Category Archives: The Dating Diaries

Thoughts in Isolation

Disclaimer: This blog post will outline some of my thoughts on the current COVID-19 pandemic, and touch on dating (or rather, the lack of) during lockdown. This in no way is to diminish the severity of the current global situation and the way in which it has impacted thousands of lives. I battled back and forth on whether I should even write this post. I follow one account on Instagram, where a woman posted on her body image dysmorphia and how that has affected her mental health and feelings of self-worth. The backlash was quite shocking. She had received comments from people criticising her for even worrying about such things whilst people were dying from Coronavirus. I was confused, surely people could see that she wasn’t taking anything away from how terrible the current global crisis is, but only raising awareness about an entirely separate issue. One issue of many, that don’t merely evaporate because we are living through a pandemic, but exist regardless alongside it, perhaps making this situation all the more awful for others to endure.

If anything, this global crisis has taught most to be kinder to others. We are living in unprecedented times so there is no rule book to follow on ‘best practice’. We can only follow government guidance and do what is individually and collectively best for us all within those parameters.

Every Thursday at 8pm I stand outside my front door and clap for our frontline workers: the doctors, the nurses, the delivery drivers, the supermarket workers, and the teachers; and I tell myself that I’m doing my part by staying at home. But a lot of the time my conscience weighs heavy and I’m engulfed by ‘survivor’s guilt’. Guilt that I’m safe at home whilst NHS workers risk their lives every day for us all. Guilt that I am still able to work from home whilst so many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods. Guilt for having the luxury of time to sit at my laptop typing out a personal blog post, whilst parents juggle work with home-schooling young children. Everyday guilt that I could be doing more.

I listened to a podcast the other day in which members of the public had written in on their thoughts and personal challenges during the pandemic. I was surprised to hear from nurses who had written in about their own guilt that they could be doing more. I was gobsmacked. These remarkable everyday heroes also felt guilty. A reminder that no matter how many kilometres you run, or parcels you deliver, or lives you may save; everyone feels like they could be doing more. So yes, we should be kinder to others, but we should also be kinder to ourselves; we are only human after all. The woes of dating may seem like a very trivial subject in the grand scheme of things right now, but it is important to remember that we are fighting a war. A war for our survival so that we can continue to live our lives to the fullest, including even the most trivial aspects, as it is in those very small, almost insignificant aspects, that make us human.

***

April 2020. Day 3,452 of quarantine. But not really, It’s only the fifth week. Actually, it’s not so bad. I appreciate that I have it better than a lot of people. I managed to get out to my dad’s house in the countryside before they announced lockdown in the UK, so lots of open spaces and fresh air. Once I’ve had my one daily government-allocated exercise outside, I’m lucky enough to have a back garden to sunbathe or read in if the weather permits. I’ve curated a nice little daily routine of work, yoga, walking the dog, reading and Netflix. Then bed for a minimum of eight hours. Repeat. Yes, I am lucky. But this doesn’t stop me moaning along with the rest of the population about all our lockdown hang ups. Human, remember. Like everybody else I have good and bad days. Days where I may feel creative and attempt a makeup tutorial, painting, or even dress up as Frida Kahlo (complete with drawn on eyebrows) for the ‘recreate a famous artwork’ challenge. And then there are the other days, where I’ll feel lost and lethargic and where even burning my thumb on my straighteners brings tears to my eyes, surprising myself that they were that close to the surface. These are just a handful of my thoughts during isolation:

Running. I hate it. I have never been a runner, and now all of sudden it seems to have become everyone’s new favourite hobby. I was nominated a week ago to do the ‘run for heroes’ 5K challenge and so far, have avoided doing it. This was truly going to be a case of couch to 5K. Don’t get me wrong, I think its’s for an amazing cause and I donated my money as soon as I was nominated. But the actual running? I’m still psyching myself up for that bit.

Makeup. Why does every woman I know comment on how much better their skin looks now that they don’t wear makeup every day? Am I the only person who has had more breakouts than ever since having a bare face in isolation? I swear my skin was in better condition when I wore makeup and it was exposed to the pollution and grime of the London underground every day. Riddle me that?!

Maintenance. Like many others, I’ve had to be weaned off regular beauty treatments. Luckily, I didn’t have a manicure before lockdown so haven’t been left with chipped half-moons of gel on my nails. My hair is dyed in a low maintenance balayage style, so I don’t have to worry too much about root regrowth, and I haven’t bothered with a full wax down there in a while, because I wasn’t having sex. No, the only thing I’m really missing is my monthly eyebrow threading appointment. Cue the only person I’m self-isolating with – my dad. On my first brow he pulled the wax off so painfully slowly that it didn’t even rip out any hair, instead it just left a waxy tuff which when I blinked my eyelashes got stuck to. On his second attempt he managed to rip the strip off with more speed and conviction, unfortunately he also took 3mm of my hairline off with it too. But it’s OK, next week I’ve been tasked with cutting his hair with kitchen scissors whilst following a YouTube video on barbering. Karma works in mysterious ways.

Houseparty. I have a confession; I don’t like it. After a day of video call meetings for work, the last thing I want to do is log on to a poor-quality call with more people who may or may not be pixelated out. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my friends and can’t wait until the day we can all sit in a beer garden together again. But during quarantine I’ve found that I much prefer the one-to-one Facetime call approach in order to properly catch up, rather than to participate in my fifth virtual quiz of the week.

Tiger King. Everyone is obsessed and I just don’t get it. I watched the first episode and whilst I initially enjoyed the entertainment value of watching an eccentric man with a mullet and penchant for animal print rant about an equally strange woman called Carole; 30 minutes in and I started to feel quite uncomfortable.

