I met my boyfriend on Tinder. I wish we had a better story to tell people – one that didn’t involve swiping through endless virtual faces to find ones we thought were at least reasonably attractive – but there you go. (For the record, I think my boyfriend is very attractive, bloody gorgeous in fact). And actually, even from the complete vacuum of romance and spontaneity that is internet dating, I still find myself wondering sometimes at the serendipity involved. I mean, yes, I had set the parameters of my search for love ridiculously wide, having basically discounted every male in the vicinity – and by vicinity I do mean my entire city. And no, it’s not a small city. I’m no stranger to the depressing experience of having swiped left to the point where you’re finally left with the ‘no more available matches’ message looking apologetically and somewhat awkwardly back at you. But still, we happened across each other’s profiles. I swiped right, he swiped right. And here we are, two and a half years later, living happily (90% of the time) with my daughter and an accidental pet cat, and talking about buying our first home.
His first message made me laugh out loud. A real life LOL is a rarity in the world of Tinder, let me tell you. Or at least, a LOL where you’re laughing with them is a rarity. And the ones where you’re laughing at them are usually tinged with despair, so they don’t count. He has since confessed that he had some help with that message, and in all likelihood he probably sent it to fifty other girls, but still. It was a refreshing change from ‘hey u ok’ (or even the slightly more daring ‘want to sit on my face?’ No thanks). We met up and it went well. We got very drunk, setting a precedent for much of our relationship together so far, and stayed out until 4am, at which point we said goodbye and went our separate ways. Very good, I told myself, he thinks I am A Lady. (As a side note, predictive text just wanted to insert the word ‘feminist’ instead of ‘lady’ there – let’s just say my iPad knows me better than he did on that first date. I have personally always thought that the ‘rules’ about how long a woman should wait before sleeping with someone are utter sexist bollocks. I went into dating, after splitting from Eva’s dad, naively confident that 21st century men would feel the same; unfortunately, many of them appear stuck in the 1950s when it comes to female sexuality. That said, even I know it is not a good idea to take a man up on the aforementioned offer of sitting on his face if it is the first thing he says to you. Manners cost nothing).
Anyway, date two followed a week later. We got equally drunk, having discovered a mutual love of mojitos, and this time when 4am rolled around he suggested going back to mine. I started panicking, trying through the fog of rum to weigh up the benefits of following ‘the Rules,’ against the benefits of getting him back to my bed. Self control has never been a personal strong point, so even whilst I was telling him ‘okay, but I’m not having sex with you,’ I don’t think either of us was falling for it. Thankfully, he turned out to share my scepticism for the three date rule, and the fact we’d jumped the gun, so to speak, made no difference to him. He seemed pretty happy about it, on reflection.
We carried on seeing each other, about once a week. He seemed both normal and keen, a somewhat unsettling combination that I was completely unused to. He’d text me regularly, but not too regularly, and after each date he’d make it clear he wanted to see me again. I fancied him (a lot), he made me laugh, listened to me and made me feel good about myself. It was everything I’d waited for.
Simultaneously though, I was crippled by insecurity about the whole thing, absolutely convinced that it was all too good to be true, and that any day now he was going to start the all too familiar process of removing himself from my life, piece by piece. I felt like I needed validation from him all the time, evidence that this was going somewhere real, somewhere beyond the three or four month, sort-of-but-not-quite-relationships I was used to. I was trying to be laid back about it all, to relax and enjoy it, and sometimes I did. That was easier when we were together. But too often, and especially when I wasn’t with him, I felt like some sort of deranged and obsessive film noir ex- detective who can’t let go of a case, trying to piece together clues about where it was going, how much he liked me and, as time went on, when he was going to drop the L- bomb.
Why not just be open and ask him outright, I hear you ask? Well, that would seem like the logical thing to do, but being the anxious and insecure mess that I was, that felt like the most terrifying option imaginable. I was far too preoccupied with trying to appear attractively breezy and casual to consider broaching a frank and honest conversation about what we both wanted – God forbid. The only time we came close to anything resembling one of those was after we’d both drunk so much alcohol that I couldn’t remember what he’d said the next morning anyway. Not very helpful.
When we actually did finally use the word ‘love’, the conversation turned into an absolute farce. I’d dropped a (pretty heavy) hint – again, after a few drinks; as you can see, I wasn’t joking about the drinking precedent having been well and truly set on date one – and he was clearly pleased and started asking jokey questions about how I felt. I then lost my nerve and tried to shut down the conversation; I was determined not to say it first in case it wasn’t reciprocal. He misinterpreted this as me not feeling what he was feeling and went very silent and moody. The whole joyful experience ended with me sobbing and telling him that, obviously, I did love him and him telling me he loved me too (yay!) and calling me a silly bugger. This, said in his lovely broad Yorkshire accent, is his affectionate and amazingly patient response to most of my emotionally unstable episodes, of which there have been a fair few.
The trouble is, dating feels like such a bloody emotional battle. I think this is especially the case when you’re a single parent, and probably more so a young single parent, like I was. You’re keenly aware that to most single young men, another man’s child is not high on their agenda of things to occupy their time with. But I’ve seen friends without children – beautiful, smart, charismatic friends – in the same position. You go on dates with people you could never imagine yourself with, smile (and drink) through them, and breathe a huge sigh of relief when you can leave and make up some excuse about why you can’t ever see them again. Or you go on dates with people who you really could see yourself with, but then you get the message, like a little kick to the heart through your phone. Or you don’t get the message, and have to figure it out for yourself. Or, more likely, the texting just becomes very sporadic and you get the distinct impression you are being kept as one of a few available options. Worst of all, you have a three or four month sort-of-but-not-really-relationship, just long enough to get your hopes up that it could be something good, with someone who was really keen in the beginning but then gives you some clichéd reason why they don’t see you in their future. This is usually accompanied in my experience by assurances, designed (mistakenly) to make you feel a bit better and probably to alleviate some guilt, that you are ‘honestly one of the most amazing girls they’ve ever met.’ Hmm, sure. And none of this, over a number of years, leaves you with any workable amount of conviction in your own self worth. So when somebody genuine comes along, your emotional guard is up, you feel like words are generally meaningless, and you’re preparing yourself, from day one, to be let down.
Thankfully, I’m not in that place anymore. Thankfully, he was patient enough (and loved me enough, I’m reminding myself to add) to put up with my silly bugger antics, and he is still here. He moved cities for me, as he sometimes reminds me if I am having a silly bugger moment, and questioning his commitment. I feel finally happy and settled, and mostly secure, and a huge part of that is down to him. And that means everything.
Tinder has a bad rep. It’s not romantic, it is used for casual sex, and there are many, many freaks and perverts using it. I had a ‘complex’ relationship with it myself, deleting and reinstalling it on a number of occasions. But it has well and truly earned a special little place in my heart since the 29th of May 2016 💕
Postscript: along with booze, an inordinate number of curries have also been the cement in our relationship. Many thanks to our local takeaways 😘 and many thanks Ruth for pointing this out ❤️