16 December 2011

On Loyalty

Dear All,

Lest you all complain of my having abandoned you here goes. I was recently reminded of an event from pre-matrimonial website past but no less scary for that.

I've always known how people keep a hawk-like lookout for prospective brides and grooms for various people whom they know except I always assumed that this happened to others. Now call me paranoid but I'm one of those people who sees a stranger smiling at them and thinks 'oh no!' So when middle-aged ladies whom you don't know from the Goddess Durga start smiling at you when you go for a walk or run in the neighbourhood park you should get out fast. As you can guess this woman smiled at me. Two days in a row. On the third day she almost started speaking. I looked the other way and walked faster. On the fourth day she walked almost straight into me and short of turning tail and making a run for it I had little choice but to stop. And put on my good girl face. This is always a trial because I don't really have one but still... 

She: Can I ask you something? 

Me: (I know what the question is and 'no, you cannot') Sure (in saccharine sweet voice, but omitting the 'Aunty-ji')

She: Are you married? (I knew it, I knew it, I knew it! I should have run when I had the chance)

Me: Um... err... no (putting as much of a suspicious tone into my voice as possible)

She: I knew it! (I could see her pumping her fist in victory) I'll walk with you.

I was cornered and now short of fainting I couldn't do much.

She: So my nephew is coming from the U.S. and we haven't been able to find a girl for him because he is too tall- six feet you know... (I do now). So you will be a good height for him (She assesses me clinically) and you will be intellectually compatible and the right age (And you know all this how? Through ESP?). So he's a physicist and he teaches at a university in the States, he earns a very good salary, he studied in  (Insert Delhi's most in-demand college here) and we are are very good family from... 

Somewhere before she reached this breathless point (Yes I mean breathless) I had stopped paying attention and decided instead to focus on my breathing. I looked around the park and wondered if nobody had seen me being accosted by this woman. 

She: So what do you think?

Me: I'm not ready to get married right now.

She: But you are at the right age, when will you get married? (Grrrr- this is MY life)

Me: That's my problem.

She: But soon you will be too old. (Oh no! And then what will the world come to? This in the same week that a friend's older brother had quipped, and not facetiously mind you, that I was past my 'sell-by' date!) Anyway, he's coming next week so you tell me and I can come and meet your parents- where do you live? 

I waved vaguely in opposite direction from which my house lies.

She: So I can talk to them and the two of you can meet. He lives in U.S.

Me: Yes, I heard that. I actually don't want to be in the U.S.

She: Why? (More grrr) Everybody likes it in the U.S.- life is much easier you know. So you think and tell me.

So off I went with the injunction to think about it. I avoided the park the next day. And the next. And the next. On the day after that I skirted the edges to see where She was. No sign of her so I returned to it. I should have known better. She accosted me just as I was leaving.

She: So what did your parents say?

Me: Well actually it's not for them to say. It's my decision. And no I still don't want to get married.

She: But he has a very good job, earns well, has his own house, a nice car and he now has a permanent job- he has tenure (Okay, so she knew how to pitch it!) and he has two patents and a third one pending with the U.S. government so he will be getting (here it comes) LOYALTY for the rest of his life.

Me: (Really? Loyalty? You don't say!) Thanks, but it's not the right time for me to get married.

A year later...

Having been gone for work for many months I had been an infrequent visitor to the park but now that I was back I met her again. And she saw me. And she smiled. And she stopped to talk. You'd have thought the paragon of a nephew must be married by now what with all his loyalty and stuff. But no. Repeat conversation.

Yours in (what else!) loyalty,

02 July 2011

I am the respite for your sad life (!)

Dear All, 

I am back after a bit of an enforced hiatus as work had become much too consuming and prevented me from my matrimonial pursuits much less writing about them. What have I done in the interim that was noteworthy? Not much, except shake off a stalker in the early days of this hiatus. You would think that when you tell someone that you don't have much in common with them and then proceed to not call them back, they might take the hint. But no, some of these people are mighty persistent! I had to finally say 'I-do-not-want-to-meet-you-can-you-not-get-that-through-your-head-for-heaven'ssake?' (yes, in as many words!) before I was finally able to shake them off.