Sex and the City. Having only watched a few episodes here and there over the years I decided to finally watch all six seasons from the beginning. A TV series which documents the lives of four single women in their thirties navigating dating in a major city; it has never felt more relatable. Although some of the views are quite dated now and others downright offensive, I felt my emotions rise as certain storylines developed. I didn’t like season 3 Carrie: it was beyond frustrating to watch her cheat on poor lovely Aiden and then complain that she couldn’t find a nice, emotionally available man. Then to watch her ignore all the red flags, and go back again and again to Big, was like watching my dating history with toxic men on replay. And then there was sweet Charlotte, who had a shotgun wedding to Trey before even sleeping with him, only to find out that he struggled with erectile disfunction and couldn’t have sex with her. Poor Charlotte. She was then diagnosed with a ‘depressed vagina’ because she wasn’t getting any. I couldn’t help but look down at my own crotch with a raised (slightly botched) eyebrow.

WhatsApp group chats. Like most people, I usually give the obligatory groan when added to yet ‘another group chat’ and endeavour to keep them all on mute. However, during lockdown I applaud the group chat. The memes and emoji games take the edge off cabin fever and it’s amazing what things can keep you entertained for hours on end. For instance, my friend, Kandice, sent me ‘laser beams’ via the new 3D effects on iMessage, which got me disproportionately over-excited. I then proceeded to spend a full half-hour sending animated blown up hearts and fireworks to everyone in my address book with an iPhone; the longest time I’ve spent on iMessage in probably five years. I especially love my girls group chat. Whether we are discussing the current nomination for our virtual book club, or how hairy on a scale of ‘one to sasquatch’ we will be when we’re finally let out of isolation, there is no subject too bizarre or trivial that we won’t discuss. Like, did you know that 70% of people on your chat will mis-read “do you think I’d look good with a perm?” as “do you think I’d look good with a penis?” or that the cost of a mop in Bermuda is over $40? You do now.

And finally, but certainly not the least, the majestic Quarantini. Like 90% of the population, I also run the risk of coming out of lockdown with a growing addiction. I’ve had to limit my drinking to Thursday-Saturday only, for fear of consuming gin like orange squash.

One good thing about quarantine though, is that I now have an extended excuse as to why I’m not dating. Although, ‘iso-dating’ has become quite big apparently. A couple weeks into the lockdown, I was informed that Hinge “was going off!”. All my single girlfriends exclaimed that they’d never known so much activity on dating apps, with a barrage of messages from numerous suitors and setting up various dinner dates over FaceTime. It all sounded very…time consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that we have these platforms, especially in light of current circumstances, where people don’t have to feel alone and are only a few clicks away from connecting with not just friends and family, but also romantic interests. But for me personally, I knew it wouldn’t work. I’ve been in the dating sphere long enough to know that I have to meet someone in person and ideally no later than two weeks after first speaking, to determine if there’s a genuine connection or not.

I have had too many experiences where I’ve built someone up in my head through texting alone, only to be desperately disappointed when I’ve met them in real life. And hands up, I know that that is completely on me. Through no real fault of their own I’ve projected my own wants/needs on to a person that I’ve never met before in order to re-create a version of my ideal man. A version that they probably will never live up to because they were never that person in the first place.

Nope, meeting someone after three weeks and being hit with the realisation that there is no connection is hard enough; I don’t have the stomach to be disappointed after three months of talking to someone. Besides, there’s really only one person that I wish I could contact during lockdown; but I know I can’t.

It’s been almost seven months since B broke things off with me, and I haven’t had a single date since. They say that it takes roughly half the time you were with someone to get over them. So, if I calculate this right, I should have been over him by Christmas last year… something terribly wrong seems to have happened to my equation. The first three months don’t really count as we were still talking. But from January when we decided to cut all contact, I told myself I’d give myself six man-free months in order to lick my wounds and get over B. The lockdown coincided with this time perfectly and what better excuse not to date than to say that I’m doing my bit for society. But come June, my time will be up, and most likely lockdown will be too.

So, what happens when I can no longer use social distancing as my get out of jail dating-free card? When this is all over and we’re let back out into the wild again? The logistics alone are going to be complicated enough. Maybe, like the film Contagion, we will need to show a wristband proving that we’ve been vaccinated before we could so much as hold hands with someone. Practising ‘safe sex’ is going to take on a whole new meaning. They’re going to need crate loads of PPE just for single people returning to the shag battlefield. Maybe they’ll invent a genital friendly sanitiser or some kind of protective latex jumpsuit that people can wear like a full body condom. Too far? Anyway…

If I’m honest with myself, it’s the fear I’m struggling with the most. Fear of putting myself out there again, only for another man to ghost me. Fear of rejection or not finding someone I like, or worse, the fear of finding someone, only for them to hurt me; shattering what’s left of my already fragile heart. The more I think about the exhausting process that modern-day dating entails, the more appealing a life of solitude with a bunch of cats and houseplants for company seems. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if you so choose, but I would like the opportunity to meet someone again…

The other evening, I was really struggling with my thoughts around B. The day that this post is published marks one year since that night where he zipped up my dress in a wine bar in Clapham. I felt an overwhelming urge to call him, just for the comfort of hearing his voice again and checking if he was OK. My finger hovered over his number on my phone, at the same time a text from my friend, Annie, dropped down on my screen. I confided my thoughts to her, and she coached me through it. She was kinder to me than I was, saying it is completely normal in these times to want to feel close and connected to others; especially someone we have been close to in the past. She asked what I wanted to get out of a call with him; and would I ultimately be hurting myself by doing it. She was right. B had known how I felt; the ball had been left firmly in his court. There was nothing to suggest that he would want to hear from me. Instead, Annie suggested I keep a journal or write a letter, noting down all my thoughts, and then put it away in a box. The letter was only really for me, it would never be sent.

I went to bed that night, emotionally exhausted but feeling slightly more at ease, and let my previous urge wash over me. And then the strangest thing happened, I woke up early the next morning after a night of weird integrated dreams, I grabbed my earphones, pulled on my trainers, and went… for my run. And do you know what, it wasn’t that bad.

