Coronavirus in the Netherlands as an expat (Spanish with a Danish mother and here after 10 years in the UK).

I grew up with an anaesthesiologist father; and my first job as a teenager was working as a ward secretary for the oncology and respiratory departments in a local hospital in the USA; where I learned the day to day for the patients and nurses around vulnerable patients. As an adult I have worked for multinational hygiene, medical device & drug companies for 9 years. My jobs over the last decade have centred on forecasting product requirements so production plants can have what is needed ready in the warehouse on time for customers to buy; and this is done via a combination of statistical methodology and market intelligence. So perhaps my despair at the way the Netherlands has reacted to the Covid19 emergency is more about my background and experience than the fact that I am an expat. However; my perspective as an expat tells me that the Netherlands has done –compared to its fellow EU member states– poorly in reaction time, communication, and frankly recognition of the true extent of the pandemic within the Netherlands. I feel like this pandemic and the way the Dutch have behaved since Rutte’s first speech; where he stated very clearly the economy comes above all else, has opened my eyes to the true nature of the Dutch in a way I would never otherwise have easily come to understand.

In my current job I work for a provider of medical devices that are aimed at reducing contamination in the medical setting; and much of the portfolio sold in Europe is centered on treatment of critical care patients. In the Netherlands office we run the operations for all the European customers; which are as varied as individual hospitals, regional consortiums, buying groups and distributors. Initially at work we started talking about corona only insofar as how it would affect the supply to us of items that might be impacted by what was happening in China. As late as February we were still thinking that it might cause supply problems but not that it would jump to Europe. However; we saw in late February that orders from Italy were rising; and then Italy went into lockdown. In our daily calls to align the team members located around Europe, the Italian was telling us about how serious things were but you could see on the faces of the people in the Dutch office that they were “being polite” when listening and when the call was over they would jest about the poor Italian all cooped up and going stir crazy.

Then, due to a completely different illness I started working from home the week before Spain declared a State of Emergency. Even during that week; with death tolls rising rapidly and orders from both Spain and Italy coming in at 5 and 6 times the normal volumes, my Dutch boss didn’t seem to think it might happen here. When I told my boss I had seen the graphs of infection rates and that the Netherlands was following exactly the same curve as Italy and Spain he didn’t seem to take it in. When I said they had had an expert on the news to show this graph then he listened but still apparently wanted to make light of it; like if taking something seriously might be poor form or bad luck. Then that Friday Spain declared a state of emergency and on television I watched the Dutch parliament arguing about what to do about the people in Brabant and was dismayed that only Wilders seemed to say people’s lives should come first. Rutte actually rolled his eyes when Wilders said that. When I (via office chat) said to my Dutch colleague that I didn’t understand how Rutte could do that the response I got was “they will never share power again”. I realised the Dutch are psychologically in a completely different place from any Mediterranean person if they don’t even comprehend I could be dismayed to see that the prime minister of the country I am living in doesn’t prioritise lives over the economy. Wilders; the man who doesn’t want me in his country and doesn’t want to be in the EU, seemed to be the only one arguing to safeguard my health.

I made the same comment on a facebook group and the Dutchies there replied Wilders was only trying to be popular and I should calm down. Never mind that telling people to calm down when they ask a simple question is pretty rude, in this situation I have heard it repeatedly from Dutch people every time I ask them to consider any new data that challenges the idea that Rutte’s government is perfectly on top of things.

That weekend Rutte came out with the idea that people should work from home as much as possible; and our HR department sent a message indicating that the USA headquarters wanted us to work from home until further notice. I was relieved to not have to go back to the office in light of how lightly the Dutch seemed to be taking things. Honestly a lot of my relief centred around the poor hygiene I see in daily life here in the Netherlands. A lot of people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, they normally cough into the air without even pretending to cover their mouths, and I have seen people put used cutlery and plates back in the kitchen cupboard without washing them. Let alone beer festivals where glasses get a quick rinse rather than a wash before being used for a different customer. Fingers crossed all the messages about hand washing stick with the Dutch after this is over…
I did have to go to a house inspection that could not be rescheduled and one of the people there was stroppy and offended that I did not want to shake hands. The other person there was complaining about having to close her business for no reason she could understand. To be fair the Dutch authorities kept treating it like it was nothing so no wonder she didn’t understand. The experts in the press conferences at that time were still saying that you only need to stay home if you feel ill: completely ignoring the evidence and experience that China, Italy and Spain could offer. I wondered if they might be doing it on purpose to get as many people ill as quickly as possible.

