On what some might call the most romantic day of the year, Mr. Brownsuit got down on one knee and proposed to Natalie in a barely lit Chinese restaurant on Baker Street back in 2002. The evening was filled with budget talk and b*tching from Mr. Brownsuit. Romance had gone out the window, and Natalie was about to go too.
She couldn’t say no to a public proposal on Valentine’s Day, could she?
No, she couldn’t. So Natalie said yes, only to break off the engagement 14 months later. “I was very naïve about relationships,” Natalie says. “I felt you should say yes even when you want to say no. I’d somehow gotten the lesson that if someone asks you to marry them, you should say yes.”
Since the time of her not so fairytale proposal, she’s discovered that she’s not the only one to get that lesson.
Now, Natalie Lue is 33 and she’s gone through more dodgy dates than anyone would care to imagine. She’s something of a relationship expert for anyone who has ever been emotionally unavailable or had low self-esteem.
By sharing her dating woes turned into wisdom, she hopes to empower women with her blog, Baggage Reclaim. Her plan looks like it’s working. Readers leave hundreds of comments on her blog posts and Facebook page, thanking Natalie for giving practical dating advice and sharing stories of their own.
Caroline Worthington, from Leyland, Lancashire, England, comments on her Facebook page, “If I’ve learned anything from this site, it’s never to compromise who you are for anyone. Be authentic, keep your boundaries and values intact and walk away if anyone stomps all over them.”
All the “assclowns” and “Mr. Unavailables,” as Natalie calls them, wouldn’t seem to stand a chance against her now.
Naïve Natalie is no more.
Looking back, she calls the big V-Day event of 2002 her “Mickey Mouse engagement” to Mr. Brownsuit (a name given to him by her readers for wearing brown from head to toe, which is “something black folk really should not do if they don’t want to look like a big piece of poo,” Natalie wrote in her original blog, When a Woman’s Fed Up.)
Last year, on Valentine’s Day, she reflected back to the dreadful date six years before in a blog post called “V-Day Memories: The One Where I Got Engaged & Then Contemplated Climbing Out the Window.”
Take it from Natalie, being single isn’t the worst thing that could happen on Valentine’s Day.
Of late, holidays have been better for her. On Christmas Day, she was surprised with a special gift from her boyfriend of five years – he proposed while their two daughters were opening their gifts.
This was a huge step up from the time when she was 22 and her then boyfriend gave her clear-heeled stripper shoes for Christmas…and then insisted that she wear them out to the pub.
That was her worst gift ever. What about her worst date?
“That’s easy,” she says. “I was set up with a friend of a friend. He took me out to eat somewhere in a shady part of London and started being rude at the dinner table, saying how he likes the ‘three-B’s’ – black, big boobs, and a booty – and two out of three isn’t bad.”
Like any woman with an ounce of dignity would do, Natalie told him to take her home. In the car, she watched him pull out a joint and realized he’d been stoned the whole time. Welcome to Natalie’s worst date ever.
After going through a series of bad dates and relationships, Natalie slowly started to realize that maybe it wasn’t the men that were her problem. Maybe it was her.
That’s something no one ever wants to think, let alone admit. But she’s admitting it now: “I spent my teens and twenties looking for love in all the wrong places. I was almost always in a relationship or looking to be in one.”
Sound familiar to anyone?
Natalie says, “No matter where I travelled in the world, no matter what relationship I was in, no matter who or what I blamed for how I felt or for the things that happened, I was the only common denominator.”
The guy who brought Natalie to her moment of breakthrough wasn’t Mr. Brownsuit, worst gift ever guy, or Mr. Booty. It was a “nice guy” that Natalie wasn’t interested in.
“There were many times that should have been turning points including the time I was left by an ex to take the tube home on my own after having a panic attack, but actually, it was one very calm, ambiguous relationship that was the turning point,” Natalie says.
She had just turned 28, and for the first time ever, she ended things with a guy without any fanfare, avoidance or big drama. After five months with him, she noticed she was in a barely-there relationship that she describes as being unbelievably ambiguous, filled with infrequent contact and time spent together.
So after overhearing him play down their “relationship” to a waiter on her 28th birthday, Natalie knew she had to end it.
She called him up and said whatever they had clearly wasn’t going anywhere before asking, “What is it about me that makes you think I’m the type of woman that would be okay with an arrangement like this?”
Natalie didn’t need his answer. Suddenly, she realized, “I had been okay with it and had gone along with it just as ambiguously as he did, and that’s why he thought I was that type of woman.”