It may seem odd in this day and age, but social media really creeps me out. I have written about this before, but it still gets to me. I noticed an email in my inbox last night, from a friend who I have not heard from in years.
That was nice.
But as I read her email, she indicated that she had seen me in a photo and noticed I was mentioned by another friend on a Instagram post. Apparently some sort of throw back picture.
That sort of freaked me out.
Even if you take many pains and beg all your friends and associates not to publish anything about you on social media, it seems to be impossible to eliminate pictures and information about you being published in the public domain.
That might be ok for most people…but it unnerves me.
Jack and I have had numerous discussions about social media. He respects my feelings about it, but he has pointed out to me that you cannot completely control all personal information – people think of you, talk about you, thoughtlessly pass on sensitive information about you across the dinner table, in a pub, at a party…none of us really have any idea how often other people talk about us. Hopefully much of what is said is good, but I guess we all know that some may have a negative view of us, or a embarrassing detail or story to share.
Once burnt (although it was near fatal first degree burns in my case) twice shy (although I am admittedly more than shy – I am super scared!)
Jack is at it again. I cooked some nice things, and baked some even nicer things over the weekend because some good friends of ours came over to work with us. I made some pretty decent nosh. All ate and enjoyed and as the chef/baker it was a very satisfying experience.
But then it all became rather weird when my sister texted me to say that the cake I had baked looked amazing. I was confused for a while…and then I realized….
He just cannot help himself. He had taken photographs of the food I had prepared and posted it on to his Instagram account.
As somebody who does not use Instagram or other social media platforms, I find that just completely bizarre. How do I feel that Jack’s hundreds of thousands of followers can see my cooking/baking? I am glad that he made no mention of me. He just posted the photos on their own. But still….
We had a little chat about it in the evening and I did tell him that I just find it odd. I might not find it as odd if it was on a smaller scale – like a private group on WhatsApp or something. But no, his public Instagram account. Jack asked me why I share my thoughts on WordPress. I confessed there is some kind of satisfaction from putting things out there, even though it is mostly complete strangers who see what I have to share. Jack said that sharing my innermost thoughts in the public domain is much odder than sharing photos of cake and dinner with strangers.
He has a very good point. Which is why I should listen to him and be reasonable. He enjoys communicating with people who are interested in his activities. A lot of what he posts is very positive – community, national and international projects he is involved in. He shares things he knows will make other people smile and feel good. He finds that satisfying. He has lots of feedback – way more than I or any other blogger receive through WordPress. He enjoys all of that.
The two of us have different opinions and feelings about social media – but I need to respect and love him because he has found a positive way to use it. Even though I may not really like the idea that all those strangers saw my cooking/baking….I love that Jack felt so proud of what I had made he wanted to share it. I perhaps ought to be flattered that by the end of the day there were tens of thousands of likes on the image of the cake I baked.
I have a very strong dislike of social media….but I do love Jack who seems to enjoy social media in a way I find odd…but he loves me even though he finds it odd that I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings on WordPress in a way that he finds odd.
I have noticed an aspect of my personality that has changed in the past…well twenty months or so.
I am going to explain this or it will sound terrible…
…I have always been sensitive and caring. I am still sensitive to other people’s feelings. I empathise with others, feel compassion, do what I can to alleviate their suffering and there are other aspects which I consider a positive aspect of sensitivity that I never want to abandon.
However, ever since Jack and I made peace and started secretly dating (before we let our family and friends know) and also throughout the Pandemic – and believe you me I have had to deal with patients exhibiting extreme behavior many times – I am less sensitive about the way I am viewed or being treated by others.
Perhaps it is an inner security that comes from the peace of mind and heart Jack has brought me, and also the conviction that I am doing everything I am aware of to be a decent human being, living by the values my parents ingrained in me, including, kindness, generosity and empathy.
I now know this and sorry if it sounds a little dogmatic but….PEOPLE will form an opinion of you fairly quickly, and sadly that first impression is sometimes not as great as we would like. Often their view is influenced by what somebody else has to say about you.
