The ‘C’ Word
Valentine’s Day is here, a day that seems to strike equal amounts of happiness and existential dread in the hearts of people, depending on how loved up they are. I consider myself quite apathetic towards the day generally. When I was single, it didn’t make me long for more, and now I am in a relationship, I do not feel that it is a day where I have to make huge statements to make it special. This may be cliche to say, but I do think that if you rely on a day to show someone how much you love them, then you should re-evaluate how you treat that person for the other 364 days of the year. Having said that, though, it is a nice excuse to take some extra steps to make them feel special. So, today’s blog post is for Anna, my wonderful fiancee.
I have recently been accused by a reader of this blog of not mentioning Anna enough. When she told me this, I immediately went to the last 3 blog posts and searched for the keywords ‘Anna’ and ‘Fiancee’ (or ‘Fiance’, as I was misspelling this in many of the early posts, oops). Every time, there was at least 1 result, vindicating me of any guilt I was feeling. In one of the posts, I had mentioned Anna by name 3 times! The average number of times I say these words will go up considerably after today’s post, and I’ll have even more ammunition that this claim was entirely false.
Anna and I met on the dating app Hinge. It was the summer of lockdown 1, and I wasn’t exactly looking for love. I wasn’t not looking for love either, I just wasn’t desperately searching and feeling lonely. I had been working in Philadelphia in the US for the past 2 years. The situation meant that my life was a bit all over the place; I spent most of my time in the US, but also flew back fairly regularly. As a result, I had accepted that maintaining a relationship during this time would not be easy and had given up thinking I would find one. It was all good, though. I was loving my job, enjoying being the English guy in Philadelphia, and I was really busy, which I enjoyed. This attitude was still alive and well during lockdown 1, with me assuming I would be going back to the states eventually. It doesn’t hurt to be on the apps and see what happens, though, I thought.
We didn’t message a lot before Anna asked if I wanted to meet up. This was refreshing as I usually had a rule that I wouldn’t speak to people for too long on the apps before asking them to meet up, and she had even beat me to the question. The more I talked to people on the app, the more I formed a picture of what they were in my head. This is a problem with online dating, as it is rare that your expectations meet reality. Sometimes reality is better, sometimes worse, sometimes just different. I didn’t like that, and I wanted to get to the date with as few presuppositions about the person as possible. By the time the day of the date came, I had absolutely no idea what Anna would be like. She messaged me on the day, asking how many litre bottles of beer she should pick up from the brewery. I suggested just 1 as I didn’t drink that much anymore.
I arrived a little late at Brockwell Park. It was Saturday lunchtime and very hot, so there were people everywhere. Large groups, couples, families, all enjoying the sun. I was stood next to the lido, looking around and trying to spot this mysterious woman. The other thing about Anna is that she manages to look like a different person in every picture of her, so all I knew that I was looking out for was dark hair. That seemed to be the only commonality between each of her pictures on the app. She said she was cycling, so I looked out for a bike too. Then I saw a dark-haired girl walking towards me holding a bike and 2 of the litre bottles of beer in her hand. She was already ignoring my advice, and I respected it.
We found a spot in the sun and sat on a blanket that she also brought. She was quick to tell me it was a couture blanket, to which I responded that I had no idea what that was. That set the tone for the date, as she flung back some remarks about me being uncultured or something. I can’t remember when she started taking the mick out of me for only wanting 1 litre of beer; it was probably around the time we opened the second one. I’m pretty sure on the first date was the first time she also said the phrase “were you born in a barn?” to me, which continues to be one of the funniest things someone has ever said to me. We had fun from the second we met each other, and I hadn’t ever got on with someone like this that I was on a date with. It felt like I was meeting up with someone I’d known for years. A few months later, I’d find out that Anna went home and said to her best friend that she thought I was a ‘player’ because I was a good talker. Thanks for the insight, Sophie.
We had decided to meet in the afternoon and were there for a couple of hours. I had evening plans that night, so I had to leave at around 16:00. At the end of the date, we walked together back to the lido. Stood on the path, her wielding her bike in her hands, we said goodbye. We started to kiss somewhat awkwardly with her bike in between us. Just as we did, a group of about 10 teenagers walked past. 2 of them started singing a love song in unison that I did not recognise, as every other member of their group and a few strangers around us began to laugh. We stopped kissing as I was also laughing a lot. I really wish I knew what the song was. I can’t even remember how it goes.
We haven’t looked back since. After 3 more dates, we were together, and after another 3 months, we were looking for a place together in London. I had only met her mum on Facetime when we found the flat that we would eventually own together, which isn’t great. We were in the middle of a global pandemic, though. I wasn’t avoiding her. It was not like me to move at this speed, but I did not feel anxious. It felt right to me, and I wasn’t going to start questioning that. The only time that I got worried was the week before we were due to move in together. “Maybe things will be different when we live together, and we won’t get on as well,” I randomly thought one night. The rational part of my brain kicked back in and reminded me that we hadn’t had a bad second spent together. We had never argued about anything. In fact, the first time we argued about anything was over a piece of furniture for the flat. Our good friend Matt commented that this was the most ‘us’ thing for a couple to argue about. It wasn’t really an argument, and we made up quickly.
Sure enough, when we started living together, I only grew fonder of her. Living together just meant I got to spend every day with her. It was magical. We cooked meals together on Friday nights, lay in bed drinking coffee and laughing in the mornings, and looked for new pieces of art to buy for the flat. All things that we still do regularly now.
Life has thrown a lot at us recently. It probably isn’t typical for a couple who have been together for just under 2 years to own their own flat together and be engaged. Unfortunately, though, it also isn’t common for a couple who have been together for just under 2 years to be going through a life-threatening diagnosis, forcing them to move back into one of their parent’s houses, especially as we’re in our 20’s. We shouldn’t be worrying about our life together right now. It should extend so far ahead of us that we don’t need to think about such things, but we are being forced to. Suddenly, I struggle to kick the thought that our life together is in threat, and it may be cut short. It is one of the hardest things to face about the diagnosis.
I wouldn’t be able to show even a tenth of the spirit that I am showing without Anna by my side, though. If I survive, so much of it will be attributable to her care and strength. She has supported me through everything that has been thrown at us. She moved back into my parent’s house without a second of doubt and gets on with them as if she has known them her entire life. We’ve cried together, laughed together, and experienced just about every emotion in-between. Whatever happens, she is a part of my family now. We have our little Lucy dog, and hopefully, we’ll be able to have children one day too. No matter what happens, my life has been improved by her so much that I cannot begin to adequately express it in words alone. I consider myself one of the luckiest people alive, having found someone I truly believe is perfect for me.
So, this one is for you, Anna. I hope you have a lovely day and I can’t wait to marry you, even if planning the wedding is an absolute nightmare.