Second firsts

I met somebody on Tinder. It was never going to be a long lasting thing, but it was brilliant to have some new firsts, especially as what would have been my sixth anniversary approaches.

So.

My friend has developed a habit of swiping for me on dating apps. She’s married, and met her husband before the advent of dating apps, so it’s all a big novelty to her.

I can understand why: there’s so much weird humanity on display on Tinder. You get to view these strange little conceptions that people have made of themselves, and briefly you imagine a life with this person. You can think about what it would be like to be with a man who has a child already. Could I be a stepmother? Or a man who’s very into the gym. Would he make me more active? A woman who sings in a choir. Would she inspire my creativity? Of course there are terrible people, but there’s a little bit of the romantic in me that likes to imagine the many different lives that splinter into the horizon.

So.

My friend was swiping. She saw this man, and swiped right on him. And several others. She’s fairly indiscriminate. He and I start talking. It becomes flirty. He comes to my house one evening. That was a first for me.

But everything else that followed were second firsts. It’s exhilarating to know that someone fancied me, but also that I fancied someone. It’s exciting to kiss somebody different and notice the different feelings and emotions and sensations. It’s hilarious to have a hickey at the age of 27 and have people take the piss out of me at work.

So.

I relished the newness. I knew it would never be a long term thing. He has big grand life plans that take him far away from my brand of a quiet life in England. But again, that splintering of an alternate life was glimmering in the horizon, and I did think about following him to different countries, learning new languages and being more adventurous. Realistically, though, it’s not to be.

That first day, it revolutionised my thinking. I was so blown away that I could meet someone casually, and that it’s easy and fun and positive. It made me realise that I am an adult who can make adult decisions, and there could be more for me out there than falling into a long term monogamous relationship and firing out some babies.

Today we were talking and flirting all day. Nothing came of it, but I did ask about meeting again. To which he revealed that he’s out of the country as of Saturday.

I’d been discussing with my friends about the casual aspect of this encounter. It is great to have no commitment. I liked the way that I knew it was going to be a limited time. But I’d imagined the limited time would be a few months away and not two days away.

I’m feeling sad, presently. And I’d been so pleased with myself about all of those independent thoughts. So now to realise that maybe I liked him (or the way he made me feel) more than I’d thought is deflating.

So.

Has this been a good experience? I’ve proved to myself that I can have a different type of relationship or encounter that I’d thought. I’ve had it proved to me that I can be thought of as sexy or attractive by someone who isn’t my ex. I can have physical experiences I haven’t had for a long time.

The thing that’s troubling me is have I been used?

Or, actually, have I used someone else?

Attraction is difficult

I only started to have sexual feelings after I’d first had sex. It wasn’t as if I’d never been curious, or that I didn’t want to have sex. But I don’t think I understood sexual attraction until I’d actually lost my virginity and started to think about what I might like and want.

The first time I had sex was with my ex boyfriend. We’d known each other for a month. He was the first person I’d kissed or touched or had a date with. He’d had a couple of short relationships before me, but he was no lothario. We were both 21. Because I was 21, I felt emotionally ready to have sex, so my first time will always be something I remember fondly – not with any pain, or worry, or sense of coercion.

We were together for five years and we were monogamous (I don’t think polyamory is for me!) so he’s still the only person I’ve ever kissed or had sex with. I used to have a lot of worry about that fact, but it’s nothing shameful or weird, it’s just a fact of me.

So it was only after I’d had sex that I could picture what it would be to have sex with a person. So in the idle crushes I’d get, I could understand what sexual attraction was. My ex and I would talk about crushes we had – I still think of this as healthy, because it meant that we were honest about our feelings. And because the crushes were always transient, it meant that we could appreciate what we were to each other.

Obviously it wasn’t perfect because be dumped me. But that’s not the point I’m making.

In this post-dumping wasteland (is it a wasteland? Is it just my same life, now without a boyfriend?) when I’m starting to think about new people, I’m unsure if I’m supposed to feel sexual attraction to a person I go on a date with.

When I met the ex, I can vividly remember how on our fourth date I felt this urge of wanting to kiss him for the first time. So when we finally did kiss, it was lovely and powerful (and public). When we first had sex, it was spur of the moment, and again I have a vivid memory of ‘fuck it, why not?’ So when I’ve been on this small handful of dates, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel that rush as with a lusty crush, or if it’ll creep up on me and I’ll know when the situation arises.

This isn’t hypothetical. I’ve not met up with a man three times and he’s hilarious and intriguing. As in, quick witted, same sense of humour, interesting, varied, layered, quirky. And a handful of other adjectives that are positive. But I don’t have a surge of sexual attraction. Can that build with time? Should I not pursue this because it’s not there right now?

The difficult thing with this is that there’s not answer. I realise that I’m fairly scared of either being rejected or having to reject someone, so the prospect of not having an easy and obvious route is annoying.

Until then, I suppose I’ll just enjoy having someone to laugh out loud with.