Even in the Saturday morning news it seemed to be a joke because they showed graphs that used bread and breakfast spreads to show how much better Netherlands was doing even before – according to their own government – anything had even started to happen. When I posted on a Facebook expat group that the spread of the virus was EXTREMELY fast and that the information on the RIVM page saying if you don’t feel ill you can go outside was irresponsible and wrong; I was attacked for raising panic. When I tried posting a message that mask sellers on were giving a second mask free (because even a cloth mask is better than no mask if we are trying to prevent the spread) my post was blocked. All the corona posts were blocked from all the expats groups that weekend and I felt it was a sort of mass censorship of reality to keep the foreigners quiet about what was going on in their countries. Subsequently I asked one of the expats groups to reconsider this ban because a lot of expats don’t speak Dutch well enough to follow the local news and these groups are an essential platform and tool for those of us who don’t have great social networks here. I have made a great effort to learn Dutch well enough to watch the nightly news but I would feel lost if this was happening around me and I could not even follow the local or national news. Again I was torn down; this time with the admins of the group making personal attacks and false accusations, for contributing to panic. I was more than fed up with people reacting to attempts to discuss the accredited news and reported facts as contributing to panic so I stopped looking at those groups.

Then I did a quick check of the comparative number of ICU beds to see how might the Netherlands respond and I realised that not only does the Netherlands not have the concept of universal health coverage (we have to pay a private insurance monthly to be attended at any health service provider – unlike in Spain or Denmark or the UK); but even paying over €250 per month to get a cover that has a financial ceiling; the availability of care is very limited compared to other countries. There are half the number of ICU beds per inhabitant in the Netherlands versus Spain. I was dismayed over and over to see experts trotted out on the nightly news to say that the Netherlands had beaten the curve when it was far too early for the loose suggested measures to have had any effect. I was pissed off that the news didn’t even pick up on the issue of the number of total ICU beds for nearly two more weeks after I did; and even then they reported it from the perspective of “we won’t need them” until actually there weren’t enough and they had to send people to Germany. I can understand that in Holland they aren’t doing more testing because they don’t have the capacity or tests; but I cannot understand that they were reporting a figure they had to know with certainty was too low without any caveats for weeks.

A check of the national death statistics proves that Corona deaths in the Netherlands are about 50% higher than what RIVM is reporting on its website. They only added the caveat that actual deaths are probably higher last week when international papers ran stories about how the counts are different in every country and in the Netherlands only patients admitted to hospital are actually tested for the virus.

I think I find the behaviour of the Dutch government especially exasperating because the Spanish government is by comparison so extremely transparent. In Spain there are daily press conferences that detail even how many masks were delivered to each hospital; but here there have been only a couple of top line speeches where the messages were not clear enough to get the populace in line behind respecting the health threat. Now we are not half way through April and I see on the Dutch news it seems almost a foregone conclusion that restrictions will all be lifted after King’s Day; but at the same time they are showing videos from the “frontline” every day and one would hope that the message hits home. I do find it very curious that the “frontline” videos from the Netherlands include mostly well made up and rested people in front of a studiously good looking backdrop. I think of the videos from the Italian hospitals and it makes me think maybe it really isn’t so bad here; but then the numbers are what they are…

Of course I still have to go outside every day to walk my dogs. I have been wearing a face mask since March 13 but NO ONE in the town where I live has worn one any time I have been out in the last month. Initially people laughed at me openly; then after about a week they seemed to snigger nervously, and this last week they just smile at me like I am a dolt. Until last week I saw no reduction in the number of people about on the street and no one was respecting the distance. I have to go into the grass because people coming the other way do not waver from the centre of the path. Joggers actually bump into me (in the first weeks many of them coughing while jogging in groups – but I am not sure if that is stupidity or the Dutch sense of humour). When I had to go grocery shopping the first time a man very ostentatiously on purpose came up to cough in my face; and I do think it was because I was the only one in the store wearing a mask. Even after the local grocery store put the stickers on the floor the other customers do not respect the distances. I find it an extremely unpleasant experience to go buy groceries; but from what I see on the news this must be a small town experience because they show beautiful images of people in Amsterdam waiting in queues and security limiting the number of people inside the stores.

However; at least people in Spain are wearing masks and gloves. I think of the people I know in Spain and I think at least they have their head´s on straight. At least they aren’t acting like pretending a problem doesn’t exist will make it go away. The Dutch also don’t stay home (there is a google analytics report to prove it):

Throughout this I have had my spirits lifted by my family in Spain and Denmark sending me messages and videos and whatever nonsense in whatsapp; and I actually have more regular contact with them now than before because they are all bored at home in a genuine lockdown while I am working twice as much as normal due to the crisis. It was disappointing to me to see how much this crisis has been politicised in Spain and how the right wing is trying to blame the government for every failure. However; I know that no supplier can meet a five or six fold demand in the space of two weeks for items that take months to produce and place in market. So I am not surprised when there is a shortage of masks and I think it is sad that one party would try to blame that shortage on the incompetence of another political party when actually it is simply supply and demand. Seeing the way Spain has reacted and pulled together; and how the Dutch have behaved in comparison, has really made me homesick.

