Another boy, another blog

I recently went on a first date with a man who told me that he’d once been on a date with a girl who wrote a blog about it afterwards. He’d read it – somehow – and although he could tell it was about him, he was somewhat perplexed as to the point of it all (not to mention his confusion about whether they had been on the same date based on her write-up…)

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t tell him about this blog. This blog is not for the men – and them reading reviews of (/stories about) their date offerings is entirely not the point. But I found it interesting that there are more of us. Veritable hordes of us, in fact! Tube-carriages full of us, if you will! Not insignificant volumes of gin-drinking twenty-something hot messes of women in London blogging about their dating experience. Because although it really is an uphill battle with moments so bleak that you want to throw yourself into the Thames and hope that the RNLI are having an off-day, there are some moments that you just have to share. Because they are spectacular. Or because they’re hilarious. Or romantic. Or just so honest and (I hope) relatable that surely someone else has been through the same thing: “I can’t possibly be the only person this has happened to, right?!”

And that’s only those of us who are writing about it. That doesn’t include the many, many more who – much like my gorgeous housemate – have been on two dates this week with two very-promising sounding men, and had to actually run away from one of them because he so lacked conversational merit. (I don’t endorse running away from dates; I’m merely pointing out that this is how she chose to deal with a dire-sounding situation.) By all accounts, we need an avenue to share these experiences – in whichever way we choose – to assure ourselves that “we’re not all mad, here” and that, actually, it’s nothing that we as individuals are doing wrong/any differently from any other girl. In fact, we’re all equally perplexed as to why the others are still single!

I promised this man that I wouldn’t blog about our date and – in my opinion, at least – that isn’t a lie: I haven’t told you his name, or what he does, or where we went. But that promise might get a bit trickier to keep if things keep going so well…

It’s not you, it’s me

A couple of months ago, I was *Super Liked* on Tinder by a man called Tom. My first thought? Ugh.

I’d not even opened the app to look at his profile but already I wasn’t feeling positive. A Super Like? Ha. I know that this should be taken as a compliment – and I’m sure this is how Tinder intend it to work – but every time this has happened in the past, it’s been a complete joke. I’m not sure how much you know about the Super Like feature, but – in my experience at least – it is usually reserved for men who are desperate, drunk, or unable to decipher their left from their right and feel it’s safest to just jab at the screen indiscriminately. So I didn’t have much hope.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. This man was actually good looking. Judging by the (three) pictures on his profile (none of them topless or with a sedated animal), he was a regular, good-looking man. So I swiped the good way, we matched, and then he messaged me – so we got chatting.

I should probably confess at this point that I am terrible with the Tinder chat. If I don’t immediately reply to a message (and to be honest – who does?) I more-often-than-not forget about them, meaning it’s usually several days before I get back in touch with someone – especially if that someone isn’t someone I’m desperate to meet up with. When Tom first messaged I had a hundred other things going on – including several other dates to squeeze in – and he was snowboarding in France and clearly not looking to grab a drink anytime soon.

It was only when he messaged asking whether I’d got his previous message that I decided it was worth pursuing. Look how keen he is! (At this point I’ll acknowledge that this is a turn-off for some people – me included, most of the time. But when you’ve had enough of being ostentatiously ignored… Well, you can see why this was a good thing.)

We arranged to go for a drink on a Sunday afternoon after I’d spent the morning at a quiet art exhibition at the Tate Modern. I was feeling ever-so-cultured, but also hadn’t had a conversation with another human being all day so I was hoping – mostly – that he’d be interesting. And again – I wasn’t disappointed. Equally as good looking as his best photograph and very well dressed, Tom was an absolute dream. He was funny and entertaining and educated and mostly just all-round excellent company. And there was a spark! Once again I found myself spending far too long in a pub for a Sunday evening, but when he kissed me, it was bloody brilliant. And I started to get hopeful.

Can you guess where this is going?

