Comedy or tragedy? In which I fall for a stranger

Image by the fabulous Stuart F Taylor

The other day, I fell for a stranger. I choose my words here carefully. ‘Fell for’, not ‘fancied’ or ‘desired’. ‘Fell’, like you would if you slipped on a banana skin. Fall as in pratfall. But also fall as in ‘fail’. Perhaps this fall wasn’t a trip or a stumble (cue laughter track) but something more dismal, like a ‘fall’ off the edge of a cliff in a climactic episode of Eastenders. When I told this story to friends over WhatsApp, with a winky face and what I thought was a killer punchline, half of them reacted with sympathy. One asked if it was meant to be funny or sad. It was meant to be funny, but I guess if that isn’t obvious I should ponder why my friends are responding to the comedy of my life like it’s a tragedy. Maybe I should look a little closer. Let me tell you a story about falling for a man I’ve never met.

Before I introduce him, it’s important to tell you that one of my pet hates is people sending me fanfic about myself. Men (usually – though I think one woman has done it too) occasionally send me horny stories they’ve written which feature the two of us going at it. These people don’t know me, so the picture they paint with their words is usually an amalgam of a bunch of other women they’ve fancied at various points in time, amped up to max horniness and filtered through a lens of extreme optimism. My body is perfect and beautiful, my actions are those of a single-minded nymphomaniac, and the sex we have together hits levels of filthy creativity that would usually take months (if not years) to craft with someone I met and shagged in real life.

I understand why people want to write this stuff, and on a meta level I can acknowledge that it’s flattering, but broadly I’d prefer them not to send these stories to me. I find it uncomfortable to be written about in ways that do not reflect who I actually am. The GOTN of these fanfic pieces is usually superhumanly good at taking brutal anal, or submissive to the point of being obsequious to the guy who has written himself into the dominant role. Maybe she’s thinking things I’d never think, or saying things I’d never say. Whatever it might be: this disconnect between who I actually am and who I appear to be when people write GOTN fanfic makes me deeply uncomfortable.

No shade if you’ve done it. It’s not a boundary I’ve stated very often, and you can’t be expected to read my mind. But for what it’s worth, there you go: I dislike it when people send me GOTN fanfic and I’d prefer them not to. Write it if you like – writing is good and fun and healthy – but please don’t send it to me. Well done for stating boundaries, GOTN! My therapist will be so proud.

I’m gonna trash that healthy boundary now though, like I always do, by telling you that the other day a man sent me one of these stories and for the first time in my life I genuinely thought it was good.

Mystery and connection

There are two reasons I enjoyed his email. The first was that the story he wrote did not include actual sex: it was a tale about the pair of us meeting at a party, him getting excited because he suspected I was GOTN, and then us having a warm and engaging chat during which he got a bit horny and thought I was cool.

Although it was shot through with sexual tension and anticipation, broadly the story was not about my tits or my cunt or my willingness to take it up the arse – it was a story about me being interesting and funny at a party. And frankly, gang, that’s what my heart cries out for. I love sex, but sex with someone who just wants to fuck is a one out of ten on the ‘joy’ scale. Sex with someone who thinks I’m interesting and funny? That is where the magic happens.

The things this guy had imagined about me, unlike in other stories, all hit home and felt true. He predicted that I would be scruffy and nervous, and I won’t go into much more detail than that because it feels too personal. But the fact that it feels too personal should hopefully be enough to convey that this guy had paid real attention to the things I say here on the blog. It wasn’t a creepy level of detail, like he’d been hunting for info, just enough information to make me feel seen and heard.

The second thing I loved about this story is that it came wrapped in a mystery. He’d got in touch from a throwaway email account, but told me that we followed each other on Twitter and had a few friends in common. He also said he lives in London and ended with the one line that always makes me more inclined to reply (a reassurance that I didn’t have to reply).

So! A man who lived in London who was eager to meet me but not aggressively sexual in how he imagined such a meeting might go… a man who had been paying attention to the things I wrote on my blog about who I am and what I’m after… a guy with whom I had friends in common so could be reasonably sure he was safe… yeah, I was pretty excited.

And it was a puzzle! A fun little mystery. He’d said ‘there’s no need to email me back’, but his email read to me like an extremely good come-on. And come ON! I frequently whine on Twitter about how sad I am that whenever I click a hot guy’s profile it turns out he lives outside the M25. What’s more I repeatedly drop hints to try and nudge guys into approaching me in a way that makes me feel seen and heard. This guy had done all the things I ask men to do, in a way that was gentle and clever and respectful. I’d be a fool to ignore it.

So I replied.