Belonging is a Choice

Probably my most defining life memory (insofar as our topic today) happened when I was between four and five. I remember a lot of screaming and shouting. That was nothing unusual. Then the sounds of fists hitting home; again nothing unusual. But then I realised the target wasn’t my brother or sister and that it was a lot louder than normal. My father shouted at the top of his lungs for me and my sister to go to where they were. We got there to see my parents were standing in the entryway to the house arguing. My mother was dressed up more than usual; had her fur coat on and keys in her hand. She was telling my father she wanted a divorce. My father had found out because the lawyer she had met in secret had written a letter that he was holding in his hand while shouting “how much is this nonsense going to cost me”.

She then said “I am leaving you Fernando I have had enough.” She went to turn to the door while he held her back trying to take the keys out of her hands. When he didn’t manage it because she had gotten the keys in the door; he threw her to the ground and started beating her wildly. He screamed that she had no right to leave her children; that she wouldn’t get outside the door because he would not allow it, and that she should be ashamed of herself. What kind of mother leaves her children behind? How would she pay for anything because he wasn’t going to give her a penny? She had no right to leave because she belonged with her children. My sister and I stood there and watched this. My father repeated several times that she belonged with her children, that she belonged in the house. Shortly after that my father (a respected doctor in a small town) got a psychiatrist to certify her mentally ill and my mother spent most of the next 20 years sedated to one degree or another.

What crystallised in my mind while I watched and listened that day – aside from the shame of standing there and doing nothing – which happened more frequently than not because doing something usually made it worse – was that I most certainly did not want to belong in that family. I did not want to belong with my parents and if I wanted to get away from them I needed to be financially independent. That was what I was thinking about at the age of four. I don’t want to belong here. I don’t belong here. How do I get away from here? I wasn’t sure where I might actually belong but I didn’t want it to be there. This distance I felt in my home life spread to pretty much all relationships when I was a child because no one outside of the house could ever know the truth about what happened inside it.

All of us had very clear the difference between private and public and that it was forbidden to let the outside public know the truth of the private. Is it possible to develop a genuine sense of belonging with other people if they don’t know the truth about who you are? And people really didn’t know because after that day by the door my father never hit us in places that would leave visible marks again. So – while it may sound histrionic or overly dramatic – I hid a double life from everyone for decades. My family members never knew my only objective in life was to get away from my father and no one else had any awareness of this either. It did seep into things though; because for me – the Spanish daughter of a Danish woman living in the USA – I rejected anything that meant permanence in that small town.

An example of this was my relationship with my fourth grade teacher. In the fourth grade I was regularly docked points on spelling tests because I would use the English spelling rather than the American one; colour, humour, flavour and realise. When I argued with Mrs Johnson that it was unfair because the language was English and Collins dictionary had the correct spelling she said I was living in America and needed to get used to doing things like Americans. From my perspective that was categorically unfair and I said so, saying I had no intention of staying in the USA any longer than necessary. She looked bemused then but didn’t say much. Then; shortly before parent teacher conferences I was docked points on another test in class because I didn’t know how to correctly answer the question “what your mother serves for dessert at thanksgiving.” I didn’t have a clue because in my house we didn’t celebrate thanksgiving. We were half Spanish half Danish and to be honest didn’t really celebrate either culture’s traditions. My parents were immigrants to a country whose culture they didn’t really understand; and generally spoke about the fact that Americans don’t have any genuine culture because they are all mixed up. Also, as many immigrants do they really mostly only knew other immigrants socially.

The teacher took advantage of the conference to discuss with them her concern that I wasn’t accepting American customs. She apparently convinced them that the lack of celebrating Thanksgiving was one of the reasons I never fit in with the other kids: I was too different. If they wanted to show they belonged in America then we needed to behave like Americans. Never mind the fact that most of the other kids in my class came from other European immigrant backgrounds because they were doing it right by celebrating Thanksgiving. I have always hated that holiday as a hypocritical white wash of history, and didn’t feel thankful in the least for my situation at the time. But the Midwestern matron imposed her understanding of what was required of my parents for us to belong in Midwestern society and they were so genuinely concerned to fit in (my father was applying for citizenship) that we ate the bloody thanksgiving dinner every year we were in the states after that; and my father started watching American football so my brother could understand what the boys in his class were on about.

The funny thing is that woman’s insistence that we conform to her cultural expectations was one of the first things to make me strongly reject Americanism. Up until then I had focused my thoughts primarily on getting away from my father. But the following summer I was sent to stay with my aunt and there I experienced life in Madrid doing things normal kids in Madrid do, and eating normal food etc – and at the end of that summer I remember my aunt telling other people “this one belongs with us” and I was happy for it because I knew I most certainly didn’t belong in the USA.

On the flip side in Madrid for many years I was “punished” in different groups for not being genuinely «Spanish» enough for their standards.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that no one belongs anywhere but where they choose; but because there will always be others that don’t think you belong (because for tastes there are 1000 colours in the rainbow) end of the day you just have to accept people’s rejection or accept yourself and the fact that no one is a perfect fit anywhere.

