I’ve realised that recently I’ve become slightly preoccupied with the future – or at least a specific aspect of it.
It came up in conversation over dinner last night – and when I realised I was talking about the subject I also realised it was entirely me that had started the thread going. It’s not the first time that this topic has cropped up – but I’m still surprised that I’m doing it.
Most people that know me see me as a single guy. I’ve been that way for a long time through personal choice – although honestly my feelings about weight and how it impacted my last relationship are still inextricably linked.
It’s a difficult subject to write about openly because although I’m coming to terms with being very public about many embarrassing aspects of who I am there are still some things that remain deeply personal.
However – there’s a flip side to that position. If things that bother me remain buried then I worry that I’m doomed to repeat the same behaviour again and again – so at the risk of poking at a scab that I can’t unpick I’m going to try and start an internal (and it seems public) dialogue with myself about why I’m not in a relationship.
I didn’t have any girlfriends until the last year of school – mostly because I was awkward, overweight and (I think) dressed in home-made clothes and hand me downs.
In the period between finishing my exams and starting college I starved myself (quite literally) and dropped from 17st to 12st 7lbs.
My grandmother had placed £500 in National Savings Certificates when I was around 10 years old, and it matured to £750 when I left school. I cashed this in and started to spend the money for the very first time on NEW clothes. At the age of 16 I purchased a pair of jeans- Levis 501’s.
I’d never had a pair prior to these, and they were beautiful – with an exotic button up fly instead of a zip. I wanted to be the guy in the launderette with the bag of stones because he was the epitome of cool. I even hummed ‘I heard it on the grapevine’ while I bought them.
I bought lots of other clothes too (including a pair of embroidered cowboy boots!) and constructed a girl friendly and outgoing persona that shocked my peers when they met me at Solihull College for the first time since we’d broken up from school.
I did really well for some years as far as girlfriends were concerned – and it wasn’t long until I’d finally realised every teenager’s dream and found a relationship that became intensely intimate.
It didn’t last – and culminated with my girlfriend’s dad chasing me out of the house with a small axe. I’d never been so happy to see a number 11 bus pulling up on the other side of the road to whisk me away to safety.
The ones that followed (I now know) established a common theme, where I didn’t judge a relationship on how much I liked the girl, but instead on how much they liked ME. It seemed completely inconsequential that I didn’t get what I needed from them emotionally – it was at the time more important to be loved and wanted.
It took me many bad relationships to recognise that I had become addicted to feeling something that had eluded me as a teen – being wanted by the opposite sex and feeling attractive. I didn’t get this from anyone until I first lost my weight and because of that (and some mother issues) I really didn’t grasp the truth – that nothing will ever work without reciprocal and mutual love and respect.
Back then when a relationship ended (for a time I was a serial monogamist and never outside of one for more than a couple of weeks) I couldn’t stand the silence or loneliness. I craved someone to ‘validate’ me. I needed to publicly to be seen as someone that was ‘normal’ and not the fat, unattractive, bullied boy I’d been at school. Having a girl on my arm seemed to do that, at least in my head.
Consequently I was continually lurching from one girl to another, and much like a kid in a sweet shop. My one saving grace was that I only ever ‘cheated’ once and felt so bad afterwards that I never did it again.
Then out of the blue someone came along someone that challenged me on every level. She was smart, funny, engaging, difficult, yet easy to be with. I wooed her by throwing rolled up balls of paper at the back of her head until she acknowledged me.
I remember her telling me ‘You’re not funny. You’re just persistent’.
There was an element of truth to this and with the power of pestering I finally managed to get her to acknowledge I was wonderful.
It’s not a lie to say that I fell for her like a ton of bricks from the first moment I met her – and it seemed that the same was true (eventually) for her. My persistence (and paper throwing skills) had paid off.
I could belly laugh for hours at her jokes. The pressure of not making someone else happy all the time and getting nothing in return was completely lifted. We complemented each other in so many ways that it was spooky. We finished each other’s sentences and even heinous and degrading activities like ironing and washing up became romantic when we did them together.
She even admitted her darkest secret (she liked Star Trek) and for several years we indulged this filthy and illicit passion as two consenting adults in private, behind closed doors, in the dark, as God intended.
Then nearly five years after it had started – for a variety of reasons (a lot of them of them completely outside my control) the relationship ended.
It was then that the grieving started – and it lasted for half a decade. It was like my best friend in the entire world had died. I never saw her face again – and only talked to her once more afterwards. She told me that six months later she had married someone else.
My world fell apart – and all the issues I had never resolved with drinking and eating began to totally consume me.
For five years I didn’t sleep on the right hand side of the bed. I couldn’t fall asleep without the radio or television on. I drank every time I thought of her, grew a beard (she hated them) and pushed the self destruct button so hard my finger went through the keyboard.
I learned slowly how to repair myself though – and bit by bit became able to deal with the negative thoughts and self recrimination when I closed my eyes in bed. I turned off the TV and the radio.
However – the image of the perfect woman (her) remained in my head and whenever I visualised what I wanted in a relationship (both emotionally and physically) there was a picture of her. Somehow I had begun to idolise her memory, and romanticise the best parts of our shared history – filtering out all of the bad bits. I couldn’t get past my twin senses of loss and longing.
As time went on this dulled – but never really went away. In many respects I viewed the whole experience (rightly or wrongly) as a bereavement and I suppose I expected it to fix itself over time.
In some respects it did – and I think overall I’m in a happy place with myself.
I’m not a lonely man. I spend a lot of time with friends. In many ways my career, established friends and the bucketloads of lovely people I worked with provided me with a surrogate relationship of sorts after my real one ended. Between them they provided me with almost everything I needed in life from people and kept the loneliness wolf from my door.
I relied for many years (sometimes too heavily) on my brother as well, and he rarely let me down.
But – the last time I hit a weight loss roadblock and piled all my weight back on the catalyst was me beginning to think about how I would rebuild this area of my life.
The worry that I’m going to do this again hasn’t gone away -and as I get closer to the weight where this last happened it’s lingering in my thoughts.
I don’t know any more why I’m not in a relationship. I don’t know whether I’ve forgotten how to feel that way, am unconsciously terrified of feeling the same painful loss again, am too self conscious about my stretch marks and scars, or I’m just meant to be single.
As soon as I start to try and answer these questions I feel a flush of emotion and my immediate response is to find something else to think about and suppress it.
That’s not healthy.
I know I’m not ready yet – but I also know that left to my own devices I will probably NEVER be ready again. I will comfortably exist in my own little bubble of close friends and a lifestyle that is uncomplicated by the elliptical orbit of a relationship or the highs and lows of having children – which another far deeper part of me is beginning to consider.
Maybe it’s shallow to think in such reductive terms but I still see a wrecked body and nothing else when I look in the mirror naked. I can’t imagine being loved or wanted in the way a relationship requires and it leaves me feeling both empty and cold sometimes.
I know that it’s not all about my body though. However I also see myself (in relationship terms) as someone that’s as emotionally scarred as they are physically damaged – and I don’t know how to, or when, or even if I should start changing this aspect of myself.
I’m not sure that there is an immediate answer at all – but I need to start confronting my thoughts and not hiding from the way they make me feel before they trip me up again.
I’ve come a long way since January the 26th but I also can’t help feeling that some parts of my journey haven’t even begun to begin.
It both scares and excites me to think about who I will be in a year’s time – and in the future who I will be WITH – or whether I will still be alone (but never lonely).