Fifty First Dates

Between the months of February to April this year, I dated a lot. It was sometimes bad, sometimes fun, but mostly just quite exhausting. You may know what I’m talking about. Your bank account takes a hit and you find you have to drag yourself out on a Monday evening when all you really want to do is curl up on the sofa eating cinnamon bagels for dinner. You also drink approximately three times the amount of your usual alcohol consumption during a week and wake up each morning with a moderate hangover, only to do it all again that very evening. And you haven’t even hit mid-week yet.

March 2019. By some weird, awful twist of circumstances I had a first date lined up for every day of a working week. It had been exhausting enough doing the admin behind each of those first dates. You’d think messaging five guys simultaneously would be fun and flattering, right? WRONG! You have the same conversation about where you live, what you do for a living and how many siblings you have…five, bloody times. Not to mention having to constantly re-read through each WhatsApp chat to check what you’ve actually said to each guy. My initial thought process stemmed from not wanting to put all my eggs in one basket. Never did I dream that all five dates would come to fruition, especially not all in the same week! London men were like London buses; there would be none at all and then they’d all come at fucking once.

My mammoth date week started on a Sunday. I had matched on Hinge with a guy from Hampstead who insisted on sending me voice notes at 5.30am every morning on his way to the gym. I hate voice notes. He suggested going out for a roast dinner at a pub in King’s Cross. I wouldn’t recommend going for a full-on meal on a first date. It’s difficult to answer questions with a mouth full of cauliflower cheese, and the weird cog motion you do with your hand whilst you franticly chew is just plain awkward. The conversation was mediocre at best until it took an unexpected turn and we ended up talking about male suicide rates for 20 minutes. Not quite first date material. After exactly two hours we politely said our goodbyes and departed at King’s Cross never to contact each other again.

The next day I woke up and couldn’t think of anything I’d like to do less than go on another date, especially on a Monday. Nonetheless, I headed to the Four Thieves in Clapham after work to meet the Australian bloke I had been texting. He was attractive but I wasn’t sure if there was a spark. After a couple drinks and some pleasant enough conversation I kissed him on the cheek and said goodbye. I noted that he chose to take the quickest route home rather than walk me to the bus stop. 

On Tuesday, the guy I had been messaging from Essex cancelled last minute. Halle-fucking-lujah!

Wednesday’s date was with a guy who worked in finance at Canary Wharf but also did some modelling on the side. He was clearly gorgeous in all his photos, but his texting chat had been quite dry. I presumed he was a model with no personality that had just sailed through life on his good looks alone. How very wrong I was. I turned up at Powderkeg in Battersea to be greeted by a very beautiful man. Before long I realised that he was also extremely charming and charismatic. I spent three hours drinking, laughing and resisting the urge to pounce on him from across the table. Apparently, that’s not socially acceptable. At the end of the date he ordered an Uber and insisted on dropping me off at my flat on his way home. Before I could even get my seatbelt on, hot model guy had slid across the backseats and cupped my face with his hand, leaning in to kiss me. Oh wow. We snogged all the way back to outside my flat, where I toppled out of the taxi giddy on wine and lust. Once inside, I text, thanking him for a lovely evening, and saying we should do it again soon.

I woke up on the Thursday morning in good spirits despite feeling hungover. I’d had a great date the night before and I was looking forward to my next first date that evening. I had been messaging Alan the most out of all five men. We’d been exchanging messages for a good three weeks and by text he seemed confident, funny and interesting. Alan had booked a table at bar by Clapham Common station and was already there waiting for me. As soon as I walked through the entrance and Alan stood up to greet me, my stomach dropped. 

The dangers of online dating include building up a persona of someone based on Instagram photos and text messages which could wildly differ from the actual real-life person. Before I’d even sat down at the table, I knew Alan wasn’t the person I’d built him up to be in my head. It wasn’t his fault, but I felt drowned by disappointment. And, being typically British, I knew I’d have to stay for at least two hours so as not to appear rude, or at least until we’d finished the bottle of wine he’d already ordered. 

“How was your day?” asked Alan.

“It was OK, how was yours?” I replied.

“It was good! How was yours?

“Um…we already did me,” I said.

Alan giggled apologetically; he was clearly nervous. After half an hour of chatting, my made-up persona of Alan was shattered. He wasn’t anything like the way he came across by text; I didn’t fancy him in the slightest. Plus, he had small hands! I’m sorry but I can’t get on board with small hands on a man. I have this theory; the hand/penis theory. The saying goes, ‘the bigger the feet, the bigger the…’ but bollocks to that. From my experience there has not been enough evidence to support the theory that there is any significant ratio between foot size and penis size. However, I have found that hands do! Not just the size, but also the shape and length of the fingers. If a man has chubby fingers that taper in at the end, then I bet my bottom dollar their penis is also chubbier at the base then tapers in at the top. Long, lanky thin fingers? Then long, lanky dick! Go on, test my theory.

Anyway, I digress, back to Alan. 9.30pm hit and I was desperately looking for an excuse to end the date. I checked my phone for the umpteenth time and saw a message from hot model guy. “Hey, I had fun last night but I don’t feel like we clicked. Have a good rest of the week.” I instantly felt my face drop. Alan must have seen it too. We didn’t click?! Mate, you practically pounced on me in the taxi! How much ‘clicking’ was needed?! Disappointment and frustration washed over me; any obligation I felt to stay any longer evaporated, I just wanted to go home. I told Alan I was tired and that we should call it a night. After the bill was paid, I got up from my seat and headed towards the exit. Alan quickly leapt up to follow me and started massaging my shoulders from behind. Oh God…the hands! I thought, repressing a shudder. Once outside Alan insisted that I catch a lift back home in his Uber. It made sense as his station was on the way to mine. I couldn’t think of a reason to decline… fuck sake. 

As we waited outside for the Uber to arrive, I must have been shivering because before I knew it Alan had wrapped his scarf around my shoulders. “Oh, thanks,” I said, giving him a half smile. Next thing I knew, Alan had enveloped me from behind in a tight hug and started swaying me from side to side. I froze. Dear God…make it stop! Againbeing too British to say anything, I awkwardly stood on the pavement, my arms dropped by my side, whilst Alan, completely unaware of my inner turmoil, continued to rock me like a baby. When the taxi eventually pulled up, I practically threw his arms off me and bolted inside. I placed the scarf on the middle seat to act as a barrier between us (there would be absolutely no sliding across the backseats on this date!). 

