I sat down facing the window and proceeded to read Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. He poured me a nice layered heart pattern today which was pretty enough that I didn't mind the lack of fancy-ness. A while later, he came by to clear the table next to me, and said, 'You're not studying today? What are you reading?'
I showed him the book. He read the author's name and title out loud. 'Do you know it? It's pretty famous,' I said.
The look of confusion on his face - which made me laugh - answered my question. He went on to tell me that he reads mostly science fiction and fantasy, and some comic books (ha ha ha). I stated the obvious and said, 'So you've read the Lord of the Rings then?'
'Yeah, like five times.' We then had a brief discussion about how I found the first volume really boring, how I should read The Hobbit even though it's a book for boys due to its lack of female characters, and how the Lord of the Rings - at least the first book - contains too much details and is written in a rather dry fashion.
After a short lull in the conversation, he asked, 'Do you want something to eat?' He was clearing away a half-eaten brownie which I couldn't help but stare at. 'Would you like a cake?'
'The brownie looks good,' I said. 'But it's so evil!'
'I can give you something,' he said. 'The Duke of Cambridge. It's broken, so it's free.'
I followed him to the counter. He spent some time looking for the piece of dessert that broke off a bit in the baking process. Whilst he was putting it on a plate, I looked at it longingly but also with a sense of guilt. 'You are so evil. I am doing sugar-free but this is so tempting!'
'You're sugar-free? This is definitely not sugar-free.'
'I guess a piece of cake isn't going to hurt.' The girl next to Matt (who is new, I think) agreed: 'One piece won't hurt.' Matt said, 'You're a student. Take what you can get!'
And so I gleefully accepted it. It wouldn't have been my first choice of dessert, but after three weeks of abstaining from desserts (save for two Bengawan Solo vegan almond cookies and half a piece of gluten-free cake from the law faculty which I bought only because I was hungry and there was nothing else to eat, and a few bites of the coconut cake served at my Chinese New Year formal), my non-first choice dessert tasted like fucking heaven. It had chocolate. It had so much chocolate. Oh my god, I was so happy.
And so this is why I have a soft spot for Matt. He totally made my day without even realising that he was making my day. It'd been a while since he last gave me something for free (I think it was a free flat white after I gave him the postcard) so I really wasn't expecting this. Sure, he gave me a broken piece of cake which they couldn't sell, but he didn't have to; he could've given it to some other customer, or someone could've taken it home, etc. So I was really happy, so much so that it put me in a right enough frame of mind and lifted my mood significantly enough that I actually did some work in the library after coffee/cake + novel.
So that was the highlight of my day. His timing couldn't have been more perfect, as I felt myself getting sucked back into the moodiness halfway through French class despite feeling better after ranting to John about the issue over lunch. Without quite knowing it, I really needed something to make me happy; and today, Matt made me happy.
Of course, I am not completely cured of the B hangover yet. While seated at the window in the cafe, I idly looked up from my book and out of the window as I tend to do once in a while due to my short attention span; and I felt my breath catch in my throat when I saw a black roadster pull up to the sidewalk just in front of the cafe.
It was a Madza, so it didn't even have the same manufacturer, but the association was immediate, as was the image that flashed across my mind's eye - of me getting out of his car at 1.30am outside my college, laughing at some joke he made, kissing him goodbye.
After that, a couple of more images: our second date, his random (hilarious) dancing the night he made me dinner at his which reminded me of my father and his hilariously bad dancing to make my mother laugh. I liked this about B - that he reminded me of my father in a good way.
Barry said yesterday to re-focus one's mind when one feels as if one is being sucked into a vortex of dwelling on negative emotions, and so I forced the images out of my head and focused on my book. Then later on in the library, I focused on refining my argument why John Finnis' argument against homosexuality (and contracepted sex between spouses) is unconvincing because question-begging. (Side note: Thanks to my bringing it up sometime last week, my philosopher friends have been talking about it for the past few days. Their views on the issue and how to challenge an internally-coherent but question-begging argument were very useful for my purpose.) It was the first time since last Thursday that I worked on my PhD, and I was surprised by how good it felt.
