Life & Culture

The words I never thought I'd say: Marry me


Readers, you may remember that, late last year, I got dumped by my girlfriend Mandy when she finally twigged I wasn't going to be able to provide her with the things she really wanted: my ultra-rare Frankie Say Arm The Unemployed T-shirt from 1984 and box set of nine Seinfeld DVDs. She also, greedy creature, wanted marriage and children, and even though I do most things Iain Duncan Smith tells me, this time I had to put my foot down.

You may also recall that, despite agreeing that breaking up was the right thing to do, I didn't respond like the mensch I know you know I am. No, I became a whinging wreck, boring everyone stupid with my miserable lot.

I tried to be footloose, but it didn't work. And so, instead of getting over the split, I did what any self-respecting technophile who's just been chucked does in the 21st century: I monitored my ex's every move using all the gadgetry and social media at my disposal.

I spent hours - days - kvetching about what she was up to. I kept calling her, even on my mobile when I was out, during the day, noch, at peak rates. I stalked her on Facebook and Twitter. I blew up pictures of her, printed them out and stuck them on other women's faces when I went on dates with them so that it would be like being with her. Only one of these facts isn't true. Readers, can you guess which?

It was awful. And the whole nightmarish period culminated unexpectedly with a trip to Pizza Hut with my three children and a young lady I met on JDate. Me and the kids used to go to Pizza Hut with Mandy and it was great. I figured I'd try and recreate that easy modern-family feeling with this new girl. Big mistake.

She'd even bought a fancy new car, the sort that screams I'm young, I'm free!

You know that bit in Woody Allen's Annie Hall where he brings a woman back to his apartment and he tries to recapture the fun he had with Diane Keaton chasing a live lobster destined for the pot around the kitchen, only this time the woman is not remotely amused? Well, this was exactly like that, just without the shellfish.

What really pushed me over the edge and made me realise how much I missed Mandy was finding out what she was up to. Basically, she was having the time of her life, partying, going on dates, and generally behaving like a woman reborn while I was sat in my room of gloom surrounded by surveillance equipment like a Jewish George Orwell.

She'd even bought a fancy new black car, the sort that screams, "I'm young! I'm free! And although admittedly that bald fortysomething was an incredible catch, I'm better off without him!" Worst of all, it was a two-seater. How would me and my three children all fit in a two-seater? Answer: we weren't meant to.

It was the sporty Audi that did it. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted. Not the car - I've always preferred BMWs - but Mandy, marriage and commitment. It was a real eureka! moment, if Archimedes was a rock journalist and not an Ancient Greek scholar.

So I called her and asked if we could meet at Al-Jazeera, not because I fancied hanging around an Arabic news station per se, but because I was going to be nearby, and Mandy works there, where she's the only Jewish staffer (unless you count the Israelis).

She agreed, but warned me that she had "moved on" and wasn't interested in getting back together. We could meet up briefly for a chat, but nothing more. I said that would be fine, but as soon as I saw her walk towards me in the foyer of the TV studio I changed my mind. What I was supposed to say was: "It was lovely knowing you, but I accept that you need to get on with your life, so goodbye". The sentence that actually came out of my mouth was the rather different: "Will you marry me?"

Meanwhile, the scenes on the television screens were of Egypt ablaze. Was my world about to become a similarly cataclysmic mess? I hoped not - communal uprisings tend to bring me out in a rash. Mandy was about as floored by my proposal as she could be considering she was trying at that moment to solicit from a Middle Eastern academic his views on the latest round of violence in Cairo.

Luckily I had something attention-grabbing with me: an engagement ring, which I decided to whip out there and then. To say there was shock and awe on the faces of the assembled - Mandy, the spokesman and the make-up lady - would be something of an understatement. I looked a picture myself: on my knees in the green room (orange, actually) of a TV station, asking my ex to marry me while the poor woman was trying to quell a riot.

Her suitably apocalyptic response? "We'll see…"

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