I said ‘Wow, this is really great’, and the other things I told you above. I explained why his story was so good, and congratulated him on piquing my curiosity with the puzzle of his identity. I told him I wouldn’t go hunting for answers unless he gave me permission, because I wouldn’t want to do that without his consent, but that I’d like to try because I love solving mysteries and he seemed like the kind of person I might want to get to know better.


Some people read this blog and reckon I am drowning in dick. But actually, behind the scenes, ‘Girl on the Net’ is a fairly average woman in her late thirties whose dick-based ambitions far outstrip her pulling ability. This is a fancy way of saying that there aren’t many men who want to fuck me. And the ones who do want to fuck me don’t fuck me very often. I could (and often do) obsess over why that’s the case, but for now all you need to know is that there’s a dearth of dick in my life and it is not for want of trying. At the time of writing this, I have one regular partner who I see every couple of weeks. I’m extremely fond of him, and I often worry that our relationship is going to be tainted by pressure if I let him know just how thirsty/desperate/grateful I am for his time. I look forward to date night with this man like he’s a freshly-pulled pint at the end of a ten-mile hike, and often have to rein myself in from just collapsing onto him the second he walks in the door whimpering ‘please just hold me and crush my body in your arms oh God I am so desperate to be touched by the way here’s all my news tell me yours then let’s play games and watch telly and cuddle and cook dinner together and fuck oh wait shit time’s up see you in a fortnight!’ So. Yeah. We don’t get to see each other often, and even when we do we only get a few hours together. We can’t have all the kinds of sex that I am craving or do other things I enjoy doing with nice dudes, so in between our dates I go hunting for other men who might have a bit more time. And my bar – as the saying goes – is low.

The main reason it frustrates me when people assume I’m drowning in dick is that despite the fact that I’m relatively schlong-starved, from my perspective it isn’t that difficult for someone to step up and fuck me. All a guy needs to be is a) safe b) vaguely funny c) not someone I work with and d) genuinely interested in building a connection.

With some people, I don’t need that ‘d’ (pun extremely intended, thank you). This super hot couple (I miss you so much and I know you’re busy I love you I’m here any time just say the word) don’t need to put loads of effort into this: they could pick me up in three years’ time and I’d be delighted by that. Fuck it, they could text me from any Travelodge within a twenty mile radius in the year 2054 and I’ll be on my hoverboard en route to them in a heartbeat. Likewise, anyone who’s married or otherwise attached: I don’t need connection with them, they’re busy doing other stuff and I’m happy for them to hit me up as and when they fancy a random shag. That isn’t the space those people occupy in my head/vagina – I don’t need them to meet my need for connection, because they meet one of my other needs instead (the need to occasionally get a playful railing as a Bonus Life Surprise – like a Bank Holiday I’d forgotten about suddenly appearing in my calendar). But when it comes to meeting individual men and investing time and energy in building the kind of intimacy required to really fuck – not ‘fuck’ but ‘fuuuuuuck’ – that’s where I’m getting a bit stuck.

Anywho. All this is a long-winded explanation as to why, when a man contacted me with a slightly-sexy-slightly-touching story about us maybe meeting, along with a fun little puzzle, my eager heart briefly skipped a beat. That night I drafted a reply and went to bed, excitedly pondering who this mystery dude might be. I’d planned to edit and send that response the next day when I was sober, to make sure I wasn’t misconstruing his words or accidentally being a bit too playful (and therefore brash or offputting) when I got back to him.

Can you guess where this is going? I totally did not!

Not long after I hit ‘send’ on my enthusiastic reply, his came whizzing back…

“it wasn’t an actual approach. I’m achingly monogamous I’m afraid and do have a partner. That doesn’t stop me fantasising though.”

[sad trombone noise]

Comedy? Tragedy? Or both?

In the wake of receiving his second email, I laughed at my silliness in thinking he was making an approach and focused on the mystery instead – he told me I could guess who he was and he’d let me know if I was right (I was – I’m very clever). So I swallowed the sting of shame and instead waxed enthusiastic about the joy of puzzle-solving. There was an all-too-brief moment of reflection where I asked myself why I’d happily rubbed out one of my clear red lines (‘don’t write fanfic about me’) just because a man who seemed nice had crossed it, but no matter: he wasn’t to know. I had a laugh with him about the incident, no harm done.

But later he asked me if we could meet for beers as friends and I realised that what he wanted now was to build a connection off the back of this embarrassing event. One which might bring him happiness but would remind me of my foolishness and shame. I said ‘no thanks’, but I couched it in lots of politeness and a jovial tone – it mattered to me that this guy wouldn’t realise this was making me feel quite unhappy. Later, he sent me a message at midnight to start a private chat about something I’d tweeted, again implying that my shame could yet form the foundation of a friendship, and I spent ten minutes trying to compose a light-hearted reply while holding back tears of self-pity.

