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I’m 35 years old, 5ft 3, somewhere between a size 10/12, I’m a gym lover and a foodie and my body reflects that. I have brown hair (I grew out of my red hair when I was a teenager) blue eyes and freckles. My skin is naturally pale but my friends genuinely believe that I’m olive skinned thanks to my love of fake tan. There is no question about the fact that brown fat looks better than white fat, so I apply once a week on a Thursday. Every Thursday night I look like the before picture of a celebrity who’s about to release a fitness DVD. By Friday morning I look toned, a dress size smaller, sometimes slightly orange, but undoubtedly better. Or at least I feel better.

I’m a Mum of one son, J, he’s 5 years old, and indescribably gorgeous, and I’m not just saying that, he’s beautiful. If he looked like a jacket potato then I’d just say he’s adorable and kind and funny (which he is), but genuinely, he is a dashing young lad! At the risk of sounding like a cringey social media mum, he’s cool, he’s awesome and he brings me joy everyday (stress too, but that’s for another blog). I’ve been single since I was pregnant with him. So after a 5 year relationship with his Dad, a 9 month pregnancy, and a further 1 year dating hiatus while J was breastfeeding (breastfeeding and dating are not compatible at all), jumping back onto the dating scene was a daunting task.

Dating apps hadn’t existed when I had last been single 7 years earlier, the closest thing would have been the singles ads in the back of newspapers, creepy ads by 55 year old divorcees looking for GSOH (good sense of humor) and NSA (no strings attached). I had met all my previous boyfriends in the ‘normal’ way, at school, through friends, or out and about. The 2013 version of dating was far different, it was all done virtually, mainly through Plenty Of Fish (POF) Instagram and Tinder. I was lost. It was hard enough navigating my love life in my new found role of single Mum, but having to do it whilst learning all the rules of online dating was an absolute mind fuck. I had some mad experiences, catfishes, freaks, liars and weirdos, and so have many of my friends. It’s a fuckboy minefield out there online.

One of the first people I encountered on that minefield was Mark, a 30 year old carpenter from Chingford. Mark had 1 son and a good relationship with his son’s Mum who he had split up with a year previously. That was a biggie for me, before having J I was put off by men with children, I saw it as baggage, now I would prefer to date a DILF. Mark and I had got talking on POF, I liked his pictures, he was hot. Mixed race, 6ft, chiseled jawline and body, I really fancied him. So much so that I ignored things that should have put me off. He was funny, gave good banter, was attentive and complimentary (and did I mention that he was really, really hot?) but occasionally he would come out with some really hood shit and I would just shudder. Stories about his role in mass brawls outside raves, boasts about his son wearing Prada shoes and Stone Island Jackets at 2 years old, suddenly becoming the owner of a Range Rover and a Rolex while working a few hours a week as a painter and decorator, stuff that should have sent me running but didn’t because I was in LUST.

Lust is a dangerous thing and I’m still not sure if I’ve fully figured out how not to confuse it with love. Lust doesn’t happen often. I’ve been on dates with good looking guys who I get on well with, they tick boxes, I like them, I want to have more dates with them, but they don’t set me on fire. Occasionally, only a few times in my life, I have met men who make me feel amazing, they make my heart race, my fanny throb, my palms sweat. They make me check my phone 37 times every hour to see when they were last online, they make me want to drop everything, anytime, just to go sit on their face. I have a terrible tendency to think I’ve fallen for these guys when actually I’ve fallen into the trap of lust, an intense and uncontrollable feeling which usually leads to insane sex and frequent rows. Lust is the reason why a lot of people end up in crappy relationships, lust makes you overlook important stuff – like whether you actually like each other, whether you have anything real in common. Once the lust subsides, which it always does, you are often left with someone you don’t really like very much or even know very well. Very often a fuckboy of the highest order.

Mark and I spoke for months before we met. We were friends on Instagram and snapchat and so I sort of felt like I knew him, I knew I fancied him for sure. I was reluctant to meet him initially, I was put off by the hood shit, but I was so fucking attracted to him that I chose to ignore my brain and go with my vagina (always a bad idea). After months of talking he was begging to meet me and I couldn’t put it off any longer. It’s not always easy to get a babysitter and so it’s often better to kill two birds with one stone by trying to fit a number of social activities into one night. I had a wedding reception to attend in Brighton one Saturday evening and he offered to pick me up after and take me back to London and I accepted, I thought that would actually be a nice safe date, get to know each other on a scenic drive, no chance of ending up in bed because Mum and J were asleep at mine, plus I was saving myself a long and expensive train journey too. Win win.

