My ex-best friend Anne was never good at dating.
I think she sucked at it. Though I could never quite pinpoint why.
Dating isn’t like mathematics, where you can add two and two together and the answer is the same every time. I liken dating to art; it’s subjective and everyone’s opinion is valid. Everyone sees something different.
Perhaps that’s why Anne thought she had mastered dating. Find a man her mother would approve of, date him long enough until he proposes, and settle for life.
The reason I believe she sucked at dating was that she never adhered to her own plan, nor did she believe that her plan would bring her happiness. Only happiness for her mother.
And her plan never accounted for desires or lust. Anne had plenty of pent up desire, as every person does, and those desires don’t manifest based on class, monetary worth, or what postcode you lived in.
If Anne figured out that dating was about her happiness, and her own standards of what she wanted in a partner, maybe she would have sucked less. And maybe she would have had fewer encounters like the one with Oliver.
The plumbers were at Anne’s house for a full week.
According to her socialite mother, the bathrooms in the house had become unusable due to their five-year-old decor. The house was being left to Anne when her mother passed, so she rarely objected to the improvements.
But this time, her mother would be away for the week and had left Anne in charge of letting everyone in. After a weekend of cocktails, the responsibility had temporarily slipped her mind.
On Monday, when they arrived, Anne was wearing her pyjamas. No makeup, untamed curly hair, and morning breath. Normally, she wouldn’t care, especially as the slew of tradesmen had seen her looking far worse.
Yet this time, there weren’t the usual middle-aged, married men she didn’t fancy. There was one man, undeniably gorgeous, with a Mediterranean accent that drove her crazy. Anne broke the rule for plumber Oliver: don’t lust after ‘the help’. Anne’s affluent mother had instilled outdated, elitist notions in her ever since she was young.
And as he struggled to contain his muscular physique in the fluorescent trade vest and shorts, she struggled to contain her lust.
On Tuesday, she was prepared. She woke an hour earlier than their start time. Dressed in tight jeans with a silk camisole, she applied a face of makeup. A curl wouldn’t be out of place when the plumbers arrived, as Oliver would find her reading a magazine by the pool when he started.
On Wednesday, she found herself alone with Oliver unexpectedly. She was in the kitchen, making the only meal she knew how to cook, unflavoured pasta. While boiling the water on the stove, he entered, giving her a start.
“I’m sorry, Miss, but we need to turn off the water for a few minutes. Do we have your permission?”
The answer was simple, but Anne could scarcely let out a noise. She smiled and nodded and hoped her embarrassment would subside. The pasta boiled over.
On Thursday, he was working on his own for an hour, tinkering with the exterior tap fittings. Anne spotted him alone and found an excuse to go outside. She pretended not to notice that he was there.
“Oh, I hope I’m not in the way.” She dropped the towel to the grass beside him, stripped back her sundress, revealing her barely-there swimwear, and laid in the sun.
“No, this is your house. Do as you please.”
On Friday, Anne was a little sick of the dancing around this gorgeous man. And her frustration had reached a new climax, even for her.
She wanted him, not to date, but to ravish. Anne salivated over his muscles, his acescent, his calm demeanour. Never before in her life had she wanted to sleep with someone so badly.
And the opportunity would land in her lap perfectly.
As the last of the plumbers left for the day, Anne noticed Oliver on his own. “Are you alone for the rest of the day?” she asked. “Yes, just to finish this last little job.” He produced a wrench from his pocket. “I need to replace the washers in your ensuite.”
“Come on, I’ll show you where it is.”
Both Anne and Oliver knew what this brief exchange of acting was. He had fitted the toilet in the ensuite the day before, and the taps the day before that. Oliver knew where the bathroom was and didn’t need Anne’s help. Instead, Anne was showing him where she wanted to have her way with him.
The Near Miss
As they entered her bedroom, she slammed the door shut and launched herself upon him. He reciprocated, kissing her and feverishly undressing.
Within a brief, sexually charge moment, they were both completely stripped bare. Naked on the bed, about to indulge in spontaneous, impassioned love making.
As she was about to have her way, Anne heard the front door slam. Even from upstairs, she recognised the sound of her mother walking through the hallway and ascending the stairs.
“No, no, no,” Anne erupted, seizing her clothes and his, “Follow me. Now.”
Slipping out through the door and down the back stairs, Anne led them to the alleyway behind their house. She tried to ignore the fact both of them were still naked, and he was watching all her insecurities giggle as she rushed. It was undignified, and Anne wasn’t used to that.
“What’s going on?” Anne threw his clothes at him as she started to dress.
“It’s my mother. She’s home now.” He finished buttoning his shirt.
“What is the problem with that?”
“If she caught us doing it, you would be fired, and I would be dead.”
“I wouldn’t be fired,” he remarked, “But would there be such a problem with sleeping with me? Am I not good enough?”
Anne didn’t know what to say.
Standing in the alleyway behind their house was degrading to him. It was the trade entrance, where the family had people come and go that they didn’t want the neighbours to see. It was the secrecy, the banished alleyway of shame.
As she looked at his confused face, she couldn’t find the words to explain it clearly.
It wasn’t him; specifically, it was the fact she was fraternising with ‘the help’. Her mother’s words, not hers. It wasn’t proper for her, it wasn’t what you did in Anne’s household unless you wanted to get kicked out.
Or lose your inheritance.
“Just don’t ask stupid questions.” Anne realised what she had said was wrong, but not nearly as bad as the truth would have sounded. She could live with herself giving him the brush off rather than appear a conceited snob.
Oliver left through the side gate and didn’t look back. He hadn’t fully finished dressing, and Anne watched as his glistening torso walked out of her life forever. The beautiful, well-mannered man, that send her desires racing, walked away. There wasn’t anything she could say or do to fix it.
Anne’s taps leaked for a year after that.
Don’t Be Like Anne
This is a simple story of happiness. Anne is still single, unmarried, and still lacks the basic understanding of dating. Yet, what she lacks more is an understanding of what she wants.
She doesn’t know if she’s trying to please her mother, or if she’s trying to please her desires. She can’t reconcile the balance between the two.
Anne keeps letting opportunities for meaningful relationships, like the one with Oliver, slip away from her. And it’s the reason we aren’t friends anymore.
I couldn’t stand the way she lied to me about her dating desires, as much as she did to her mother. She couldn’t be honest about what she wanted. She couldn’t be honest about her life.
It turns out we don’t really suck at dating. We just suck at working out what happiness really means.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring about love and relationships through fictional-reality. The anecdotes might not always be true, but the lessons learned sure are!
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