But I digress from today's main theme, which is 'my sad life' or more appropriately 'your sad life' since it was someone pointing (and what a pointing it was!) out to me how sad my (your) life is. I know, I know- I can see some of your indignant faces but I promise you, you cannot possibly match my indignation! But again, what is a story without a beginning- let me start there.

As I said, I have been on a hiatus- happily so I might add, from all things matrimonial and felt, upon my return from hiatus, that I might be able to pursue this project (unfortunate comparison, that) with a fresh mind. I may also have wistfully imagined that my fresh mind would also conjure some fresh (no, not that kind of fresh) men or at least allow me to see them with a less jaundiced eye. And so I resumed my search, un-hiding  my profile from its dust-covers so to speak. No sooner had I done so, I was inundated with interests- gosh! it almost felt like the good old days when I first entered the big bad wonderful world of internet matrimonials, so unlike the drought of recent months. I was enthused and had almost started to believe that I would hit pay-dirt soon. So, my less jaundiced eye directed me once more (ahem) to relax my somewhat (!) stringent standards and accept that when people don't know the difference between 'then' and 'than', it doesn't automatically follow that they are bad characters who ought to be charged under the IPC (even though I am sure there's a relevant section in there somewhere, maybe in the parts relating to 'offences against public tranquility').

I soon happened to be the lucky recipient (target?) of an interest from- let's call him- my saviour; you will discover shortly why I chose to name him thus. Although there wasn't anything in his profile that grabbed me there was no discernible spelling or grammatical mistake on which I could call him out (or throw him out as is my preferred style). Moreover, he had sent a missive saying that I wrote well. That might not be saying very much given the drivel that people are allowed to put on their profiles (there ought, for instance, to be some law that restricts the number of 'simple-living and high-thinking' men to somewhat less than the entire population of India); but there was surely some redeeming quality about a man who could recognise good writing and I felt it only fair to give him a chance. He did sign off with his website code rather than a real name- but I forgave him that in my mellow mood. What should have tipped me off, of course, was that it took me some days to arrive at all these conclusions rather than going by instinct. In fact, my instinct seemed almost to have deserted me, as if it had gone all rusty and forgotten how to function in these environs during the course of my hiatus.

So I wrote back a couple of days later, thanking him for his compliments; introducing myself (with a name); and asking, without any hint of sarcasm whatsoever, if he had one too. Luckily it turned out that he did, which was a good start. I suggested we either email or chat first rather than plunge straight into- what in my experience would be- an awkward conversation peppered largely by umms and hmms. He didn't understand my 'suggestion', responding by saying that he hated typing and he would like to call me. I gave  in and shared my number and promptly received a call on my mobile that evening. Although the number was unfamiliar I remembered that the saviour's number started with an eight as did this and I guessed it could be him.

Now, in my book- but that is clearly a little read book- when you call somebody for the first time the thing to do would be to introduce yourself once you have asked if you have got the right person on the other end of the line. He asked if I was S to which I said yes and followed this up with a 'guess-who-this-is!' Although I was pretty sure it was him there was something a bit pushy about his tone- my instincts were back with a bang!- so I insisted that I didn't know him and would he like to introduce himself. I again came up against a 'take-a-wild-guess!' and this time relented, more so this conversation would get a move on, and guessed it was the saviour. He almost whooped as if this was a major victory. I will not bore you with all the gory details of this conversation (it was our third conversation that was the real scene-stealer) but a few things stood out.

He immediately started in Spanish Inquisition mode with, "why a divorcee?" I should mention here that he was divorced (or separated as it later turned out). I was a bit stupefied since I hadn't expected the assault quite so soon- he certainly had the element of surprise on his side! I did say then that I didn't think he was defined by the fact that he was divorced although it may well have been a difficult event in his life. At this point he was almost in tears- of gratitude- following it up with "S, you are sweetest person. Nobody has ever said that to me before, everyone just notices that I am divorced." I was then treated to the story of his marriage and subsequent separation, the highlight of which was that his wife had committed a sin and was a genuinely 'bad character' who had wronged him and his family. Now my instincts (doubly back with bang) were making me seriously queasy. I won't even bother telling you how irritated I was by being called sweet or addressed as 'tum' (the informal you in Hindi).