Because I always have a hundred other things going on – but we clearly wanted to see each other again – I agreed to meet him the following Thursday evening. The catch? I had to play netball first and wouldn’t finish until about 7.45pm. He works close to where the matches are held so he said he’d wait the two hours for me (!!!) and after a frantic turnaround to get back into normal-person clothes, we met – mind blown again! – in Starbucks. (Granted, we had one coffee before moving to the pub next door, but the intention was there!) He told me it felt like ages since he’d last seen me and that he’d be instigating the third date, and the fourth… I’ll admit it, I thought this was going well.

In short, we had a brilliant time. And then –

*poof*.

Sigh.

Although he hadn’t disappeared off the face of the earth entirely, he’d – as expected – gone quiet. When I first sat down to write this blog it had been been a week since that Thursday date and I’d heard from him, what, twice? I know that that might sound like enough – especially considering each message has been about when I’m available to see him – but, let me give some perspective here. This is a man who was messaging me multiple times per day before we’d even met. Who saw me twice within four days – and felt that that was a long time to wait. Who SuperLiked me on Tinder! Messaging twice in a week – and not in response to my date suggestion – just wasn’t cutting it. And I figured it was only a matter of time before I never heard from him again.

When I was telling all this to one of my closest friends, she said, “It upsets me that you have such low expectations for yourself.” And that really struck a chord. Because – I don’t. I don’t think I’m any less deserving of someone wonderful than any of the amazing women I surround myself with (all of whom have been put through their fair share of unwarranted shit). I don’t think that I should expect men to disappear because I’m not good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough, or thin enough. I expect – or hope – that I’ll find someone who wants to be with me just as I am. The reason that I expect men to disappear is because all of the evidence suggests that they will. Because they have. Every single time. At some point it was inevitable I’d start thinking I’m the problem – and I’ve got no reason to believe otherwise. (Apart from the fact that I know deep down that it can’t be me… But that’s a tough one to maintain in the face of this happening again.)

Note: There might be some updates to this story… Watch this space. 

The truth doesn’t have to hurt

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’ve made another bad decision. It’s one that has had unexpected consequences and one that I can’t do anything about, at least for another month or so. And it’s one that is driving me mad.

I’ve given up midweek drinking for Lent.

You might have noticed by now that I’m not usually one for giving up. The combination of being unreasonably stubborn and a hopeless optimist means that giving up – at least in the context of dating – isn’t something that I’m used to. And for the past couple of years during Lent I’ve taken something up – learning a new skill or running 5km – anything that moves me further towards that well-rounded person goal. But – alas – it appears that 2017 really is the year for making bad decisions!

One of the biggest problems with giving up midweek drinking is that it covers so many days. Despite valiant protests that midweek is really only Wednesday, my Monday to Thursday (Friday is part of the weekend: on that I will not be moved) are now resolutely alcohol-free. And, because I’m a twenty-something girl in London, this means date-free.

So I’ve taken up Sunday drinking. And Sunday dating.

I know that this is not exactly an unexpected consequence, but the realisation that I was now going to have to date on Sundays came as a bit of a shock. Sundays are for roast dinners and long walks and hangovers and almost certainly not for being at your best and meeting new people and exerting yourself (oi oi). Right? What does one do on a Sunday date?!

The answer is bottomless Sunday brunch.

Before I go any further it’s important to add this caveat: this Sunday brunch was not like my typical bottomless brunch experience (read: I did not get so wasted I had to throw up in the middle of the day). Instead, my date – Joe (another of those Tinder types) – sent me a list of the best rated brunches to choose from and we ended up in a cute little place which was all smashed-avocado-on-toast and table service (read: there is some limit to how much prosecco you can drink.) It was delightful.

I’m usually hesitant about going for food on a first date because it seems like an unnecessary amount of pressure not to drop things down yourself or get spinach stuck in your teeth or to make conversation with someone for a significant amount of time – any of those other things that you just don’t consider when you go for a drink. But brunch is different – especially when there’s a 2-hour time limit and there are cocktails involved.

There’s a second caveat to this: I also had excellent company. Joe was talkative and interesting and interested and didn’t have any terrible eating habits (win!) We managed a respectable number of drinks and then went on a hilarious adventure through the rain to find a pub that was open (I’ve found that there can never be enough drinks.) We talked well into the evening – the conversation never stopped – and then he kissed me…

…And I felt absolutely nothing.