Robert Michael Flaherty

The Most Honourable Very Right Reverend Robert Michael Flaherty has left the building.  A man who for most of the years I knew him wore shorts with a trench coat; liberated from any impact of mere weather.  I went to two formal dances with him seven years apart and he didn’t dance at either but he did grade the skill of the DJ and have a great time. 

Rob was the person who so often was there to listen no conditions asked.  Many many times he saw me being self-destructive and he would chide and guide but not judge.  We spent countless hours sitting around talking about nothing -or singing along to songs- or playing darts or pool during our years at UofI.

When my father reneged on his promise to let me travel if I finished University early and put me to work full time under his eye; Rob got me a second job so I could at least be less hassled two days a week.  I still have my “Future Now” mug. 

When I felt isolated in Law School Rob set me up with a link to his UofI internet connection so I could chat online with him, Stan in Japan and Tony (this was in 1992/3). 

When my heart was broken for the NNth time by the same oblivious fool and I started to become reclusive Rob drove up to DeKalb and physically pulled me out of the flat so I would go out to a restaurant and shoot the breeze with him. 

Rob attended my law school graduation and my brother still remembers him as the one who said “cut me some of that butter action” during the lunch after.  He was always saying things like that.

Since moving to Europe we haven’t really spoken but texted.  For me this is the norm with most people in my life as I live far away.  I have spent quite a lot of hours entertained by Rob’s Facebook activity.  Rob is one of a very small handful of people that read my books and even gave one protagonism in a post about clearing his bookshelves.  Thanks to his Facebook I know his daughter cannot doubt how much he loved her.  I think that is invaluable. 

Rob was not just a good influence but was himself undeniably optimistic.  In December Rob texted to say he was getting divorced but it was going to be his Robaissance: a time for him to reinvent himself and throw himself into new hobbies.  Everyone’s time is too short but I feel sure that Rob got the very most possible out of his years and his attitude in the last months was still wholly positive.  Rob was an expert at getting value for time in a way that no one else I have EVER met even comes close to.

La Soledad

La soledad es querer comentar algo con alguien que pueda entender lo que expresas, y de manera simultánea recordar que no hay semejante persona en tu vida con quién hablar.

Por por haber vivido una vida algo fuera de lo común; por mucho que busque no encuentro con quién compartir experiencias más allá de las cosas pequeñas.  Por ejemplo: charlar sobre una serie o película que guste, un lugar donde comprar algo específico, las reacciones a una cultura igualmente ajena para ambos interlocutores.  Es algo así como vivir perpetuamente en una sala de espera obligada a hacer ruido sin sentido con gente que no volverás a ver nunca para evitar que te designen antipática.

Y hasta eso puede costar tanto esfuerzo que no merezca la pena si no compartes idioma.  He vivido décadas trabajando con gente que no habla con fluidez ninguna de las lenguas que yo domino como nativa.  Puedo asegurar que hasta una necedad aparentemente insignificante puede volverse una experiencia frustrante y triste.  Imagínate intentar describir el mejor filete miñón con tinto que comiste jamás a un vegano abstemio de alcohol y quizás vislumbrarás algo de la sensación diaria de ser el último sobreviviente de tu especie.  Tarde o (normalmente MUY) temprano una se da cuenta de que; aunque la otra persona escucha, no comprende. 

My Brexit Dilemma

After a decade in the UK I have reasoned through the pros and cons of staying in a Britain that doesn’t want to be part of the European Union or Europe for that matter.  This is not about how I feel about Brexit or the British although; possibly, that may become the subject of my next novel…  This is about; having already decided that my future cannot lie in the brave new Brexit Britain, where shall I go from here?

I am Spanish.  I love my country.  My heart belongs to Spain.  I have never felt any other national loyalty.  People may look at my Viking DNA influenced face and think “foreigner” or speak to me in English on the assumption I am a tourist, but Madrid is the only place I feel genuinely at home.  Many people don’t realise I had to fight against the obstacles from parents, cousins and employers to ensure my Spanish passport.  Perhaps because I had to fight to get it I value it more than others who have never thought about where they belong.  Spain is the only place I can imagine being an old person, retired if I can ever afford it.  Madrid is where I want to die, if not the coast while on a non-tacky beach holiday.

Despite my severe allergies to the Cyprus and Plane trees that have been planted willy nilly over the last decades by an irresponsible urban development team; Madrid is the only place where I breathe completely easy no matter what else may be happening.  These streets are mine and I can recite the history of stores that have rotated through shop fronts over decades.  The food a person gets here is the most reliably decent / healthy / tasty food at affordable price of any country I have been to (and that is a few…).  The health care is leaps and bounds above what is available in the UK and probably some not small number of other countries.  I grew up in Madrid.  I tried damn hard to live independently in Spain.

