It sounds like a scene out of a sitcom: a woman patiently waits at the bar as the guy she’s supposed to be on a date with scrambles out the bathroom window. I like to think the guy I went out with used the window, but he probably just waltzed out the front door since it was next to the bathroom. However he made his exit, it was pretty rude of him to leave me there…
It was before Tinder. It’s hard to imagine such a time exists now! This happened during the days of text dating, using one of those weird text dating services on my old brick-style Nokia. I got chatting to a guy—I can’t remember his name so let’s call him Colin. You couldn’t even send pictures back then so I had no idea what Colin looked like.
We chatted for a while. By this, I mean that I typed reasonable amounts using my chunky buttons on my chunky phone. I knew I had to do the “safe” thing and meet in a neutral place, as well as tell people where I was going and who I was with. I told my parents. Probably not the best option, but I was still living with them at the time so was a necessity.
We met in a quiet local pub. I’d never really been on a proper date before. Before that, I’d been in a long-term relationship with a guy I met to school so I was terrified. Colin turned out to be OK but I didn’t really like him. We made polite conversation about work and family and he seemed mostly normal, maybe just a little boring. Then we got talking about dating and exes—not a great discussion on the first date, but it naturally went that way. He didn’t seem to have been on many dates and he seemed quite edgy and nervous. He told me he’d been engaged to his last girlfriend but it was almost a year since it ended. Fair enough.
He excused himself to go to the bathroom. I waited a while, sipping my drink. He had over half a pint left. I got out my trusty Nokia and played Snake for a while (life without smartphones was crazy, right?) After five minutes, I wondered why he was taking so long, but then I thought that maybe he was just taking a dump. I wouldn’t judge him for that.
I must’ve waited about 20 minutes. I think I knew after 10 minutes that he wasn’t coming back, I just didn’t know what to do next. Other customers and staff started glancing at me, so I just pretended it was planned and that I was enjoying my drink alone. Inside, I’d already made the connection that the front door was right next to the toilets and that he could’ve easily slipped out.
I remembered I’d seen his car when he arrived. I finished my drink (I considered finishing his too but I don’t drink beer) and hurried out to the car park, avoiding looking at the other customers and staff. Once I was out there, I noticed the space where he’d been parked was empty. Busted.
I just burst into fits of laughter. I just couldn’t believe it. Who does that in real life? I was surprised that I wasn’t angry or upset, but I guess we weren’t really that into each other that much. If anything, I was more intrigued by the whole thing, wondering what happened to make him leave so suddenly. Surely I wasn’t that bad? Was I completely undateable? I was laughing about it but I was still going through the things we’d been talking about in my head to try and figure out what I’d done wrong.
I didn’t like him anyway, so why did it matter? Even though I wasn’t into him, I still wanted him to like me. I’d always been the short, chubby, unpopular girl at school and nobody ever fancied me. I wondered if I’d be one of those people who has a lifetime of disastrous dates. I’d have some funny stories to tell, at least.
I got a text two hours later from Colin. It was an apology. He said that talking about his ex made him realize he still wasn’t over her. I was his first date since the breakup, apparently. To be honest, I was shocked. Considering they’d broken up a year ago, I thought he was well over it. He said he’d started crying in the bathroom and was too embarrassed to come back.
I felt sorry for him, but we clearly weren’t going to go on another date. I replied saying I understood, but it was pretty harsh of him just to leave. He apologized again and he left it at that. Admittedly, I thought it was a bit pathetic at the time that he wasn’t over his breakup yet.
The loss of a relationship is different for everyone. Now, years later, having worked for relationship counseling organization for a long time, I understand that people deal with the end of a relationship in completely different ways. It’s like a form of grief, and we all deal with loss differently. Since that day I’ve been dumped by text, stood up, ghosted, and generally just encountered some really inappropriate, gross men.
I always try to remember that I have no idea what’s going on for them in their lives. What’s making them act the way they do? I’m not justifying bad behavior, I’m trying to take a compassionate view. But I guess it’s also better not to blame myself and not to obsess over the way they act. Dating is hard. Relationships are hard. We’re all trying to navigate our way through these difficult things without getting hurt, so we just need to cut each other some slack sometimes. Ultimately, I felt sorry for Colin and hope he at least managed to finish his pint on his next date.
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