• Alexa Dione Francis

Small Ponds

Hello, I'm going to waffle on about dating and relationships in this post. Nobody asked, yet I am here to deliver. Why 'Small Ponds'? Because it's quite hard to find your fish when all you have to fish in is a small pond and you don't even know where the ocean is or how to get there. I hope that makes sense. If not, all I mean is that if you live in a tiny town, the likelihood of meeting someone completely new to you is so extremely rare.

So, a whole post of me talking about how unlucky I am when it comes to relationships and making jokes to cover up how tragic I am? You love to see it. I'm also going to talk about the different types of relationships there are and the types I've experienced as well as what I've learnt from them.

I want to stress that there is no shade being cast on anyone (god forbid someone reads this, assumes it's about them and thinks I'm holding a grudge or something please don't come for me) (...not supposed to be a pun but given the nature of this post let's all have a little chuckle at that) this is all completely lighthearted and meant in a positive way. It was all good old fashioned character building and I am so very wise now. My friends would strongly disagree with that statement but let's move on shall we and just dive in.

Dating in your early twenties is unnecessarily difficult. Especially if you, like me, live in a small town where all the people your own age are people you went to school with. Options are severely limited. I think it's hard to meet new people in a small town; everybody knows everybody. With all the social media apps you could ever think of right at your fingertips, Tinder seems like the first port of call to try and find single people that you haven’t grown up with and aren’t from work. Tried and tested; it’s not for me. Then again, realistically how likely is it that your soulmate, the love of your life lives 20 miles or less from you? Surely not? With that being said, if this has happened for you, ignore my cynicism because you're one of the lucky ones!

I have learned many lessons about myself through relationships I’ve had, whatever stage those relationships reached. I think my problem is how cynical I am. I have never been in love, I've come close but never quite gotten there. I joke about having high standards and that I’m just picky but recently I've begun to wonder if I'm the problem.

It's safe to say that I was the last to experience the world of romance and relationships out of all my friends at school. As I've grown up, I think the last three years I've experienced a variety of different types of relationships with none of them being remotely the same. I feel that 18 to 21 are very important ages for learning about yourself and what you want when it comes to having a partner, as you continue to grow as a person and get older. So anyway, what have I learned so far?

All The Feelings

The first time I really felt anything strong for someone it was a bit of a weird one that consumed me which I couldn't prepare for. I am quite relaxed so this was all a bit blindsiding. It was also a messy situation in a confusing time and one of those ones where you won't ever get the kind of closure you want. A big lesson to learn at quite a tender age but you learn and move on.

Tired of 'The Talking Stage'

It's so boring. It makes you feel like you're on Love Island but instead of no social media and only real people, it's all social media and no real people. Equally, you can come full circle with this because sometimes when I'm so very bored of not having anyone new to talk to, you'll catch me swiping (and instantly regretting). Chatting on Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat/Tinder is all so exhausting. I have no desire to meet someone that way. I've tried it, not my thing. I find personally that it's a lot less awkward for me to meet someone first and then obviously chat on social media rather than chat to a stranger, pray it works out and I'm off to 'love city' otherwise I'd be surfing for dates on Omegle. (Also throwback to Omegle? Why were any of us as thirteen year old babies obsessed with chatting to random strangers? Definitely the first time I saw a penis too. How are we not all traumatised?)

A Bit of Love Is Sort of In The Air

The one 'proper' relationship I had, taught me that while I like being in a relationship, I like my independence. My own company. Space. That doesn’t mean I want to be left alone all the time which sometimes it can be misinterpreted as, and can make others feel upset; but I just don’t need to be smothered with constant affection. Little and often goes a long way with me. I don't like anything really in-your-face but enough to feel secure in someones feelings for me. I think I want someone to worship the ground I walk on (who doesn't, before you start thinking how extra I am) but who is also my equal, surprises me, keep me guessing without fuelling insecurities or creating doubt. Worth noting that all I had in my head when writing that last sentence was Georgia from Love Island last year saying "he needs to be able to keep me on my toes babe" and now I want to throw my laptop in the bin.