But the impossibility of making a living drove me to leave Madrid 10 years ago, and I have been consistently rejected from employment selection processes for ???  never really been clear why unless it is that there is still a very strong bias against women of my age who are still single and without children.  There is a clear bias against employing people who need to relocate – counter to the preference prevalent in most of the rest of Europe to take the best person not the one that is close by.  The job market frankly was never ideal but certainly has not recovered despite what some political parties try to sell a self-loathing voting public.  Self-Loathing because they consistently vote against their own interests … but I digress again.  And actually I already wrote a full tome about how difficult it is to get a job in Madrid (Spanish ANGST), and there are many professional dissertations on the throw away contracts that exist and the poor quality of employment conditions in Spain; and it is the subject of ongoing unceasing political arguments.

And now I am faced with a very difficult choice.  I know I am leaving the UK but where do I go to?

My entire being has been driving hard to get a job back home in Madrid for the majority of the time I have been living in England.   The opportunities are generally limited to jobs that pay significantly less than what I make; for longer hours in environments that are usually much more openly sexist than in non-Mediterranean countries (and remember that women still make on average 20% less than men for the same jobs).  The worst part is the fact that jobs are still very precarious.  They are short term ephemeral things in the majority.  Where they are not actually temporary positions on rotations the continuity is still highly uncertain due to consolidations, rationalizations, downsizings, all those things that make the profits and economy look good but mean no clear future for the work force.  What do I do?


Do I take a job that offers me the same standard of living and similar job responsibilities in a new country where I will at some point have to learn the local language but where there is less than 5% unemployment so I should not have to worry about future continuity of employment?  Where the weather is similar to what I’ve been living the last decade and there would be a short commute to work as well as a small yard for the dogs?  A place where I would have a genuine friend nearby who already knows the ins and outs, and where I would always be near water and be able to keep up my horseback riding…



Do I hold out for a job in Madrid where I might be ok a year or two but it will never be clear longer term?  Where I would make 25% less money despite the cost of living being about the same; meaning I would have to give up quite a lot.  Where I have many friends around the city but none genuinely close by.  Where I already understand how things work and what to expect and that includes being within reach of a person who cannot help but harass and degrade everyone around him.

It is certainly smarter to go where I might have a chance to save money so that eventually I might be able to feel I can retire, ideally in my own country.


Getting off scott free

I read a lot lately on the interweb or webinet about how people should not talk about the negative things that have happened to them.  Recent statements about openly discussing mental health issues seem a brief respite from a litany of stories and posts from very hard line people expecting women to be ready to employ martial arts at the drop of a hat to fend off any potential hostility.  The flip side is the deluge of “Hello Kitty” style quotes about how wonderful things are when you ignore the bad and let go.  Apparently acknowledging any negative event has happened merely manifests one’s victimhood; or maybe it just brings other people down.  To describe an abuse or aggression is perceived – without exception by some – as revealing the weakness of a person that let themselves be injured or mistreated.  Something some cannot deal with.

I think the people who would quash another’s expression likely have never had anything bad happen to them, and lack the wherewithal to even imagine what it feels like to have a different life experience from their own.  Perhaps such people lack empathy or perhaps they too have suffered but they believe describing their suffering would empower the one who got one over them.  Perhaps such people have engaged in aggressive acts and in a twisted way feel it is their right if the receiver of their antagonism wasn’t strong enough to stop them.  I think the whole debate about whether the concept of consent is valid comes from there: from people who know deep down at some point they didn’t have consent but want to pretend it was not a problem.

Anyway, I have a few issues with the people who would gag the communication of belligerence endured.  I remember so many times so many different people saying shut up, be quiet, don’t tell, you can’t say that …  It seems to me the people who try to quiet one are overly invested if they feel the need to judge and decry one for speaking about a life experience.  It seems to me it is unfair to expect others to always pretend nothing is wrong if something actually is.  How can a person be comfortable in their day to day if continually obliged to pretend a piece of their existence doesn’t exist?

And really doesn’t keeping quiet in the end – really – doesn’t it simply give license to abnormal antisocial attackers to go on doing as they do if no one ever acknowledges their acts as unacceptable harmful negative crap?  Doesn’t it basically give them licensee to carry on doing whatever they wish because no one can call them out without branding themselves a victim?  I don’t believe in letting people get away with violence, pretending it didn’t happen or was a one off.  Speak out say I.