Some people will get to know you over time and realize they perhaps misjudged you, and they will adjust their viewpoint. I love the process of getting to know someone, cultivating a friendship, clearing up misunderstandings and becoming even more fond of each other.
Yet I know that some people will just stick to their misguided assumptions. Views and opinions often don’t stay in between a person’s ears though…they tend to spill out of their mouth or end up in print on social media.
During the past eighteen months, I have seen some lousy things said about me on social media, and they were all by people I have never met. People who do not know me, formed an opinion based on their feelings about Jack having a girlfriend and decided to be cruel in the public domain.
In the past that destroyed me….it chipped away at my confidence and my joy in life. But slowly slowly, Jack has imparted some inner imperviousness to me. It is almost as if I DON’T CARE!
I will always always care about people and remain sensitive to their wellbeing, however….what I am saying is….people who say and write words designed to belittle you or make a fool out of you – I just ignore them now. If they only see me as some kind of joke for their entertainment – well – they can suit themselves, but it is almost as if to me they don’t exist.
Jack and I exist….and we have family, friends, colleagues and others who are part of our life by virtue of kindness, joyfulness, forgiveness and lots of wonderful traits. But as for strangers who want to try to destroy our happiness….
Do you know who Eddie Jones is? Well – he is my new hero!
I am only vaguely aware of his career in rugby – I think he is head coach or manager or something important for England’s rugby team But that is not why he is my new hero.
The reason I am loving him at the moment is that he took what has been a grievous issue to me for years and made it seem so small with his analogy.
He basically compared social medial abuse online (which robbed me of joy for years) is the modern day equivalent of the writing on toilet walls. He added that the people who used to write on toilet walls are now writing on social media. Why or why would we pay attention to their opinion? I think he was effectively saying: DON’T TAKE ANY NOTICE OF IT!!!
I still think it was only because somewhere someone or maybe several people were jealous because their celebrity crush was linked with a caramel blonde that they began to troll me and use terms that belong in the gutter about me. They used insidious insults about me.
I know it might sound simple – but Eddy Jones just helped me put into perspective the barrage of online bullying, trolling, abuse – whatever you want to call it….and although I don’t really have much interest in rugby – I am so grateful to him for an insightful metaphor.
I have been publishing posts about events that occurred following the conversation my ex-flatmate (we are calling him Jack) and I had over a cup of tea. Now…I have mentioned once or twice that I have a confession to share, because I did something really stupid. I am working up to sharing with you how I ended up guilty of this completely daft and damaging decision.
Do you remember in the last post I left you on this cliff-hanger? Well, that kiss was not the confession, the stupid thing I have been building up to telling you about. However, it was also a stupid thing to do, and it had consequences!
I am still not sure why I did that. I think I had wanted to do that to Jack for a long time…only I could not possibly while living in a pressure cooker of a situation. When Brian was so kind and empathetic, I felt a cosy warm feeling towards him, and a sense of relief that I was talking to someone who had a fresh perspective on the situation. After the cocktail I had, my head was a bit fuzzy and Brian suddenly became very handsome in my eyes…and with a swell of gratitude in my heart, I planted a smacker right on his mouth to his surprise. In the moment it was exhilarating and delicious. But I immediately knew I was kissing the wrong man. I apologised to Brian who was very polite about it.
Do you also remember Brian’s suggestion that I take a bit more control of the situation I was finding challenging? (The gossip and the false rumours about my flatmate Jack and I.) Brian had recommended that I “fight fire with fire“.
Funny enough, I should have known this was a bad idea. Neither my wonderful parents not any of my wise aunts and uncles or mature friends had ever taught me the life lesson to equip me to survive as a woman in this world: “fight fire with fire“. Oh no! Because it turns out this is a very silly idea indeed.
Brian had posted a selfie with me alongside him, onto his Instagram account. He had taken the photo very shortly after I had unburdened myself to him and then…in my moment of madness…kissed him.
I left had Brian to go and meet my friends with a sense of relief, after being able to get so much off my chest to someone who was not close to Jack. I thought nothing more of that photo.
