October 2020. After seven months of living at my dad’s in the countryside, I had just moved back to London. I had missed my friends and the buzz of city life, although the city had lost a lot of its buzz due to the pandemic. Still, this was back before the tiered system had reached London and the government’s ‘rule of six’ meant that I could enjoy a bit of a social life again; albeit a very limited one. After my year of self-imposed celibacy, I was also ready to start dating again. Over the last 12 months I had learnt a lot about myself and what I wanted from a partner and felt better emotionally equipped for entering the dating battlefield again. And so, just after my 32nd birthday, I re-downloaded the dating app, Hinge.
This is how I met Troy. He was one of the first men I matched with and we quickly built up a texting rapport in the lead up to my move back to London. Troy had a cheeky sense of humour and was easy to chat to; it felt fun to flirt with a man again. A few days after my move we agreed to meet for a drink one evening at a bar overlooking Tower Bridge. I waited nervously outside by some fountains. This would be my first date in over a year, what if I’d forgotten how to flirt? What if I’d forgotten how to kiss? Troy walked up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, I turned round… he was tall, with dark floppy hair and brown eyes, an absolute babe. Uh oh, I was in trouble.
We were seated at a table and ordered a bottle of wine. I was all too aware of my shaking hands when the waiter allowed me to taste the wine before pouring. Despite dating quite regularly in recent years, I was surprised at how nervous I was after a year out from the game. I very quickly felt comfortable with Troy though. He was as easy to talk to in person as he was by text, and we were soon laughing and flirting away at ease; the bottle of sauvignon blanc steadily emptying.
Troy told me outright that he’d been single for a few years now, that he enjoyed meeting women and dating but wasn’t currently looking for anything serious. It was good to see that even a year on, I still had the uncanny ability of exclusively attracting emotionally unavailable men *rolls eyes*. But this time it didn’t really matter, I wasn’t looking for my next boyfriend… I was looking, well…to get laid. I joked that Troy was a womaniser and quite clearly a ‘Hinge veteran’, but it was all good-natured; at least he was honest about his intentions, I thought.
We spent the next couple few hours chatting and flirting away, and quickly polished off a second bottle of wine. I hadn’t eaten and my head was fuzzy from the alcohol. Over the course of the evening, I seemed to have made my way along the booth and had all but ended up on Troy’s lap, kissing. I felt giddy with the alcohol and the apparent success of my first date in a year. It was almost 10pm; curfew, but I was nowhere near ready to call it a night and go home. I playfully suggested going back to Troy’s place for a nightcap, and so we walked along the river back to his flat, my loud tipsy giggles reverberating off the Thames.
Once inside I flopped down on Troy’s bed and began sending drunken voice notes and text messages to Jonny, my flatmate, whilst Troy was in the bathroom.
Earlier at 9.50pm [text]: “I’m not going back to his, I’ll be home soon.”
10.15pm [text]: “OK, I’m at his flat, I’ll be home in an hour. I’m not staying over.”
10.30pm [voice note]: “He’s just lit a red sequoia wood candle. What does that mean?! Do you think he’s trying to seduce me? (hiccough) I’m not having sex with him” (Troy overheard in the background – “you’re not?!”)
11.30pm [text]: “OK, I’m staying over. See you tomorrow.”
As much as I was tempted to have sex with Troy, I kept the same promise to myself that I had done over the past couple years since that awful night with Fuckboy Aaron, that I would never sleep with a man on a first date again. And true to myself, I didn’t have sex with Troy that night, just a lot of drunken fumbling…
I woke up the next morning hungover, doing that weird double take when you realise that you’re in an unfamiliar bed, next to an unfamiliar body. Ah yes, this. It was time to wake up and begin the walk of shame/slut strut/swagger of a shagger, or whatever you want to call it. I rolled over and whispered to Troy if he had a towel I could use to quickly shower. He tiredly mumbled something about there being one in the bathroom. I tiptoed into the bathroom to see a small gym towel hanging on the radiator. Great.
And so I made the almost forgotten mad morning dash to work, wearing last night’s knickers and my hair still smelling faintly of men’s cologne. Contemplating how on earth before the pandemic I ever had the energy to go into the office five days a week, work out, socialise with friends, date, and do impromptu adult sleepovers, all whilst having to get into the office again for 9am the next day!… How?
For the next couple weeks, Troy and I continued to text every day. Not sleeping together that first night made the prospect of future sex even more enticing. So much so that Jonny began to recognise my ‘sexting face’. We’d be sat across from each other in the living room and Jonny would look up from his iPad and say, “You’re doing it again.”
