I fell for Dave in the summer of 2006. We were both finishing our second year of university and met at 70s-themed party.
He told me that he was a little bummed out because he was having an operation on his jaw and was spending the vacation recuperating from the general anesthetic. I told him that being housebound for six weeks would give him a great opportunity to watch the early movies of Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Here’s a pro tip: If you want someone to kiss you, talk at gin-slurred and belligerent length about the structure of Amores Perros until they are forced to find a way to make you stop talking.
Kissing Dave was revelatory. After breaking up with my boyfriend of six years, I was making a point of getting off with everyone who crossed my path. After all, I’d had the same boyfriend since I was 15 and missed out on an awful lot of awful teenage snogging.
There had been chin sucking, wet willies and even a guy who seemed to be using his tongue to doodle a cock and balls on my own. But Dave’s kisses were the stuff that Just Seventeen short stories were made of. And he smelled of fancy custard.
We spent the summer in different cities, “sort of seeing” each other until we made it official in the Autumn. My oxytocin levels were off the charts. I couldn’t have felt giddier if I was breakfasting on MDMA and Haribo.
But I was anxious, too. This was my second ever relationship and I was going to do it properly this time. I was going to be the best girlfriend in the world. And by reading a combination of ladmags and ladymags and the old copies of the Reader’s Digest that my parents kept in the downstairs loo, I had figured out the code.
Be cool. Don’t ask too many questions. Take a deep breath when the loud, flirty girl in the bar starts massaging his penis when you’re sat next to him. Meet his ladymates’ hostility with sweetness and lightness. And don’t get paranoid about the fact that he’s spending every spare second with his friend Betty.
After all, my best friend at university was a boy called Alistair, so I couldn’t complain about Dave having a close buddy of the opposite sex. But deep down, I knew that Dave and Betty’s intimate dinners a deux were possibly slightly steamier than the nights Alistair and I would spend chasing each other around the house with a broom.
Then one bleak, windy, Northern November day, Dave took me to my favourite pub, the one I could see from my bedroom window, and told me he was in love with Betty and that it was over. I can’t remember what I said but it definitely included the words “WHY DID YOU BRING ME HERE? YOU HAVE RUINED THIS PUB FOR ME FOREVER!”
I was a wreck. A ghost. It was the first time I had ever been broken up with, and even though I wasn’t in love with Dave, I was heartbroken. I wept in Anglo Saxon seminars when incorrectly translating “The Dream Of The Rood.”
I made approximately 17 cups of tea a day and wept into those. I wept into uneaten dinners. I locked myself in the dark, smelly audiovisual room and wept along to La Strada about four times a week.
I briefly dated a drug dealer and a guy known as “Psycho Bill” and barely even noticed because I was so busy crying. When Anna Nicole Smith died, I hid in my room and sobbed for two days. Every night I would cry myself to sleep, and every morning I would open my eyes, remember that something terrible had happened and ready myself for another 24 hours of snot and puffy face.
It didn’t help that Facebook was in its infancy, and I was checking whether Betty and Dave were in a relationship roughly every three minutes. “Facebook should be MUCH MORE DETAILED,” I remember complaining. “I need to know WHERE THEY ARE AT ALL TIMES.” Clearly it’s my fault that Mark Zuckerberg then invented tagging and checking in, I’m very sorry.
Some time in the spring, things started to get better. I think the steadily increasing amount of daylight began to restore my sanity.
I’d see Betty and Dave out and about, and make an effort to be friendly. Not because I’m a good person, but because I was determined to hide the fact that I was completely derailed. It often backfired.
I’d go on to campus in the prettiest, preppiest clothes I owned, looking “happy” and “normal” only to discover that Betty was hiding from me. Then I’d bump into Dave on my way back from the shops, as I carried a 16 roll pack of Andrex, and be so shocked and sad that I’d have to go off and vomit into a bush.
Then I saw Betty, on her own and dancing at a mutual friend’s club night. She waved. “Daisy, I hate this weirdness. It’s WEIRD. Let’s go for tea.”
So a few days later, I went to meet her in a local cafe, stopping for the occasional fear vomit along the way. What would she say? “Dave never liked you, sorry”? “We’ve been notified by Facebook that you’re looking at our profiles all the time and we’re having you removed from university for stalking”?
Betty blew my mind. Firstly, she apologised, which completely floored me. But the thing that had me choking on my cake is the way we instantly clicked. I thought I knew all about her, from the stalking. As an environmental campaigner, I thought she was going to be a stuck-up fun sponge, but she was passionate and engaged.
I’d spent the last few months convincing myself that Dave had “picked” her because she was better than me in every way. I’d assumed that she was sleek and cool and thought I was a loser. “You’re so glamorous,” she told me. “You’re kind of intimidating.” I think I might have dropped the tea pot.
Fifteen minutes in, we were finishing each other’s sentences. After two hours of talking, we went to the pub around the corner for “a pint.” By 1 AM, we were in a different bar, and I was carefully propping her against the door of my toilet cubicle to make sure she didn’t pass out when I was having a wee.
There is a picture from that night of the two of us snogging. Neither of us remember it being taken, but it happened. Our friendship was a 0-60, from terror/hate to very best mates affair.
From that moment, Betty and I were inseparable. We’d often cook dinner for each other, even though mutual friends were concerned that I might try to poison her. Sometimes I’d hang out with her and Dave, but it was always more fun without him.
And when she called me, saying “We broke up. Can I come over?” I didn’t feel like doing a victory dance. I just wanted to hug her, hard.
In the last five years, we’ve been through boyfriends, career dramas, trips and bottles of Tanqueray together. She is one of my very best friends — I couldn’t imagine my life without Betty in it. If someone had told me this during that horrible winter, I would have taken a short crying break for some hollow laughter.
But I learned these things.
- If you’re doing an arts degree in the North of England and you experience less than 12 hours of daylight a week, you will feel like you’re going crazy.
- Great pals are much more precious than good kissers.
- Dave had BRILLIANT taste in girlfriends.