The rules of having a friend with benefits seem to be a little grey.
Partly because checked shirt guy wasn’t a friend, so really that makes him… Just a benefit?
On paper this concept sounds good but in actuality it didn’t play out as expected.
If my room had been a restaurant and the rules were our menus, we would have to complain to the manager. However in this scenario there is no management team, no waiters and no cashiers. In fact we are the only customers. There is no hierarchy for making a complaint about the inconsistencies in our menus.
In the beginning we seemed to have corresponding menus. The dishes being offered were delicious, filling and made with the customer in mind. They were exactly what the customers ordered.
However as time passed one of the menus seemed to have been redrafted and I certainly did not sign-off on this redraft. I did not enjoy the re-written edition of his menu. Frantically I searched my menu. Nope THAT was definitely not on the original version. The dishes were no longer fulfilling our appetites and no matter how many times I tried to like the chefs new creations, it just wasn’t doing the trick.
He seemed content to create a pick and mix style buffet meal where he mixed and matched his dishes. He didn’t mind that the flavours did not compliment each other.
I however am a fussy eater, I like my food to be hot, fresh and exactly what I ordered. No surprises or last minute dish alterations.
Needless to say when your restaurant only has two customers and half of the customers are not satisfied with their meals, it’s not good for business.
Within a couple of weeks the foreclosure signs had been knocked in and bags had been packed.
We both went in search of restaurants that were more finely attuned to our individual tastes. But it wasn’t a wasted dining experience. Maybe I didn’t find what I was looking for but I was now clearer on what I wasn’t looking for. Which is another step forward, right?
One overly hot, sticky March evening I found myself amidst a small gathering of fellow British folks. We had congregated in a colleagues apartment in the vain hope that the AC and chilled beverages would serve to cool our restless souls as another work week passed almost timelessly.
Much to my horror I discovered that of all the people crammed into this apartment, there were two single people. And yup I was one of them.
Had I unintentionally stumbled upon a couples only date night? I looked around the room wondering if they were wondering why I was here. “She can’t be here, ITS COUPLES NIGHT!”
A few hours later I didn’t even notice the couples arguing over flower arrangements and china teacup patterns. I was making small talk with the only other person in the room who had also recently received the ‘plenty of fish in the sea’ speech.
But sadly there was no connection. We had two things in common:
1. We were both single and
2. We were both human.
Not exactly the material of a great love story but he took my number at the end of the night.
So unremarkable was our conversation, that the next day when we sent me a message I couldn’t even remember his name. So I saved him as checked shirt guy (because I am 50% certain that the shirt he donned that night had been checked.)(The other 50% thinks it was ow, polka dot but I totally would have remembered that, right?)
Out of politeness I text back but mentally I had already put him in the discard pile.
His personality certainly hadn’t been memorable but maybe he had other means of being memorable that I hadn’t quite experienced yet. I took him out of the discard pile and made room for him in the benefits pile.
Why had I been taking baby steps into singleton when I should have been leaping? I was slowly learning how to be single and it was going to be a steep learning curve.
At the end of March 2012 it was finally spring break. We had two weeks off to enjoy the sun. Friends and family flew over to visit their loved ones staying in Doha.
Jane and her husband Marty had a good friend visiting them. We will call him Bill. He was looking into job opportunities in the Middle East and was out for 2 weeks. I barely registered that he was there for the first 10 days. But one evening he joined Jane and I for drinks at a local bar.
Jane and Bill reminisced of stories from their University days and we laughed fondly at our younger selves and how far we had come. Before too long last orders had been called and we suddenly realised just how drunk we were. In true British fashion we decided that fast food would aid as our fool proof, preventative measures for a hangover cure.
We arrived at Janes apartment feeling merry but fairly confident that we had found the cure for the common hangover.
Jane made her sleepy good nights and made her merry way to bed. I began to walk towards the door but without even thinking and fuelled by the alcohol I turned to bill and said with a sly smile, “aren’t you coming?”
He didn’t need to be asked twice.
It turns out the fast food may provide the cure for hangovers but unfortunately it does nothing to conquer the morning after the night before awkwardness.
Luckily the awkwardness did not last long, partly because the awkwardness grabbed his clothes and left within two minutes. ( He had to get home before Jane and Marty realised he was AWOL.) It turned out that he was locked out of the apartment anyway, not exactly the next Einstein but he was a good guy.
Things weren’t really awkward between us, in fact when he went back to England we spoke everyday and by the time he finally moved out to Doha in September we were really close friends.