It’s been a while

Where to start.  When to start.  How to start…

It’s been over a year since I’ve blogged because I spent quite a lot of time and effort producing THE TORCH BEARER’s EXORCISM.  While the reception of my second book was mostly positive its publication (as expected) did not raise me out of poverty.  No throngs camped overnight waiting eagerly to buy copies.  I have sold a few but I have certainly had to maintain “the grind” as in endurance of unrelenting heaps of drudgery to earn a paycheque to pay bills.  It truly does grind me down, wear me down, day after day; to the point I have found it difficult to return to my own thoughts and self.  Well, in fact I normally shut myself off from myself while I am at the place of work that pays my bills.  I endeavour to put my mind in a fireproof security box to ensure no one may be offended by my genuine thoughts.  It is exhausting and it takes hours of decompression at the end of each day just to relax enough to sleep.  Having dogs helps to ease the stress when they aren’t vomiting or whining or eating the carpet or chewing on the bannisters.  Petting dogs helps.

Anyway, I’ve had a full five days off work thanks to the long April bank holiday weekend, and as soon as my backed up list of chores was cleared the first thing I wanted to do was sit and type.  We’ll see how long this new found vigour lasts, and whether anyone may care.

Should I care if anyone cares?  Is the expression of thought truly expressed if no one listens or reads?  Think not.  I think a person cannot express anything unless they are expressing it to another sentient entity.  Dogs are good to an extent for this, but they have difficulty with nuance and frankly their vocabularies are quite limited.  I seek to express something a bit more complex.  Time will tell if anyone cares to read or listen.

(THE TORCH BEARER’s EXORCISM is reviewed by forewordreviews here: ; has its own website here:, and you can buy a copy here:

Defend yourself like a Virgin but Attack like a Tiger

A good friend of mine who’s been after me for a while about not dating installed Tinder on my phone. It got her out of her rut after her last divorce; she’s met people she goes out with and has a fine time. After she reassured me no one can track me down, no one can find me, they won’t see my Facebook… I said fine I’ll try it. I just can’t see it though.

“Defend yourself like a Virgin but Attack like a Tiger” “I have three homes” “I am a billionaire and I spend my time racing cars” (yeah right – that’s why you’re on Tinder) “my index finger has repetitive strain” … and then there are the angry men with statements like “if you swipe make sure if we match you talk and if you talk don’t judge or unmatch unless you’re 100% sure cause I don’t have time for crazies” (no kidding, and he is worried about wacko females…)

This is the sort of statement that is apparently supposed to push my possibly undecided mind over to swiping rrright. I am wondering; after nearly an hour of swiping and browsing and poking at my phone, what goes through the minds of men in my age range that they would think this is the most attractive version of themselves? There are a noticeable number of photos where the phone/camera is covering their face as they stand in the doorway of their bathroom or closet. Covering your face doesn’t seem to me to be smart if you are trying to get people to meet you; even if you are only feigning that you might like to get to know them. These; however, seem to be the most honest presentations.

Pictures of football emblems, cartoon porno, close-ups of naked torsos, cross-eyed pictures where they forgot to lean back from the phone while looking in the mirror, overshadowed pictures, pictures in wacky hats and caps (sure sign they are bald says my friend), selfies behind the steering wheel of a car (clear sign they are cheating says my friend), nostrils, parts of a chin or ear, negative exposure shots, LOADS of men wrapped around other women or with children wrapped around them, slogans, random shots of neighbourhoods, blanks where no picture is loaded (this is a fake profile pre-perfection says my friend), pictures of England from space… these make up nearly half the profiles that pop through for my age range. There is a BARRAGE of overweight balding men who apparently aren’t even aware that they are clearly drunk in their photos (or don’t see anything wrong with that). Paunchy bellies and dirty rumpled clothes and loads of facial hair; with arms wrapped around their buddies or pointing somewhere at something not in the shot. Maybe they set the profile up as a dare on a night out and forgot to erase it.

Descriptions that say “not interested in chatting endlessly” or that their main interest is in “bed” really make me wonder why are these men not able to get a date without the assistance of Tinder. NOT. I wonder if they are getting anywhere at all in their endeavours. Idealists say there is someone out there for everyone; but my experience is that that is not the case. I think there is a limit to how self-deluded people should allow themselves to be before their friends should tell them maybe they should be realistic about what’s out there. Maybe these guys don’t actually have friends and these are pictures of the regulars at the pub, or their last work do. Honestly; I have a hard time believing these men are in fact in my age range – 5 years up or down – as they don’t look like my classmates or even my cousin’s ages. They look like worn out versions of my dad when their pictures aren’t tinted in a manner that suggests they are from another time.

Then there is the flip side of guys with no close-ups of their faces. They love lots of shots of themselves on motorcycles, surfing, skiing, biking across Europe, climbing snowy mountains, boxing, working out in the gym – with the occasional vertically leaning torso so you know up front what you’d be looking at – and no description or statement at all. These guys tend to say they are looking for a soul mate… “if you are brave enough to fall in love”… please. If you have that in your blurb you clearly either aren’t grown up enough to know that’s not an opener or you underestimate your audience. Or maybe not, maybe there are childish bimbos out there that this would really really appeal to. Who am I to judge – not a single one seems attractive to me. Not one.