I had a great time with my friends who lived on the opposite side of London and were not interested in social media. They were brilliant company for me. However, they knew I was living with Jack and they had all worked with him. They had all met him years before on projects and they thought he was a fun character who cared a lot about working with charities. They liked him I am sure. One of their questions for me was, “are you engaged to Jack yet?” Ay ay ay! Very quickly they detected I didn’t not really want to talk about Jack.
I had a wonderful afternoon. I was heading back to my flat when I thought I would check my mobile phone. I am one of those people who have a phone somewhere in the bottom of their handbag and check it three or four times a day when it is polite and appropriate. Jack on the other hand is someone who seems to be constantly on his phone.
My phone showed several text messages waiting for me. Suzie, Marta and Ella and other friends had all sent me messages asking me what was going on. Ella’s message simply said:
“JACK IS IN A FOUL MOOD. HOPE YOU ARE READY FOR THIS.”
I think I had already guessed what had happened. And I knew already I had to be ready to take on board responsibility for agreeing to let Brian post that photo. I used the travelling time to work out what I was going to say to my friends, and more importantly, what I was going to say to Jack.
What on earth was Jack going to say when he saw me? Would he return to his cold hostility? Well he was hardly going to roll out the red carpet and give me a royal welcome! When I arrived back at the flat, I felt sick with dread.
Jack…was not home. Phew!
Ella was not home either, nor Dean. In fact the flat was quite empty. I jumped in the shower and started to get ready. I was going out. I was quite excited actually. I was attending an award show. It would take me an hour to do something satisfactory with my hair. I hate styling my hair. But I love these events. You do have to make the effort! My dress was all picked out…have I ever mentioned how much I love parties? (Always a party to go to after a show.)
Now…I am going to have to fast-forward and skip all the details of my hair styling and all my other preparations for the show. The venue was only about a mile and a half from there we lived. I travelled with a married couple who lived nearby, they had already told me they were going to be heading straight to the airport from the show as he had an assignment abroad.
After arriving, I spent time meeting and greeting. All was going great until I bumped into Damian. He started to laugh immediately asking me how many men I was stringing along. He taunted me that the main reason I was here was to see Jack on stage. Well, Jack had kept that secret from me. He had not mentioned that he would be at the awards show. Although, Jack seemed to be involved with almost everything.
Do you know what it is like to watch someone you live with performing on stage with other popular entertainers? I loved seeing Jack on stage. He is a natural entertainer. I did enjoy seeing him.
I have been on stage myself, normally you can hardly make out anyone in the audience. I doubted Jack would ever have been able to pick me out. But there was a moment, I may have been imagining it, but he seemed to be looking in my direction and he stopped. He was silent for a few seconds. I felt uncomfortable. Then…he carried on again and all was well.
After the awards had been given out and all the entertainment had ended, the party atmosphere kicked off even more. But that is when I saw Jack, and undoubtedly, he had seen me this time. All week he had been absolutely lovely to me, but not now. He was glaring at me. He looked angry.
I felt now was the time for courage, so I took a few steps towards him. But as I approached, he seemed to deliberately turn his back to me. I decided it was not worth making an issue of what he did. I needed to speak with Jack, but not in the middle of hundreds of onlookers. I decided to just carry on with enjoying the company of others at the show.
But Jack seemed to always be near, I could tell out of the corner of my eye, and several times I turned to see scenes a bit like this one (no this is not Jack). Now that was not at all like Jack. He was not at all relaxed with women making a fuss of him. He was concerned about his reputation and he felt a sense of pride at being a role-model for young people to look up to. In addition, he has had a couple of bad experiences with scary female fans he had to take legal action against, so he normally played very safe with women. Not that night. Oh Jack!
I did feel some pain. It dampened my party spirit very much, which was annoying because I put so much effort into styling my hair. After enduring half an hour of this, I felt I wanted to slink off home and avoid anymore of this cruel game with Jack. There were no taxis outside the venue. I could catch the bus. The bus-stop was just across the road. On reaching the bus-stop and finding the next bus was due to arrive in 14 minutes time, I thought to myself “I could walk home in twenty minutes“, which was a gross miscalculation, it would take at least thirty minutes to walk home in stilettos. But I thought I could do with a walk in the crisp night air.