He called the next day by which time I knew I wasn't going to waste time meeting this one as I had some others- he had suggested we meet and get married soon (yes, I kid you not!).  So our next conversation consisted of me avoiding setting up a date to meet and trying to bring home the fact that marriage was not going to make me give up my career- one that often involves travelling and living away for some weeks at a time since he had already expressed a distinct aversion to this; and him trying to convince me that the most fundamental difference between us was that I was a non-vegetarian while he was vegetarian ("Really? Is that all you could get off my profile?!"). He still called me the next day, clearly I would have to employ more aggresive methods to shrug him off.

As it was he had turned out to be from the same state one half of me is from- my mother's as it happens and he was clearly excited about this. My profile does not state a caste (his did), as I choose not to share this information in the first instance and to me it is  a bad sign if that is one of the first things I am asked. Unfortunately for him he did ask- the conversation went something like this...

Him: So what is your caste?
I: Is it important?
Him: No, but I am curious.
I: Curiousity killed the cat. Anyway I don't talk about my caste.
Him: But you can tell me.
I: (Why the hell should I tell you?): True, but how would it change anything?
Him: Okay, are you a 'caste-name'?
I: I have no clue.
Him:Really?! (I: Yes, really!) Okay, what was your mother's maiden name?
I: (Hahaha, do you really think you'll get me with that?!) Actually, my mother had already switched to her married name by the time I came along so I don't know what her maiden name was. (You i***t!, I wanted to add)
Him: Ohhh, okay, I see. Okay do you know your grandfather's name?
I: Unfortunately I never met my grandfather so I don't know his name. (This is true- I came along too late to meet him although I do know his name!)
Him: (almost losing hope here till he was struck by another bright idea) Is your grandmother alive- what is her name?
I: No she isn't unfortunately and I do know her name (I conceded) but she never wrote a caste surname so I still can't say what she was.
Him: (almost, but not quite, giving up in frustration) Okay is your mother's family 'caste-name'?
I: (in my last diabolical stand) Maybe they are... but then again, maybe not.
Him: (finally giving up in frustration) I have never heard such an answer before. (I bet you haven't mistah!)

Although he had given up on this he hadn't given up on marrying me as yet and what he delivered next has to top everything I have ever heard in the course of these conversations...

Him: Look I have a sad life (Yes, I started to get a sense of that with your constant whining) and (here it comes) you have a sad life too... (Oh man, now you've really done it!) ... so you just marry me and then we can both be happy! You can finish this project and then you just settle down and you don't have to travel- I will take care of you.

I: (now I wasn't just amused or irritated) You know something, you might have a sad life (definitely) but you don't know me and you have no clue what my life is like so in future please refrain from commenting on what my life is like. Oh and by the way, marriage is no cure for a sad life! (In fact, it could make it much sadder, as you amply prove!)

At this point he still had the nerve to suggest that we should meet, get married and that I would definitely fall in love with him after we were married! No, please, don't even ask me...

And one more bites the dust.

Yours, saved from a sad life!

07 January 2011

New Scar(e)s from Matrimonial Marketplace

Dear All,

I realise that I have been slow to update you all about the latest from the matrimonial marketplace. My apologies for this- I was growing weary of the process and did not therefore feel the urge to entertain you all. However as the new year has begun I have decided to shed my cocoon of cynicism and once more regale you all with more from the Parade of Donkeys©. I recently read a profile that had me laugh out loud - something along the lines of 'I am so-and-so and from Kolkata where my parents have lived for more than a hundred years'. I knew there was something not quite right with this but it took me a minute to put my finger on it and all I could was shake my head in disbelief. So I said to myself 'is it fair that I deprive you all of this entertainment?' and of course you now all know the answer to that question. At least let me get my money's worth from my paid subscription on matrimonial slaughterhouse (it's almost coming to an end btw) and let us all have a good laugh!