3º, 6º, 9º e último

Fuiste el tercero que significó algo, el tercero que me rompió el corazón. Fuiste el sexto y noveno por orden físico y el último por lo que ya sabes, o por si sigues deseando creer que no lo sabes lo vuelvo a explicar. Como no me ha dado en absoluto tiempo a darle vueltas después de una semana rehén del bronquitis; ya que no tengo para nada una mente inquieta (y ésta con los efectos amplificados por la vuelta del putísimo silencio de antes de años exiliada) y también porque este tema me toca muy de lado ya habiendo transcurrido tantísimo tiempo, pues he decidido sacarlo por aquí. También porque sé que esto te sería demasiado embarazoso escucharlo de mi boca mientras te mirara. Escucha lo que quieras, interpreta como te dé la gana. Y no es para que te sientas incómodo sino simplemente para explicarte mi punto de vista ya que está claro que no lo concibes o no te encaja o quizás lo intuyes pero no quisieras pensarlo.

Que nuestras ideas de qué es el amor no coinciden no había que recalcarlo. El que digas que no me cuentas tu vida con tu amor por no querer que me sienta incómoda me revela que para ti sí que deberá ser difícil. Es como el bulo de que la gente cruza y vuelve a las vidas de los demás por el efecto mariposa – que poco tiene que ver cuando hablas con una persona a quien esquivaste a conciencia como de la peste negra cuando quisiste pero asimismo buscaste determinadamente en cuatro épocas distintas de la vida. ¿Y por qué esquivarla con tal vehemencia si no sentías ni querías nada? ¿O es que ella te parecía demasiada loca como para conversar razonablemente? Que yo de acosadores sé un rato laaargo y me parece que jamás te forcé a nada. Porque por tus cojones lo decidiste que eso te convenía – que nunca entenderé porque jamás te explicaste con coherencia a pesar de ser quasisuperdotado en hacer que se te comprenda – y en esto te pareces tanto a tantísimos viejos que por no examinar demasiado sus propias motivaciones exigen que las cosas sean como manden porque lo mandan y punto. Pero para nada me sorprende nada de esto a estas alturas. Ya supe hace años que elegiste a otra para todas esas cosas que decidiste no querías conmigo. No podré saber ni imaginar qué se ve en una persona que a mí me ha dado repetidas veces tan pésima impresión, pero acepto porque lo dices que es la amor de tu vida. Como si el hecho de que la convenciste – porque digas lo que digas sé que la tuviste que convencer – para que tuviera lo que en mí no soportabas imaginar no fuera ya suficiente prueba. Precisamente eso – que quisieras eso con ella tanto para convencerla – es todo lo que me hubiera hecho falta saber jamás. Pero también soy consciente que el roce de años hubiera hecho “cariño” por muy mal que te cayera al principio – que sé que no es el caso es sólo para aclarar.

La gracia es que pretendes obviar tantísimas cosas. No recordaras un día que te empeñabas en que te dijera que sí – que no eres nada pesado cuando te empeñas en algo – y te dije que si de veras querías casarte allí mismo hacíamos un pacto entre los dos. Y lo hicimos. O al menos yo lo hice. No lo hice ligeramente porque antes de conocerte otros ya me habían roto. Y tú me hiciste creer en algo que iba más allá de lo que había imaginado posible. Y como no lo había contemplado como posibilidad en mi vida al hacerlo lo hice de pleno. Y ahora te oigo soltar de manera impensado que uno sólo se casa una vez. Claro, eso pensaba yo. Y lo pienso. Yo sí sólo lo hice una vez y suficiente. Pero cómo no saberlo si te escribí cada uno de los 365 días seguidos por si acaso. Las tarjetas y cartas que luego me dijiste habías reglado por el pueblo porque te estorbaban. Que ahora me dices que no hiciste eso, cómo ibas a hacer eso. ¿Y yo que podría saber aparte de lo que me mostraras que era un desprecio infinito?

Y tampoco te acordaras del día que estuvimos en los lagos – viendo las libélulas – hablando de tu idea de vivir en algún lugar recóndito. Y me hace gracia el empeño que das en Facebook sobre las mujeres que entrenan y escalan ya que cuando yo lo hacía no te gustaba – pero aun así yo lo hacía en la medida de lo posible. Por cierto también salté de aviones, hice puenting, etc… en la medida de lo posible para una foránea en un mundo dominado por hippies y chulos reacios de la compañía de una que se aseaba demasiado y hablaba con claridad.

De gigantesca risa es que imaginaras que me había liado con otro(s) – que por cierto no supe hasta este año porque ni te dignaste en comentármelo entonces – después de haberme comprometido. ¿Sabías que fui la hazme reír de la facultad por serle fiel a uno que me confesó que había estado con otras? Creo que sí lo has oído aunque no de mí. Que es ese hecho sino una prueba más de donde está tu fidelidad.