“What?!” I’d reply in mock innocence, looking up from my phone.
“You’re sexting him again, aren’t you? I can tell by your little smirk.”
It was true, most of mine and Troy’s conversations revolved around what each of us was going to do to the other person when we next met, each day the texts got filthier and more explicit, it would only be a matter of time.
Then one morning, Troy texted me: “Jess, I know we’ve already agreed this is casual and that neither of us are looking for anything serious right now but…” Shit. Where was this going?!
I watched as a second message lit up my screen. “I feel like I need to be honest. I’m good mates with Brandon and I know you guys kind of had a thing a while back. And whilst it doesn’t bother me, I feel like you should know.”
Brandon? As in my Fuckboy Brandon?! HA! Of course they are friends; this was laughable really. I mean, I wasn’t that phased, mine and Brandon’s ‘thing’ (if you could even call it that) happened two years prior and I doubt either of us would be bothered by this coincidental turn of events. But still, it did make me wonder… did this make Troy a fuckboy by association? Were there gangs of fuckboys bar hopping up Northcote Road, hitting on the same unsuspecting women? Did all the single men around the age of 30 living in South London know each other? Was it a club?! If that were the case, why didn’t they just stick all of them in a venue for a night so you could easily select one from the herd. Even as I thought this, I realised that such a place already existed. The Ship. (If y’know, y’know).
Despite this coincidental curveball, I decided to approach this situation maturely and explained to Troy that I appreciated his honesty and concern, and he had done the right thing by telling me. However, I viewed my encounters with both men as two entirely separate times and situations, and if we both weren’t phased by it, then there was no reason not to continue as we were. We happily agreed and made plans to see each other that weekend.
The day had arrived. It had been over a year, and despite some first time jitters I was beyond ready to have sex again. I’d shaved my legs, slathered on body moisturiser, and pulled on some sexy lingerie. I grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge and headed over to Troy’s flat. It was on.
Troy answered the door freshly showered with just a pair of jogging bottoms on. Without my beer goggles on I was able to fully appreciate him, fuck, he was attractive. Troy showed me through to the kitchen where he poured me a glass of wine. We settled down on the sofa and chatted easily enough. I teased him on whether he had a routine with all the women he dated. It was funny, normally I’d hate talking to guys about other women they may be seeing and would usually feel jealous, but I didn’t with Troy. Maybe it was because we’d set expectations from the very start. We both knew what this was.
After an hour or so of casual chit chat, I flirtatiously mentioned to Troy that I had sexy lingerie on especially for the occasion. “Show me” said Troy, his voice as smooth as butter. I blushed, feeling uncharacteristically shy all of a sudden. It was the nerves kicking in again. Troy sensing my shyness, smiled, and motioned for me to come and kneel at his feet.
I silently slid down off the sofa, on to my knees and held up my arms. Troy slowly pulled my sweater off and as the last of the sleeves lifted off I felt his lips on mine, I could taste the pistachios we’d been eating on his tongue. Troy then proceeded to pull off my leggings, following suit with his own clothes… and we had sex for the first time that evening right there on his living room floor, the carpet burns on my knees serving as proof.
Afterwards, we wandered naked into Troy’s bedroom, picking up discarded items of clothing as we went. I immediately noticed the brand new, crisp sheets on his bed (navy, obviously). “Nice sheets” I said to Troy, smirking.
“M&S, 100% Egyptian cotton,” he replied, winking at me.
I turned to see a clean, fluffy towel placed on the radiator next to my side of the bed. Huh. I thought. I placed my clothes on the floor and turned back around to see Troy spraying the pillows with… lavender essence. I raised an eyebrow at a him and he grinned. He then proceeded to show me his array of Kiehl’s facial moisturisers and eye creams on his bedside table, saying I could help myself to any should I need them. I nodded, smiling. Whether Troy was trying to impress me or otherwise compete for a better blog review than his mate, it didn’t really matter, I was amused either way. It’s funny what a bit of male competition could bring out in person. I would never be so untasteful as to compare two men’s sexual competency in a public forum (sorry, reader!), but if I were going to rate the two in terms of hospitality… Casa de Troy was getting 4* compared to Brandon’s modest 2*.