I set off criss-crossing through the side streets towards our flat. Then I started to feel a few drops on my forehead. Within moments the rain was teaming down. I had a brolly. I don’t go anywhere without a brolly (truly English to the bone) and I had a little tiny fold up brolly which did rather a poor job of keeping me dry.
Whose idea was it to walk home?
By the time I arrived back at the flat I was soaked. Dress, shoes, hair dripping wet. I don’t mind rain normally, I am a secret puddle jumper, I adore Gene Kelly’s moment of celebration in “Singin’ In The Rain“…but that was not a happy walk home in the rain. It was a walk during which I felt a bit sorry for myself and had tears milling with rain drops about the possibility of more hostility from Jack.
As I was approaching the security gates outside our flats, they started to open slowly and a car drove in ahead of me. Jack’s car! I held back. I didn’t want him to see me. But that meant I had the perfect view of the passenger side of the car as the door opened and…a young woman climbed out of Jack’s car. Oh my goodness!…how awkward!
Possibilities raced through my mind. If Jack took her up to the flat…I couldn’t walk in right behind them. I was cold, soaked and not even sure how I felt about what was happening in front of my eyes. I had to get into our flat before they did, hopefully before Jack saw me.
I started running through puddles towards the flat…and realized Jack’s eyes were upon me. I ran up the stairs, so I did not have to hang around in the foyer waiting for the lift (elevator). My first thought was to grab some water and snacks to take into my room so that once I was in my room I did not have to leave. It only took me a few seconds…but I was not quick enough. As I left the kitchen with my supplies, the front door opened and after a few strides, Jack was blocking my way to my room.
“Mel…are you alright?“
“Yeah, I just got caught out by the rain.”
I must have looked a wreck. Jack looked at me and before he realized what he had said, out came the words, “Do you need help…?“
What Jack could possibly have thought I needed help with, we will never know. But I could tell there was a tenderness there and I wanted to make sure it lingered. I said I was fine, and I would take my dress to the dry cleaners the next day. I was so tired, I was not sure what to say to Jack although I knew there was a lot I ought to say.
“Jack, you were brilliant tonight. I mean you always are, but I thought you were brilliant. I felt so proud of you.”
If I had not been absolutely dripping wet, I think I would have hugged Jack. But it mattered not, I think Jack knew I was sincere.
I said to Jack that I ought to go and change and get some sleep because it had been such a busy day. Now…I would love this poignant moment to have been enough to fix the damage that had been brewing all day, but it was not enough. For a moment later, Jack’s face seemed to change as he remembered something.
“Yes, you have had a busy day haven’t you!” he delivered this statement with obvious derision.
“Please Jack, I really want to talk to you, but can we do this tomorrow, please?“
Jack agreed. I was soaked and bedraggled, I think he realized I really did need to just be allowed to go and sort myself out.
“We’ll talk tomorrow Mel.“
I was left to sleep and dream that Jack and I had found a way to fix things.
Just in case you want to catch up with any of the posts connected with Jack and I, here they are:
Well, I have finally been able to sit down and write about what happened after that strange conversation. It’s been hard going, because my emotions are still a bit volatile whenever I recall the events that led up to that night I went to a London park on my own and woke up the next day in an ambulance. But I am relieved I have managed to get so much out of my heart and onto paper. So during the next few days, I am going to present the events of the week that followed that conversation over a cup of tea.
So, here we go:
At first, I was slightly in shock, because I had not been expecting the words he uttered, and I was bowled over at the humility he had displayed. Those beautiful expressions he directed towards me played games with my mind. Over the next twenty-four hours my feelings developed at a reckless pace. Every real or perceived offence or transgression on his part vanished far from my mind. By the time I had percolated my emotions, I was left with admiration, esteem, fondness and joy which before had been almost buried beneath frustration, hurt, bewilderment and humiliation.
