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ANTI-VALENTINE'S DAY CONTEST - Tim's "Fatal-Atttraction" Trauma ...

OK, so, I'm an historical re-enactor. That's kind of an important part of this story. I'm also a nurse, ex-soldier and a bunch of other perfectly normal things, but I do have this one slightly off centre hobby where I dress in clothes about 600 years out of fashion, and sometimes try to hit people with a very large piece of steel while dressed as a hood ornament.

Now, some one really needs to write a psychological thesis on the subject, but for some reason, people dressed in historical clothes somehow become exempt from the usual social norms regarding sexuality and appropriateness. If you are dressed and armoured as a Viking and wandering the streets of central Sydney, women will let you pick them up and carry them away from their friends without a word of protest. Try it in everyday clothes and you'd be tasered within seconds, right? And it works the same for women in armour too. Otherwise normal men respond to armoured women in bizarre ways that are utterly outside the normal range of everyday human interaction. I don't know the full explanation for it, but it just seems to be the way that people are wired.

So I was at a particularly prominent and large mediaeval festival, or "Fayre" for my American readers. The atmosphere was very immersive, and members of the public were encouraged to dress the part, while the 400 odd genuine re-enactors performed a range of "Ye Olde" activities around the grounds and spent the rest of the time wandering about lending an element of mediaeval colour to the proceedings. Armoured, I'm pretty cool, if I do say so myself, but my 15th Century civilian clothing is to die for. Crimson slashed silk doublet over black, thigh high boots with spurs. And a pearl earring. And so I was wandering around the event one evening, being dashing and mediaeval and interacting with the general public as we are encouraged to do. And yeah, I'll admit it, being a little flirty and taking mild advantage of the aforementioned "sexuality/appropriateness disconnect" that seems to take place when women are talking to a guy dressed a bit like Colin Firth in "Shakespeare in Love".

Here comes the disaster bit. After having fought and wandered and given two lectures, by the evening I was getting a bit weary and sat down for dinner at one of the many stalls selling food. There was a group of young ladies nearby, and playing the part, I engaged with them, in character, and we all sat around talking, laughing and mildly flirting for about an hour. Seconds after they left, one of them came racing back and whispered "Our friend really likes you, here's her email address" and thrust a folded piece of paper into my hand, then ran after her friends. Well, so far, so good right? Nothing boosts the ego quite like having someone give you her number unsolicited, and I was quite pleased. But when I got home, the first time I checked my email there was already an email waiting for me from this young lady. She had been onto the festival's webpage and found my details there. I still managed to feel flattery in response to this, and after all, her email was incredibly nice and a little apologetic at taking such a step unsolicited, and she was cute and had seemed bright and funny when we chatted, so I replied and we sent a few emails back and forth. Mildly flirty, but again, only a few, and when the first nude photos of her showed up in my inbox, several alarm bells went off in the back of my mind, which, being male, I ignored.

"Wow, how much of a stud are you that some woman you barely know is sending you naked photos of herself?" Big self congratulatory grins and self backslaps all round, voices of caution firmly ignored, I got a little bit more flirty, and in response, she went into utter overdrive. The nude photos, which had started out as flirty and artistic, became progressively more explicit, until they were soon the sort of thing that I think may even be illegal in Amsterdam. Still flattered, but finding the voice of caution getting louder by this time, I thought it prudent to discuss with her exactly what she thought she was doing. It was around this time that terms like "love at first sight", "soul mate" and "marriage" were first uttered.

Now, I'm no cad, I don't lead people on with no intension of following through, and I'm certainly not a user of the "find 'em, fuck 'em forget 'em" school or any such, but this was a whole other order of magnitude beyond anything I had even considered. And so, attempting to be as diplomatic as possible, I politely declined any further conversation. At this point, its still a funny anecdote.

When she hacked my email account, character assassinated me on a number of online forums and associations I was a member of, it stopped being funny. When she out of the blue called my mother... my MOTHER! who she told an amazing story about how I had led her on, "made love to her" (I never even kissed her!), got engaged to her, pressured her to have an abortion, and then left her when she miscarried after giving her nothing more than an STD, I wasn't upset. It was the explosive mother phone call that upset me, especially since I had no idea that any of this was coming, I was utterly blindsided. She also sent letters outlining a similar story to my employer, the organisers of the festival where we met, and even to trashy current affairs TV shows. Fortunately most of the people she contacted gave me the benefit of the doubt, not least because they knew that we lived approximately 800kms apart and that my easily traceable movements pretty well confirmed that we had only met the once. Even so, deeply embarrassing and not a little scary.

So yeah... a very idle flirt session-cum-date with an apparently nice normal person turned out to be pretty traumatic. Pretty much every time we speak, my mum still asks me not to give any weirdos I chat up her phone number. I blame the thigh high boots.

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