I left the library at 6.40pm when I got too hungry to focus and was pleasantly surprised to see messages from Si Xuan and Wouter (maybe I saw SX's message before going to the library; I can't remember). SX's was a courtesy call, but a really timely one as I could use as many friends as I could get right now. Wouter's was a nice message telling me that he read about what happened and wanted to cheer me up; he said that it's B's loss, not mine. Rationally, it's nobody's loss and/or we both lost; but whatever, I am entitled to frivolously indulge in my irrational emotions for a few days, so I'll take it.
Since I am entitled to indulge in my emotions in the few days after the end of a half-relationship, here are some thoughts that I wanted to write about in the morning but didn't have time to do so:
- I genuinely cannot wrap my head around the fact that he'd never thought about what common values he'd like to have with a lifelong partner. How is this possible? How else would one decide whether or not to commit to somebody? Surely the presumption when entering a relationship is that it is long-term, committed, and hence leading to marriage. If that isn't the presumption, it is not much of a committed relationship, is it? And if that is the presumption, what other considerations would form the basis of such an undertaking if not common values? That said, I have been guilty of not giving this issue too much thought in the past; and those relationships are also the ones that are most meaningless (French prick, for instance). But this issue is so fundamental to me, which is why I really liked that B is close to his parents (especially with mom), because this is something that is very important to me.
- This was John's response on Saturday afternoon, after I told him that I was reconsidering my stance against religion in my personal life: 'Wow, this sounds quite serious then. I am liking this. I have more respect for this than your previous one where you were like, "Oh, we have fun, he makes me laugh." No substance whatsover.' This was John's response today after I told him what B told me about not being ready for a relationship: 'So basically he's not that into you.' He was right about me, and in my view, he was right about him.
- B said something about how if we are both single in the future, etc. This was in the context of remaining friends. I didn't want to say it then, and I think I was physically incapable of saying it because I was so drained and dazed and not fully comprehending what was going, but this was what I thought: 'Yeah...no.' Meaning, I don't look back once I move on. 好马不吃回头草。
- In the same vein, the outcome couldn't have been to take a step back but still see each other, with less intensity. Call it a character flaw if need be, but I am all or nothing person. I cannot date half-heartedly, not when I really like someone; and if I really like someone, then he gets all of me, and so I am entitled to expect him to give me all of himself. (The fact that I didn't give Dominic all of myself means that I wasn't that into him.) He couldn't do that, and so there was nothing for me/us to do but to end it.
- The third thing that I dread about the end of a relationship/half-relationship is being reminded of the things that I planned in my head to do with him. These inchoate plans, now rendered impossible by our new reality. Magdalene's May Ball, for instance. I bid for tickets last term not knowing if I would go (by this I mean not knowing if I would have anyone to go with; by 'anyone' I mean a guy); I secured my two dining tickets in December not knowing if I would go; and last week, I wanted to ask B to go with me. Talk about a pipe dream, right? Now I am wondering what I should do with my tickets, for I wouldn't want to spend 200 pounds to dress up in a fancy gown just to wander around an elaborately-decorated Fellow's Garden in my college. It will be pretty I suppose, but it is still my college. Maybe I will stick to the original plan and sell the tickets for a profit; I'm sure there will be people desperate enough for them.
- And there is also a weekend trip to somewhere in England (duh, right?) which I thought would be nice. I will stop here because this is getting pathetic.
- B told me before that he cannot handle it when a girl cries. On Friday night in my room, during our religion conversation, I suddenly found myself crying. His response? He practically leapt off my bed and said, 'I'll call a taxi [to get home].' I joked about it the next day and I still find it funny, but after all that's happened, it seems to me that it is emblematic of the way he deals with relationship problems: he runs away.