As soon as I closed the front door behind me, I got out my phone and texted hot model guy saying, “no problem”. At least he hadn’t ghosted me. I then constructed a message to Alan. I thanked him for the evening but explained that there was no spark for me. Sent. I breathed a sigh of relief. What a week. It felt like I had gone full circle; all that energy, money and the hangovers and I was right back to where I started. This dating malarkey was draining.

I decided to give Monday’s guy a second chance; he was attractive and seemed nice after all, maybe I was just tired at the time. We saw each other a couple more times, and by our third (and what would be our last date) he invited me round to his to ‘Netflix and Chill.’ However, this was taken in the literal sense. We laid on his bed fully clothed and watched an entire film, only pausing when I noticed that he’d fallen asleep…again. This was a third date; surely, we should be overcome with lust, ripping each other’s clothes off?! The film finished and I made a comment about heading off home soon. He nodded and gave me hug. A minute later and he started to kiss me, but I just felt like we were going through the motions. I opened my eyes and looked down to see one of his hands awkwardly squeezing my boob over my top. I felt like a human stress ball. Just close your eyes, Jess. He then decided to weave his hand down the collar of my top to grope my breasts; his elbow sticking out awkwardly in my face as he dry humped me over my jeans. This was the least sexy thing ever. After 15 minutes of this I gave up, thanked him for a nice evening and made my way home. He didn’t walk me to the bus stop. Again.

Come April I decided to take it easy and just date one guy at a time. I had matched with Malcolm, a lawyer who worked in the West End. Malcom was tall and kind of goofy but in a cute way and we immediately hit it off. For our second date we met in a bar off Oxford Street where in true classic Jess style I managed to lock myself in a toilet cubicle. After a panicked 15 minutes calling out to random women in the bathroom, I was eventually rescued by the bar staff. “I thought you’d had an accident or something…” said Malcolm, as I re-joined him, ever so slightly flustered. We then headed around the corner to Swingers crazy golf.

We had a fun evening; drinking and kissing in between playing the holes. As our timed golf session came to an end, Malcolm suggested going back to his. I quickly weighed up my options in my head. I didn’t want to sleep with Malcolm that night as I already knew he was off in a few days’ time for a solo holiday to Brazil. No way was I about to have sex with a guy before he went gallivanting off for three weeks; I did not need that kind of anxiety! But I also didn’t want the date to end, so I agreed to go back to Malcolm’s to hang out. That night, we stayed up to 4am chatting; we were completely naked in bed the whole time, but I was adamant that we weren’t going to have sex. And we didn’t. We eventually fell asleep spooning. The next morning Malcolm was very sweet, he let me use his toothbrush, ordered me an uber home and gave me a banana on my way out (not a sexual pun). He kissed me goodbye and said he’d see me when he was back from Brazil. That was the last time I saw Malcolm.

We exchanged a few messages whilst he was away and although Malcolm was friendly enough, I found it was always me that was initiating the conversation. As the days in April rolled by, the messages became fewer and fewer whilst each new day (according to my Instagram feed) saw Malcolm follow approximately 50 different Brazilian girls. I couldn’t blame him; he was obviously enjoying his trip. A lot. But I didn’t want to be just an option in a pool of women he had matched with on dating apps, in the UK or otherwise. So, I decided to date other men and make Malcolm the option instead. 

Throughout my two months of intensive dating I didn’t allow myself to get too close to anyone. Most dates ended with a kiss on the cheek, a few with a snog and only a couple went beyond first base. “You can’t catch feelings from the finger,” as my flatmate, Jasmine  said. And it was true. I didn’t sleep with anyone in five months. By having sex with any of these men I would have allowed myself to be vulnerable and I just wasn’t prepared to do that. So, I kept any exploits strictly PG.

I have a love/hate relationship with dating apps. On the one hand, it’s amazing to have access to all these seemingly eligible men at the swipe of a finger. If you wanted a date or shag one evening you were only a few clicks away from obtaining it. Genius. On the other hand, as with everything where there is too much choice, people tend not to put very much effort into it. There are always other options, endless conquests to be made, plenty more fish in the sea… So, why bother sticking with the mackerel you went on three dates with when you could be simultaneously dating cute cuttlefish, gorgeous guppy and sexy sea bream. Even if you did quite like the mackerel in the first place! Ok, enough about fish.

Gone are the days of men trying to woo a woman with surprise picnics, flowers and turning up in convertible cars to declare their undying love (see, Richard Gear in Pretty Woman). Men no longer make the effort. They are too busy lining up their next conquest, and it’s all in plain sight on Instagram. Apparently, the grass seems greener on a new girl’s profile. Rolls eyes. I wanted a man who walked me to the bus stop, who messaged to check I got home OK, who didn’t follow the other hundred girls they had matched with on Hinge. I wanted someone to prove to me that romance was not dead. And none of these guys I dated could.

The reality is that none of these men were right for me and I wasn’t willing to settle. Not anymore. I wanted someone who added to my life, supported me and would do the little things just to make me smile, because they wanted to and not because I asked them to. Someone who could make me feel wanted, secure and special whilst also setting my heart racing. I wanted a man with big hands! So, after a couple of months of dating, I made my peace that it would probably be a while until I met someone that could match up to that and that I may as well enjoy the upcoming summer being single. And then, as the cliché goes, when I was finally content in my own skin, when I least expected it… I met someone.

Welcome to Hinge

August 2018. It had been a couple weeks since my night with The Adonis and my newfound self-confidence saw me download the latest dating app, Hinge. I had actively avoided dating apps for the previous five months but one Saturday evening I took the plunge and matched with my first guy.

Semi obsessed with racing cars, multiple gym selfies and the obligatory photo with a cute puppy; he was your typical basic man of the dating app world. The conversation was mediocre at best, but it wasn’t like this guy was going to be my next boyfriend or anything. Plus, I’m a sucker for a tall and handsome man.

