On the flight home from the Gold Coast, it suddenly occurred to me this was the first time in my life I’d travelled alone.
In fact, this was one of only a handful of times in the past 32 years I’d done anything on my own, excepting a three-month stint living alone when I first moved to Sydney, and a couple of weekends my flatmate had gone away. Even then, I’d invited friends (or friends-with-benefits) over to bridge the temporary void.
There was something about stillness – about truly being with myself – that felt utterly terrifying. And so, as the realisation dawned on me, so did a weird sensation of satisfaction tinged with dread. I felt accomplished at the stride toward independence I’d just made, and yet, petrified of what that meant. Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to think about it for long.
Within weeks of returning home, it became clear that Potential Boyfriend/Cash-Strapped Backpacker 10 Years My Junior (in hindsight, that should’ve been the first red flag) was in no way interested in being my boyfriend; now – or ever. And so his once daily texts rapidly dropped off until it had been over a week since I’d last heard from him. Long gone too, were the wink face emojis and late-night phone calls that stretched on into sunrise. Fortunately, I was able to glide right past dealing with the emotional consequences, and straight into a new obsession, thanks to a guy at my gym who’d started showing me attention.
Actually, he was one of the managers. Not initially my type, either. But he had a cheekiness about him which I found progressively more endearing as time went on, and made me feel noticed. Not to mention, the whole manager/client/off-limits thing (HOLY OPRAH prohibited things are hot). Those were really the only check boxes you needed to tick to earn my emotional investment. Everything else was pretty open to interpretation.
Unemployed and living with your mum? You might be a creative type who just happens to really love his fam. Have an alcohol problem? I mean, is half a bottle of Jack Daniels a day really a “problem”? I eat half a family-size block of chocolate a day…who am I to judge??
Needless to say, my standards had officially sunken to an all-time low, much like my self-esteem – which, at this point, was about as robust as an Ikea Expedit bookshelf (if you’ve managed to skate through life this far without purchasing one, save your sanity and literally thousands of irretrievable hours and don’t go there).
I’m not entirely sure it mattered who showed me attention, only that someone did. And BOY, was Gym Guy good at acknowledging my existence. Like, if there had of been an award for almost remembering my name and making occasional eye contact whilst telling me not to use gym equipment again without a towel, MATE, you can bet your last purple Cadbury Roses chocolate, he’d get it.
So, naturally, after a fairly intensive round of eye-contact-exchanging one afternoon, I decided to risk it for the biscuit, and shot Gym Guy a challenge.
“So, are you just going to keep flirting with me, or are you actually going to ask me out sometime?” I smirked, quickly scoping out the closest exit routes whilst planning how I’d take on a new identity and relocate to Armenia if shit hit the fan.
“Well, now you’ve asked…how about this Friday night?” he said, with an irresistibly cheeky grin that made my lady parts feel all tingly.
“Sure. Here’s my number,” I replied, taking out my phone.
This was mistake number one. BIG mistake. HUGE.
Within hours, there was a steady supply of see-no-evil monkey faces and “you looked hot today” messages in my phone under his name, which I’d saved with a smiley face beside it. (Okay fine, it was a red heart and a bride emoji.)
Out of his usual gym attire and in a Bonds shirt under a leather jacket summoning hints of James Dean on our date, Gym Guy quickly transitioned to Potential Boyfriend 2.0 (like I said, my checklist wasn’t particularly lengthy, or logical). After shouting a couple of rounds of margaritas guaranteed to lower my desperately poor judgment even further, he walked me home. Oh, and he HELD MY HAND the entire way. Like, finger entanglement style. FINGER ENTANGLEMENT, PEOPLE.
Obviously the second I made it inside the cover of my apartment I Googled “What it means if a guy holds your hand” and discovered Gym Guy was in fact in love with me, and likely already strategising a surreptitious way to get my ring measurements.
Anyway, like I said, exchanging numbers with him was a big mistake. HUGE.
After that night, every time my phone made a noise, I immediately checked it to see if it was Gym Guy texting to tell me he was just a guy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him (so I’ve watched a lot of Julia Roberts movies, so sue me).
When it inevitably wasn’t, I turned my phone off and then back on again. And then off. And then back on again. And then off. And then back on again. And then called Optus and asked if the network around the gym was down. And then started formulating possible theories for his silence, and came to the conclusion he was lying dead in the Gym Manager’s office, slowly decomposing in a pile of sweaty hire towels.
As it turned out, he’d just had a REALLY BUSY WEEK, you guys. Because making sure everyone puts a towel down before using the equipment is a 24/7 job, obvs. It would be another two “busy” weeks until I finally gave in and texted him, ‘R we going out again, hot stuff?’ (God, I’m smooth).
By this point, the rotation of FBs I’d worked tirelessly to build and maintain had crumbled without its regular feed of invalidating text messages and small penis worship to nurture it, so all my eggs (and a platinum gym membership I didn’t need) were in Gym Guy’s basket.
It was with relief then, that he replied, “How’s Friday again?” and our blossoming love was rekindled over Netflix and chill at his house.
Half an hour into Pretty Woman, we had sex. I mean, it might as well have BEEN a Julia Roberts movie for reals – that’s how steamy it was. How had I been putting up with the selfish Ds of FBs for so long when Gym Guy had been here all along, waiting to go all Richard Gere on my arse?
The kissing was passionate, his touch was close to Godliness and my loins were aching in all the right ways. Then Gym Guy looked at me longingly, sweetly stroking my hair behind my ear and said, “So are we gonna do anal now?”.
Hmm. Yes. Good question.
Was I going to let a guy I’d been on two dates with (really 1.5, given everyone knows Netflix and Chill isn’t a real date), who’d taken weeks to agree to a see me again, take my butthole virginity? And, more importantly, was the fact I was even considering this, a sign I was so desperate to avoid being alone, I’d rather do anal with a guy whose life aspiration was to perpetuate gym selfies?
I’d tell you now, but (no pun intended) that’s for next week’s column.