The simple truth is that it felt like I’d been out for an afternoon with one of my closest friends.

I’d had an absolutely fantastic time and I couldn’t fault him if I tried – but there was zero romantic connection at all. Even after all of the drinks. Damn.

So I told him the truth.

If you only take one thing from reading this, I hope it’s that: I told him the truth.

I’m sure we’ve all heard that old adage: the truth hurts. But I think that’s total crap. It might be uncomfortable or unwelcome or unpleasant to hear – but it doesn’t have to hurt. Of course – I didn’t tell him the moment we broke apart. I didn’t tell him that evening. I didn’t arrange to see him again to tell him in person. I spent a long time trying to think about the best way to turn down a second date – and then I texted him the truth. I had had a wonderful time. I would absolutely enjoy seeing him again – but it would be as friends. I apologised that it wasn’t a nice message to receive but I wanted to be truthful. Because I think everyone deserves that.

And you know what? He thanked me. He thanked me for not leading him on. For not ghosting him. For not pretending to be something I wasn’t and for not leaving him in that unknown space where you wonder if there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. Because we’ve all been there, right?

If we see each other again it’ll be by chance. But it’ll be a chance reminder that there are wonderful people out there – even if they’re not meant for you. And that’s pretty good for a Sunday afternoon.

“Never make the same mistake twice.”

Brace yourself – this is going to be a long one.

There exists a school of thought that goes, ‘You can never make the same mistake twice, because the second time you make it, it’s a choice.’ And I have to admit that I’d agree with that, to a certain extent. It’s also not directly at odds with the other school of thought, that goes ‘I don’t make the same mistake twice. I make it three or four times, just to be sure.’ And of that, I am a big fan. Clearly.

Because I made plans to see Liam again. Thrice.

Now, the first thing that we have to acknowledge here is that he reappeared. Just when I had completely given up hope of ever hearing from him again. Just when I had actually stopped thinking about him – mostly because it hurt too much – wham! A WhatsApp in the middle of the morning while I’m cruising through the countryside on a train to Wales. Shocked is not the word.

Not only did he offer a pretty good explanation for his disappearance – he had lost his job – he actively said that he would love to see me again, if I’d not found the love of my life in the meantime (his words). And so, I made my first mistake. I read his message again and again – and then his second message, in which he – rightly – apologised for a joke that he’d made in poor taste – and tried to find a reason to doubt him. I couldn’t – or I didn’t want to – so I agreed to see him again.

You’re probably expecting at this point to hear that he didn’t turn up and, to be honest, I don’t blame you – I wasn’t expecting him to. (At which point it’s important to acknowledge that hoping and expecting are two very different things.) What happened instead? We had a wonderful evening. He arrived on time, he was charming and charismatic, and he asked me within the first ten minutes when he could next see me – there was a Christmas party at his previous work the following week, would I like to go with him? (I’ll just mention now, for context later, that I’m not originally from London, so I relocate for Christmas.) It was amazing. And when we’d exhausted the atmosphere of the not-so-upmarket chain pub we met in, we walked – at his suggestion – hand in hand across the city to a bar he knew, and he introduced me to some of his (real-life actual proper) friends. He rode the night bus home with me and took the train with me to work the next day – when he told me that his friends thought I was lovely. And – in lieu of the Christmas party – we arranged to see each other three days later – for a sober date!

That morning, I woke up 45 minutes early for a date that – this time – I hoped would happen. I packed my bag again, spent the day messaging him back and forth, and duly trekked to the heights of Zone 3 North London to meet him at his station. And? He was where he said he was, when he said he’d be there. He had ordered us food to arrive when I arrived. We lounged on that same sofa and scrolled through boxsets, to pick one to watch together now and when I got back from Christmas. We talked about everything. We laughed, we kissed and we were entirely sober the whole night. We went to bed and – we had sober sex! (Can you remember the last time you did that with anyone?!) He made me a cup of tea in the morning and walked me to the station.

