I finally arrange a date with Mr M. We’d spoken once, texted a few times but hadn’t quite managed to meet. To be honest, with all the missed opportunities I’d kind of ruled him out. So, when I get an impromptu text from him asking if I’m free tonight I think, ‘What the hell’ and I agree to meet. His online name is MeMyselfandI and at first I’d wondered if it was a nod to the self-obsessed (profile names tell you a lot about a person but then that’s a whole separate post!), but when we speak I don’t get that vibe. His heritage is mixed but he refers to himself as Moroccan. He’s also 33, 10 years my junior. So, I’m a cougar. It’s official.
We meet at London Bridge. I arrive first, but am not waiting long. He looks just like his profile picture and I guess because he’s recognized me I must do too. He’s tall, dressed well and has an intense face that softens when he smiles. He greets me with a kiss on the cheek and he starts walking. Fast. Now, I’m a fast walker but Mr M he’s got the whole ‘quick pace’ thing licked. He walks like a man who knows where the journey’s going to end.
‘So you’ve got a place in mind?’ I say. He nods and explains that it’s a Thai restaurant not far from the station.
The Suchard Thai restaurant on Tooley Street is busy, but there’s a table by the wall so Mr M strides over to secure it.
Dinner is fine, if a little bland, but the conversation is vibrant. Mr M asks me if I’m bothered about the age difference. To be fair, I hadn’t really noticed. Time passes quickly in a way you don’t notice when you’re enjoying yourself. The chemistry is good. He sprinkles a couple of compliments my way. We talk. We laugh. We move onto a bar.
When we’ve got drinks and have settled into one of the bar’s comfy leather sofas we talk about what we’re looking for.
I tell him I’m just dating at the moment, that I’m seeing what’s out there and that I’m not ready for anything serious. He’s ready for a relationship and if he finds someone he gels with he’ll focus on developing it.
That’s when our discussion becomes passionate. Mr M tells me my honesty could end up hurting people. I’m going through what he calls a ‘selfish’ phase. ‘You’re out there dating, meeting people who potentially want to start a relationship, but you’re not ready to settle down, so it’s all about you.’
I like the fire in him and he makes me think. It’s true. Maybe this is all a game if you’re not actually ready to settle down. You’re going to meet people who are ready. But it won’t be a game to them. No. They’ll feel a connection with you and then won’t be able to take it anywhere.
But the flip side of the coin is hard to ignore I tell him. Quite frankly, it isn’t a bed of roses when people lie either. But Mr M doesn’t really seem too concerned with that. I wonder where this is all coming from.
‘Where’s this all coming from,’ I say.
‘I’m just talking hypothetically,’ he says. ‘I’ve been there. I’ve done the whole ‘selfish’ thing and people get hurt.’
And then it dawns on me. This honesty of mine. This brutal, cold light of day truth could potentially hurt him. There’s chemistry here, but my commitment to a relationship isn’t.
But there’s also something else to consider. At 33 Mr M has time. Time to spend a year or two exploring the possibilities of a relationship that may not work. At 43 I really don’t feel I have the same luxury. I want to feel I’m starting something that has a good chance of going the distance. But I also need to feel ready and just now I’m not.
‘So basically what you’re saying,’ he continues. ‘Is we won’t see each other again. That’s kind of what you mean if you say you’re just dating.’
It actually isn’t what I’m saying, but it’s obviously what he’s decided he needs to hear so I don’t argue the point. And in doing so have I lied? Have I compromised my own belief in being honest and open? Maybe so. But maybe on rare occasions a tiny white lie can actually help a situation.
The fire in our conversation does something to us both and Mr M leans in to kiss me. It’s nice. It really would be good to have a second date, but reluctantly I have to admit that he’s right – it ‘honestly’ wouldn’t be a good idea.
A to Z lesson
Speak your truth and do it soon. But speak it with sensitivity, tact and compassion. You can’t control how your honesty is received but you can control how it’s delivered. There’s nothing wrong with knowing what you want, but let the person you’re dating know too.
I remember being on the receiving end of an ex when he, honestly and brutally, told me he wasn’t ready to commit. Ok, so it was painful to hear, but at least he didn’t pull the wool over my eyes. Or tell me we had a future when we clearly didn’t…