dating

"I went on a perfect date. Then the next morning, I got a five-word text that ruined it all."

I remember when we matched on Tinder. I’m not one for remembering the smaller details… but there was a split second in my mind where I looked at his face and thought he had the warmth and kindness I was looking for. A quick six word message about a movie I’d seen and we were off. I didn’t realise that six words could set off a chain of events in my life that would make me question my unshakeable faith in love – a faith I’d held deep to my core since I was eight years old.

When I was a child, I grew up with a fantastical, rose coloured and romantic ideal of what falling in love was. You meet your partner after you drop an armful of books in the corridors of high school, you meet the family and eventually he gets down on one knee and your soul feels like it’s about to explode with happiness.

He wasn’t following the template. In fact, he was always out of reach physically. He lived in a beach town, a two hour drive out of the city and was busy with work, with family, with his kids. And although his body, his presence, his touch was unavailable, he was more than available on my phone. My Whatsapp chimed from when I woke up at 7.45am and continued until I drifted to sleep near midnight. He wasn’t fitting the template. But it was 2018. Maybe this was the new template?

Watch: Dating, translated. Post continues after video.

Video by MWN

The messages we exchanged were personal, intimate, yet so mundane. My phone was filled with pictures of his cooking – he took me on the step by step journey of making pasta – selecting the ingredients, making the dough, working the half-falling-apart pasta maker. He took pride in his cooking – and I saw it as a sign that he was a man ready to make a home. My phone sat with the chat screen open – and the speed of my heartbeat seemed to be in sync with when he was typing. Every moment I would wait for the message to come through and when it did it was a hit of adrenaline straight to my heart. His name was imprinted into my phone – the chat program had been open for so long it had seared a ghost image of the letters into the screen. I was hooked.

One day, while wrangling my niece in the park, I got the message. “I’m in town this weekend,” he wrote. “Let’s get a drink.” Finally – it was happening. I spent the next three days in a panic. What to wear? Not white – that’s too much. Something pretty, something floaty and floral and… I don’t know. Every decision I made in preparation for this brief window of opportunity was life or death. It was my one chance to make my impression. I had to get it right.

The day finally came. I saw him confidently approaching me, striding past the Asian grocer, the dingy Chinese takeout. Without saying a word he laid his lips on me, laid his palm on my lower back and kissed me. It was happening. Everything was coming together.

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A split second later it was 2am and I was at home in bed by myself, shell shocked. The date was over. I’d met him. I’d met the one.

Looking in my phone the next day, I was elated. He’d been quiet – but that was OK – now we’d met each other, touched, kissed, I was secure. Until a message popped up.

“Stay away from my boyfriend.”

woman sending a text message
"Now when I look at my phone, the other woman’s face flashes at the top of my Facebook Messenger." Image via Getty.

I saw her face in a little circle sitting at the top of my Facebook Messenger. She had long brown hair, thin lips and high cheekbones. She looked lovely.

I explained to her I did not know who she was.

And then she started to tear shreds from my heart. He was with her. He met her after he matched with me. He’d met her family. They were going to move in together. He’d bought a ring.

I looked at the floral dress I’d so carefully selected hanging on the back on my door. I apologised to her. Explained myself. And with no words blocked him.

I’m not sure why I did it, but I put on the dress. I ran my hands over the orange silk and remembered what I was like when I was eight years old. When romantic moments were wrapped up in soft dresses and gold rings.

I would never pursue a man who had a partner. And I would do anything to undo hurt caused to the woman I upset. But I did not know. So, all I can take from the experience is a piercing and cold lesson. Be careful who you trust.

The warm glow my heart had given off for so many years softened that day. Now when I look at my phone, the other woman’s face flashes at the top of my Facebook Messenger. A reminder of when I was fooled and that two people were deeply hurt. But his name. His name is burned into my phone. A ghost image that teases me every time I look at a blank screen. A ghost that goes beyond my phone screen and teases me whenever I feel hopeful.

Be careful who you trust.

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