At some point during that episode I realised something: THIS is why men often treat me like I have no feelings! It’s because that’s exactly how I act! WHAT A FUCKING NOB.

A farce for good (yes I am very proud of that pun thanks)

I don’t think this incident is an out-and-out tragedy: I hope you can see the comedy in there too. My life is not always a drama played out for me by men, it’s sometimes a tragic farce of my own creation. Hopefully one that has a moral at the end, if I can only frame it right.

Men (not all men, but more than I’d like) treat me like I’m not important, at least in part because I take great pains to present myself that way. Not here on the blog, where I have All The Feelings All The Time, very loudly and with swearing, but in person. One on one. Where it’s intimate. I find it fairly easy to tell boys that I want them to kiss me. If they’re amenable, I can weave some epic stories about all the ways I’d like to fuck them or give introspective and honest answers to questions about my internal life or my feelings. I’m a terribly emo slut, after all: tearing open some parts of my heart as quickly as I spread my legs.

But I find it hard to tell a man he’s hurt me.

Why? Part of it’s training: formative/past relationships and society have all played a huge role in teaching me to paint on a smile when men hand me parcels of hurt. It’s sometimes the safest thing to do, because hell hath no fury like a man who’s been made to feel like the bad guy. But I’ll leave that chunk for therapy. There’s something else going on here too.

I find it hard to tell men they’ve hurt me because saying it aloud makes me feel like a silly little girl. I joke about my sadness because I don’t want guys to see how much it stings – how much I care. This isn’t specifically about this guy (it’s not his fault I am like this), and in fact I’m kinda grateful to him – this random stranger has helped me to understand and articulate what’s wrong with some of my other connections (actual ones, not ones I’ve hoped for off the back of an email from a stranger) and have some difficult but useful conversations. Broadly though, when men hurt me or step over a boundary, I try not to let them know how much that affects me. Because knowing they’ve hurt me might hurt them in return, and that fills me with horror. It will also make me feel like a silly girl for believing that I warranted more care. So I’ll pretend that it’s all good fun, no harm done, haha jokes don’t worry I am GOTN and I’m cool and I’m drowning in dick and I’m a slut so we don’t have feelings.

In fact, I’ll go one further than mere pretending: if you email me sex stories that look like propositions and then back off when I say ‘sure, I’m in!’, or if you treat me casually when we’re in a relationship… I won’t just swallow my feelings, I will actively debase myself to make sure that you don’t have to ever feel bad for hurting me! I’ll dissemble and spin and deflect and misdirect until not a shred of doubt remains in the guy’s mind: I’m fine. I’m fun. It’s funny. Haha.

As I say, it’s not on this dude. He doesn’t owe me anything. The tragic farce is coming from inside the building: it’s written by me. I instinctively and eagerly abandoned my red line and opened myself up to a stranger purely off the back of one email that made me feel valued and heard. I convinced myself that this guy saw me, and allowed myself to enjoy the possibility that I might get to meet (and date! And maybe even build a connection with!) someone who was truly excited about me as a person. But this wasn’t about me, it was about the fantasy. ‘I’ wasn’t part of it: I’d bought into an illusion.

I could rail against the men who create these illusions, but ultimately I’m the one who chooses to stay sitting in the audience, gasping with delight and cheering along. I shouldn’t be so quick to open up, so eager to believe in something just because I want it to be real. I should have a little fucking self-respect. And if I can’t manage that then at the very least I should stop pouring effort into convincing men that I don’t feel pain when they hurt me. When a guy pulls back the curtain to reveal unhappy truths, it’s silly of me to try and pretend that I still believe in magic.


Note that this post is published with the consent of the man who features in it (and cringe when it dawns on you that I had to send this to him privately and ask his permission to post). Thanks to him for being an extremely good sport. I mean it when I say this is not his fault. I am, in fact, grateful for this exercise – not just because I got to prove how great I am at puzzles, but because it helped me work through some stuff that my therapist has been poking at for months. Comedy or tragedy or tragicomic farce, this story is now part of who I am, and it’s one that I think will help me writer happier stories in the future. Don’t take this as an invitation to do what he did though, please. And don’t be mean about him in the comments, either: he definitely reads this blog.



  • Terry Bull says:

    Thank you GOTN, another incredibly honest and engaging blog. Very brave of you to be so honest and open, precisely why your blog and accounts are the most entertaining and interesting on the net (and not just the horny ones). Once we get to read and understand more about you as a person, so the better and more meaningful the sexy ones become.

