A guy can get away with cheating for years before his partner stumbles upon an email from the jilted lovers brimming with sordid details of rendezvous in dingy pay-by-the-hour hotel rooms. Or maybe she discovers him in bed with another woman when she decides to come home early. Or, anti-climatically, she finds out from a credit card bill.
Let’s rewind. On a fateful night back in the summer of 2012, I was introduced to Philip* by mutual friends at a trendy nightspot in town. Philip was the “nice guy” of the group. He wasn’t very confident or charming when it came to women (and he sported an unfortunate spiky hairdo a la Goku of the Dragon Ball Z franchise) but he seemed genuine and sweet, and we got along well.
The next day, Philip asked if I wanted to grab a casual dinner. Why not? I thought.
“Bak chor mee?” The fact that he suggested a hawker centre meal for a first date led me to believe he was pretty down-to-earth and easygoing. I threw on something effortless to match. Little did I expect that he would pull up at my place in a shiny sports car, stepping out in a blinding floral print button-down shirt. I tried to mask my abhorrence with a polite smile.
Okay, maybe I’m just being unnecessarily cruel. If I were to be honest, I really enjoyed our night and liked Philip a lot. Even though he made questionable sartorial choices and desperately needed a haircut. He was over-eager and inexperienced – that very night, he insisted on taking me to meet all of his guy friends – but I found his behaviour to be endearing, especially after he confessed that I was the first girl he’d ever taken out on a date.
We went out a few more times before summer break came to an end. But even after he and I went our separate ways to resume our studies overseas, we maintained a long-distance courtship. Then winter came around and Philip bought me a plane ticket to fly over to Europe, where he was based, so we could have a vacation together. Towards the end of my two weeks there, Philip took me to a castle. He presented me with flowers and a long letter expounding the many qualities I possessed that made me the perfect girl for him. It ended in a question, asking that I become his girlfriend. Elated, I immediately accepted.
A day or two later, I left Europe and went back to school. Managing a long-distance relationship wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as difficult as it was for other couples because I trusted Philip wholeheartedly. One, I was his first girlfriend. That’s not to say that I thought he was a naif, simply that I believed that he would be very invested in the relationship. Two, he came from a good, religious family. Surely he had good values. Three, he offered me access to all of his social media accounts. I knew his phone and laptop passwords too. To me, this was reassurance that he wanted to be fully transparent and share every part of his life with me.
With time, cracks started to show. Philip regularly shared what his mother said about me. Apparently, she didn’t like me very much. I sensed that the hostility stemmed from her belief that I wasn’t good enough for her precious son. Who could blame her? I was his first girlfriend, after all. Doesn’t every mother experience the fear being replaced?
Unfortunately, the stink of her disdain never dissipated. So, we had arguments about the things she accused me of, such as lying to her about trivial matters. It turned out that Philip was a mummy’s boy – he wanted desperately to please her and broke up with me twice when she instructed him to. We got back together both times, but things only got rockier.
I decided that I needed to work on myself to make her like me more, so I ventured on to Philip’ Facebook account where he and his mum regularly communicated. In my free time, I read their conversations in order to pick up on exactly what she disliked about me. Subsequently, I would avoid behaviours that she deemed unbecoming.
The next winter, Philip and I took another vacation around Europe. One evening, while he was taking a shower at the hotel, I decided to check in on his Facebook chat with his mother and noticed another message window was open. It was from someone who had a European-sounding name. I opened the window to find that this Romanian girl had been sending Philip selfies in which she was dressed rather provocatively. Dumbfounded, I scrolled to see who else he’d been messaging and discovered another woman who was sending photos and even videos to him.
“Who are these girls?” I demanded the moment that Philip got out of the shower.
Philip shrugged it off. “They’re just friends that I made while on my exchange programme,” he said like it was no big deal.
At this point, any normal woman would cry “PANTS ON FIRE” and launch into a full interrogation. But not me. No, I really trusted Philip. If he said they were just friends, then they were just friends. He could have told me that they were sexy cyborgs sent from the future to save all of mankind and I might have believed him.
There is only a finite amount of blind trust someone can muster and I reached my limit several days later. We were still holidaying when Philip’ housemate and good friend of mine, Wesley*, called me up.
“You won’t believe this but your boyfriend used my credit card to pay for LiveJasmin,” he said.
At first, I wondered why Wesley was making such a big fuss about this LiveJasmin thing. It sounded like a brand of essential oils. But judging from the urgency in Wesley’s tone, I guessed otherwise.
The story went like this: Philip asked Wesley if he could borrow his credit card to buy a plane ticket and didn’t want his mother to know. He said he wanted to visit his sister in another part of Europe but his mother did not want him to distract her during the important exam period. Wesley agreed to help.
It was only when his credit card bills came in that he discovered the truth.
“Philip spent the money on online live-streaming sex services!” Wesley exclaimed, exasperated that he had to spell it out for me. He was paying Eastern European women to perform explicit acts on camera through an adult entertainment website called LiveJasmin. These were the very same women who were chatting to him on Facebook. Wesley sent me screenshots of his credit card bill as proof.
No way I could make any excuses for Philip this time. It baffled me that he allowed me to log into all his social media accounts so freely and hadn’t even bothered to hide his paid “side chicks” from me. Did he think I was stupid? Did he have any regard for me at all? Why did he even need to enlist Romanian women to do a live cam peep show for him when he had a real life girlfriend? My stomach twisted into a knot.
I took a couple of deep breaths to suppress the nausea growing in my throat. Then, the minute I had a moment to myself (when Philip was once again in the hotel room shower), I bought an air ticket home, packed my luggage and walked out.
I blocked all forms of communication with Philip and tried my best to put the entire incident behind me. Later, I would find out that he had bought flight tickets to Romania to visit one of the women he’d been in contact with. I chose not to confront him about any of it. In my mind, I was giving him an easy way out. Besides, there was no explanation he could provide that would justify this betrayal of my trust. I knew I was done with him and didn’t want any more drama.
I successfully buried the horror of our relationship for two years, until recently I heard from our mutual friends that he had been going around telling everyone that he had dumped me and that I begged for him to take me back.
Excuse me? That definitely isn’t how I remember it.
For so long, I’ve been trying to be the bigger person. I chose not to protect his reputation and keep the details of his romp with Romanian sex workers to myself. But if Philip wants to tarnish my reputation, then the game is on.
*Names have been changed.