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Am I Missing Out By Cutting Men Off at the First Sign of a Red Flag?

There were people in the warehouse party doing a sort of interpretive dance with their tops off, and I made him go over and join in with them. (I’ve talked about this guy before; he’s the one who went down my stairs on a cutting board, chipping every step on the way to the bottom.) We sat down on the sofa for a while after that, and he put his fingers in my drink and then flicked it at me, made fun of me when I kept saying “I digress.” It was the sort of flirting boys did at school when they didn’t want to admit that they liked you. Unfortunately I fancy him, so I thought it was cute, that he was cute—or I did, until I went off with our friends for a while, and when I found him again he was talking to a girl I didn’t recognize, his arm resting on the wall above her, leaning in.

How dare he? I thought. Does he know who I am? That I have a column in Vogue, that I’ve written a book? That sometimes lovely girls with lovely hair come over and say it changed their life. That I can walk in heels, have a cute little tattoo of a rose on my hip, ask dumb but interesting shit like, Which brand would you find it hardest to boycott? That I’ve got a big butt and dress like a rock chick from the ’90s, which is a look that happens to really, really suit me. That I often get a free coffee from Pret and have one of those warm, approachable faces that make people come over and ask the time. That I’m so disciplined I don’t go on my phone until after 4 pm, and that I have lots of mesh underwear sets that now he won’t ever get to see because I am never going to get with him again.

Except I did still get with him later in the night. I didn’t mean to. He gave a good excuse about why he was talking to that girl and then touched the small of my back and I tripped and fell onto his face. Still, the next day, I really was over it. It didn’t happen straight away. I was going to text him saying, “Wanna hang out again soon?” but then I couldn’t send it, because I knew I was phrasing it in a specific way to show that I was being casual, not specifying when, exactly, we should hang out or including anything that might indicate it’s a date. And it annoyed me because I knew I shouldn’t have to trick anyone into spending time with me. He should just want to. He should be messaging me saying, “What days are you free next week? Do you like spicy food?” because he has an idea about where he wants to take me.

I’ve been happier since I started protecting my peace in this way. Over the summer, I cut things off with someone because he was too unreliable. And because I’d been the one to call time on things, I didn’t feel rejected or unsettled. I didn’t start wondering if my hairline was moving back or whether my smile lines were too deep, because I knew that it not working out had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him and what was going on in his life.

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