All that was forgotten with the new-found elation he had triggered in me. He seemed very happy too. The air seemed to have lifted completely. He chatted with me freely in front of the rest of our flatmates and any visitors. Outside of the flat he was comfortable with me. In front of our neighbours and friends he treated me pleasantly and gallantly. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to talk and laugh with him. I was curious about the gentle and fond glances he kept on sending my way.
It affected me deeply. It was hard to suppress my smiles. I loved every moment of his company when he was like this. I was brimming over with delight. I can’t remember ever feeling so intensely happy with any other man in my life. So I did something I have done thousands of times over the years to all sorts of different people. I sat down and wrote a thank you card to him. I wrote that I had been touched by his humility and kindness and was so grateful that finally the air had cleared. I wrote that I too wanted us to be friends and enjoy living in the flat together.
He seemed thoroughly pleased and gratified with my thank you card. Of course he thanked me personally for it.
I loathe to admit what happened next…
The rumours began to arrive back with me. The words I heard ranged from cute to crude, from ridicule to outright rude, from drole to dreadful, from silly to slanderous, from vile to vicious. If I give you a tame example, you will wonder what I was upset about, but if I give you examples of the most degrading things said and published on social media, it will make my site unsuitable for readers of all ages to read – so use your imagination. As they stacked up, I became troubled. In essence, people thought my flatmate and I were now an official item, that we were now “going public” about an intimate relationship which we had been apparently been trying to keep a secret.
Even my best friends asked me if it was true that he and I had now “got together”. I assured them that was not the case at all, I told them we had just sat down and had a chat and cleared the air, and we both felt so much better now.
“So, you haven’t slept together? You are not going out with him?”
“No! Of course not! No, I am not going out with him.”
“Well, that’s what everyone is saying.”
Ugh! I was sick of all of these ridiculous rumours. I intensely disliked that he was a celebrity and seemed to be always on the radar for people to create fanciful stories and fiction regarding his personal life, which was now invading my privacy and peace of mind. I wondered how people could say these things? Why didn’t they get a life! Or at least a hobby, something that would absorb their attention in a more constructive way – like chess, or oil-painting, or fly-fishing. Anything! Just leave me alone!
I think my close friends believed me, but they asked probing questions, seemingly determined that there was something I was not being fully open about.
“But would you like something to develop with him?”
“I can’t really answer that. At the moment he is being wonderful. But I’ve spent months thinking he could not stand me because he has been so hostile. It’s only been a couple of days since we’ve been getting on. I just hope he is being genuine, well, I will have to wait and see how long it lasts.”
“You do like him don’t you?”
It was only to my best friend Marta, that I was brave enough to admit, “If he stays like this then I am going to fall in love with him“.
My friends showed me some awful comments and photos on various forms of social media of or about my flatmate and I. Most were being spread through Whatsapp groups, but they were spilling over onto Instagram, Facebook and other forms of sharing brainless nonsense.
I was amazed at how many photographs must have been snapped up of he and I during the last two days while we were near home. Who was taking these photos? Could it have been one of our neighbours? Or several of our neighbours? Or just people passing and recognizing him and seeing an opportunity? It seems unlikely that it was just one person. But why take these pictures and then use them to make up stories that were untrue? Was it even legal to be publishing their baseless presumptions? I hated seeing what people had written about the photos that were being shared. So crass!
There were a couple of photos that were strange. In one he seemed to be playing with my hair, but I am sure he never did. Another, I remember holding his bag for him while he ran back up to the flat to find his keys. When he came down to the foyer of our block of flats, he had taken his bag from me and put it on the floor and knelt down and started rooting through his bag and sure enough, the keys were in the bag. Somehow, someone had caught a photo of him leaning forward (I think it was as he was about to kneel) and it looked as if he was coming in towards me for a kiss). I saw immediately the way it looked. I now realize how cameras can tell lies, for all he was doing was kneeling down.