We never became anything more than friends but it was good to have someone from the guys team to help decode the mixed signals given out by the selection of ‘men’ I dated once I arrived. He did, after all, have the inside perspective and sometimes his advice was valuable. But don’t tell him I said that…
When embarking on an adventure to find a new man, one has to look at ones best at all times. Because no matter what people say, sometimes a sparkly personality just doesn’t cut it.
The age old question that every woman asks herself is ‘how do you make yourself look good without turning your life upside down though eating plans and exercise schedules?’
The answer clearly lay hidden within Zumba. So every Tuesday evening we would put on our Zumba appropriate outfits ( bright, over the top, not flattering in any light outfits) and we would attend a ladies only Zumba class.
The class was fun. We spent most of the hour laughing at each others uncoordinated attempt at replicating the instructors moves. Don’t be fooled though because at the end of the hour we were incredibly hot and absolutely exhausted. The best version of ourselves here we come!
We became regulars and we began to make friends with the other ladies there. During one lesson I noticed one lady continuously looking back at me. I flashed her a big smile thinking she must have felt sorry for me and my poor attempt at Zumba dancing. The instructor called a short water break and we all bounced to our bottles located at the side of the Zumba tent.
Resisting the urge to pour the water over my head marathon runner style I took a deep sip. ” Hello,” I heard a voice say, ” are you new here?”
It was the staring lady from earlier.
“No,” I replied, ” I have been coming for a few weeks now.”
This small chat continued for a couple more minutes until the music started up again, which was our cue to get back on the dance floor.
The lady continually to look over her shoulder at me, I was starting to feel a little paranoid and I began to wonder if I had something in my teeth.
Eventually the class finished and we stood talking to the instructor for a bit. I glanced over my shoulder and the staring lady was having a drink. Was that my bottle she was drinking from? I’m sure it was an accident though, it would be easy to confuse my flowery sports bottle with her Aquafina pure bottled water, water bottle, right?
She gave a little wave, I guess I was staring at her this time. I hope my mouth hadn’t been open as I stared at her in confusion. I dorkily waved back and wondered over.
“I like your hair,” she said.
Was this lady serious? I had just been getting my sweat on for the past hour. I was an absolute riot. This time my mouth my definitely open.
“Thanks,” I mumbled back. Not really sure how to respond, I picked up MY flowery water bottle and started to walk toward the exit.
She grabbed my wrist. “Do you want to get a drink with me?” She smiled at me, her head cocked to one side.
Was she serious? Had I been single that long that my body was giving out signals to everyone in my radius?
Would it be so bad to date a woman? Maybe it would be a nice change. My mind worked double time weighing up the pros and cons. Was I actually considering this? Could I be bisexual? They say that bisexuality is just a layover on the way to being gay. Am I gay?
Girls are beautiful, complex, hard to understand creatures. I can’t even understand my own decisions sometimes..
Stood in that Zumba tent questioning my sexuality I realised that I wasn’t gay. At least I didn’t want to be gay that day.
So I pulled my hand away and made my excuses.
I walked out of the Zumba tent and that was the last time I did Zumba. Maybe one day I might fancy a little bit of Zumba again. It was a nice feeling knowing that Zumba was there if I ever wanted to do a little bit of crazy dancing . But for the time being I didn’t want to go too far from the rock pool. Mermaids were possibly a touch too exotic for me.
It’s a rule of thumb that when you are in a relationship all of your friends are single and when you are single all of your friends will be in a relationship. So you guessed it, newly single and absolutely everyone I knew was married. Well almost everyone. I had one amazingly, awesome, single friend. (I will call her Tilly.)
On Thursday nights, because in Doha the weekend is Friday/Saturday, we would dress up ( and I mean dress up) and we would find somewhere noisy to drink our cocktails.
On one particular Thursday night, we decided we were going to pretend we were in a band. A very cliched band. We wore skin tight leather pants, grunge tops and fake glasses. I was naturally the singer and Tilly was the drummer.
After very blustery drinks at the sky view bar we made our way to Paloma Nightclub. We strolled, because people in bands stroll, over to the bar and before we had even reached the bar half a dozen people had asked to buy us a drink. But it wasn’t until we got to the bar that we acknowledged our pursuers.
That night we made friends with guys from South Africa. There were two of them but I only really have a recollection of one of them. He told us his ‘skateboard name’ was Booby Scooby. Clearly made up, but then again, so were our aliases. We spent the night dancing with our new friends and at the end of the night we didn’t want the night to end. However it’s not what you might think.