“Anyway, enough about the sheets” said Troy, his eyes smouldering as he walked towards me. Looks like we were on for round two…
I left Troy’s flat the next morning with an extra spring my step, I felt sexy, empowered and… satisfied. What’s more, I was impressed, not just by Troy’s performance, but by my own ability at having a sexual encounter with a guy without “catching feelings”. Could I have finally cracked it? Could I actually perfect the ‘friends with benefits’ scenario? In all of my 32 years I have never truly been able to get there. It was either full blown relationships or seemingly casual ‘situationships’ with men who clearly didn’t want to commit. Which ultimately resulted in the same outcome every time – I was the one left hurt. But this time it felt different, I was different. I no longer wanted to chase after men that quite clearly didn’t have any intentions of committing to me. Sure, I could have fun with them, but I was no longer going to invest my emotions in them.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Troy. He’s attractive, good in bed, polite, respectful of my feelings and we’ve since maintained a friendship, but I am also weary of ‘the nice guy’ trope. Maybe it’s because of my previous experiences with dickheads, but more often than not I will second guess a man’s real intentions and I’ll wonder if they have an ulterior motive. Are some men just being nice because they know about my blog and want a ‘good review’? Do they just want their ego stroked, or are they actually at their core a decent person?
So many men think they’re the nice guy because they do the bare minimum. Compared to the fuckboys out there, they seem like the golden egg! If they’re not treating you like shit then surely they must be close to god-like, right?! Well, I call bullshit. Just because of the existence of dickheads/fuckboys/shitty men, this does not mean that the men who deviate from that should be granted “good boy” awards for basic human decency. All men should be respectful, polite, and hospitable as the default. And everything else on top of that should then be considered as to whether that person is a right for you romantically.
Throughout October I enjoyed my causal relationship with Troy, but then November came and another national lockdown in the UK was announced. I began scrolling through Hinge again, mostly out of boredom and for entertainment purposes. I was quickly able to categorise the type of men on this app. There were the men who attempted to start conversation with back-handed compliments (aka negging), as if they could only get a woman to be interested in them if they put her down first and expected her to ‘prove’ herself to be worthy of his time.
There were your classic gym selfie men, sticking out their tongue men, cuddling dog/cat/baby (delete as appropriate) men. There were the men looking for someone “open-minded” – which is just a super subtle code for casual hook-ups only, nothing serious please! There were the ‘look at my mad snowboarding skills’ men, surfer men, “looking for wifey” men. There were the passive-aggressive men who slagged off ex-girlfriends or women in general in their captions (a complete turn off FYI).
And then there were the men (approx. every 4 swipes) who were looking for “a girl who doesn’t take herself/life too seriously”. This overwhelming cliché and their ignorance to it was especially nauseating.
I’m not claiming to have the perfect dating profile, far from it! After discussing with some of my male relatives I was assured that women have their own dating app cliches. But nonetheless, when you’ve been in the dating sphere as long as I have, these all-too-common traits start to take a toll on your motivation. My patience with dating apps was fast evaporating again, even some of the men I matched with, who initially seemed genuine and interesting were starting to disappoint. Exhibit A:
I received a generic Christmas Day text from a guy off Hinge I’d been chatting to a few weeks back but had since gone quiet:
“Merry Christmas, I can’t wait to kiss you x”.
I stared at the text. We hadn’t exchanged messages in weeks, this guy was obviously trying his festive fuckboy luck. The last we’d texted was when he’d said something quite offensive about women in a poor attempt to flirt. So, I told him outright that I wasn’t impressed. Instead of apologising, like he should have, he went on the defence saying I should learn to take a joke. Classic, I’d bruised his fragile male ego. So when he stopped texting after failing to apologise it was no water off of my back. But to just pop back up like that after the radio silence, assuming that I’d even want to chat to him again, never mind entertain kissing him?! Seriously, the audacity of some men.
So, after a few hours of getting drunk solo (I was spending Christmas alone due to self-isolation), I decided I didn’t give to two flying fucks and sent him an impromptu verse in response:
I’m pretty sure that’s a copy and paste,
But I assure you honey, I’ve better taste,
So you can continue to scroll through your contacts,
Cos a kiss from me is a no, better face facts,
So do me a favour, move on kid,
Cos frankly m’ dear, I’d rather catch COVID.
He later replied saying that it was unnecessarily rude, and he was only wishing me a happy Christmas. I blocked him.
Despite my dating app fatigue, after my year break from dating and finally being able to be fully content with myself, I do now feel ready to meet someone. I don’t, however, feel a need to settle, or to put up with the bullshit a lot of men have served me in the past. I’ve learnt that there is no point in pursuing a relationship with someone who doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. I’m no longer willing to chase after men that only see me as an option, or only worthy of a non-committal ‘situationship’. I now know my worth and if a guy wants me in his life, then he sure as hell is going to have to show me that he is worthy of my time. Oh, and I have since deleted Hinge.