An advert for Bournemouth

I was in Bournemouth yesterday. It’s a place where we went when we were first dating. I remember pretty vividly (we would have only been a few months in) he knelt down to tie his shoelaces and made a joke that he wasn’t proposing to me. Then, I probably would have followed him to the moon if he’d asked, so it was a little bit of a stab, but it didn’t matter. We went to the oceanarium and saw otters, which is probably the best part of that memory. We played mini golf and I let him win because he complained that he was doing so poorly.

We were in Bournemouth on his 24th birthday. We walked up and down a pier and he talked about how it wasn’t his best birthday ever. We went to a music shop and I offered to buy him a piece of new equipment. He couldn’t choose anything, but we left the shop hand in hand and felt like we had a pleasant enough day.

We were in Bournemouth for his 26th birthday this year. We ate lunch in a restaurant which overlooked the sea. He didn’t enjoy his food much, but had a couple of pieces of my fish and chips. We went to the amusement arcade, and I wonder if I’ll ever go to an amusement arcade without thinking of him.

In writing all of this down, it sounds like I don’t have particularly fond memories of him and Bournemouth, but I do. It feels like he’s all over that place.

I’ve been several other times. Once for a particularly boring hen do, once for an afternoon tea with two friends. Yesterday I was there for a comedy show. I like the aviary that’s in the public gardens. I like the seafront. I like the cat cafe in Bournemouth, and its policy of hiring staff from diverse backgrounds.

But I was still thinking of him a lot. Which is shit, because I’m so much less sad about him, to the point where the sadness feels unfamiliar and intrusive, rather than my default.

I’m supposed to be seeing him in two days (not in Bournemouth). We had a short text conversation about an hour ago and arranged a time to meet up. I’m wondering just now, however, what I want to get out of seeing him.

On the one hand, he’s probably the only person in the world who would understand why I feel sad. He has all of those memories too, and probably has even more that I can’t think of. He’s recently been to Amsterdam, so it would be pretty cool to hear about his trip there. I could tell him about this comedy gig I saw, and about how much my mother’s been irritating me.

But then there’s the question of what I get out of this. Why do I need to see him and have these conversations, when really all I’ll feel is a sense of missing him and a big question mark over why we needed to break up.

I could ask him some things about the break up, some of the things he said. Would that give me closure? I could ask him if he ever wanted to move in with me and build a life, but I think I probably know the answer to that one.

So now, at almost midnight on a night before a 13-hour shift, I feel like I want to enter into a goodbye text conversation.

I want to tell him that I loved him, and that I’ll always be fond of him. I would tell him that I genuinely hope he has success in his music and his career. I would tell him that despite how petty I sometimes feel, I want him to meet a person who completed him in a way I never could.

And then I would want to tell him we shouldn’t meet up any more. It doesn’t give us anything, and they’re occasions that are platitudes as a shadow of when we would talk about the world.

But I can’t do that over text at midnight. So maybe I’ll have to tell him at lunch on Sunday.

New normal

It’s honestly wonderful to get to a point where I don’t know how many weeks it’s been since we broke up.

I like numbers. I like patterns in numbers, and collecting numbers and dates and amounts. So to be in a place where I’m not quantifying how long it’s been is wonderful. It’s a new normal, and it’s nice to be on this even keel.

Of course there are bits where I miss him, but as I’ve alluded to before, it’s no longer about him in the specific, and more about missing having a someone who is there for me.

My example this week is that I’ve had a cold. He was never that great about looking after me when I was unwell, but he is a kind soul who would listen to me whine about how grim I felt. So I’ve missed the opportunity to be pathetic in my minor respiratory virus, but I didn’t miss his brand of comfort specifically.

In other news, I’ve applied for a dating show. For any British person that might read this – I’ve applied for First Dates. It’s a big show, and it must of thousands of applicants. It was a fun diversion to spend a bit of time writing about who I am and who I’d like to date. It also gave me that little fix I was getting from downloading multiple dating apps – the validation of knowing that someone might fancy me, and the satisfaction that I could act upon these urges if I wanted to.

I don’t think I am particularly desperate to meet anybody at the moment. It remains pleasant to just worry about myself, although that does mean that my house is a shithole, because I’m the only one that’s been in it for weeks. And the cats definitely don’t care if there’s dirty dishes in the sink.

The one slightly tricky thing about applying for the dating show was that it asked who I’m interested in. In an effort to attempt to be a good bisexual, I chose the option of ‘looking for men and women’.

The reality of that remains scary. I went on a little extended daydream about what would happen if I were accepted onto the television show, and what would happen if they matched me with a woman in order to make good television, and what would happen if my friends and family saw that.

Of course, it’s incredibly unlikely that I would be accepted onto the show, but what if? What if?

I bit the bullet

I’ve heard mixed ideas on the best thing to do after being dumped. I googled it (of course) which suggested being sad for four days maximum before never talking about it again because it upsets other people.