And I never saw him again.

Now, I hasten to add that it wasn’t that I didn’t speak to him again. In fact, we spent much of that day WhatsApping, and the following week or so was much the same. I headed ‘home home’ for Christmas and we compared our – ludicrously different – ‘seasonal celebrations.’ Ahem. Over the next couple of weeks our conversation was sporadic – but I thought nothing of it – it was Christmas, and we were both living separate lives.  (You’ll remember that I had quite the eventful New Year not even thinking about him, after all…)

When I got back to London, I saw that my last WhatsApp hadn’t been read, so I sent him a Facebook message chatting about my newly-acquired accent and whether we should go for a Diet Coke as a New Year gift to things. He replied straight away and the date was set.

And the date came. And I’d packed that bloody bag again. And he disappeared. It had happened before, but it couldn’t happen again, right? We had made an actual plan this time! So I messaged. And – miracle – I got a response within seconds. But it wasn’t happening. Again. He was stuck at work and not going to make it back in time but could we please reschedule? Hun. xx.

Despite appearances – and actions – I am not a fool and, of course, this threw me into a chaotic whirlwind of feeling furious and upset, certain that he was a lying scumbag and absolutely convinced that it was somehow my fault. I am sure you know this feeling well. But I so desperately wanted to see him again – the sober date!! – that of course we could reschedule. And we would have. If he had ever responded to that last message.

But of course, he hasn’t. He hasn’t even read that message. It has now been a week and I have heard nothing at all. Of course.

It’s important at this point to mention that during this time I began reading ‘Fight Like A Girl’ by Clementine Ford which, if you haven’t already, is absolutely worth giving your time to. It’s brilliant. And it also began making me really, really mad. What kind of man thinks he can treat a woman like that?! Why are women so conditioned to believe that if a man doesn’t want to speak to her, it is her fault?! Why do we constantly strive for and desire male approval and feel worthless without it?! (Perhaps this is an exaggeration for some women, but you get the idea.)

SO.

Empowered and utterly fired up with feelings of my own self-worth I decided to make it quite clear to Liam that this woman (hell, any woman) deserves – at the very least – a couple of seconds of his time, especially considering his recent actions, to be told where she stands or told to eff off. It’s just being a decent human, after all. And I know it should have already been clear that he didn’t want to know, but I have all kinds of heart hope about finding that Big Love (and beautiful ginger men) so I just… needed to be sure.

(Note: I also spent several hours crafting this message so as not to appear too needy, or too angry, or too unreasonable, or too ridiculous or too anything else that might be considered inconvenient and then ran it past a friend to check again. I’m still working on the feminism.)

And that’s when I learnt that being ignored triggers the same chemicals in your brain as physical pain. And then my resolve shook a little bit and my heart hope turned into heart hurt and I messaged the BFFs in desperation. And the sum of their responses is what I want to share most of all.

You are always worth it. And this too shall pass. 

Alongside all of the others, there is one more school of thought that declares that it’s important to make mistakes. ‘You learn from your mistakes’. ‘If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.’ Maybe the second time you make a ‘mistake’, it is actually a choice. And maybe we will all make that mistake/choice hundreds of times before we’re really sure it’s wrong for us. But it’s all important. And it’s all OK.

So, onwards and upwards. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.  “But this too shall pass.”

“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone”

A couple of months ago, I found myself in a Holiday Inn Express in The North (don’t ask) glued to Ibiza Weekender, listening to that line and shaking my head woefully at the youth of today and their glorious ideals of sexual abandon. Believe me, it’s not a moment I’m especially proud of. But it is one of an increasing number of late that are reminding me that The Big 3-0 is on the horizon (albeit still quite some distance away) and marriage, children and eternal happiness are, well… not. Not that this is a problem, mind you. That’s not the point. The point is that I think – gulp – I am reaching the stage where one night stands with strangers make me feel much worse than I will imagine and so, I’ve kind of… ruled them out.

Don’t get me wrong- that’s not to say that I’ve ruled out all casual encounters. I’ve not completely lost my mind. It’s just that the strangers bit doesn’t appeal like it may once have done.

