My Abusive Marriage Ended, Then I Got Swindled On A First Date

A few months ago, I was 40 years old and struggling with the stormy end of my abusive marriage. My husband had run off to another country with another woman and he'd left me with no financial support.

I had no self-esteem, very little savings, and no idea what I was going to do with my life. I was living in Monaco, where I hardly knew anyone. I also had no job, because I had given up my medical practice back in Canada to move to Europe with my husband. I was lonely and sad, and on top of everything else, I missed sex.

One Saturday night, I met my always-optimistic friend Lily for dinner, and she gave me a pep talk. “Smile to the world, send positive energy to the world, and the world will send it back to you,” she said. “Make small changes in your life and big changes will happen.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the next morning, I was about to go buy groceries, and I remembered Lily’s words: Make small changes... So instead of heading to the supermarket, I decided to spend the morning at a café near my house and treat myself to a cappucino and a croissant.

Shortly after I got there, a handsome man arrived and sat down at the table next to mine. All the tables were empty but he chose the spot nearest me. Then he said good morning and smiled. Was Lily’s plan working already?! I remembered her tip to send positive energy. I took out my sunglasses and smiled back at the stranger.

Soon he asked for a lighter. I apologized and said I don't smoke. But from there, we started talking. I learned that he was originally from Croatia, and had been living in the Netherlands. He was in Monaco for the Grand Prix.

It was so easy to be around him, and we talked about love, people, beauty (even my beauty), the universe and positive energy. We exchanged phone numbers and made plans to see each other after the race.

As soon as the Grand Prix was over, he called and invited me to join him at a pub. That’s normally not my scene, but my new mantra was Make small changes in your life and big changes will happen, so I decided to go.

It was exciting to have a nice conversation with a man and to feel interesting, appreciated and desired. It had been so long since I’d felt this good around a man. After a few hours at the noisy bar, we made plans to meet up for dinner. He picked a fancy restaurant and said he was bringing a friend, so I called Lily and asked her to join.

Once there, the conversation was fun and easy. I remembered a few words in Serbian and used them. (He said my Serbian accent was romantic.) I was soon fantasizing about ending up in his hotel room.

Everything went well so well until the bill arrived. The friend of my ''boyfriend'' suddenly realized that he’d lost his wallet, which contained everything: his driver’s license, his passport, credit cards, even the photo of his late father.

During the Grand Prix, Monaco is notorious for pickpocketing, so we all started looking under the seats and then outside the restaurant to find his wallet. My new “boyfriend” seemed concerned for his buddy but wasn’t making moves to settle the check.

Then my boyfriend turned to Lily and asked if she could pay the bill. He didn't explain why he had invited us to dinner and couldn't pay. No mention of his wallet.

If Lily was surprised, she didn't show it. She looked at me, and asked if I could split the check with her. I didn’t have much time to process what was happening; I just wanted to pay the restaurant. I gave Lily all the money I had in my wallet – money that was supposed to last until the end of the month.

And then the men took off without apologizing or thanking us for the dinner.

After we paid, I felt deflated. Lily and I looked at each other and she said: “Did your ‘’boyfriend’’ lose his wallet, too?”

Then I realized we had just been used to pay for a meal. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I was embarrassed I had such stupid instincts. I felt incredibly unattractive. I wondered why I always seemed to find men who treated me terribly. First my ex-husband, now this guy. (Why me?)

I was on the verge of tears but forced myself to not cry. I did not want my mascara to smear. So I turned to Lily and told her every dark thought that was passing through my head at that moment.

“I am ugly and short with big lips and a ton of cellulite,” I said, reciting the insults my husband used to hurl at me. I railed against Monaco and how the beauty standards seemed so rigid compared to Canada. (I was beautiful in Canada!)

After a moment of silence, Lily and I looked at each other and started laughing. Tears rolled down my face, and I had stopped caring about my mascara. It was ridiculous, really.

The next day I looked at myself in the mirror and said: “Well, you laughed, you felt this electricity in your body when he touched you, you were excited about the possibility of sex, you put on make up… You felt alive again … Enjoy it. ”

And so, in a weird way, this stranger made me more enthusiastic about life, love, men, and dating.

As long as I still have a pulse, I am going to get out there and hope for the best. But I might not bring my wallet on a first date …

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