My version of normal.
My love life could be described in one word: chaotic. Anecdotes from my love life have led time and time again to my friends, co-workers, and family exclaiming: “This could only happen to you.” Whilst I am, of course, the main character of the entire universe, I do not believe that it is God or the producers of my TV sitcom life that force these funny interactions into my day. The culprit is much closer to home: it’s me.
I worked as a barista on Byres Road during summer where I met the boy I shall affectionately refer to as Latte Boy. He was chatty, and would come in daily, but he was not my type. I thought we were friends… until he asked for my number. “Ah” I thought. “Oops”. Filled with a built-in patriarchal pressure to not upset this man and wound his feelings, I gave him it, regardless of how uncomfortable I felt. As a barista, and in fact, in any job I’ve held, the line between providing good customer service and tolerating uncomfortable situations often blurs.
Over the next week, a red flag appeared when Latte Boy asked me about my background. He asked if I had family in Glasgow, because his dad thought I was the double of a woman he used to know. Puzzled by this, the thought only dawned on me later: how the hell did his dad know what I look like? I had never met him or seen him at work. I presume Latte Boy had taken photos from my Instagram.
Latte Boy also remembered everything I said. He would come in and say: “I was thinking last night about how right you are Jade, what you said last week was bang on.” This concerned me, as I can barely remember what I eat for breakfast most days, but good listeners do exist, even if I’m not one of them. His impeccable memory, however, became an issue when he asked me for a date.
The inevitable text came (this is verbatim):
“I’ll meet you tomorrow at Celino’s, 3pm! For a coffee, walk, bantz, and good vibes”.
I was ready with my rebuttal:
“Hey, I’d like to, but I just want to make sure it’s on a friendly basis! I’m seeing someone at the minute and would find it inappropriate otherwise”.
I thought I had him, until I didn’t. He told me he was seeing someone too, so of course, it was friendly. This annoyed me, as I wasn’t seeing someone, and now, with his impeccable memory and intelligent question asking, I was in a pickle.
“Jade,” you cry, “why not just say no? He was strange. Why not just avoid him?” Well, enraptured audience, I thought to myself: worst case, it’s a funny story. Best case, I add him on LinkedIn and when he’s a rich doctor I can get back in touch. I wasn’t concerned about my safety with him because who would hurt the barista at his favourite coffeeshop. It would be dead awkward if I got him barred.
I walked to Celino’s and found Latte Boy chatting loudly to a guy in the queue. He introduces me to Joe, and when I think we’re all about to take a seat, he says “can I get your details so we can go for a gym sesh bro?” Joe, the stranger, then leaves. “He was big,” Latte Boy later explained, “I want to work out with him.”
We sit down and after some general chit chat, he hits me with it. While I’m looking for a picture of my sister he says: “Is the guy you’re seeing from Edinburgh then?” I was ready. “No, Glasgow.”
I decided to use a good friend of mine as the mould for my man. I told Latte Boy the details – I met him in second year, he was my neighbour, and we were friends until things developed. We’re taking things slowly to see how it goes. Latte Boy, in a huge plot twist, admits that the girl he was seeing ended things a few days before our coffee. How convenient! We start speaking about our exes, and I find myself describing how happy I am being independent, before I scramble and realise I’m deeply in love with my old neighbour. There was some awkward backtracking. I know I’ve fumbled because after that, he completely discards the sanctity of my made-up relationship. It’s sad that instead of feeling comfortable enough to reject him, I turned to a convoluted story. I thought he might respect my fake boyfriend more than he would respect me.
When I tell him I’m taking “Old Icelandic Language”, he calls me beautiful in Icelandic. He then recites to me, in Italian, a passage by Dante. I nodded for a minute wondering how the hell you’re supposed to respond to poetry in a language you can’t understand spoken by a guy shorter than you wearing a bandana. The passage was about a man ripping his heart out for a woman.
We start talking about the gym, because, you know, he works out, and I talk about my ankle mobility. He looks me dead in the eye after a pause and says: “Well, I’m a qualified massage therapist. I could give you a leg massage, or anywhere you want. Strictly professional.” Please believe me when I tell you he repeated that offer another three times on the date.
He shows me his workout page. He scrolls through Instagram, loading videos of himself flexing to music and eating raw eggs. I stop myself from cringing, because the videos in his boxers are just too much to take. He tells me about his heart attack, which he had at 22 due to eating too much steak – I’ll be damned if I know the logistics of that, by the way – and he says that he wants to get back to “looking juicy”, “obviously for you, Jade”. He clearly does not respect my fake boyfriend.
We stand, and he tells me that he’s going to pay, so we get into the queue. While waiting, he drops his backpack to the floor, says “I’m going to the toilet,” and walks away. Confused, but intellectually deadened by the whole experience, I pay for us both, because I don’t intend to owe him anything. When he comes back, he feigns anger, and then says “I’ll get the next time then” with a wink. I’ve been played.
We leave and my fears are confirmed: he lives in the same direction as me. I pretend I needed some stuff from Tesco to get away, and I watch him doddle off in the direction of my flat. I go home and immediately start telling my friends. Most laugh, because I’m a brilliant storyteller, but some are seriously concerned about the stupid situations I end up in.
In retrospect, I wish I’d just said no. I’ve spoken to boys who’ve left dates after 20 minutes because they don’t fancy the girl. I would never have the confidence to do that. The narrative in my head – you want to be nice, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – is not a narrative I want anymore. It doesn’t serve me. It may keep me safe, but it doesn’t keep me comfortable. I’m going to work on saying no. There are worse things to be in life than a bitch. Enabling men, for one.
In the end, I was fired from the cafe (on an unrelated issue).
I blocked Latte Boy’s number.While not the focus of this article, it is important to recognise when unwanted and persistent behaviour becomes serious and/or dangerous. Stalking is unfortunately experienced by many in the UK, and can take many forms, including being constantly (and unwantedly) contacted by another person. To understand the signs of such behaviour, as well as to find report and support information, visit Stalking: support in Scotland – mygov.scot for more information.