  • fuzzy says:

    the mere suspicion that someone actually *sees me* by things they do or say will inevitably waken the romantic kinky perverted debauched idealist within me and I will dance joyfully in the moonlight and signal madly “here I am! HERE I AM!” and it’s nearly always all in my head (only, alas)… so by dawn I am like the knight in that poem…

    And this is why I sojourn here,
    Alone and palely loitering,
    Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
    And no birds sing…

  • Sweetness says:

    It isn’t his fault – but maybe it’s not yours either? I can absolutely see why you called his bluff and he should have known that was a possible outcome. I’m glad you shared!

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah thank you Sweetness! And yeah, I don’t think it’s surprising or unusual that I read his original email in that way. The bits that annoy me about my own behaviour are the parts where I ignored my red line, and then subsequently worked *so hard* to make sure he didn’t have to know that it was hurtful. Except then I sent him this post, so he *did* know it was hurtful eventually. GOTN is braver than I am, because I can class her emotional overspills as ‘work’ =)

  • Goddessdeeva says:

    Bless you. I’ve been working on similar issues in therapy. Very proud of you for stating boundaries. I have a thing when I’m vetting threesome possibles. If they say things like “ah go on” when I tell them I NEVER go bareback then they’re off the list. Boundaries matter and if I want to feel safe and have fun, they have to be adhered to. What I’m working on is not feeling a bit guilty that they won’t get to fuck me. I’m getting better but it’s like being debriefed after leaving a cult.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “If they say things like “ah go on” when I tell them I NEVER go bareback then they’re off the list.” UGH YEAH. Absolute hard fuck off to these people. Saying ‘no’ to someone on something is usually a really good way to tell who they are as a person I think. Someone graciously and calmly accepting a ‘no’ is hugely attractive, someone who whines about it and tries to apply pressure? Blergh.

      And THIS “I’m getting better but it’s like being debriefed after leaving a cult.” OMG I feel this too. Absolute best of luck with your therapy – I’m rooting for ya <3

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    As Taylor Swift sang, ‘It’s me. Hey. I’m the problem, it’s me.’ But maybe it was also a bit him too…

    I know you said not to be mean about him in the comments, but this was arguably a cruel (or at least thoughtless) thing to do. Adults should think about other people’s feelings. If he knew you as well as you say, he should also have realised how you’d react to reading his fantasy. He should at least have specified clearly in the email that it was purely a fantasy, and not a come-on.

    I think most of us would have done the same as you here. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

    (And to then try to meet over it… like going ‘Hey, I think we’d make a great couple. Ha ha, j/k I’m taken! But maybe tho? Want to get to know each other better…’
    Put like that, it is pretty crappy behaviour.)

    • Girl on the net says:

      Ah thank you for your thoughtful comment SCS. You’re definitely not being mean – I think that’s fair comment and I wouldn’t trust anyone to make it with such care and thoughtfulness as you, so thank you!

      Short answer: I think that in my ideal world men *would* think about this sort of thing (and genuinely consider me as a person rather than some faceless fantasy figure/bucket into which they can pour their fantasies) before hitting ‘send’ on messages. And I can try to encourage them to do that (by, for instance, writing blog posts which make it as clear as possible that I’m a person with feelings). But I think part of what I’m working through here is the fact that this happens to me a *lot* – sometimes as real life me, sometimes as GOTN – and although as I say in the post I could rail against these men, there definitely is something I can change for myself, that doesn’t rely on men listening to me when I say ‘please don’t do this.’ It’s about what is and isn’t within my control, I guess. I can’t control what men do to me, I can only say ‘stop’ when they do it. And it’s the latter part that I really struggle with, and which prompted this post.

      But yeah, broadly you’re right and I don’t think your comment is mean. The guy involved apologised when he realised I’d been hurt, and he let me publish this, so I reckon we’re square.

  • Ber says:

    Exceptional writing, as always. You’re so, so good at exploring these complicated emotions.

  • The One says:

    Wow, this was personal insight after personal insight, like a series of punches. Very relatable. Thanks so much for sharing 🖤

  • This made me laugh AND cry. I suppose that’s what you were going for, so brava for that.

    One of the (many) things I like about you is that, for a scruffy normal person in her thirties, there’s a lot of bravery there. In this case, your brain and heart were activated enough (in equal measure) to know it was time to re-draw your line in the sand. It may not have worked out the way you wanted, but you gave it a go.

    I can think of a lot of people who wouldn’t, myself included.

    In fact, this story contains all the elements that make the tragicomedies of old so compelling: some laughs, some tears, a mistaken intent, eagerness and despondency, two main characters neither at fault but communicating awkwardly. I’m sorry it happened to you, of course, but this is a fantastic piece of writing, so thank you for that, at least.

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