There was one photo that had been taken from a very unfortunate camera angle. I remember he had opened a car door for me and I had turned around and smiled graciously thanking him. But in the photo it looked as if his hand was on my behind and I was enjoying it. Believe me, he did not lay a finger on me, otherwise there really would have been a story to tell, along with a black eye. But it was just the angle the picture was taken. He had his right hand held out as he was inviting me to get into the car…and it really did look as if his hand was planted firmly on my derriere and I was giving him a smile of enjoyment. Ugh!
Ugh! Sometimes, I hate cameras, hate social media…or at least the way some heartless people have used them.
I will finish this post for now…but I have more to come….look out for:
As promised, Jack and I have read through the entire STORM IN A TEA-CUP Series and I have tried to edit out the typos. It’s hard to read. Jack and I laughed about some of our story, but we also found some of it hard to re-live. Still…all that matters is the happy ending!This was the first part. You may have questions, but remember there are more posts to come. And yes…this post is about Jack and me.
(Brace yourself for a little bit of a weepie…make yourself a cuppa before you read this one.)
He told me that what I had done was courageous. He said he and I should have talked along time ago. He said it was the right thing to do. I had already asked him once three months earlier, and he had made excuses. He said he should have made time to sit down with me and talk…he regretted he had not.
He suggested we sat down at our dining room table in the huge kitchen dining area. Then those life-changing words: “Would you like like a cup of tea?” That seemed like a very good idea. It would give me something to fidget with while trying to hide how terrified I was.
So, for pretty much the first time in three months he did something kind… he made me a cup of tea. With my tea-bags and my milk. He made two cups of tea, one for him and one for me. He even made it just the way I like it…stewed tea – strong enough to make hairs grow on your chest – with a tiny splash of milk.
Here is what followed:
He told me that he had been a coward and that I had been courageous.
He told me that he had never felt so close to another woman.
He said he was totally out of his comfort zone, that he had no idea what he was doing.
He wanted us to be friends.
There had been a lot of pressure on him. Many people had expressed their curiosity in the dynamics of our flat.
Many of his friends and co-workers had been teasing him for months that a romance would develop between he and I.
It had made him very nervous around me.
He apologised for his behaviour and he wanted me to know how bad he felt.
He realized he had made me feel awkward. He told me that had not been his intention.
He said I should never have been made to feel so uncomfortable in my own home.
He paid me extraordinary compliments…beautiful words I had never heard in my life.
My face must have been a picture. He used expressions I was baffled by!
The man I am telling you about had been making my life miserable for months. He had been hostile, grumpy, rude, inconsiderate. He had said some very unkind things about me to his workmates…some of whom sought me out and had told me what he had said.
Who was this capricious man? At that point he was my flatmate, one of them. Six of us were sharing a huge flat.
I remember him moving in one August weekend. I was nice to him and his friend who moved in at the same time and would be sharing a bathroom. I really was super nice. I went out, I thought the two of them would prefer to be on their own to unpack and settle into the flat. But before I left, I told them they could use my tea and coffee and milk. I even told them they could help themselves to some biscuits I had baked. That was a nice thing to do – was it not? How many neighbours actually do that nowadays?
We went to a party together that weekend. All six of us were invited to a party in the flat two floors above ours. So many at the party were curious about him moving into our flat. People seemed to be watching the two of us. I tried to ignore it. I tried to act natural. I think I learnt then that living with a celebrity can become a nightmarish experience.
I remember the first Monday morning…my other five flatmates were up early getting ready to leave the flat for work. I was on late shifts that week (2-10pm) so I did not need to get up as early as they did. But I had overheard him singing at the top of his voice while he was showering. There were only three inches of plaster between his room and mine. It made me smile even though he had woken me. We had not had chance to discuss rules…so rather than wondering around in my nightwear, I showered and dressed before I went into the kitchen to make myself breakfast.
I had a habit of opening the French doors of my room and letting fresh air pour into my room before I made my bed. I had left the door of my room open while I came into the kitchen.