- During a phone call last Thursday (I think it was), he said that he had to leave the UK for a few days for work on 15 February; that the company asked him if he could go on 14 February; and he said no because it was Valentine's Day, and he thought I would be annoyed if he weren't around. I immediately noted that he didn't say, 'It's Valentine's, and so I want to spend time with you.' I wanted to bring this up on Friday, but it did not matter anymore after the religion conversation. For the record, I would have been disappointed, but not annoyed, because I would have understood. I would also have rather that he'd wanted to spend time with me instead of placating me. But it is also telling, isn't it? It is telling as yet another sign that he was pulling away, shifting the significance of the event to a case of managing my expectations and possible reaction, as opposed to it also being about what he wanted (i.e. to spend time with me). Essentially, then, he didn't actually want to spend time with me because he wanted to, but because he thought I would be annoyed if he didn't. Someone who is fully into me wouldn't think like that, would he? Isn't it amazing how my intuition picks up on these things? I really ought to trust it fully the next time.
- This makes me sad, and I miss him; but the truth is also that I have felt a lot worse, felt as if I could never be happy again during the fiasco with G, and so I know that I will be fine.
- And also, he was probably right when he said that the problem was with him, not me. It clearly has to true, for how can anyone in his right mind give me up when he has me? He must be crazy; he is obviously crazy.
- (I am only being half-facetious in the previous point.)
There has been some talk about a checklist lately. Barry read me his yesterday and it was fairly long. It also made me wonder if my checklist isn't entirely a piece of crap, for 1) I don't adhere to it ever and so it must not have that much normative force on me; and 2) how can a checklist of essential qualities only contain six items? Do I have such low standards? Sure, a lot of things are assumed and presumably self-evident (e.g. he must love me - duh, who would commit to a schmuck who doesn't love her?), but I think it is always good to spell things out. At the very least, it is entertaining.
So here is my revised checklist, divided into essential and preferred qualities; and for things that I can't decide if essential or preferred, they will go into both categories.
1. Respects his parents
2. Accepts that he would only, at best, be prioritised equally to my parents
3. Punctuality. He cannot be late to meet me without a good reason. Taking too long with your routine and not modifying them to keep your word of meeting at a particular time is not a good reason. A good reason is something like getting held up at work, or taking too long to talk to parents, etc. Being selfish with your time is not a good reason. And if you're going to be late, tell me well in advance; and 20 minutes before the slated meeting time is not well in advance.
4. He must be fit and healthy, for I am fit and healthy and I don't want to date a lazy fuck.
5. Honesty. This was never on my checklist (okay, not many things were) because it's one of those things that is assumed, but I'm beginning to realise that it shouldn't. French prick, for instance, wasn't an honest person (he lied to my parents. Can't believe it took me months after that to dump him). He cannot lie about anything, not even lying about something to spare me the pain or some other bullshit. I hate being kept in the dark; I need to know things; I need to know everything that concerns me. I would hate to be made a fool and lying to me does exactly that.
5. Sense of humour. He has to make me laugh. This is actually the only constant that has featured in all my relationships. It is thus an extremely necessary (but insufficient) condition for a relationship. Conversely, he must be able to understand my sense of humour. I wouldn't profess to be the funniest person but I can crack some good, sarcastic jokes, so it would be sad if he didn't get them. (Then again, if I appreciate his sense of humour, wouldn't he also appreciate mine? John, for instance, has a shitty sense of humour; most of the time I am laughing at him rather than with him. Sometimes, he doesn't get my irony. Clearly we are not compatible so he should thank me for rejecting him when he suggested that we dated.)
6. Good English. By 'good' I really mean 'perfect'. It may seem silly that I care about this, but I have a grammar/spelling check in my head. I cannot help it. When I read a text message, I automatically spot the errors before I even read the message and absorb its contents. Quite frankly, non-perfect English will grate after a while, so why not avoid unnecessary stress factors on a relationship, right?
7. He must think that I am the most amazing woman to have ever walked into his life. Even if it isn't factually true, he must be in love/deluded enough to think this. The reason for this is pretty obvious, isn't it? It is only if he thinks this that he will stick around to work things out when the going gets tough. I don't have time to waste on someone flaky, indecisive, who will simply bail on me when the shit hits the fan.