Given the world of online dating (which I’m painfully aware I’ve not really talked enough about thus far – must do better) you’d be forgiven for thinking that this might make things a bit difficult. After The Boy who Caused the Blogging Absence (are you keeping up?) I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that I downloaded Tinder with the express intention of finding someone to screw myself cheerful. But I also promptly invited Tom to visit over SW4 weekend (see: LINK) and drank about 4 bottles of wine. Only one of those actions led to the desired result and I’m not at all ashamed to admit that it wasn’t Tinder. (You’re right – maybe the wine had something to do with it, but we’ll gloss over that…)

Let’s be honest here: not everyone feels the same. I’ve certainly had my fair share of seemingly charming young men disappear into the night when I’ve made it clear he wasn’t getting any as part of (or in one instance, the sole activity of) our first date. But I’m also – thankfully! – finding that Tinder isn’t a one-night-stand one-stop-shop for everyone. And, unlike Happn, it’s not through lack of matches, but rather an active choice to at least go for a drink or two first. (That almost sounds like a good decision, eh?!) Perhaps it’s that it’s still considered a bit of a taboo, to meet up with someone from the internet, for sex. It’s somehow different from taking someone home from a club. Perhaps there’s the fear that you’ll end up hooking up with someone who looks nothing like their pictures and you feel obliged to follow through? Or perhaps it’s the realisation that it’s just not going to be really good sex, is it? And surely that’s what you want, if sex is all you want?

Back in The North, as the kettle boiled for my camomile tea (!) and the Ibiza Weekender ended with a WKD-fuelled disappointment of a fumble (sigh) I realised that maybe, actually, they were right. Maybe the best way to get over someone is to get under someone. Just someone you know a bit. Someone you like. Because everyone deserves the best in life, and that includes in the bedroom. Make bad decisions to go home with inappropriate people, but not because you’re desperate to feel something. Compromising yourself and lowering your standards is the worst kind of bad decision, and the depths of self-loathing that follow are an unnecessary burden after you’ve (probably) just endured some terrible sex with a 3/10. You’re a 10.

Leaving the house at 7am on a Sunday morning is nobody’s friend, but – if I have to – I want to be walking out with my head held high. I mean, I should be walking out at midday, bad decision in tow, to grab some food before returning to the safety of the duvet, but I’m trying to be realistic. At the very least I want to wear yesterday’s makeup proudly, and not be ashamed to be on the Tube in the clothes from the night before. I want to own that bad decision, not be someone else’s.

And after the second date, they’re not a stranger anymore, right?

(I would also like to take this opportunity to confess that I woke up next to Tom on New Year’s Day. And then I showered and got breakfast and went home at 4pm. What a winner.)

Relight my fire (or, Dating an ex-)

Picture the scene: it’s the Saturday of August Bank Holiday and it is a glorious day. Heat is pouring out of a festival tent on Clapham Common inside which I am (sweating profusely and) dancing, £6-gin-in-a-can in hand, with one of my #BFFs and Tom (the very same!) It’s SW4 weekend and on the stage is a band(?) I can neither remember nor probably pronounce.

As the beat drops I swing around to my right and, in one of those peculiar twists of chance, find myself about a foot away from a group of boys I’ve not seen since since we were in school. Reckless with gin-fuelled abandon, I find myself actually instigating (ever-so-slightly slurred and shouted) conversation with them, learning in the process that the man who just Happns (see what I did there) to be that same ex-boyfriend is lurking somewhere in the festival.

I KNOW.

Now, the chances of me bumping into him on a regular Tuesday (for example) are – relatively speaking – quite high. We both live in London and we have a number of mutual friends. We both work in the same area of the city and – as I discovered quite recently – I walk past his office twice a day in order to get to and from mine. (The fact that that office is next door to that of The Boy who Caused the Blogging Absence is a coincidence that I can’t even think about right now.) But we’ve both been living in London for eight years and after that length of time, you rather get used to the fact that there are enough other people in this crazy town to not see a specific one of them.

