I met The Playboy of the Persian Gulf one Saturday afternoon, after another sunny day in paradise. I had been residing in Muscat for around a month and continuing with my mission to drive to a new place every weekend, I had taken myself to a beach which was only accessible by clambering over rocks. It occurred to me that I needed to start building up a tan, as that was one of the trade-offs associated with tearing oneself away from all that one holds dear in one’s homeland. I had been shown the way by a colleague, but I challenged myself to find it on my own and feeling pleased with my small victory, I stopped on my return journey to take pictures of the view of the PDO (Petroleum Development Oman) camp.
After around five minutes of taking in the view, reflecting on the time when ex-hubby No 1 worked there and therefore also reflecting on bygone days, when Joseph and Rhiannon were about a quarter of the size they are now, a sparkly 4X4 pulled up next to me. The tinted passenger window slowly and smoothly disappeared into the door to reveal a ridiculously pretty face wearing a welcoming smile. The ridiculously pretty face belonged to a young man and he greeted me warmly before disembarking from the car. He was wearing formal Omani dress – a white dish dasha and a kuma – and was not much taller than me.
He asked me how long I had been living in Oman – in time I would become accustomed to this question – and upon learning that I was a newcomer, he told me that he worked for a tourism company and he would be happy to show me around.
Ah … touting for business, I thought. This was not the first time a chatty cheery Omani man had given me his business card showing him to be some sort of tour guide.
I thanked him and said that I had a car and so I was quite keen to find my own way around, thank you very much. (And felt a renewed resolve to tan my skin, whose paleness was bellowing ‘newcomer!’ without my permission, to all and sundry.)
“Join us now!” he invited, but I declined, on the grounds that I had work to do, but in reality, because I was not about to allow myself to be driven around by strangers.
“Let me at least take you out for a drink,” he continued with his line of suggestions which would put me in his company for a period of time.
I laughed and pointed out that he was a little young for me.
He laughed back and asked that heart-sinking question: how old did I think he was?
“Twenty-something,” I guessed.
“Thirty-eight,” he replied.
That wasn’t so bad, I thought … same age as ex-hubby No 2, so after mulling it over whilst chatting, I agreed to meet for a drink.
I should have realised after half an hour of waiting outside a hotel bar, that this was not going to end well.
We had agreed to meet at a designated place at a particular time, but this seemed problematic for The Playboy.
“Take a picture of what is right next to you,” he requested.
I did so and sent it via What’sApp and only after sending it, did I realise the inappropriateness of my view. Part of it included a bridal shop. Oops.
But it worked; within five minutes my date had arrived.
If I thought that half an hour was an inexcusable amount of time to keep someone waiting, I had much to learn.
We dated for two weeks. Well, one week really, seeing as I did not see him the second week. Some evenings were just a little strange; everything about him smacked of poor little rich kid. His car was chauffeur-driven, every in-built container contained chocolate and the back seat sported a permanent box of beer. I am not sure that I ever witnessed him sober. Some dates consisted of driving around and taking in the sights whilst drinking beer. But ‘strange’ was acceptable in comparison with other evenings when I would wait an hour … two hours … three hours even for him to arrive to pick me up from my apartment. Some evenings went well; he would arrive on time and we would go to a bar or a club – his favourite being a small, slightly sterile venue within a large hotel. Or, he would impress me with a moonlit walk along a private beach and we would sit in the perfect night-time temperatures of the September weather, with just the hushed sounds of palm leaves rustling in the balmy breeze and the occasional wave splashing, apologetically, on the sand.
There was something slightly surreal about his chauffeur always sitting a little away from us … I felt like I was being chaperoned … or, worse, that he was being chaperoned … but in time I became accustomed to his presence and he did a remarkable job of blending in with the environment and only speaking when addressed. A little like a butler. (Some time after my brief friendship with The Playboy had ended, I would learn that the chauffeur’s presence was entirely due to The Playboy’s lack of driving licence.)
But this was a man whose being was rammed with empty promises. The words of a friend before I left the UK rang in my ears … Beware of men who will promise you everything and give you nothing …
“I have a vegetable stall in a market,” he announced one day via WhatsApp, “so I will bring you some fresh vegetables today.”
“You sing?” he questioned, on another day, “Then I will come to Copper to hear you sing!”
“Cancel your car hire,” he instructed, boldly, “because I can get you a better deal.”
Let us reflect on this last one.
It was bad manners of him to ‘forget’ to bring me the vegetables as promised and insensitive of him to display false interest in my singing. It was frustrating when he arrived late for a night out – or not at all. But this last, worthless pledge nearly cost me the convenience of my car
This was not a course of action I would take lightly. There was much discussion about this and so when I was certain that this was genuine – and why would he lie about this – I cancelled my car hire. Then he began to ignore my messages. I became desperate to speak to him, just so I would not be without a car, never mind about any future relationship.
My car hire company were very understanding and allowed me to keep my car. But I was not understanding and I did not allow The Playboy to keep me as a potential girlfriend. I’m not sure how I feel about a man who shaves his legs anyway.