Pero supongo que lo que más daño hizo – después de lo que ya no hay más que hablar porque sigue siendo cierto que sólo rozar pensar en ello me hunde – fuera que pensaras que no me conociera a mí misma lo suficiente como para saber bien lo que quería. Que pensaras saber mejor que yo misma lo que me convenía (en lo que de nuevo te pareces a los viejos que tienen razón porque lo dicen ellos). A lo mejor es precisamente porque las mujeres maduran antes que supe a los 25 lo que quería. A lo mejor porque había tragado ya muchos años de cosas que NO quería seguir soportando. El caso es que no tuve lo que quise ni quise lo que tuve después.

De hombres – que fueron muchos (pero muuuchos menos seguramente que la cifra de triple dígitos que imagino tu alcanzaste) – tampoco encontré de nuevo nada que se acercara a lo que quería. Y aquí la diferencia entre los conceptos de amor. No creo que el amor se decida y luego se sufra lo que sea porque así se decidió. Es una emoción un sentimiento una pasión – de las que no quieres hablar – que no soy capaz de fingir ni de forzar. De eso que dices que confundes qué es lo físico y qué es lo “puro”. Pero entonces me estás diciendo que piensas que sólo era sexo cuando hace poco te empeñabas en que no era sólo eso; sin embargo sí pienso que no es posible extirpar una cosa de la otra si el sentimiento es vero.

Y por eso te digo que eres pesado cuando quieras empujarme a buscar otro. El sonsonete de que he de buscar con quien calentar la cama. No cedí en su día por la fuerza de tu pesadez, sino porque quería. Sabiendo que tú has deseado otra más que lo que pudieras a mí no cambia lo que yo pudiera sentir. Además antes y después de ti he conocido jilipollas, sanguijuelas, acosadores, violadores, malnacidos, aprovechados y me harté. También muchos muchos tipos cargantes y que me aburrían, unos amigos que no convenían como pareja (porque para mí el simple roce NO hace “cariño”). Ninguno con quien mereciera la pena conversar abiertamente o de veras y con quien también meterme en líos inextricables. Ninguno con quien compartiera visión de vida. Para mi resulta que no fue un tópico de cine lo de enamorarse sólo una vez de veras. Y al haberlo destruido haber destrozado la misma idea.

Y todo esto ya te lo conté hace meses pero parece que no lo quisiste asimilar. Para mí las personas no son reemplazables. Hay mucha muchedumbre pero sólo algunos pocos excelentes, interesantes y atrayentes. Y de esos compatibles… Y no te lo digo porque no lo sepas pero para que entiendas que lo mismo que para ti no lo son tampoco lo son para mí. Crees que no soy capaz de comprenderlo pero es demuestra que me subestimas y subestimas el mismo verbo amar. O que no compartes la misma definición que yo.
Y por eso hace muchos años solté muchas ideas y dejé de desear muchas cosas en la vida. Porque la vida demoledora me demostró veces repetidas que nunca conseguiría nada de ello. Querer y desear no son iguales a conseguir ni consagrar. El cuento de las vibraciones y el optimismo para los ilusos que creen en misticismo, que soy atea y creo en los hechos y lo contrastable.

Y por eso mismo las cosas buenas que me puedan pasar son un regalo. Tendría que haber muerto a los 33, los 39, los 40… Porque la vida a diaria para mí es una monotonía solitaria sin fin que sólo se alivia en años recientes por montar y pasear al perro (que también te lo conté hace meses y no lo quisiste comprender o asimilar). Por eso te decía que sabía perfectamente que el día que se te cruzaran los cables sería apaga y vámonos y aun así mientras durara sería feliz y lo he sido. Y con la misma vehemencia que al principio me atosigabas a todas horas, ahora te has retirado. Amalaya entendieras cuan fracasada cruzada es la de empujarme hacía elprimeroquesemecruzara, pero para entenderlo tendrías que comprender que supe quién era yo y lo que quería ya hace más de media vida. A lo mejor ha sido al darte cuenta que tu campaña no tendrá éxito que esa incomodidad que sentías acrecentaba.

Y lo único que puedo decirte para que te tranquilices es que no esperaba nada de ti, no he esperado nada de ti en 15 años, ni esperaba volver a saber de ti antes de morir. ¿Qué iba a poder esperar de alguien que había sido capaz de tratarme de semejante manera? Que no es para reprochar sino porque si te pusieras alguna vez en mi lugar comprenderías perfectamente porque lo sentía y porque lo pensaba.

Ojalá pudieras estar en paz con todo esto y que siguiéramos disfrutando unos ratos – al menos para mí – felices. Ojalá no tuvieras que quedarte callado para tener la conciencia tranquila porque la incomunicación después de alivio breve es estruendosa. Y dirás que no, que simplemente has estado superhiperrequeteocupadííísimo, pero olvidas que de veras te conozco a pesar de no rozarte a diario.

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