After Harvey, I ended all my relationships with married men. Not because they had no future but because I decided I was sick of being party to other people’s lies. It probably seems like an obvious consideration I should have taken into account sooner but like most things with me, it took a dramatic end and some tears to see the light.
The following weekend I was talked into giving Tinder a try by my housemate. He set up my profile, selected my pics and there I was: “dating”. I had been on dates with boyfriends but I had never dated in the traditional sense. Meeting someone wholly new, getting to know them over drinks or dinner in a bar somewhere. And never had I done it with more than one person at a time. I was nervous, excited and, at least initially, hugely intimidated by the profiles I was seeing.
Guys who liked music and surfed, with dreamy blue eyes, an adventurous streak and photos that you recognised instantly as belonging to a person who was popular and well liked. What would they see in me? What did I have to offer? Their photos showed travel, adventure, activities, hobbies. While I had all those things I had few photos that reflected it, camera shy as I was. At first, I refused to swipe right to them. I went for guys who looked “my level”, maybe a bit under. That sounds terrible, but it was evidence of how shaken up I was by the outcome of my relationship with Harvey.
And it took me more than a few days to grasp the idea that I could swipe without fear of rejection. If I swiped right and they swiped left, they were none the wiser. And while I suppose on some level I could keep track of the people I swiped right to and be disappointed when no pinging match appeared on my phone, it wasn’t like that at all.
It took some adjustment until I could swipe with relative abandon and, even then, I was picky. I read profiles, I automatically culled men wearing sunnies, had blurred photos, no age listed or were photographed with gorgeous women. I didn’t need the competition. Likewise any man who suggested family or kids were in his future plans were automatically rejected.
And then I matched with D. His profile picture stood out for me because he looked fun (he was riding bronco style on a statue of a fur seal), like he knew how to laugh. And on that count, I was right.
He was one of my first matches and sent me a message straight away. I didn’t know what to do next. My housemate snatched my phone from me and responded.
Hi. Nice to have matched with you 😊
I just matched to see if you were ok. Fur seals are dangerous. How did you get out of that situation?
He was terrorising a small fishing village. I’m actually a hero, I don’t like to boast. But I saved many lives, I lost a leg in the process. I’m really only on here looking for someone to share a pair of shoes with me. You wouldn’t happen to only need left foot size 9 ½ by any chance?
Damn I wish I did. I hate to see shoes all abandoned and alone. They lose their sole.
Ah there we go. See shoe puns. This is what dating apps are all about. We should hang out, grab a drink, go dancing. Well I hop obviously but it’s in time to the music.
You’ve got me all laced up. That is a quite a talent given most men can’t even dad dance with two feet. And direct, I like it 😊
Wow laced up, how did I miss that opportunity. I’m sure there’s probably one to do with tongues in there too haha. Well you seem up for a laugh and you’re quite cute so why not ask huh? My number is xxx highest level dad dancing going round 😊
So we exchanged numbers and began to text. It was all too easy and more matches followed. Few actually initiated messaging and even fewer wrote back if I wrote first. That night, laying on the lounge with my actual crush, the one with knives, he talked to me about how to recognise fakes, how to know if guys have already matched you by where they live etc. It was nice snuggling up with him on the lounge but he didn’t make any moves and I didn’t push it.
But there was D, eagerly messaging me and suggesting he drive over to mine when he finished work at 12.30am. He was a bar manager. It was getting late but we had friends over and I was willing to wait up.
His finish time came and he called to say he would head over after he went home and changed. He said it might be half an hour. Half an hour came and went and then an hour. Finally I messaged him asking if he’d fallen asleep, got lost or couldn’t find his left shoe. He rang me with a story about intervening in a punch-up outside the pub and driving one of the men home. I suggested we take a rain check as it was now 2am.