I agreed to meet him for a drink on the next Sunday, my first proper date since my break up with Dennis. Sunday evening came and I’d bought a new top for the occasion, blow-dried my hair, made myself up and left to get the bus to Clapham Common. En route I was surprised to see Hinge Guy’s Instagram story from only an hour before geotagging himself in Bicester Village – 50 miles from London. Hmm, that’s cutting it a bit fine before our date I thought, but whatever he’s an adult, I’m sure he can effectively manage his own time. Besides, he’d been messaging me only the night before saying how much he was looking forward to meeting me.

I arrived at No.32 the Old Town and my female intuition instantly kicked in. Despite us having regular text conservations throughout the week, Hinge Guy hadn’t read my latest WhatsApp message from half an hour before letting him know I was on my way. Being a Sunday the bar wasn’t particularly busy and as I tottered from downstairs to the second floor it felt like that every head which turned my way knew what I already knew. I had been stood up.

I quickly hurried out of the front door and whipped out my phone, deciding to call him. It rang out until answerphone, fuck sake. Feeling the upset and embarrassment beginning to rise up in my chest, I trudged across the Common in my heels to a park bench. He still hadn’t read my message. I called my sister telling her what had happened, she reasoned that maybe he was running late and that I should wait it out another 15 minutes. Despite knowing in my gut that this definitely wasn’t the case I waited on the bench, staring at the unread message on my screen. 

It was a quiet summer evening, to my right a couple of homeless men drunkenly rambled down the Common and there to my left sat on the end of the bench was a giant black crow sinisterly eyeing me up. Great. ‘Stupid bad omen,’ I thought to myself, snubbing the crow and defiantly crossing my arms, tutting. Typical, just bloody typical, my first actual date in months since my break up with Dennis and I get bloody stood up.

It got to 7.30pm, half an hour after my date was due to start. I checked the message again, still unread, however this time Hinge Guy was ‘online’, my text remaining as two little grey ticks – a WhatsApp slap in the face. Feeling the anger rise up and join its ugly mates, Embarrassment and Disappointment, I picked up my handbag and threw the crow one last look of disdain before stomping towards the bus stop as fast as my five-inch heels would carry me.

Sat on the top deck of the bus, the full effect of humiliation swelled up inside me. I bit my quivering bottom lip, determined not to cry until I’d reached home. 30 minutes later, I closed the front door and finally let hot tears of shame roll down my face. Fucking Hinge…fucking men…fucking crow, I bitterly thought, dragging myself up the stairs and into the living room. My wonderful flatmates took one look at my patchy face and bloodshot eyes and launched into furious exclamations about how much of a dick Hinge Guy was and enveloping me in tight hugs, insisting it was his loss anyway. 

Two hours, one rom-com, a bottle of wine, a bar of chocolate and (several) rants later, I felt a lot better. Curled up in pyjamas on the sofa with my flatmates I’d given up looking at the still unread message and was aimlessly flicking through my social media apps. I tapped open Instagram and scrolled through my feed… Hmm, so Hinge Guy couldn’t do me the courtesy of at least texting me to cancel our date but he could find the time to like pictures of Kylie Jenner. So he wasn’t dead then. I sighed. I unfollowed him on Instagram and opened my WhatsApp and composed a message telling him he was rude and shouldn’t waste other people’s time in future. Adding for good measure that maybe that was how he was brought up but it certainly wasn’t how I was. Good. Sent. I took myself upstairs, washed off what was remaining of my makeup and brushed my teeth.

I climbed into bed, flicked opened Hinge and deactivated my account. Fuck. That. I thought, and fell promptly asleep.

The Adonis – Part 2

I managed to wait until lunchtime the next day to text the Adonis. After drafting then redrafting and sending it to Ella for approval, I finally sent him a message saying it was a shame about the football score but not a wasted trip to the pub after all…

A little later the Adonis replied, “Likewise Jess, the best thing to happen last night. I just ended up going home and watching Love Island! Do you have much planned this weekend?” Thank God he replied.

I waited a respectable one hour before I responded. I made a light-hearted joke about listening to the Love Island podcast every morning (which I did) and told him my plans to go out for my brother’s birthday. I then asked him what he had planned.

Five hours later, no reply. He’s probably really busy, Jess. The next morning, still no reply. Hmm…just give it until the afternoon. It got to Friday evening and I had resigned myself that he wasn’t going to reply. Oh well. I was still proud of myself for actually going up to him and asking for his number. That had felt really good, empowering actually – must do that more often, I thought. Fuck it, and I quickly typed him a message before I could change my mind. Any other guy and I would never have done this, but y’know…the Adonis.

“Podcast confession killed it?” I joked, completely ignoring the unspoken WhatsApp rule of never double texting. If he ignored this one, then I’d make my peace with it and just be glad that I had tried. 

Barely a minute passed, when the Adonis replied apologising for his late response, explaining that he had been running around like a mad man and asking what I was up to that evening? Yasssss. I quickly responded and asked what his plans were…?

Three hours later, no reply.  

“At least you tried, babe,” said Ella as we lounged on the sofa and she scrolled through his Instagram profile, “I still think it’s pretty cool that you even went up to him.” I nodded in agreement. I resolved that I wouldn’t text the Adonis again, that I’d just be happy that I’d taken my first step towards engaging with men again. 

“Yup, you’re right…still…the things I would do to this,” I sighed, looking over her shoulder and pointing at a half-naked photo of the Adonis.

The rest of the weekend passed in a blur. I spent the Saturday at Hampstead Heath ponds swimming with friends followed by a boozy night out in Bermondsey for my brother’s birthday. It was the Sunday evening and I was lounging on the sofa in pyjamas, no makeup on and my hair scraped back high in a ponytail, nursing the last remnants of a hangover. It was almost 10pm and coming to end of Love Island, which I had been watching with Ella and her boyfriend, Stan, when my phone bleeped with a text message. 

