done the right thing, leaving?”

Hope gripped my heart. She reached right through my new push-up Wonderbra, inside my skin and gripped my heart in her hand. She stopped it. I stood in the kitchen, blood draining from my lips, ears thudding, until DH gave his Sentence. “Yeah.”

Still keeping my voice as light as possible (Julie Andrews, whiskers, kittens), I chirped, “Why?”

DH wiped his hands on his jeans. He stood up, closed the lid of the new loo seat and flushed. “Because we just weren’t making each other happy.”

“OK!” I trilled gaily. Once she’d helped me up the stairs and inside what was now just my bedroom, and shut the door, Hope released her grip on my heart and left me to cry.

Online Dating
Once Hope had died, I felt lonely. So I did what any newly dumped 38-year-old mother of two with codependent tendencies would do, and created an online-dating profile. I had worked for online-dating companies in the past and knew what not to do (bang on about the Ex, use words like “trust”, “liars” and “across the veins in the wrist, or straight down?”), so I created a very frothy advert. It displayed no sign whatsoever that I had a functioning frontal cortex. It was ideal.

I uploaded five photos that I’d had taken for work, and published the thing with an air of defiant optimism. I have had lots of replies. I have dates lined up, with real life men. I have men texting me (more on this later) to confirm the name of the winebar they’ll meet me in. I have men ringing me for chats (after spending seven years with a man who wouldn’t speak).

And I have Paul, 33, from Hastings, sending me blurry photos of his erection at 2am on a Tuesday morning.

Things are looking up. Literally.