My calm, cool demeanour, tough shell and ability to remain focused yet approachable under fire is one of the things I pride myself on. I am a natural-born leader, always willing to think of others and consider all the possible outcomes from any particular course of action. I appear unflappable, confident and in control. But I have a confession to make. I have no idea what on earth I am doing in the dating arena. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of experience, lots of great (and not-so-great) stories, a wealth of tips and plenty of advice for my friends when they come to me. But the truth is, when it comes to dating, I am somewhat inexperienced. Most of my frissons, flings, fumbles, fuck buddies and forevers have been random meetings, commonly through friends of friends and work colleagues. Apparently this is not a shocker. Given that we spend more time at work than at home, it is natural to meet someone there. And as our friends want their variant mates to get along (easing awkward social scenarios), it makes sense to hang out with someone whom you already have something in common. So I have never really been in a scenario where I have dated, especially not casually and non-exclusively.
My friend, who I shall refer to as “B”, has been my lifeline throughout this process. From coming to terms with the fact that the London dating scene is primarily online (although that said I met 2 guys in the space of 5 weeks), to helping me know what to say and do, he has been an utter godsend. Without him I would have thrown in the towel again and gone back to celibacy for definite. But, I am pretty sure I have been driving my poor friend mad with my questions about it all. Because not only am I new to online dating, but I am actually new to dating full stop. So I don’t know how it goes. I don’t know what the rules are, I don’t know what’s acceptable and what’s not – Google has some good advice but let’s face it, I’ve never been one for really following the rules, and doing so seems somewhat anathema and alien to me. So B is my sounding board. I ask him what a guy means by a text, what his intentions were when he leaned in for the goodnight kiss, what I should wear. Where I should suggest for the first date, should I see him again, how soon should I sleep with him. How soon should you be meeting his friends, what does it mean if he spoons you after sex, does love at first sight exist, how can a guy be an Adonis but a crap shag, bla di bla di bla. It’s exhausting, and of course it can’t be much fun to hear. I do try to listen as much as I talk, and the irony is that our romantic experiences seem to mirror one another, at exactly the same time. Which does help, but it’s a bit daunting – if one of ours is going well and the other isn’t its our shared experience that the one going well goes down the pan. So we both hope for success. But sat in the café over lunch yesterday, we made a group of (straight) middle aged men laugh at our stories, and our realisations that we seem to share the same love life. I met a married guy, he found out his new squeeze was married with kids and a boyfriend. He slept with what seemed to be a nice guy who later transpired to have issues – so did I. And we both react the same way when the guy we like texts. We both would rather be single than with Mr Wrong. These things, which may sound trivial, are actually fundamentally important. But it is strange when your love life is a mirror of your friend’s.
B has, to all extents and purposes, become my default boyfriend. He is wonderful, always knows what to say, and knows me. I am comfortable with him, can (and do) discuss anything with him, and feel like I can just be myself. Happily there is no sexual tension or danger of us hooking up, as he is gay. Which makes him the perfect guy – not only is he great as a friend, but he understands both what I want and what men are up to. When talking to him this evening, I realised that although I have been somewhat neurotic of late (given an overwhelming attraction to a drunken sailor I have nicknamed Popeye) I am not necessarily looking for a relationship, as I pretty much have one with quite a few of my friends. I am not looking for a man to overtake or supersede that, but to be a pleasant addition with whom I can explore the romantic side of London. And of course have amazing sexual chemistry with. Except…. The reality is not quite the same. Not only do you have to meet someone and make that connection, but you have to maintain it. Hence the dramas which can make a cool, calm and collected woman turn into a clichéd ‘female’, and have her forwarding texts to her exasperated friends asking ‘did he mean this or did he mean this? What do I say in reply?’ Lord knows I don’t want to be that woman, so why do I let a guy do that to me? Because there’s something about a little passion that gets under the skin. And I just don’t understand men. But I don’t feel a man would fill in a gap in my life…. Well maybe in my bed. But I’m not looking for completion.
So, to any guys out there who may be reading this, I would respectfully request that you behave like a gent, call when you say you will, and don’t play mind games. Also a little bit of clarity over text would be helpful, given that you can’t discern tone, intent or anything else. And make the effort to get along with your other half’s friends – unless one of them tries to seduce you, chances are if there’s a choice to be made, you’ll be the one pushed out.