I leaned across the coffee table and the Adonis’ message flashed up on the screen. No way?! He asked if I was at the pub. Nope, I’m at home in my Minion pyjamas.

“Fuck, guys, what do I do?!?” I asked Ella and Stan. Stan shrugged and said I should go to the pub. “Don’t be stupid, she can’t just rock up to the pub at 10pm on a Sunday night on her own, an hour before it closes – it just looks desperate!” exclaimed Ella. She was right. “Just text him saying that you’re around the corner at yours chilling – and make it really obvious how close you are” she continued. I nodded in agreement and quickly replied saying just as much. Sent.

Half hour later and the Adonis still haven’t read my message. I felt on edge, not knowing whether or not to put proper clothes and makeup on. I flapped around the kitchen, aimlessly tidying up and waiting for a reply. Ella and Stan had gone to bed but not before Ella had given me a bottle of wine to put in the fridge. Y’know, just in case. 

11pm and still no reply. Bloody hell Jess, he’s not going to respond, it’s getting late and you have work tomorrow, just go to bed! Accepting defeat, I headed upstairs.

It had had gone 11.15pm and I was lying in bed reading when my phone flashed up next to me. I diverted my eyes to the screen to see the Adonis’ name. My stomach flipped. I quickly picked up my phone and swiped open WhatsApp.

“You still awake?” read the message. 

I’m not messing around anymore, I thought and promptly replied, “Yes, where are you?”

“Shall I come to yours?”

“Yes, you should,” I typed, and I shared my location.

“Ok, I’ll be 2 minutes”

Fuck.

Instant panic set in and I leapt out of bed and stared at my reflection in the bedroom mirror. Fucckkkkkkkk. The pub was a stone’s throw away; he really would only be two minutes. There was no time to put any makeup on. Ok, ok what are the necessities here?!  I pulled out my ponytail and spritzed my hair with dry shampoo, yanked my Minion pyjamas off and started rummaging through my underwear drawer. Why do I not own anything remotely sexy?? Giving up, I grabbed a fitted jersey dress instead and pulled it on over my head. 

Ok, only another 30 seconds until he’d arrive. Then something occurred to me. Horror-struck, I looked down… shit. I promptly grabbed a razor and ran to the bathroom sink with barely 20 seconds left to spare. It’s a wonder I didn’t do any serious lasting damage.

My phone bleeped again. He was outside. Fuck.

I took a deep breath and opened the front door. The Adonis stood on the door step smiling sheepishly. I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek and showed him upstairs into the flat, apologising for my lack of makeup as I went. I mentally slapped myself. No, Jess, don’t apologise for not wearing makeup. The Adonis waved away my apology saying I looked gorgeous and I instantly felt at ease.

The Adonis settled down on the sofa, looking up at me. I went and sat next to him and asked what he’d been up to that evening. He said that he had been at a private concert in North London but had come back to South West as his friend lived here. They had decided to go to the pub down the road but chose to leave after 45 minutes as most people were 10 hours into their Sunday session. Which brought him to my doorstep. 

We continued to chat about what we’d both been up to over the weekend when he paused and looked deep in thought. “Everything ok?” I asked. The Adonis looked up under his eyelashes and his eyes held mine. My heart skipped a beat. “Yes… I was just thinking that I’d really like to kiss you,” he softly said. I gulped. “Would that be ok?” he asked. Um, abso-fucking-lutley! 

No sooner did I nod my consent then the Adonis launched across the sofa on top of me, sending my head back over the armrest, one hand gripped behind my neck, the other holding the arch of my back. Adrenaline coursed through my body like an electrical current. Omg it’s happening, it’s really happening was all I could think as he kissed me, running his hands through my hair then down the length of my body and under my dress. 

A couple of minutes passed, and I lent up, breaking away to catch my breath. The Adonis lent in to go again but I was suddenly aware of our huge living room window which looked out on to the street. We didn’t have curtains. “Maybe we should go upstairs,” I said. The neighbours most definitely did not need to see this.

The Adonis followed me up the stairs, all the while kissing my neck and pulling on the hem of my dress. I giggled as he pushed me down on my unmade bed. Of course, I had stripped the bedding earlier that evening to wash and hadn’t gotten around to putting on fresh sheets. Sod’s Law really; something will only ever happen when you’re least prepared. This would never happen if I had blow-dried hair, makeup on, fresh sheets and a waxed vagina. Obviously.

The Adonis stripped off and stood naked in front of me. My jaw hit the ground in true cartoon character fashion. Wow. I mean my previous boyfriends had all been in pretty good shape, but this man was literally perfect. Everything was perfect. I gulped. I’d never usually been shy around guys when it came to sex but all a sudden, I felt very self-conscious about getting naked. This guy had dated models for fuck’s sake. I paused for a moment, having an inner conflict of interest. Hang on Jess, it was his decision to message you and come to your flat, he had come to you. Sure as hell you are not going to not have sex with this man! Fuck it. So I stripped off too.

Afterwards, we lay next to each other completely spent. It was the hottest night of the year and our bodies glistened with sweat. My heart was racing, and my head was reeling with what had just happened. Wow. The Adonis sure knew what he was doing and had been very complimentary, making me feel like the sexiest woman alive.

We caught our breaths and chatted. Every now and again he’d sing aloud random lyrics making me laugh. The Adonis asked if he should go or whether he could stay the night. “No worries, you’re welcome to stay,” I replied. Forever I thought, before mentally slapping myself to get a grip. 

The Adonis went downstairs to get us both water as I haphazardly threw on some bedding. It had gone 1am, we were wrapped up together in a sheet and quietly chatted until his breathing slowed and he eventually fell asleep. I laid on his bronzed chest, trying to process what had just happened.

The bright July sun poured through my broken blind waking me up at 6am. My mind instantly replayed the five hours before and I turned slowly to see the Adonis laying next to me still asleep. It wasn’t a dream. I turned to look at my phone. Ella had already texted me: “OMG!!! Stan got up to go to the gym and he said that there are men’s trainers in the living room! Tell me he’s here?!” it read. 

