How To Have A Romantic Weekend With Someone Who's Already Dumped You
The Debrief: ...and also appears to hate you
It was, if not the most romantic thing I’ve ever done, then certainly the most impulsive. After two dates with a guy I’d met online (Guardian Soulmates, fyi) he asked me to join him on a journo trip to Venice – and on the third time of asking, I said yes. I booked flights. They weren’t cheap, but given the success of our previous encounters it seemed worth the investment – I mean, by the end of our first date he was joking about marriage and kids names. I fancied him (a once-in-a-blue-moon event), and while not wholly sold by the marriage comments, there was no denying that he was definitely keen.
In the end, as you’ve no doubt guessed, it turns out he – definitely – wasn’t. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, and I’ll share my most wise words first: if you’ve only met a guy twice, probably don’t go away with him in the first place. But if you do happen to make the same mistake as I did this summer, here’s what you should you know:
Read the signs – and if you can’t, listen to your friends’ honest translations
Though endorsing my newfound spontaneity, my friends were less keen on carpe diem Clare’s maiden voyage being with someone I’d only met twice. ‘We have mutual friends on Facebook. He’s normal,’ I assured them happily. Fast forward two weeks, during which the previously constant stream of texts dried to nothing, and they were the ones assuring me all was well. Fast forward to four days before V-day, when the sum total of comms was a flat, brief text-change about his work trip – and they resumed their initial argument: write the booked tickets off to experience, and don’t go.
Like, if he doesn’t text you once in the preceding fortnight? And then suggests you go ‘as friends’ four days before you fly? Not keen
Finally, my repeated questions about transport arrangements and a tentative ‘woooo not long now’ text elicited the following reply: ‘I’m super-excited about going to Venice with you, I really like you, I think you’re super great – but do you mind if we go as friends without romantic presh?’ I nicely pointed out that having not met as friends, seen each other as friends, or booked the trip to Venice as friends, that could be the teeniest, tiniest bit weird. Four days later, despite the best advice of friends, family, and my own good sense, I was at Gatwick as a friend. My suggestion that we treat Venice as a casual extended date fell on deaf ears, and I relented, swayed by the thought of gondolas, gelato, the fear of wasting my 170 quid flight and the prospect of pissing him off a little – and, also, the hope that, deep down, that he might yet change his mind when we were on the Bridge of Sighs gazing out across the sunset-streaked Venetian lagoon…
He won’t change his mind. In fact, he’ll only get nastier
In the event, dear reader, friendship – even basic civility – was beyond the man’s capacity. The insults took some time to arrive, but when they did they flowed thick and fast. By day two, I could say nothing right, or do anything but wrong. I was ‘a complete disgrace’ (said at the table of a fancy restaurant when I realised my sunglasses were on my head); I ‘loved tat and trinkets, and would probably end up with a house filled with china cats’ (I looked in the window of a murano glass shop); and, my favourite, I should ‘save my enthusiasm for something actually exciting’, and was ‘like a woman who’s just woken up from a coma, who can’t go too far from hospital for fear she gets overexcited’ – these last gems spat out every time I expressed mild delight at say, an array of perfect pastries in a café display, a quaint church or anything else, y’know, Venetian. Nor did the abuse stop there.
So don’t even attempt conversation
I had too many cousins. I had not enough friends – and the friends that I did have who had sent tips for our trip, he ‘probably wouldn’t like or enjoy their suggestions’. These suggestions, in one case, were cafes, bars, viewpoints and boats my mate had found in her year of living in Venice as a local. ‘I want to be a flaneur,’ he replied – a word he used repeatedly to describe himself, and which translates roughly as ‘pretentious twat with a strong narcissistic streak’ – but do Google it and form your own opinion. Why this conceit precluded ascending the little-known astrological clock tower for one of the best and quietest views of the city and bay, I have simply no idea.
Call me naïve – or, to coin his phrase, give me a choice between ‘a) quite naïve; b) very naïve; or c) all of the naïve in the world’ (fired off because – wait for it – I’d not given much thought to how the MGM lion roar was recorded), but I have faith in human nature. School bullies aside, I’ve not really encountered sadistic behaviour outside of the news. Readers currently asking themselves, ‘Is she totally spineless?’ I hear you. I’m thinking it, too, but at the time I was in a city I didn’t know with a man whose capacity for verbal cruelty seemed boundless.
Jot down the worse of it. This is dinner party gold
By day two I was making notes – finding it a small mercy that, in between grinning and bearing each missile, I could pretend I was in it for the story. I’d been prompted by the sight of the second bedroom we stayed in: a love nest, by any other description, with a his-and-hers shower, red, black and zebra-print décor, prosecco on ice and fornicating couples on the wall. Suddenly the contrast between what I’d expected from this holiday and what it had become struck home, in all it’s tragi-comedy. I was in the honeymoon suite, in one of the most romantic city’s in the world, with a man who actively appeared to hate me. It was horrific. It was also (happily I could acknowledge this, even at the time) absolutely hilarious.
Don’t break the hotel room
A rule for life, this. But also handy if you find yourself sharing a bed with a man who doesn’t want to be in the same country as you, let alone the same hotel room. We’d just returned from a painfully awkward post-prandial walk and were searching for the bedside light. A chain of crystal beads with a large red tassel at the bottom hung from the ceiling, serving no apparent purpose. ‘I don’t think that’s it,’ he said. ‘Well,’ I replied, brightly, ‘there’s only one way to find out.’
It came off the ceiling, clattered to the floor and broke into a thousand pieces which bounced around the room noisily. ‘I. Fucking. Told. You. It. Was. Not. A. Light. Switch,’ he growled furiously. I went silent. ‘Are you sulking?’ he asked. ‘Well, I do feel a bit humiliated. Partly coz I just broke the room; mainly because of this situation.’ I gestured to the yawning gap of bed between us. ‘I could not have made it more clear,’ he fumed – and the next second, loudly ‘fell asleep’.
Don’t, for God’s sake, ask what prompted him to change his mind about you
In the end I asked the direct question: what prompted him to change his mind about me? He knew, he explained, after our third date – but by that point he’d ‘invited me to fucking Venice’, so he was screwed. ‘The conversation was stilted. It was too much effort.’ He had explained this in his texts, he argued – and I was too upset to point out he hadn’t, remotely. The night ended with me in tears, and him telling me to stop making it about myself. ‘You’ll go on in your innocent way and fall for the next guy who asks. I’m the one,’ he continued bitterly and in all seriousness, ‘who will never love again.’
The flight home will be awkward. This is your time to exact quiet revenge
Don’t attempt conversation. Conversational balls will get shot down, like mine were, with, ‘Well, isn’t that fucking fascinating. I suggest you investigate that immediately.’ Try not to sit next to them (a guy moved up so ‘you two can sit together’, much to our mutual horror). But, if you do, make their flight living hell. Are they doing a crossword? Point out the answers merrily over their shoulder, at intervals. Are they reading? Ask what the book’s about. Go to the loo at least once every half hour – and say ‘girl stuff’ when they look pissed off. If you’re in the aisle seat, politely make sure the plane has fully disembarked before moving out their way.
The trip itself limped on for another ten hours, in much the same fashion; my homily ends here. As for the moral – well, I started writing this piece as a cautionary tale against dating online. Then I thought, ‘This man is probably as representative of men online as a groomer.’ Yes, going away so soon was mad, but as my brother said, ‘It could have been fantastic. It should have been fine. You couldn’t have predicted a bloody nightmare.’ So, in the end, the story was really all I got out of it. If revenge is a dish best served cold, I will be dining out on this guy for years.
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