I heard his voice…he seemed full of excitement to be in a new flat. Everyone had remarked we were going to be the coolest flat in the neighbourhood and they were expecting lots of parties. I was sitting at the dining table eating cereal as they were all leaving to travel to work. He must have stopped outside my door. He was asking the others where I was? Had I slept in? Was I going to be late for work? I called from the kitchen. He came to the doorway and looked at me with surprise. I told him I was on late shifts that week. He looked disappointed. He thought we were going to travel into work together. Maybe he realized that meant I would not be around in the evenings that week.
I think that was the last time he actually seemed happy to be in the same flat as me. For the next few months I would see him being friendly and jovial and laughing with our friends and coworkers. Then we would walk into the flat and he would ignore me. He seemed to be failing to suppress a strong dislike for me, because it was manifest in so many ways that he did not want me in the flat with him.
Looking back, I guess it was mostly external pressure that caused problems. People were saying some really shocking things. In the end I started to note down what I was hearing. It filled both sides of eight A4 pages…most of which admittedly was just teasing. However, a good portion was insulting, degraded comments insinuating he and I had a very “particular” type of relationship.
He was probably just as dismayed as I was at the comments people were making. It is hard to define the perfect way to handle that kind of challenge. How do you shut people down without fanning the flames of curiosity? I found myself saying things along the lines of that there was no possibility of a romance developing and listing the reasons why.
I used to laugh that putting up with a man whom you are living with but not in a romantic relationship with, means a romance is highly unlikely to develop. A flatmate who never empties the bins, (I am astonished that every male flatmate I have had believed in the magic bin fairy…oooh I am going to get myself in trouble with any male readers) leaves stacks of dirty dishes around the kitchen sink and is noisy, smelly and untidy…and who brings dozens of other single men round to the flat to add to the general man-stink of the place (apologies yet again to any male readers)…well, for fairly obvious reasons there is a distinct lack of warm feeling growing in your heart towards such a flatmate. I thought that was both a humorous and logical way to stop people from teasing me about him. My strategy failed.
I kind of blame him. When his friends and workmates teased him, his reaction was like a teenage boy at school. He said, “No way!” He said, “I think she has OCD, she keeps tidying up after me.” Even worse, he said, “She is a wonderful woman, but she is not attracted to me.” I don’t think it was deliberate on his part, but he was actually just throwing fuel onto the fire. The teasing intensified, the level of interest in everything that went on in our flat was shocking. Social media websites seemed to be making my life unbearable.
Some of his friends started stopping me when they saw me, to tell me what a nice guy he was and that what he really needs is a good wife who can match his mind but is also happy to tidy up after him. His manager saw me one day at the flat, and had a quiet word with me in the kitchen. He said to me, “So you are his future wife”. I felt tearful more than once because they were talking to me about a man who apparently was repelled by me. I did not want to let a bad word about him creep out of my mouth…but inside he had me in agony.
I think you would either be very entertained or very bored if I related more of the hundreds of comments that were voiced about my flatmate and me. As I mentioned, they range from cute to crude, from ridicule to outright rude, from droll to dreadful, from silly to slanderous, from vile to vicious. People seemed to be watching our flat, watching my ex-flatmate and I. If we looked at each other, someone had a comment or a joke to make. If we did not look at each other, someone else would pry as to what was going on between us. It was wearing me down and making me feel desperate, it was making him grumpy.
Sure enough, I asked him very early on if the two of us could talk about it and see what we could do to discourage all of the gossip. He did not seem to want to talk about it though. His behaviour towards me made life very uncomfortable. I did lots of nice things. I am a great believer that if someone has a problem with you one of the best cures is to cover it over with kindness. I did wash a lot of his dishes. I regularly cleaned up the kitchen after he had been a messy puppy. He seemed to use my tea, coffee and milk all the time, which I never made an issue of. I baked cakes and biscuits and always made sure he could help himself to them. I have tidied up after him, even picking his underpants up from the floor when guests were coming. I have cleaned his mouldy leaky food spills up from the fridge.
I do not try to subscribe to generalisations (even though some of them are frankly hilarious) – but he is the only man I have ever faced inordinate communication difficulties with – to my Martian flatmate, I really may as well have been from Venus. Or else, he had all the communication skills of a teenage boy (sorry to any teenage boys reading this, but on the whole it is true!).