I grinned and I replied that yes, he was indeed here and that I would fill her in later. I turned back to the Adonis who was beginning to stir. He scooped his arms around me and whispered, “Morning gorgeous,” sleepily. I smiled and said I was going to get up and shower. He replied, saying that he was going to snooze for a bit longer while I got ready and would leave when I was ready for work. I detangled myself from the sheet and the Adonis reached out and stroked his hand down the length of my lower back as I edged out of bed. I swooned inside.

After I’d showered, the Adonis woke up and got dressed then sat on the end of the bed watching me as I put my makeup on. Every couple minutes I caught his eye in the mirror and we’d smile sheepishly at each other. 

We left the flat together holding hands as we walked down the street until we were outside a coffee shop. The Adonis lifted his sunglasses on to his head and fixed me with his dark brown eyes before swooping down to kiss me, pressing me into his chest. We broke away and thanked each other for a lovely night, and with that, he walked into the coffee shop, whilst I headed down the street – a very prominent extra bounce in my step.

The sun was shining, and I floated to work on cloud nine, what a beautiful Monday morning it was. I was five minutes from arriving at work when my phone bleeped with a message from the Adonis: “Thank you for a lovely night Jess xx” it read. 

I grinned. After four months of abstinence I finally felt sexy and desired again. My night with this man had helped given me back my self-confidence, which had been gradually chipped away at during my relationship with Dennis. Despite the handful of messages we exchanged since that morning, I knew that my one night encounter with the Adonis was only ever going to be just that. And I didn’t need any more than that. It had been a good night. It had been a good week. I was starting to feel like me again, I’d finally got my mojo back!

The Adonis – Part 1

Summer 2018. It was the beginning of July, and Dennis and his friends (including a few of our mutual mates) were due to fly out to Ibiza for a week long piss up of sun, sea and extreme hedonism. Did I want to see those photos? Did I fuck. Despite liking most of them I unfollowed all of Dennis’ friends, and then deactivated my Instagram for good measure. I prepared myself to feel shitty for the whole week whilst they were there. I’d finally got my money back for the holiday, so I knew I just had to get through the next week and then it would all be over. There would be no ties left and I could finally move on.

For the first couple of days I decided to get out of London and went and stayed in my aunt’s caravan at the seaside for the weekend. It was bliss – sunshine, fresh air and a distraction from Ibiza – just what I needed. I surprised myself with how relaxed I felt. I immersed myself in dog walks on the beach, fish and chips and even enjoyed watching the World Cup quarter-final on the little caravan television. I returned to London on the Sunday evening feeling refreshed. 

My flatmate Ella, who had been an absolute rock for me through the last four months, sensed the shift in my mood. “I think you’re ready for the next phase!” she excitedly proclaimed. She suggested we go out to our local pub to watch the World Cup semi-final. In Ella’s eyes, the next phase was ‘getting mortal drunk and shagging random men’ – something I knew she had been patiently (yet eagerly) waiting for me to get to as it meant I would have graduated from the ‘random sobbing followed by bursts of rage’ phase. I was sceptical. I’d spent the last four months steering well clear of anything with a penis and with a self-imposed drinking ban (a decision made on recent experiences that highlighted all too well that alcohol and heartbreak do NOT mix). 

Nonetheless I didn’t want to burst Ella’s bubble. So, on the Wednesday afternoon, I part walked, part ran from work, arriving back at our flat sweaty but determined to have an enjoyable evening.

The pub was a social hotspot in the summer for the residents of South-West London. Infamously known for its ‘Sunday sessions’; attracting the local rugby players and about a hundred almost identical home county-raised blondes in tow. A breeding ground for summer hook-ups and pretty much guaranteed to bump into an ex or previous conquest. The heat wave and World Cup euphoria had attracted every man and his dog, and the beer garden was rammed with TV screens and punters. Ella and I grabbed a couple of G&Ts and, after much elbowing, finally managed to squeeze ourselves into a little spot outside. The atmosphere was contagious and, even though I wasn’t usually much of a football fan, I felt giddy with anticipation.

Half time hit and the beer garden exploded into cheers and chanting; England had managed to score a goal. I laughed at all the drunken idiots attempting and failing to start a crowd singalong. Taking advantage of my obvious good mood, Ella suggested playing a game. “I’ve only ever known you with Dennis, so I want to try and figure out your type!” she exclaimed, and promptly started pointing out random men around the beer garden. “What about him?” I shrugged, unimpressed. “Him?” I shook my head. “Him?” I pulled a face. “You’re SO fussy, Jess!” she laughed. She paused, eyes darting around the crowd. “Ok…what about him?” I looked over to where her eyes were fixed wide in question, a cheeky grin on her face. 

I blinked. Wow. This man was gorgeous – I mean insanely hot! If I had to draw ‘my type’ on paper it would be this guy’s portrait. Tall, broad shouldered, dark hair and eyes and a Hollywood smile to match, this demi god could only be described as an Adonis. I swallowed, watching him walk over to the bar, the muscles in his back subtly rippling under his t-shirt as he bent forward to talk to the barman. “Yup, that’s my type alright” I murmured. Ella smirked, clearly happy with herself.

The match started again, and Ella resumed pointing out random men. I nodded my semi approval every now and again, but most of my attention was focussed on searching for where the Adonis had gone amongst the crowd. Ella seemed disheartened by my minimal enthusiasm for potential suitors. “Sorry”, I shrugged, “I just don’t see the point if I’ve already seen my ideal man here in the flesh – maybe I should go and say hi…?” Ella looked taken back. I raised my eyebrows questioning her reaction, “What?” I said.

“Erm…nothing…I mean, you do know who he is, right?” she whispered. 

“Um, no, should I?” I said. 

Ella got out her phone and flicked open Instagram. She searched a profile with the Adonis’ beautiful face plastered across every post. 

“Jess, he used to play professional Rugby, he was on a talent show and I’m pretty sure he used to date a famous model,” she said, letting me scroll through his pictures. Yep, it was him. I’d never heard of him before, but it was definitely him gracing the front covers of Men’s Health and GQ, posing with shaving products with the hashtag #Ad. 