It took another two days before our schedules aligned and we arranged to meet at a nearby bar. I didn’t intend to get drunk before our date, but only to have one drink with a friend and her husband to settle my nerves. This was the closest thing to real dating as I had come and I had no idea what to expect. But one drink became two, became espresso martinis, became spirits. By the time D arrived at the bar, my friends and I were well drunk. My nerves, not surprisingly, had disappeared and our first greeting was friendly and relaxed. He was easy to talk to, as funny as our online banter had suggested.
Unfortunately, I remember little of our conversation, or how we ended up at the local dive at 11pm on a Sunday night with many more drinks under our belts. When I finally decided I’d had enough, I dragged D back to my apartment where we tumbled into bed all hands and mouths.
Considering we had only met that night, what I can remember of the sex was intense. My inhibitions, if I’d had any to begin with, were nowhere in sight and I encouraged D to kiss and suck and finger and touch every part of me. We were both utterly wasted drunk, and to an observer I’m sure our fucking looked as coordinated as baby giraffes learning to walk.
The next day, head in hands, I cried at my desk at work. It was among the worst hangovers of my life and I know my friend was in similar shape. But despite my best showing as an alcoholic, D still wanted to see me again and I felt so embarrassed about my behaviour I immediately agreed.
A few days later we went to dinner, for what actually felt like a proper first date. I apologised straight away and warned him that we would likely have to repeat all the conversations from Sunday night as I couldn’t recall any of it. He, however, recalled many things I had said or confided, much to my chagrin. But despite my embarrassment, it was an excellent date. We wined and dined and chatted like old friends. It was a surprising revelation that I could feel so comfortable with a relative stranger and it turned out that, excepting music (because I have truly horrendous taste), we had a lot in common.
I still drank too much and once again recalled little of our fucking but knew that we had both enjoyed it and wanted to see each other again.
This pattern carried on for several weeks as his work schedule allowed. We’d meet for dinner or drinks, drink way too much and end up back in bed, always at my place. We’d shared so much of our lives, that we had reached a stage where I was reading extracts from my diaries to him, having just began a reading of them myself after at least 10 years.
It was during one of these readings one night, laying on my bed after we’d fucked, that he asked me quite offhandedly to go on holiday with him.
“No,” I replied.
“Because I said no.”
“Not a long holiday. Maybe five days. I just want some time away where I can have you all to myself.”
“It doesn’t have to be now. We could do it in the new year.”
It was currently April.
“No. I don’t know what I’m doing next month let alone in eight months’ time.”
“Just say yes.”
“No. I’ve said no.”
“Just think about it.”
“No, and now I’m feeling uncomfortable. I think you should leave.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes. I said no, several times and you are persistent. I want you to go.”
The look on his face said it all. He was confused by my response, annoyed with himself, frustrated at having ruined our night and I just felt something between anger and bewilderment.
This guy hardly knew me. Why would he want me to go on holidays with him? And in eight months from now. I had no idea where I’d be in eight months. I wasn’t ready for this. Couldn’t commit to what he was asking. I wanted him out of my apartment.
“You’re seriously kicking me out?” he asked.
“Yes, I’d like you to leave.”
And I knew I was angry that he wrecked what had been a fun evening. We got along so well, had had an awesome dinner, I was so comfortable with this guy and then, bam, I wanted to run for the hills.
“I’m not ready for this. I told you I can only do casual. We’ve talked about it.”
“I know but we have a good time –”
“Yeah, we did, and now you’ve ruined it.”
He was pulling on his clothes, sulking and confused, and I showed him out.
What the hell was wrong with me? I’d met this great guy. We got along so well I was sharing my diary with him. We had undeniable chemistry in bed. And he had to go ruin it by making things serious. Suddenly it was apparent that I was the man in this relationship, the stereotype that wants casual sex and no commitments. And I was deliberately driving nice guys away.
Maybe I felt I didn’t deserve it. My ex and I hadn’t even filed for divorce yet. I had recently been sleeping with a bunch of married men. I thought I was in love with a neighbour. Who the fuck was I to let this man whisk me away on holidays? This was better. This was what I deserved.