I can be impulsive. So a while back when a guy from Canada that I was quite attracted to online said ‘Let’s meet in France’, it took me all of three minutes to say ‘Oui.’ He had loads of money and was delighted to pay. I was delighted to accept. I’m a hopeless romantic and always open to new experiences, love, adventure, and possibility.
Online he was perfect. Witty. Charming. Mysterious. Bilingual. And of course, sexy. Offline – who knew? But I was willing to take the chance. He could be the right guy for me.
And so just a few weeks later I found myself bound for Paris, sipping champagne in business class, popping caviar in my mouth, and being a terrible flyer, waiting for the plane to crash. I probably deserved to die, leaving my children behind and going off on a wild adventure. But we didn’t crash, the plane landed safely, and I checked in to the magnificent hotel, the two bedroomed suite that he’d arranged.
I was a little nervous. A lot nervous. We met in the hotel bar. I’d arrived first, and was perched on a bar stool, in my sexy but not too sexy dress, a few scotches under my suspenders to calm my nerves.
He walked in. Oh my. Every bit as good looking as his profile pic. Better. Suave. And very ,very stylish. This was going to be good. We kissed hello, a little awkwardly, and he sat down next to me.
You know – you know immediately if you’re attracted to someone. It’s this thing where your heart beats fast, your inner thighs tingle, you have this euphoric feeling, this ‘oh my god this is amazing feeling’, this ‘I just have to reach over right now and touch him feeling.’
I did not have this feeling. Because he was incredibly anxious. His hands were shaking, his bottom lip trembled, and droplets of perspiration lined his upper lip. He ordered a coke. In English. And drank it in one go. And then a cheese burger. A cheese burger. In Paris. In the most beautiful bar, filled with olives and oysters and escargot. I went with it, not wanting to question his choices. Or to rush to judgement too quickly. But here’s the thing. He had not been honest.
All his online stuff about living on the edge, loving to travel, speaking French, being an intrepid explorer. It was a lie. Turned out he was a Canadian who had never left Canada, and the adventure for him was merely leaving Canada and being able to say to his friends – ‘Hey, I’m meeting a strange chick in Paris…’
And I was the strange chick who said yes. The week was a disaster. He developed a cough, Heisenberg status. I knew it was an anxiety cough, but he spent his time in Paris meeting different doctors and instead of sampling French delicacies, he sampled French antibiotics. I saw Paris on my own. I didn’t mind too much. I love Paris – smoking Gauloises on a pavement café, and sipping wine, window shopping, popping into galleries and museums. But I felt cheated. Not because there was no romance, but because he hadn’t been honest.
He wasn’t a serial killer. He wasn’t dangerous. I never once felt threatened. He just was not who he portrayed himself to be. We called it a ‘misadventure’. I never confronted him, because he had a fragility about him that I did not want to take on. And I wondered too if perhaps in a way I had misrepresented myself as well. Perhaps he was enormously disappointed too.
The most difficult thing was coming home. I mean, I loved coming home, because it’s home and because it’s real, but he kept mailing me as if everything had been totally normal and that we were still good online friends. And I tried to explain that we couldn’t be online friends because we hadn’t managed to be offline friends. And he never got it. He still doesn’t get it. ‘Didn’t we have a great time?’ he says, and I guess in a way, we did have an adventure together. Even if it hadn’t worked out.
I have learned this. I am never meeting a stranger in a strange city again. Don’t even think of asking me. It’s too stressful. And things are never quite what they seem. Unless – Italy, you say? Florence. Cobblestone streets. The statue of David? Maybe!