So it was a little bit of a surprise when we walked smack-bang into him upon leaving that tent.

Thankfully, Tom and this boy (let’s call him Nick for now) are familiar with each other from years back so I had a few moments to force the sick feeling back down into my stomach before I was forced to look at him. And then:

He looks exactly the same.

He’s looking at me in exactly the same way.

Is he… smiling?

This, as I’m sure you can imagine, was a problem. Throughout our not-as-brief-or-awkward-as-it-should-have-been chat, I was driven half-mad with questions. Was he flirting with me? Was I flirting with him? Were we holding eye contact for longer than is strictly necessary? Was it all the gin?! What on earth was I doing?! It felt just like before. And that was a little bit of a surprise too.

All I can say is, thank goodness for Rudimental. With just enough time to grab (what should have been) the last four gins of the night before throwing ourselves into the masses waiting for their set, #BFF and Tom gave me a loaded shove towards the bar and we headed off into the night, leaving Nick et al. to watch the other headliners. What I didn’t bargain for was the WhatsApp that arrived midway through that set from a number I’d not seen since we broke up…

A couple of weeks later we met up for a drink.

And it was delightful.

Forget past mistakes and press onto greater mistakes

January is an awful time of year. Let’s be honest here: it’s dark, it’s cold, you’re broke – and anyone that has ever given up something they enjoy has done it in January. It’s also the month in which a lot of people choose to reflect on the actions and decisions of the past twelve months and (because of a combination of fear, shame or the unfortunate acknowledgement that it’s time to “be a good person”) vow to do things differently. Better.

It’s bloody grim.

So I’ve taken a stand!

OK – so it was an accident. Well, as much as drinking to excess and unpacking your pyjamas onto someone else’s bed can be considered “accidental”. (I hear it is also “presumptuous” – who knew?!) The important point here is that I never actually decided to venture back along this particular, well-trodden path. January was supposed to be about making new mistakes, for goodness sake! But – as we all know – “accidents” happen… And as a result, I have firmly decided that there is absolutely no need whatsoever to change how things were before. In short: I re-made a past bad decision. Twice! And it was really, really good. 

When you wake up next to someone you’ve woken up next to a few times before (if you catch my drift) it tends to either give you cause to wonder how on earth it has happened again, or to question why on earth it is not happening all the time. In the case of this particular someone, however, neither thought has crossed my mind. And I think I know the reason: this person (let’s call him Tom for now) is one of my best friends. (I know – but bear with me.)

I’ll give you some background. Tom and I have been friends since we both moved to The Big Smoke back in 2011. We’ve had some adventures since then (driving to the seaside at 3am on a January morning; being [separately] hospitalised after a night out; screaming at each other about Disneyland Paris, that sort of thing) – and our respective parents think we are both marvellous. (Box ticked!) Tom is the man I’ll marry when I reach 35 and am still single. (We’ve discussed it and agreed – and recently upped the age from 30, lest it sneaks up on us.) He is the epitome of a Storage Man and I think he’s wonderful. (There’ll be more on Storage Men later…)

Tom was my go-to man (and I his go-to girl) for our entire University careers – and then some – despite both of us (and indeed everyone else we knew and lived with) recognising each time that it was a terrible choice. We have made this particular bad decision for so long that on our (now much rarer) nights out, waking up next to him is an almost unconscious expectation. It’s as inevitable as me having to make the tea in the morning while he desperately searches for painkillers – but it is precisely because of this that I’m convinced it shouldn’t change. Just like binge watching Netflix or ordering pizza on a Sunday evening hangover, there’s no point pretending that it won’t happen. These things are convenient, familiar, but downright fantastic – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Tom said of our most recent encounter, “it’s kind of boring when we get together at the start of the night”, because where’s the fun without the chase? And I think that’s exactly what it comes down to. For now? We don’t need each other. He is on Tinder (albeit with varying success) and living in Southampton – and I’m looking forward to making more bad decisions in London. But as it might end up being the rest of our lives, it really doesn’t hurt to get in a few good practise sessions every now and again…