So that was the first reason that I decided to start the new year with a new post but the other more hilarious reason- and of course if it's more hilarious it is also needless to say all the more scary!- was a timely call from an unknown number. Many of you know that I mostly conveniently ignore calls from unknown numbers which is what I did as usual. But I also now send off a text (more expensive, but more cautious) asking quite rudely, 'who is this?' And so I did with this unknown number. I got a reply the next day, which made drop the phone. One of the ghosts of the past (aka a donkey- this is how the father now routinely refers to them- from the year gone by) had been resurrected. Some of you will have heard, or have your own, various versions of this story and about this character; some of you will remind me how stupid I was to share my number so readily with this character (I know! I know!); all of you, I suspect, will soon be laughing (at me, of course!) till your sides hurt. 

So who was he? Sometime way back in May I had a couple of brief conversations with a Bengali gentleman-BG (or not, that is for you all to determine) who made it clear to me that he wished to make me the 'queen of his home and heart'. He also said that he would like to be my slave- I suspect it wasn't just me, he would have been any woman's slave. The first time we chatted on messenger he said he was in the army. When I asked him what he did or if it was strictly hush-hush, he said this was confidential work but he was involved in building essential infrastructure to combat the Chinese threat and he would tell more as and when we were to meet. As an aside, the Chinese would do well to simply lurk on various messenger applications to get at India's defense secrets rather than invest in anything more complicated.

More on BG- he wanted to tell me what he liked about my profile. He thought I sounded confident and very down-to-earth and I knew what I wanted. It is, of course, another matter entirely that for someone who supposedly knows what they want I always manage to get this wrong. Then came the big one- he thought I sounded like I had, and I quote, a 'dominating streak' and he could be my slave if I liked. Okay so this sounded somewhat suspicious to me. When I said I didn't want any man to be my slave (I know- what was I thinking! Just take what you can get and... Run!) he tried to convince me that this would be nice- to have someone at my beck and call. He continued in the same vein saying that he thought women were goddesses and the woman he would marry would be his Goddess! At this point I was definitely squirming. 

The parents were excited that I had, after a gap of many months, even spoken/ chatted with anyone and I was subjected to much questioning at dinner time with the sibling adding his bit with the dramatic drumroll (Gosh, these things leave such horrendous scars). I mentioned that I was a little worried with the whole 'I can be your slave' bit. They all looked askance at me. Then the pater familias in all his wisdom pronounced that perhaps this man genuinely felt that women deserved a better deal than they usually get and this was his way of expressing this. I was not convinced but agreed that I was maybe being a bit quick to jump to conclusions. The next day we spoke on the phone and the conversation was relatively harmless but perhaps even more detrimental to India's defense establishment- he said he was in Bengaluru getting some more training on I forget what. At this point he again tried to convince me of his slave-mistress ideas and I said very clearly that I believed that marriage was a partnership of equals (Oh, what a fool am I) at which point the conversation ended. But it did not end there.

A couple of days later we were again in the midst of an (ahem) engaging conversation on messenger wherein I was suddenly sprung the question of whether my feet were beautiful. Now, how does one answer this when one doesn't even know the man? Feet are personal dammit! More to the point, should one even answer? My fingers froze above the keyboard and I adopted my therapist voice and asked
"...and what makes you ask?"
"I find me women's feet very erotic :)"
Before I could come out of shock and frame a coherent reply I got "Their hands are also very erotic and their eyes too. So are your feet erotic, are they beautiful?" 

This was getting way out of hand, or should I say foot! I was now extremely uncomfortable discussing my feet with this unknown man. Then 
"Do you have to go out in the hot sun to work?" 
"When you come back at the end of the day with tired feet I will wash and massage your beautiful feet for you :)" YIKES! This was a whole new level of personal now. There was more, "I will make tea while you rest your beautiful feet and I can be your slave and you can order me about." 

I had now decided that he was definitely a foot fetishist and I did not want my pure, unsullied feet to feature in his nocturnal (or otherwise) fantasies! Oh no, not my feet (and hands and eyes, for that matter!) I said that we seemed to have very different views regarding marriage and it would be difficult to reconcile them. 

