There are lessons in life and moments of undignified clarity that require me to stop what I am doing and write, spilling out hot tears into words, fervently typing across a screen, in hope that the glaring black and white letters force me to learn, the calcified lesson of self-worth. And, in doing so, never, ever, feel like this again.
I write this sat cross legged on my bed with a damp messy bun, my favourite tortoiseshell glasses perched on my face, after pulling on fleecy yellow jogging bottoms over recently diminishing hips. Once canary bright, these hideous things are now a dull mustard colour with frayed edges, acquired seven years ago as a fresher at uni. I love them. On my top half I am hunched inside in a men’s Charles Thyrwhitt cashmere blend navy jumper, it once belonged to my best friend’s little brother, Tom, affectionately known as Turkey to his friends. I was given this almost a decade ago, after vomiting all over my own clothing, aged 15. So soft and snugly warm, I have worn it to bed, for nine winters since. I look awful in navy, truly vampire and sickly. I look awful in general right now. This outfit will never see daylight, just lamp light. It smells of Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax with a hint of (much cheaper) lavender essential oil. When my bed and I smell of these oils, it’s because I am in the midst of a sad and highly anxious episode, trying to settle myself, usually having just swallowed a handful of Kalms tablets, also known as “crack” to fellow anxiety sufferers.
My body is aching and ravaged by hormones, a giant sanitary towel stuck inside a pair of rather unsexy knickers is currently collecting gushes of painful, first day period. My braless, free boobs are swollen and sore, with blue veins visible beneath my milky winter skin. As horribly uncomfortable and unattractive as I am right now, I am very present and unusually content with myself this evening. I am trying to make self-peace after two long weeks being quite mistreated and very hurt by a complicated man with arrested development and beautiful eyes.
I let it all out, for closure more than anything, penned down in a letter, warm, open and touchingly sincere. My greatest fears are unfulfilled potential, and second to that, unspoken kind words. I read this letter aloud to the source of my anxiety after a shaky, barely touched cup of tea. It was all defended by beat writer cliches, “it’s not you, it’s me”, dreary sob stories about how his mum and dad divorced and he how didn’t want to end up like his dad. It’s not always this dramatic, of course. The tiny, insidious stuff had greater effect. Cancelled dates and put downs, days without so much as a text, failing to keep an evening free because something better was going on. For months, the consistent post-coital radio silence hurt most, especially following an evening of my meticulously researched, homemade steak dinner (I am vegetarian) with dauphinoise potatoes and asparagus, Nigella’s brownie recipe, poured over and nervously executed to perfection. Delivered always with a fresh blowdry or new lingerie… often both. No thank yous. No compliments. Just radio silence, or rowing chat, if I was lucky.
The laughs and occasional great sex became piecemeal in a tedious and lonely few months of tongue-biting, second guessing and constant, low-level disregard. Always served the constant reminder, I am actually not that important. In hindsight, this ran parallel to the hope I would be told, I am lovely and not being too terrified to say it back. I was unsure how to conduct myself around this self-centred man who didn’t deserve me. I froze at moments, I knew this deep down, a tight feeling in my chest knew this. I felt very unappreciated. It was only until a close male friend pointed out that if I felt unappreciated, then this 30 year old rower, with Sonic The Hedgehog bedding, was the definition of an idiot.
My appetite vanished towards the end and with it, weight dropped off. Yellow tracksuit bottoms are now falling down.
So to my future self, should any self-proclaimed Mr nice guy, mishandle your kindness and warmth, treat your time as less important and feign excitement, closeness and exclusivity… whilst sat at work, on dating apps. Listen to your friends. He is no good.