Mark was a billion times hotter in real life, his hands, the way he smelt, his fresh trim, his grey tracksuit bottoms, his voice, his lips, everything about this man just did it for me. The problem with me is that when I feel like that about someone it makes me feel insecure, I worry about whether they like me, does he think I’m hot? How could he possibly fancy me? Is he flirting? Until they make their feelings clear I don’t behave like myself, I become shy. I’m a confident woman and I think that is probably one of the most attractive things about me, but I momentarily lose myself when I first meet someone who I’m lusting for. The sparks between us flew, we flirted outrageously and we never ran out of things to say, he made me laugh and he made me feel…. I was searching for the word to describe how he made me feel but that’s just it, he made me FEEL. Full Stop. I hadn’t felt anything for a man for a long time, it was what I needed. He excited me so much.

Everything was going well, right up until Mark, while he was driving, DOWN A MOTORWAY, decided to start doing balloons. I’m not even kidding. If you’ve ever been to a festival you’ve probably done balloons, or at least seen them being done. It’s a complicated process where you have to insert a gas canister into some sort of balloon blowing contraption to fill the balloon with laughing gas. It’s a two handed job. It should not be done whilst operating a motor vehicle. Obviously this wasn’t life threatening enough for Mark, so he decided to also consume his balloons. Whilst driving. Down a motorway. If you’ve ever done balloons you will know what a complete and utter head fuck they are. You literally go out of your body for around 30 seconds, high as a kite before crashing down. Personally I think they’re awful, I don’t like being out of control. I’m also really against drinking/drug driving, I’d never do it myself or knowingly get into a car with someone who was intoxicated. Mark didn’t give me a choice. I was fucking terrified.

I clung on to the door handles and told him repeatedly to stop, I was fighting back tears. I was so angry with myself, I was certain that I was going to die right there. I thought of J and his beautiful face and how much he needs me, I wanted to vomit knowing that he might lose me because I decided to get in a car with some sexy maniac who I hardly know for the sake of a bit of male attention. I begged him to stop ‘I’m a Mother, you are a Father, please stop, or drop me off, drop me on the hard shoulder, now, please, stop the car.’ I pleaded with him. I really would have felt safer on the hard shoulder by myself, I was that scared. The more I begged the funnier he found it and the more he continued. I have never been so angry with anyone in my entire life.

Eventually, after the longest 20 minutes of my life, we came off the motorway and Mark stopped. I was livid. I couldn’t look at him, I just needed to get home and cuddle my sleeping child. Mark kept squeezing my thigh, telling me to chill out and calm down. I wanted to smash his face into his steering wheel with such force that his teeth got stuck in it. We carried on in silence until we got to my door. I went to get out and he pulled me back in “I’m sorry. I’m a cunt. I don’t know why I did that. I’m sorry that I scared you. I’m nervous around you, you’re more beautiful than I thought you were going to be. I act like a clown when I like someone” I sat back down. I’m such a weak, naive sucker for kind words from a hot man, I blame my daddy issues. He seemed genuinely remorseful, but that should not have been enough.

Nothing should have been enough to forgive him for being such a complete psychopath. Despite that, I kissed him. It was the most passionate, intense, goose bump inducing kiss I had ever experienced. I’d had a near death experience, I’m going to blame it on some kind of post traumatic stress moment, like a form of Stockholm syndrome. By allowing him to kiss me I pretty much forgave his insane behaviour. I wish I could have punched myself at that moment. I was so happy that this gorgeous looking weirdo wanted me that I overlooked the crucial fact that he was quite possibly deranged.

Mark and I saw a lot of each other after that and actually, it worked well, he was normal, he didn’t expose me to anything life threatening again. We had fun, we raved together, went out to eat, stayed at hotels, we became a couple. The foundation of our relationship was still lust, and sex was the driving force, but we loved hanging out. He wasn’t the nutcase that I thought he was going to be. We were together for each other’s birthdays and we spent Valentines night together, we met each other’s friends, and after about 5 months we both tentatively started using the L word. It was around the same time that I got a call at 8 am on a Sunday morning:

Her: “Hi, you don’t know me, but do you have a boyfriend called Martin?”