That evening at dinner the pater familias asked whether the sibling would get in touch with friends in Bengaluru who could check out the BG to see if he seemed worthy (!) of my affections at which I first gagged. I recovered myself to shriek no! and that my first impressions were quite accurate. They all raised their collective eyebrows at me. The father then asked 'You mean we should have preserved B's dog collar and leash for your prospective husband?!' (B was our much-loved and much-reviled black Lab who now lies six feet under in the garden) At which they all started laughing and I was the butt of much leg-pulling for the entire weekend- 'Ah, she needs a whip' 'Oh chains and handcuffs would really do it' 'Black leather, yes!' And mind you this when I omitted all reporting of the feet issue. I hid from BG on messenger and he made no attempt to contact me. Until now, that is. I took my time to reply in which I finally said that I believed that it is very difficult to get to know people when one is not in the same town. I think he has got the message since I notice that I am no longer on his interest accepted list. YAY! Relief.

I hope to have more for you all soon. Comments as usual are welcome and do drop me a line if these updates interfere with the even, calm pace of your lives.

Yours- saved from a foot fetishist,

Something more to read...

Dear All,

Something more for you all to read while I continue to mull over my next post...



06 January 2011

Dear All,

I have been gone for long but here's something for all of you to chew over while I mull over my next post-


Best wishes for the new year-

21 July 2010

Romance in High Gear- Epilogue and A Week of Extravagant Valentine Offerings

Dear All,

Where shall I start? Well the visit to the numerologist and a tarot reading remained pending... But I was still licking my wounds in the aftermath of the meeting with PLINBH and couldn't quite muster the enthusiasm for either. Although my anger had subsided by the time I was released from the purgatory that was that meeting, and I was almost hysterical with laughter- most probably from the sheer relief- as I had walked to the car, it had made me rethink why I had even agreed to meet the man and made me reflect that the tables always ended up being turned on me! As some people did not fail to remind me I had been expecting too much, which was something I couldn't quite wrap my head around- was it too much to expect someone to be truthful on their profile? Am I the only person to describe myself as being fat on my matrimonial profile?- I sure as hell haven't come across anyone else to do so although the photos tend to betray frames better described as being 'on the healthy side' (!).

I had in the meanwhile declined an interest sent me by 111 (I had started assigning them numbers according to the sequence in which I had declined their interest) but ended up meeting him anyway- such is my luck! 111 sent me an interest on the Valentine's Day weekend. "Matrimonial website" in their wisdom and efforts to market true love and romance, all of which are clearly passing me by (sigh), had introduced the innovative (ahem) idea of allowing all members to send off free 'e-gifts' with their messages. Thus, I was the lucky recipient of a couple of gift boxes (empty, most probably), four (yes, I kid you not) roses, an e-teddy bear and a song ('jaane kyun' from 'Dil Chahta Hai'- a touch cynical if you're looking for love?!). One of said gift boxes had been sent by 111, with a note saying 'Liked your profile. Would be a pleasure to know more abt you. Plz be in touch to proceed. tc 111'- as an aside, I really go for the authoritative tone they all adopt when instructing 'to be in touch'...not! 111 seemed familiar and I almost instantly recalled meeting someone of the same name in connection with the work that I was doing then, but I dismissed the idea it might be the same person since it just seemed like too much of a coincidence. I went on to read his profile where he proclaimed that he was on his way to setting up a globally recognised billion- dollar organisation and was a serial entrepreneur (which of course I read as killer because really, what else could he possibly be?). He said he'd published a book, was into theater and wrote poetry...I couldn't put this together with the man I'd met, but since there wasn't a photo I couldn't be sure (and I had now learnt my lesson about 'profiles with no photos'). So I sent off a photo request- to which I received no response. Anyway, in keeping with my new, generous, matrimonially-inclined persona I decided to give him some time... to no effect. 

