New Rules

Remember how I told myself – and the internet fraternity – that I had purposed not to get emotionally attached to a man in 2017? If you don’t, I do. Even though it didn’t feel easy to do at the time, mostly because I was freshly out of a relationship of over 6 years (long distance, I now feel the need to add), I was putting it all out there. I was relaying my inner desires to the universe because I had also recently come to accept that a lot of what I confessed out loud usually came to pass.

That is one resolution I failed to meet. This, for me, meant more than just managing to remain celibate for another year. It was about learning to be okay without the validation that comes with having a man who makes you feel good about yourself, and especially on those off days when work is slow, when your mother is upset with you again, when you’ve missed five whole days of jogging, when you deleted another email about a masters program overseas.

Armed with a celibacy partner and a refresher course on embracing vulnerability, inspired by Brene Brown, I went out into the world. I made more time for morning runs to keep my hormones in check, I ate clean, I kept the company of female friends almost exclusively, I drank lots of water, I stopped watching Scandal and started catching up on Criminal Minds.

And then I met a man. One cold and wet Thursday night while out for a jazz gig with two girlfriends. We shared an Uber home, he walked through the pouring rain to get me French fries – he was in his best woolen suit while I was in something underwhelming paired with my only large pair of running shoes. He sent me a text one month later, I responded and gave him a hard time about being a d*** to my friend, he invited me over for dinner. We cooked and ate and really hit it off. It was fun for all of maybe one month before I noted the pattern I have been attempting to get away from all my life: largely unavailable.

Here’s the back story. I fell in love with a wonderful man a year before he was scheduled to leave the country for his studies abroad. We had both decided, albeit half-heartedly, against a long distance relationship. But just before he left we went for it because we were young and in love and certain that I would be joining him in Europe anyway. Life threw us a pile of bricks and his program was deferred and I lost all hope in love and a life with him. So we broke up after almost 8 years together. That was about a year ago. I had an intense fling that same year, but we were both weighed down by baggage and after a few really good weeks, that dissolved into a painful puddle of awkward avoidance. Another crush from two years earlier made a brief appearance and helped make a mess of an already properly messed up situation and when this last man had left his mark, I was done. I swore off men and sex.

When I met the suit, he was a good friend’s date for the evening. I liked his friend better than I did him, but changed my mind the minute I learned that his friend was my fellow tribesman. New guy turned out to share one of my hardest-to-hide quirks: a keenness for clean and neat spaces and closets. It was lust at first house visit. And the ninja could cook. He was also a fit and regular runner who did not drink. He texted in full words and sentences, he had a great sense of humour, he did not once try to get handsy, nothing happened when we shared a bed (twice) and his taste in music was decent.

Then the clouds gathered.

I saw all the signs. The disappearing acts, the promises to “try and make time” for little things like hanging out at his house and watching old episodes of Coke Studio, the tales of hangout with colleagues and the other guys – out of town or at a local club. I kept telling myself that I should cut him loose, but he was such fun when we did meet up. And there was no pressure to have sex or put parts of him in my mouth or any of that scary stuff so I stayed on. The worst part was how I kept telling myself that I have always had a thing for workaholics. Over and over, I made excuses to quiet the building rage and frustration.

Then one day I snapped and said that I was done making plans which always seemed to fall through and there I was wishing I had not said anything until I’d collected my sneakers from his house. But an almost road accident brought us back together, because I am still a sucker for the good-and-faithful friend title. That evening, while we cuddled on my couch, something in me changed. I became acutely aware of what I was doing with this man and why. Self awareness is a very good thing, but she is also a b****. So I gave him a week to get back to his old habits. He took two.

Texts are responded to promptly. Plans to meet are never initiated, but talk about future road trips and nights at his favourite club are brought up. Suggestions to meet up are usually met with responses such as “I’ll let you know” and “Let us see how the day goes”. Morning and evening salutations come in whenever you’re both online. Small talk and flirting are a ritual, but no personal information is ever willingly divulged. If and when you meet, it is literally flashing with scenes from Sleeping With Other People – rich conversation, heavy flirting, good food and light petting only at the end of hangout.

But I’m calling bull****. Because nothing annoys me more than emotional constipation and emotional unavailability. And yes, no one promised anyone anything, but I made my intentions clear and I told you what I wanted. Then you, my nigga, led me on and delivered none of what we had both agreed to as basic expectations of human interaction. Such as civility and respect.

If you didn’t know, now you do. And you’re welcome.

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