The background to my romantic life has only a tenuous link to my eventual wedding and if you would have told me when I was a kid how it actually happened, I would never have believed you.
When I was born, I was completely normal but unfortunately, I didn’t stay that way long. After three days, I developed epilepsy. Once I got home from the hospital, my father verbally, physically and emotionally abused me until I was six, leaving me with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I was bullied and teased at school from kindergarten at three years of age until I left school at 16
There were two boys who were friends with me in elementary school, plus I was friendly with about four or five others and my cousin, whose house I used to visit. Back in those days, it was easy to make friends—just say hi and a friendship would start.
However, things changed when I was 11. It wasn’t the move to junior high that destroyed my friendships, though—it was the change in attitude.
At around that time, I began to notice a change in male friends. They began asking me whether I was good at football or knew how to play this or that sport or if I could catch a ball. I had been happy to continue playing with them the way I always had. Now I felt I had to jump through hoops to maintain friendships that I already had. I didn’t see why I had to do that, so I resisted. Most of all, however, due to the Avoidant Personality Disorder that I didn’t know I had then, I was terrified of their rejection. I knew I couldn’t pass their tests. I failed all of them and they made me feel it was all my fault. They told me they didn’t want to hang out with me any more, so I lost them all.
Then I noticed that girls didn’t do that. They continued to behave the same way as before. When I considered how my father had beaten me, how the boys had teased and bullied me and now there was this new “regulation” thing they had going on, I basically gave up on boys and men. When I considered how my mother was rock-solid reliable, always showed up on time, loved me unconditionally and how girls at school, although not showing me all that much interest so far, had never given me any trouble, I decided, at the tender age of 11, to move over to the other side and put my full trust and faith in womankind.
During my teens, I expected that I would eventually get a girlfriend at some point. Time rolled by and this didn’t happen. Just two weeks from my 20th. Birthday, I thought my chance had come. I was invited to an all-night party and the girl I had a crush on was holding it at her house. Awesome! However, when I ended up standing guard outside her bedroom door while she had sex with someone else, I realized that this was not going to happen.
So I reached my 20’s without a single kiss or hug, no touching and definitely no sex throughout my whole teen years. While my mother reassured me that not everybody gets a girlfriend then and that teen sex was dreadfully overrated, I wasn’t convinced that this was normal. I was working part-time at a supermarket then, so I took advantage of the social evenings they held to see if I could talk to a few women. I had a number of very brief, two-minute conversations. The women were friendly as always. I felt that I would have to act like a bad boy to get their attention. I wasn’t happy with this because that wasn’t my usual style. I disliked the suggestion that if I act like somebody I’m not, women would be attracted to me but if I act as I really am, they go away. That didn’t make me feel very happy about myself.
One day, I got a new Deputy Supervisor for my department. She was fat, with short, black hair and some fluffy hairs around her upper lip and she wore thick glasses. During the social evenings, she drank beer and we would chat together. I actually managed to hold down a conversation with an adult woman for a long time. We talked about all kinds of things. She helped me to understand women. Finally, at the Christmas party, she drank a bit too much and got depressed. Outside her house, she told me she thought she was a terrible person and that her dad treated her badly. I told her I thought she was wonderful. She was very thankful and kissed me.
The next day, I told my mum and she was astonished. “She did that?” Other employees were also very surprised when somebody told them and we were the talk of the whole supermarket.
“What’s the big deal?” I thought. “I’m 20, she’s 24 – we’re not kids anymore.”
However, it was my mum who told me. “Olly, she’s a lesbian,” she explained. “She’s got a girlfriend.”
This was an eye-opener but we were still just friends, so I didn’t feel like I was losing out. I decided to ask her face-to-face. “Are you really a lesbian?”
“I just haven’t found the right man yet,” she replied.
“Well, if you just want to be friends, that’s fine,” I said. “However, if you WERE interested, then that would be OK.”
“Let’s just keep what we’ve got,” she said. I agreed—I didn’t want to lose it.
Eventually, she changed jobs and I moved to London, where I had a number of other crushes.
Later I worked on a cruise ship sailing from Florida to the Bahamas and Key West. On the ship, I experienced an LGBT cruise, where I met other lesbians. We got on like a house on fire. There was also a bisexual woman in my department, plus I became very friendly with the Latina women onboard. I learned how to give massages and would attend all-female private conversations where I learned what women really talk about behind closed doors when there are no other men around.
Finally, an American man, who I was friends with but not to the point where I could share everything with him, told me he had a girlfriend in Vietnam he wanted to marry. He invited me over to meet her. I said yes and found myself on a flight to Vietnam in 1999.
We stayed at the same hotel, where there was a cleaning lady who was older than me. I was 27, she was 35. Well, we got talking and on my last day, she told me she loved me. At first, I wasn’t sure if I loved her but, as it turned out, this was my first experience of having someone else love me first, rather than me love them first. This was new and different and I had no experience to fall back on. I decided to promise to return, so I came back to Vietnam during my next leave from the ship. I kept coming back, by which time I realized that I loved her.
So it was then, that I found myself down on one knee in my hotel room in Da Nang, popping the question to my girlfriend – “Will you marry me?”
Of course, she said yes and so my years in the friendzone and having my own love rejected were over. I chose the woman who loved me first and that was what made her different. It was what I always wanted from the beginning!
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