When You Forget You Deserve Better (Lol)

We now come to what I call 'The Almost Relationship But Not Really' relationship. Not a good title and I don't think it'll catch on but I feel like most girls will have had one of these. It's all 'a little bit on the down-low', not quite a 'secret' but also not something that one party wants to be common knowledge. They are saying all the right things, seems like their actions match but when you really look, they don't... not really. It's all a bit shady. From this, I now know that it is important to me to know where I stand and I have no time for lies or being purposefully misled when it is so simple to clarify how you feel about something. Even if you don't know, saying you're not really sure is better than assuming that everyone is on the same page. Some people just don't like you in the way they are suggesting they do. That's not anybody's fault either, it is just the way it is but the way that situation gets dealt with is really important. The best thing that came from this experience was that I know what I want and what I deserve. (This remains to be seen actually but let's give me the benefit of the doubt.)

What You Will & Won't Put Up With

There's always that time when you are faced with a situation that could potentially become something but it's all very new, you're learning how you and that other person work, how you fit together as a couple. I learnt a lot about myself with this as I was much more insecure than I had realised (thank u for those who contributed to my trust issues xx). Constant bickering, which at the time doesn't seem a big deal but the more it happens the more draining it becomes, is not a great starting point for a budding relationship. I've learnt a lot about communicating effectively. I need someone who can sit down and talk through things without finding it 'cringe' or 'awkward' and equally, I need to be more forthcoming with how I feel. That is something I try to ensure I do now. I realised that I don't have anything to lose and the worst that can happen is someone rejecting me - and crushing my heart into a thousand pieces which is TOTALLY fine! *Insert Ross Geller chugging margaritas here*

Of course that's not true, the worst that can happen is that the feelings aren't reciprocated which can't be helped (but still sucks, cry it out). In that situation, pick yourself up and start to move on; because in retrospect, it really isn't that bad.

She's Casual, She Doesn't Have Any

Strong Feelings About It

This subheading is a fun little nod to a great song called 'She's Casual' by a band called The Hunna and I found myself funny. Probably why I'm single.

Anyway, I'll try to keep it relatively PG in case anyone young'uns stumble across this. Before I continue with this one I'd like to make this disclaimer: Let’s not act like women don’t enjoy sex. It’s 2019, people, give women a well deserved break from the relentless criticism of all things we do and don’t do! There is no place on this blog for any slut- shaming from men or other girls. I have experienced the more casual side to relationships and turns out it's not really my thing either. I did however, discover that I do not, as I once thought, get attached really easily. You can fancy someone and don't have to be dating or want to date them to have a good time.

I do think that it's better to have some sort of foundation of trust with the person you're with. It makes it more comfortable for everyone involved which means you can have a good time. I also learnt, while I'm not really fussed about the causal relationships, I'd prefer to 'be' with someone and have them be 'all about me', as I'm not one to share.

A Kind Of Conclusion But Also Not...

Here's the thing; at nearly 21 years old, in a small town where you’ve tried a sample of what’s on offer and you've not quite found what you are looking for...what do you do?

Well, I’m still learning to love myself. How can you expect someone else to love everything about you if even you don't? Equally, I don't think you have to steer clear of relationships purely because you're not 100% comfortable with yourself yet. Often the people you meet and are close with can help you fall in love with the parts of yourself that they already love. It's all about growth, people. At least take the time to look after yourself and learn to be kinder to yourself. Do things for you and put yourself first. Sometimes you really do need to take care of yourself... I should also really take my own advice.

Romantic relationships are not the be all and end all; a lot of them happen when you least expect it, when you’re not looking. Try to do everything in your own time. Only you can decide what you’re ready for and when. That's what I'm going to keep telling myself instead of 'there must be something wrong with me' and just let what happens, happen.

Amazing illustration by the gorgeous Florence Given (and you should all definitely follow her on Instagram @florencegiven as a form of self-care really)

I hope you enjoyed this open and honest post. If it resonated with you, or you just found it interesting maybe, please get in touch! I really like writing and always appreciate hearing any kind of feedback whether that be through social media, email or in person.

See you soon!

All my love,