Me: “No, sorry love, I think you have the wrong number, but I hope you find the right girl”

Her: “Is your name Layla, you live in Camden and you’ve got a son?”

Me: (At this point my whole heart and mouth had sunk into my stomach) “Yeah, but my boyfriend is called Mark not Martin. Who are you?”

Her: “I went through my boyfriend’s phone last night and there’s months of conversations with you, and pictures. I’m not coming at you on a madness to be honest, I just want to know what’s going on, my name is Stacey, I have a little boy with Martin, his name is Chace.”

Me: (realising that this is MARK??/MARTIN??’S baby Mum) “Fuck. Fuck. I am so sorry. I thought he was single, he told me he was single. Fuck.”

We spoke for hours, my whole love life crashing down around me with every bit of information she told me. Mark was in fact called Martin. That one piece of information was so fucking humiliating, I felt like the biggest dickhead in town. To make it worse, much, much worse, Martin was not actually 30, no, he was TWENTY FUCKING FOUR. I had spent his birthday weekend with him celebrating his FAKE 30th birthday which was really his TWENTY FUCKING FOURTH birthday. I can just about laugh about this now but at the time I was genuinely questioning my own sanity in a very serious way. He wasn’t a carpenter, more of a petty criminal from what I gathered, and he didn’t live in Chingford. None of it was true. I’d spent several hours/nights/days every week for 5 months with a completely fabricated character.What the fuck was wrong with me? The fact that I had ignored the massive warning signs, the fact that I had never been to his house, the hood shit, and the attempted murder balloon incident, meant that I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for ending up with this double life leading lunatic.

I ‘m old enough and wise enough to know that I should make better choices, especially because my choices directly effect my child. He never met Mark/Martin, thank god, but I won’t lie, that morning when I got the call from Stacey I was in shock mode. I was consumed with finding out everything, uncovering all the lies, I was in emotional turmoil and it’s hard as fuck to be a Mary Poppins type Mum when you’re breaking your own heart over a psychopathic waste man. I’ll never risk it again, this saga actually taught me a lot. J can’t have a heart broken Mum, I can’t allow that.

I contacted Martin as soon as I came off the phone to Stacey. He tried to justify it by saying that initially he hadn’t meant to get into anything serious but he had ended up falling in love, he wanted to tell me but we were so far in that he had no idea how to reveal his lies, he didn’t want to lose me. I should have said fuck off and blocked his arse on every form of social media and messaging device, but I’ll give you two guesses what I did…..I let him come round to say sorry and then ended up having tearful sex, both of us sobbing. Acting like I was in some kind of romantic movie when really I was just letting some repulsive mongoose fuck me before going home to his girlfriend. At the time I believed his tears and his pleads that he loved me and that he wasn’t even with Stacey. I thought I loved him, I didn’t, I loved Mark, or at least I thought I did at the time. It felt like a real loss, an embarrassing, devastating loss.

Things eventually ended and he went back to Stacey as far as I know. I didn’t speak to him again for 3 years and then randomly a month ago he called me on Facebook. My stomach churned when I saw his name. We spoke for a while, flirted, reminisced, he told me he was single and said he was hungry, he asked me if I wanted to eat. I knew I didn’t want to get involved with him but I was curious, and I was starving. He picked me up in a dirty VW Golf with 100’s of used balloon canisters rattling in the foot wells. I instantly went back to that first night on the motorway and I regretted my decision to meet him immediately. In the restaurant he sat with his jacket and cap on, slouched down in his chair. He had raved the night before and was on a major come down. He told me that he wasn’t working, in fact, he was supposed to start a new job that day but he forgot. How can you forget to start a job? Anyway, despite feeling like the waiting staff must have thought I was his probation officer, I found the night strangely therapeutic, it was closure. This guy, Martin, Marvin, Martian, whoever he was, he was a fucking clown, an absolute dickhead in life, and although that is depressing because it shows something extremely flawed in me that I fell for him, it was nice to be reminded that I hadn’t lost anything. I had learned lessons, and gained wisdom and that can only be a good thing.