A couple of weeks later I happened to be scanning job postings on a website and the first one was for a position at a certain organisation, which I decided to check out of curiosity. No prizes for guessing- it turned out to be 111's organisation and a sister concern of an organisation that was also involved in a project I was working on. I went all investigative and found the link that said 'TEAM' and sure enough 111's bio was posted there with remarkable similarity in the style of writing and some content and indeed, he had published a book. At this point given that on the one occasion I had met him, I had not been remotely interested in this person (someone I know described him as very un-yummy!), I thought it only fair to put him out of his misery and respond to his interest in some way- so I promptly declined him. This seemed very wise up until the point that I got a call from a third person requesting me to attend a meeting with them and 111! At this point I was somewhat frantic- there was no way I could not attend the meeting but I had no desire to come face-to-face with a man I had so unceremoniously declined just the week previously (and surely he would know me since I had boldly posted a photo on my profile!). Anyway the meeting went as planned and since it turned out that 111's team would be working with me briefly I went to his office as well to meet them. On the way over, he wanted to know where I was from and other such trivial details- but given my somewhat (!) suspicious nature I was convinced he was attempting to make subtle enquiries and I was giving nothing away! BTW in the interest of full disclosure- 111 said he was 5'7" whereas he's 5'5" with the headgear and hairstyle so lets subtract 3" to get the real height! Of course, I was faced with the fact that if anything were to go wrong in the project I was working on I would have had to shamefacedly confess all to my supervisor- aaaargh! The work went ahead with no further inauspicious meetings and I was all done and dusted.

Although I thought this was the end of the matter I turned out to be wrong. It seems that men on matrimonial sites, and I am not sure whether they are the same or a different species from other men, do not seem to follow the adage of 'once rejected, twice shy'. I had, in the hope of increasing my chances of meeting someone appropriate, posted my profile on a couple of websites but all this really resulted in was I tended to run into the same undesirable characters on both sites! 111 was one of the many- and he either did not recognise me from one site to another or was living in the fervent hope that I wouldn't recollect that I had declined him a month previously on another site (the mind boggles). So there sitting in my 'requests' was still another identical missive from 111. I pressed the 'reject' button as hard as I possibly could hoping to convey (unsuccessfully, most probably) exactly how un-anxious I was to pair up with him!

Yours, swimming in Valentine riches!-

08 July 2010

Romance in High Gear- Pt II or PLINBH!

Dear All,

So I left you all at the point where I had agreed to meet PLINBH. Before I get to the actual meeting let me tell you bit about matrimonial profiles on these (hideous facilitative) websites. There is a section where the lamb to the slaughter person writes about themselves, in which they describe their physical appearance, cultural background and family according to a template; then there is the empty field in which they can say whatever drivel they like about themselves; finally there is a section about what they would like in their desired victim partner; oh and of course, how could I forget?- the photograph album! The problem with all of this, of course, is that everyone would like to put their best foot forward and I, being the critical (you would never guess, would you?!) person that I am, tend to read all these profiles with a generous fistful of salt, always attempting to decode and deconstruct the language of these matrimonials, breaking them down to their true meanings- if indeed there is such a thing. I am always amazed by the monotonous same-ness that they tend to display; but that shall be material for another rant post.

You might recall my saying that there was no photograph on PLINBH's profile. I was never quite sure how to read this. I mean how can you possibly have any chemistry with someone if you don't find the person attractive and to that end the photograph is quite crucial; and of course, I am convinced that anyone without a photograph is definitely hiding something! So, no photograph; he said about himself that he was five feet-ten inches and his build was average- as I said nothing objectionable there. At some point I requested a photograph, pointing out that as he had already seen mine it seemed only fair that he share one too. The response that I got went something along these lines 'Let me surprise you!' Oh dear, in my experience surprises usually did not work out well for me. I asked him, only half-jokingly, whether he was hiding something to which he asked, somewhat defensively I thought, if I was worried that he was ugly! I wanted to say 'YES!' but being the nice, and not always critical, person that I am, I refrained from being so honest; honesty in any case being a highly over-rated virtue in my most humble opinion. I did try once more on the photo front asking how I would recognise him when we would meet to which the predictable response I got was 'Oh, don't worry because I'll recognise you.' Don't worry? Don't worry?!