8. If there is going to be disparity of feelings (which is not ideal but, well, life) he must like me more than I like him. This B situation has finally, finally proven my mother right.
9. He must communicate. He must not keep me in the dark if he has doubts about the relationship. He must not evade my questions when I sense that something is wrong (which I will sense). He cannot pretend that everything is fine when something isn't right. This ties in with honesty; I also mean that he must be honest in this sense.
10. He must not be jealous. I tend to be pretty tolerant and relaxed when I am in love with someone, but fucking hell, jealousy is something that I can never tolerate. I am too impatient to deal with irrationality, and jealousy is a prime example of that. He shouldn't be jealous when I play tennis with men, because it's not my fault that I can't find women to play with.
11. He must understand that I am introverted and need my own space, and so leave me alone when I need to retreat into my mind and do something self-regarding, such as write or read a novel.
12. He should be vegetarian...I think.
13. He must read. Read, for fuck's sake, read. At this stage, I think I would settle for a man who reads in the loose sense of the word, though I don't think reading comic books or the newspaper really counts. But read something, dammit. I promise I won't judge his crappy taste in books as long as he has a taste in books. (Then again, I wouldn't be able to resist rolling my eyes so hard if a grown-ass man tells me that his favourite books are the Harry Potter books.)
14. He must like going to the beach because swimming in the sea is one of the things that makes my life worth living.
15. He must not dismiss my idolising (using this word loosely) Federer as frivolous without understanding why I admire him so much. Otherwise, it shows that he's not interested in me enough, so what's the point?
16. This is so important: he must do the things that he says he would do. I always remember these things, and I take it as a sign of sincerity if he follows through on his words. I honestly find it quite upsetting when a guy says he'd do something for me but forgets about it. To me, it shows that I am not important enough to him so he can't be bothered to remember, or that he makes loose promises and so he's unreliable, or that his words are cheap and so, again, he's unreliable. This happened with B, and I thought it's something that I can compromise on (because we have to take our partners as they come, right?), but um...no, I think this is too important to me. It really upsets me when a guy says that he'd do something but doesn't do it. If he's not going to do what he says he would do, I'd rather he dropped the pretense of sweetness and just be himself.
17. He must dress well. I know, I am superficial, but I would like to feel proud of the person that's next to me, and I would struggle to feel proud of someone who looks unkempt and sloppy.
18. He must have his shit together in life. Steady job (so I would not like to date a student), knows where his life is headed but is flexible about changing locations, basically knows what he wants, including in a relationship.
19. Educational qualifications: obviously at least a Bachelor's. But I would prefer a PhD.
20. This is so obvious as to go without saying but anyway: he must be intellectually on par. He must be interested in my work even if it is not in his field.
21. He must be a critical thinker. If he is religious (though he shouldn't be), he must know why he's religious. He must know why he's adopted certain substantive moral positions without appeal to authority or something equally lame. I don't really care if he's not a philosopher, for we can't all be philosophers; but he should at least be able to think critically.
22. He must respect those views that I hold which he disagrees with, though if I am currently building the perfect person, he wouldn't disagree with too many of my views.
23. Substantive moral positions should be the same. This means: anti-death penalty, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-animal welfare and so vegetarian, etc.
24. Non-religious. I don't mind Buddhists; I probably wouldn't really mind polytheistic Asian religions, as these tend not to impose themselves on non-believers in practical and substantive ways (which is what I don't like about Judaeo-Christian religions). Essentially, I don't want to be faced with a situation - one that has plagued many people that I know - where the religious partner suddenly tells me that he has a problem with my non-belief, or that he wants to feel closer to god and hence has to do certain things which would affect me, etc.
1. Vegetarian unless he doesn't mind that I will never cook meat and that I want to raise any possible children that I may have as vegetarians.
2. He reads literature. PLEASE CAN I FIND SOMEONE WHO READS LITERATURE ALREADY DAMMIT. (Yes, this sentiment deserves the caps.)
3. A PhD in something interesting.
I am too tired to continue with this. I may just sticky this list and add to it whenever.