I ignored that one.

I’ve spoken to people who say to enjoy being single and to say yes to everything and to become more spontaneous. To use this as the opportunity to do what I never felt I could before.

But I felt I was quite fortunate in the relationship that we could – and did – do so much together.

Then there’s the people who’ve told me to jump straight back on the horse. To start dating again straight away, and maybe look at people I hadn’t before. Casual hookups. Short flings.

Definitely not doing that (right now).

I’ve done my happy medium. I downloaded a dating app and actually decided to apply myself to it. I’ve downloaded Bumble and I’ve reactivated my very short lived profile from eHarmony.

The beauty and the hardship of Bumble is that women have to make the first move. Two people can mutually ‘like’ each other, but only women can start a conversation. I felt that in signing up to dating apps so soon, I wanted some validation from real people that I still hold some appeal after someone I loved left me. The tricky thing when I have to make the first move is that requires impetus.

I have more of an attitude of ‘sod it’ right now. I feel like it would take somebody magical to really make me consider a relationship right now, because I know that most truly I’m not ready. This means that I can write to people in a more careless way, maybe flirt more than I would have done because I’m probably never going to meet them.

I’ve written cheesy things so far. ‘Strong glasses game’ to someone who is wearing glasses in their profile picture. ‘How much do you lift’ to somebody else who’s into Crossfit. ‘You have a genuine smile’ to someone who is… smiling.

It’s a bit like a game. I feel like I’ll probably delete the app soon, so unless anyone has been intoxicated by my stunning pick up lines of ‘your hair is very nice in your picture’, I’m not going to break any hearts when my profile suddenly disappears.

It’s also addictive. It’s very easy to swipe through pictures of people who don’t feel like real people and wait for the sweet little moment when the phone screen turns yellow and tells me somebody has ‘liked’ me too. It’s a little heady, and it’s given me the token of validation and shallow appreciation that I felt like I needed.

It’s nearly two weeks post break up. It definitely already hurts less, although I do still miss having that best friend figure to ask me about my day. I’d been quite caught up in trying to justify why the break up was a good thing for us both, that I’ve forced myself not to focus on the things I will miss about him. In thinking about a potential new relationship, I’d forgotten just what I liked about ours.

It was very much ours. The inside jokes. The way we would cuddle. The acceptance of spending time in the same room doing separate activities. The reliability of knowing he would pick me up from work sometimes. Or that if I lost my keys, he could come and let me in. The way he loved my cats. The relationship he had with my mother.

It’s just shit that he’s left me.

Do I want to date again?

I met up with him today. It was a source of anxiety, but at the practical level I needed to get my house keys back. On the emotional level I think I needed to see him to remind myself that we don’t hate each other, we’re still the same people and that maybe we could be friends.

But do I want to be friends? It’s been 8 days (8 days!) since the break up, and I have come to realise that no matter how sad or tearful I sometimes am, it’s not because I want him back. I wrote previously about the reasons that actually I have a sense of freedom and a burgeoning sense of excitement about one day finding somebody new.

Do I want to be friends? Do I miss him as a boyfriend or as a person? Do I just miss that sense of having somebody that was just mine and that knew everything about me?

I think that the very fact of having questions is the useful part of blogging. It’s really handy to write it out in slightly flowery language and try and figure out what I’m feeling.

So we saw each other. We had lunch. We chatted a bit about future plans for ourselves. He’s deferring his degree to focus on mental health, which is a massive and positive decision on his part. I’m waiting to see what is happening with my application to study a Master’s. He’s going to some events for his hobbies. I’m seeing friends on various places and hoping to make the most of this ridiculous British heatwave.

We split the bill in the restaurant. An echo of our first ever date. For the last five years, one or other of us has always paid the bill in full and swapped off for the next time. We got bubble tea which tasted horrible. Space Oddity was playing in the background and I sang along. He said the song would always remind him of me.

We said goodbye. We hugged and then both slightly ducked in for a kiss. We didn’t kiss, but there was a beat of tension when we realised what we had automatically begun to do. I made a joke about it. He laughed.

I pretended to laugh. I walked away and cried in my car.

I’m not a frequent crier, and I’ve forgotten how sometimes it feels like a release. I left the encounter feeling positive and lighter. I never once thought about wanting him back, or wondering if he cared or loved me. These were the things which I’d worried about, so it was nice to realise that although I was sad at the ending, I wasn’t sad that it had ended.

So this brings me to my question. Do I want to date again? As in, date again soon and now?

In seeing him, in a strange way it made me feel loved again. When I was a teenager, I never believed I would be loved, and just after he dumped me, I believed that he had never loved me. Seeing him showed me that although he broke up with me for our differences, there was a lot that he still liked about me.

To date again now would feel like searching for proof that I can be loved. It would feel like I was looking for validation, and there’s a part of me that would like to sign up to a dating website just to chat to strangers and feel that buzz of talking to new people. That might be all the validation I need at the moment.