I was now beginning to have a really bad sense about this upcoming meeting I had committed myself to. What's that saying about acting in haste...? Friends whom I had informed about this meeting-  you know, just so they would know to inform my parents and the cops in case he turned out to be an axe-murderer and I didn't resurface in a couple of hours- tried to reassure me that it would turn out fine. One kept insisting with a completely misplaced sense of optimism that he would turn out to be- and I quote- 'drop-dead gorgeous' (wasn't sure if that meant that I would drop dead); another friend asked why I was worried that he might not be attractive when I had clearly not chosen to accept his interest on the basis of his looks; and still another said I should look at the bright side since he was at least good at communicating. And these were my friends! By now, however, in good Indian tradition I had resigned myself to my fate.

And so on a lovely sunny late winter's afternoon at the end of February- the kind of somewhat cool afternoon you can still enjoy before the dusty winds of March engulf Delhi- I set forth to meet this man who seemed by now convinced that he would make me his wife. Since we lived at opposite ends of Greater Delhi (and anyone who knows Delhi knows that I actually mean opposite ends of the world) we agreed to meet halfway at a popular marketplace. He said that he would be waiting close to the cinema in said marketplace, keeping an eye out for me and I was to give him a call once I was there. I got there and as I entered the marketplace, where half of Delhi had descended to enjoy the last of the good weather but really also to witness my ordeal (which by now I was convinced was what it would be), I gulped one last time, still wondering whether I should make a run for it.

As I started getting closer to the cinema I kept my eyes peeled for a single man who looked like he could be waiting for me- optimistic I know, but I was pretty certain that I would know, just don't ask how. I remember this very vividly so indulge me while I go into graphic detail. Since he had said he'd be near the cinema I dialed him as I got closer and just as I did that I saw this one man- paunch hanging over his jeans, balding, about an inch shorter than me and very grim looking with his eyebrows meeting across the bridge of his nose. What gave him away was the oh-so-sinking sensation in my stomach... and I knew, I just knew that it was not to be my lucky day. The only coherent (!) thought in my head was 's**t! s**t! s**t! Please let it not be HIM!' And at that very moment three things happened; he saw me (why? why?); he made eye contact with me (why, oh why?); and he looked down at his phone to see that I was calling him. He looked back up and said 'S'; it wasn't a question- he knew, and I felt rather like a deer caught in the headlights. I tried to smile- I could feel my face breaking with the effort because all I felt right at that moment was anger- and said 'Hi, yes. You must be PLINBH.' And all the while my only thought was 'You liar, you bl**dy liar.'

I felt like I was walking in a daze as we decided to go to a cafe and chat, all the while thinking that this was my nightmare come true; I felt as though the entire crowd was watching me (and him) and the thought made me cringe. It was all downhill from there. The conversation was sparse, he barely laughed and when he did he still looked grim, and he talked again about family values! I, on the other hand, felt as though I was going to howl at any moment. At one point when he excused himself to go to the men's I frantically tried to send an SOS to a friend but he was too quick. I endured this mind-numbingly boring conversation for over an hour, telling myself that I had to be sure I was going to turn him down for the right reasons, because the turning-him-down part was no longer in doubt!

He did say at one point that we would have a lot to talk about on the phone that evening to which I could only bring out some strangling noise. He got the hint though and said we could talk the next day when I said that it would be good for both of us to think about things properly. He called the next day to ask whether I saw 'a road ahead together' but I was happily preoccupied with work (probably the only time that has happened) and I said I would call him back; as I was staring at his number, thinking of how I could phrase what I had to say without causing offence, my phone beeped with a message- 'You have not called. I take it that is no!' Ouch. Since this message immediately put my back up I refrained from replying that very minute but I also felt it unfair to not reply at all- everyone deserves to have some sense of closure because every encounter does raise your hopes. Although my mean side wanted to say in response to his 'road ahead'- 'no we have reached a T- junction and we should go in opposite directions!', I knew that was uncalled for. I finally replied saying I was sorry that I saw no future with him and wished him the very best. 

...And that was that.

Yours, in very low gear indeed!