He seemed to like those things, but he was very strange in his behaviour to me. Cold, hostile, silent. Despite that, I sincerely was pleased to have him as a flatmate. I enjoyed his noisiness, he seemed to be an unquenchable fountain of fun and life. It was great to come home and find so many people in our flat. I genuinely was happy to wash up and clean up and tidy up after the messy pup. I kept on trying to provoke a kindly warm attitude from him. It did not work…and it started to distress me deeply. I had never been living with someone who behaved as if they had a huge grievance towards me.
Finally, three months later, there we were. He made me a cup of tea and we sat down and had the conversation I gave you a few glimpses of above. Bizarre!
Just think, all I had to steady my nerves was a cup of tea that he had made me.
In case you are wondering whether there is a happy or a sad ending to this story…I have to tell you…that cup of tea was the beginning of the end of me:
We were at an event. Everything was going well, so I thought. He and I posing together – yes together. He had his arm around my waist at some points. Other times he was just holding my hand. That was just outside. Then inside the venue, it was just one conversation to the next, with him introducing me to people when they greeted him.
It was something I hadn’t really thought about before. We hadn’t even discussed it. When he introduced me to people, he said: “This is my Melody.” He didn’t say this is my friend, or this is my girlfriend, or this is my partner, or anything like that. This is my Melody. Hmm. I think I like that. I think I like that a lot.
It was all very exciting. I enjoyed chatting with the people I met. I am at ease with people, even strangers, it’s not something I feel too nervous about. As the event itself was starting, I felt a pride at where we sat and the way he left nobody around us in any doubt that we were “together”. I could tell there were numerous glances coming our way. We chatted and clapped and squeezed each other throughout the program.
Several hours later, we were amongst a crowd who were enjoying what was turning into a pretty decent party, (well, for a large event) and there was music. People who had been at the event were dancing. Jack and I were up for dancing. But as we were walking towards the other dancers, he whispered something to me. I couldn’t hear him though. It was just too noisy. But he was looking at me intensely. I wish I had heard him. He asked me what I thought. My reply was “think of what?” He gave me an odd look. Maybe he realized I hadn’t heard his whispered remark, maybe he didn’t.
Anyway…it was just too noisy. If it was something important, or meaningful, I hope he keeps it on ice, because I couldn’t understand half of what he said to me that night. Instead, I gave it my all on the dance-floor (which is something I do) and left him laughing and trying to keep up with me. Apparently what we were doing later that night is called “PDA”. How unromantic!
Jack has been showing me photos he has taken of the two of us and asked me to choose which one I like best. He is going to post whichever I choose on his Instagram account. Big step! He thinks it is a good idea to do that now, just before he goes away for a few weeks. By the time he is back, people will perhaps have forgotten all about it, we will be able to enjoy each other’s company without intrusion.
I’m just going to have to trust him. I hate the idea of social media being a way for strangers to possibly spoil something that is personal between he and I. But I was thinking about the volume of noise and the music at that event. I need to try to block out everything else and focus on Jack. I need to listen to him whispering reassurances to me, and not be freaked out by anything horrid that comes back to me, I am not going to let myself look at any comments on his Instagram account or anything else about him online.
He is flying out to the Middle East in a couple of days, I won’t see him before then. I am going to use the time he is away to spend some time with friends I have been neglecting because of all the time I have spent with Jack and tell them all about what has been happening.
I will miss him tremendously. I have become so used to Jack being a part of, and the highlight of every week. We can still talk on the phone and e-mail. He has another assignment overseas not long after he gets back. We will only have two weeks in between. During those two weeks, there are a couple of large public events he and I will attend together. Now I know exactly what to expect, it will be easier to be prepared. Better to try to enjoy it than have to endure it.
And I hope that when he is back, he remembers whatever he whispered to me the other night, and remembers to whisper it to me again sometime when it is quieter and we are alone. Because I think he was saying something serious to me, and I inadvertently interrupted him in my rush to get to the dancefloor.