Yes we went back to their room, but we went to see their skateboard. I swear!
Turns out that not everyone has a fake name and identify because they did indeed have a skateboard in their room and as you can imagine hotel rooms do not offer you the freedom of movement that one requires when performing skateboard tricks. I’m almost certain that the deal was ‘we will do some skateboard tricks if you sing us one of your bands songs…’ (Challenge accepted.)
On the insistence of Booby Scooby we left put shoes in their room ( you cant ride a skateboard in heels) and we all stumbled downstairs to the pool/ beach area were there was less bedroom furniture and more skateboard appropriate materials. The tricks were mediocre at best. Who goes on a business trip and packs their skateboard when they aren’t even pro?
Feeling disappointed, sandy and tired we dragged ourselves back to the hotel room to fulfil our end of the bargain. Booby Scooby declared that we couldn’t possibly sing with sandy feet. So he led me to the bathroom, sat me in the side of the bath and proceeded to wash my feet. Yes he washed my feet but it wasn’t until Tilly burst into the room and demanded to know what was going on that it crossed my mind that this perhaps was a little strange. She made a Jesus type reference which ensured that I grabbed my feet back, I jumped out of the bath slid out of the room and we hot tailed it from the Skateboarding, foot fetished, South African hotel room.
In our haste we forgot to grab our shoes, just perfect. I’m sure that was his plan all along. If you can’t have feet have the next best thing… Shoes which feet have been in.
To this day whenever I look at my feet I still feel a little violated and I still do not like people touching my feet.
So unfortunately due to one bad experience I have drawn a line through the rock pool of South Africa and I will no longer be pursuing a career in music.
For anyone who has ever had to start over you will probably know that starting over is scary and hard. But starting over alone especially after being part of pair, (where one half of the pair is the calm, sensible, organiser) going it alone is terrifying. For the first week I lay awake every night teary eyed, questioning my latest life decisions.
Clearly losing it, I dealt with my inner turmoil by verbalising my questions to the dark, empty bedroom in the vain hope that an answer would come from somewhere. Obviously, the not so quiet, Doha night did not reply. But friends and family sent words of wisdom and I found the strength to not quit on my new life.
Fast forward three months after touch down in Doha and my inner turmoil had completely disappeared. However the words of wisdom still stuck with me. People’s response to a newly single person questioning their decision to take a step away from coupledom is always, ‘don’t worry. There are plenty of fish in the sea.’
Not being much of a fish person, I always respond with “I’d prefer a narwhale, octopus or shark.”
Why would we want a fish when there are so many other more exciting creatures in the sea?
I’ve had fish. Fish goes nicely with peas. Fish can be quite bland. Fish promises to travel the world with you. But fish likes to stay in its rock pool, where life is easy, where the tide comes and goes like clockwork. Fish bails on you when you no longer want to eat peas. Now I no longer enjoy fish. The british Cliche of battered fish and chips is just too ironic for me.
I’m looking for something more fulfilling. Something from a more tropical climate. Something with a bit more bite.
The question is, once you have left the safe environment of your rock pool where do you go from there?
My first few months in Doha required a slight adjustment. A new place, new faces and a whole new culture. It was definitely eye opening. Coming from Scotland I thought I was pretty culturally diverse. After secondary school I’d moved from our close knit little fishing town to the big, city lights of Glasgow.
I went from being a country bumpkin, with nothing but good old fashioned Scottish farmer friends, to a city chick who had friends with controversial views from all different types of economic and ethnic backgrounds.
I walked through shopping malls and I thought I was super cosmopolitan, with my British friends who had family from different parts of the world. But the key word here is British. They had lived in Britain their whole lives, they dressed British, thought British and ate British. They maintained some of their culture but inevitably, like me were British.
Only since moving to Doha have I met people who are actually from different cultures. They grew up in different counties and they have absorbed their local heritage. And they definitely think different, act different and even dress differently to people I had previously met. Meeting people who do not fit into your mould of the world really makes you challenge everything you have ever known.
But just because they don’t have the same ideals, knowledge and rules that we do, does not mean that what they do is wrong. It just makes things different. I have had to adapt.
But every time you meet someone new everything is challenged again.
This is why my dating life has been a source of hilarity for my close friends as I try to, at least pretend to, know what I’m doing.
I have been a yes man, no discrimination from my end. I have now dated a variety of men from different cultures and countries and when two people try to do things that are socially acceptable in their country but not in others… Things get messy!