I mean it shouldn’t change anything I thought to myself. If Ella hadn’t told me I would just assume he was just any other guy (albeit an exceptionally attractive guy) who’d gone to the pub to watch the World Cup semi-final. Just because Ella (and his 90,000 followers) may know who he was, didn’t mean I couldn’t approach him and say hi… What was the worst that could happen? He could politely decline…or laugh in your face, Jess, but surely, I couldn’t feel any more shit about myself than I had done for the last four months? Besides, there was only one thing worse than regretting doing something… and that was regretting not doing something.

“Do you know if he has a girlfriend?” I asked Ella. She slowly shook her head and answered “No, I don’t think he does.” 

“Good. I’m going to go ask him for his number,” I resolved, downing the rest of my G&T.

Ella and I located the Adonis in the corner of the beer garden, quietly tucked away in a corner on a step, surrounded by a couple friends. We ‘casually’ edged towards him, pretending to be deep in conversation and not aware that we were moving (or rather battling against the crowd) to get in close enough proximity. I felt silly, like a 13-year-old schoolgirl trying to inconspicuously spy on her crush. Goddamit Jess, you’re a 29-year-old woman! I thought to myself, get a grip and just go up to him.

“Right, I’m going to do it now,” I said. Ella nervously nodded and ran off to the bar leaving me on my own; about to take one small step for Jess and one giant leap for womankind. Sort of.

What happened next was kind of a blur, I think it happened so quickly so that I hadn’t time to overthink it and chicken out. I turned and walked over to the small group of friends surrounding the Adonis. I reached up and tapped one on the shoulder, who swiftly turned and raised his eyebrows up at me in question. I blushed and mumbled something about just wanting to say hi to his mate. The friend nodded and silently moved aside, the rest of the group followed suit, and all turned to watch the screen leaving just the Adonis in the corner looking at me quizzically.

I thrust out a hand in greeting; blurting out “So sorry, I saw you from across the beer garden and I thought you were really attractive, and I wanted to ask you for your number. I’m Jess by the way!” Smooth, Jess. The Adonis blinked clearly absorbing my sudden appearance and outburst and then after what seemed like an agonising 10 seconds, he finally cracked a smile, shook my outstretched hand and introduced himself in return. Thank fuck for that.

“Sure… I’d take your number, but my phone has run out of battery,” he said taking his phone out of his pocket and jabbing the blank screen; showing me that it wouldn’t switch on. Ah, of course. “But I can put my number in your phone,” he said smiling at me. I passed him my mobile, trying to keep a steady hand and the Adonis typed in his name and number (confirming Ella was right). I honestly thought that would be it, I would thank him for his time, apologise for disturbing the football and quickly excuse myself. I turned to leave but the Adonis started asking why I was so tanned and if I’d been on holiday recently. I told him I’d just got back from my sister’s hen do in Mykonos and asked if he had any holidays planned. As we chatted about holidays, our heritages, where we lived, our ages and even Love Island, I was amazed at how attracted I was to this man. I mean he was obviously gorgeous, but for the last four months I hadn’t even entertained the thought of another man touching me; not desiring anyone and feeling undesirable in return. But as I flirted with the Adonis, I felt the heat rise in my cheeks, my mouth go dry and my stomach flutter with nerves. God, I really fancied this guy.

After what could have only been 15 minutes of chat, I made my excuses saying that I should really find my friend as I’d left her alone at the bar. In reality, my mouth had become so dry I had become progressively more aware of my tongue and the fact I’d been holding an empty cup the whole time. It was a miracle I hadn’t said anything stupid yet and felt it safer to leave on a high. The Adonis asked me to come and say hi again after the game had finished if I was still around. I nodded, smiling and kissed him goodbye on the cheek before floating (elbowing) my way back through the crowd to find Ella.

No sooner had I made it to the other end of the beer garden, then Ella grabbed me from around the corner and pulled me to the other side of the bar. “So?! What happened?! Did you get his number?! I got a drink and had a cigarette and you were still chatting to him!” she exclaimed, excitedly.

“Shhh…yes I got his number,” I grinned back at her. “But, first thing’s first – I need water…and some kind of anti-perspirant.” Ella grabbed my hand and marched me to the toilets where she pulled out deodorant from her handbag and passed me a glass of tap water. I briefly filled her in on my conversation with the Adonis as I blotted my face and regained proper use of my tongue again. “Perfect, so we’ll play it cool and watch the rest of the match inside then we’ll casually head back over to him when we’ve lost.” Ella said. I looked over at the screen. Ah yes, some of us were indeed losing that night.

England did lose. And as the match finished and the drunkards started to curse, Ella and I made our way back out to the beer garden. It was 10pm and the place was still heaving. We pushed our way through the crowd until I caught a glimpse of the Adonis near his corner deep in conversation with a group of guys. “Hmm, he looks busy, let’s just hang back here for a bit,” I said to Ella turning away from him. Ella shrugged and we continued chatting. After about five minutes Ella abruptly stopped talking and stared over my shoulder. “He’s coming over,” she whispered excitedly.

No sooner had I registered what she said then the Adonis swooped in next to me and shook Ella’s hand in greeting. She blushed and mumbled hello in return. The Adonis turned and looked down at me smiling. God, his eyes were dreamy.

“I have to pop around the corner to my mate’s house to charge my phone, but will you still be here a bit later?” he asked me. I smiled back and said I wasn’t sure as it was getting late and I had work in the morning. He nodded. “Of course, well it was lovely to meet you and you have my number?” he asked, then cheekily added, “Are you glad you came up to me?” I grinned shyly and said I was, kissing him goodbye on the cheek. 

I watched the Adonis walk out of the beer garden and turned to Ella, “Can we go back home now, I really don’t think I can handle any more excitement tonight?” Ella laughed and agreed. We left the pub and headed back home, and I made a mental note to wait until the next day to message him.

To be continued…