But I was afraid of coming here. Afraid of once again wandering through the streets of a beautiful old city and feeling lonely again. Like Barcelona. Barcelona was beautiful and lonely. I ached there by myself and promised myself I wouldn't travel alone again. And then I did. Now, for example.
And for the past two weeks, while I have been planning this business trip, I've felt the fear sitting on my chest. And in my stomach. Fear of what? I don't really know. But the loneliness is the most likely answer.
And so here I am. Not lonely. Go figure! Just actually finding a good mix between work engagements, chatting to mates on Facebook and WhatsApp, and wandering the streets and waterways of Amsterdam. And sampling copius amounts of food. Delicious new things. And watching the people.
I've also been watching the people online. Seeing the debate rage about the Ashley Madison Hack. Reading through the sanctimonious judging assholes as they take pleasure in the pain and fear that the exposed are experiencing. And the cheating assholes responding to their jeering. And other cheating assholes denying ever having done anything on Ashley Madison except talk to fake profiles and netbots. Finding someone who actually admits to meeting people: actual real live relationships that may or not involve sex...none of those things happend. It's almost as hard to find anyone in South Africa who once voted for the Apartheid government in the bad old days!
I am clearly one of the very rare people out of 33 million who met up with live actual men, if the stories are to be believed. Not one of the men that I met and actually had sex with had wives, although the Tasmanian was in a committed long term relationship. And Red was on the way out of his. And Berlin was in a similarish open 'don't ask don't tell' situation, (not that Berlin and I had 'The actual sex' mind you...). Some that I met and decided to not have sex with were married. It felt weird. I'm glad I didn't go there. And glad I pulled out of the Tasmanian situation as fast as I did - I couldn't really abide the lack of integrity that comes from consciously lying to one's spouse. So my AM men are watching the 'exposure' with interest, rather than panic. We all would prefer this not spilling into our professional public domain, but aren't concerned our relationships will be affected. There's that part where I really don't want my kids to be exposed to this, and I hope that won't happen. I used a fake name and email address.
So shrink set me some homework, which I'm about to start: I need to write out my 'hidden' online dating profile. I'm sitting in a pub in Amsterdam having dinner by myself, and so now is as good a time as any, I suppose.
I haven't deleted my AM profile yet. I suspect that AM is a bit of a Ghost Town at the moment. But I haven't been back there since Red. I'm not completely sure it's over with Red, and I'm also trying now to not fling myself into yet another tough relationship. If he's not to be, I want to try to give myself some time out to recover more before I re-engage.
So my online profile reads like this:
I'm in a consenting open marriage. I want a relationship with a man who will enjoy exploring this life phase with me. My dream mate is clever. Successful. Soulful. Sexy. Healthy. Strong. Kind. Funny. Solid.I have lived life and learned stuff. I value wisdom and lifelong learning. I'm a curious thinker about the human condition. I write. I read. I work out (within reason). And I work.I want soulful connection and hot sex! Sometimes at the same time! An intimate life companion without the domestic ordinary that comes with marriage and kids. A place to escape sometimes and be this other part of me. Love Scammers that trawl this site: stay the fk away from me. I know your game and I'm not interested in playing. You'll be wasting your time with me.
It's all true. Not one lie or fake word here. But there is a lot of stuff missing of course - the stuff I wouldn't put in the shop window.
Would it read more like this?
I'm 48 and fucked up. Piles of baggage. Tough childhood stuff shaped me and tough adult stuff drove the message home. I will seduce and entice you with my sexy siren song, and flip on you the minute you show me any interest. I'm not hard to get. I'm far too fucking easy, and give my heart away to undeserving assholes who don't know what a gift it is. I love wholeheartedly, intensely, overwhelmingly. If left unchecked I can smother you with whatever I think you need. I'll think for you, love for you, anticipate your every need, and overcompensate for your shortcomings. I'll let you get away with anything because I'm afraid you'll leave. I'll be dileriously happy with whatever crumbs of love and affection you'll leave me. If you don't match my connection enthusiasm with texts and calls and meetups, if you take hours to read my texts, and even longer to respond, I'll panic and imagine you gone, and turn into a clingy wretch, and pursue you relentlessly, seeking approval and reassurance from you. But I'll forgive you anything you do - I'll protect you from the pain you cause me, and carry it all inside my fragmented and fragile heart. And if you need to leave me, I'll wait for you: days, weeks, months. Take all the space you need. Take everything you need: I'll put my needs on hold for you for as long as you need me to. Love me. I beg you. Love me.
Also all true.
I don't want it to be true for me any more.