Fun, flirty and under thirty

I’ve rejoined Tinder. It was on the insistence of a friend, so over some fried chicken, we made a profile for me.

The pictures look good. I think I’ve gotten the correct mixture of insouciance with some genuine information about me thrown in there. I tend to refuse to put down my job, because I feel like working in healthcare, it’s important to keep a professional appearance in all public spaces if I have my job title attached to me.

Some observations: lots of couples looking for threesomes. Lots of kinky people who use their kink as their entire profile. Lots of people who use ‘gym’ as their only hobby in life.

Some surprises: no genital pictures! Only one overt reference to someone wanting to have sex with me. Lots of people who are happy just to have a chat. No women who are matching back with me… Unsure what to feel about that last one.

This is the longest since the breakup that I’ve stayed on a dating app, so I suppose it shows I’m a little bit more ready. One man did ask me what I wanted, and I answered (with surprising honesty) that I wanted some flirtiness and some dates. That’s quite nice, really. To be ready for the idea of just hanging out with people and seeing where it might lead.

A friend came to visit today. She’s been in a relationship with her boyfriend for a few years, and they’re a little bit patchy at the moment. It’s been good to talk to someone about some of the shitty feelings that can crop up, even though we’re in different situations.

We went to see a fireworks display. I adore fireworks, and the ex used to love watching me love fireworks. It’s a time when I’d feel genuinely loved by him. I’d catch him watching me with a dopey smile, and it’s sad that I’ll never see him look at me like that again.

So I watched the fireworks feeling a little bit heartbroken. But then went to a shop and bought alcohol and chocolate with my two friends. We came home and watched a terrible Christmas movie (because November=Christmas apparently), and I was reminded that even if I’m not loved by him, I am loved.

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?

Assigning meaning to things

When I was a child, a family member died. My grandfather had died when I was 5, but I think I was too young to take that in fully and appreciate the meaning.

When I was 8 or 9, my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband died. (The Scottish side of my family were all very close). He’d been ill for a while, not that I knew that at the time. My parents and I had visited their house several times, and I can still clearly remember the big picture window they had in their living room that looked over a beautiful part of the North of Scotland.

Because I was a little older, I understood the reality and finality of death a little bit better. Although my parents weren’t religious, I attended a school run by the Church of England which to this day still gives me a complicated relationship with God and religion.

Long story short, I used to pray to a string of dust that hung from the ceiling. It’s ridiculous to type that out, and I’m sure it’s a ridiculous thing to read.

I was scared to go to sleep. I’d have little panic attacks nightly about death. When the lights turned off, the glow of the streetlights outside would catch this string of dust. The string used to move, and as I was a child, I couldn’t conceive of why it would move if God wasn’t the one moving it.

So I’d pray to the string as a conduit for God. I’d ask Him to look after my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband. And, later, when my grandmother’s brother’s wife’s sister, and my grandmother’s brother died, I’d pray that He’d make sure they were happy too.

I’m quite firmly agnostic now, as much as anyone can be ‘firmly’ agnostic. I look back on the string of dust and wonder why I ever cared so much or ascribed so much meaning to it.

I don’t mean to trivialise these thoughts on death and religion, but thinking on this made me think about how I assign a lot of meaning to small actions of others. Even more so within the context of the breakup.

It’s been seven weeks now. We saw each other two weeks ago and I read into every action of his. That means he’s sad about the breakup, this means he misses me. Maybe he said it like that because he knows that will make me miss him more. Maybe he still loves me.

I’m starting to accept the finality. A few people at work asked about whether he and I would get back together. That knowledge and belief from an external person gave me some feeling that it could happen, but I’m starting to see the reality that it probably won’t.

Am I sad? I’m still trying to navigate this. The freedom and the opportunity are still tickling at me.

It’s been four weeks

It’s been four weeks since he dumped me, and as strange as that is, I know it’s going to be okay.

He came over today. He gave me some clothes that have been at his house for years. I gave him a mug and a sex toy, which I feel accurately sums us up. It was meant to be a flying visit, maybe a quick cup of tea. He stayed for three hours and we ate lunch.

It’s still hard to traverse the new boundaries that we have. We hugged a few times. He held out his hand to hold mine when we went into the garden briefly. I squeezed a spot on his face (which was a normal thing we did – this isn’t a new post break up thing). There were differences in it – we sat further apart, we called each other ‘mate’. It was familiar but different.

He had wanted to give me photos of me that he had. We spent some time looking through them, including the ones from our five-year anniversary trip which was only four months ago. Four months ago we were happy in Denmark, and now we’re a bit sad in England.

It as good to see that he was sad too. I’d been searching for validation in new people on dating sites, but I think that the best validation was in knowing that he finds this hard too.

So we looked at photos.

We dated from the age of 21 to 26, so some of the old ones stored on my phone feel very old. We look younger (and thinner) and different, and it was important to see the happy memories and think on days neither of use had thought about for a long time.

I sent him a lot of photos of him that I had taken. He wanted some of the two of us – the cheesy couples selfies I’ve curated over the years. Again, it felt good to know that he wanted to see these and keep them.

Maybe he’ll delete them one day when this isn’t all so new and we’ve found other people to take new coupley pictures with. But it’s good to know that we are important to each other.

This all makes me so anxious

In the little under a week since I wrote my last post, I have deleted two dating profiles and set up a third one. I don’t know what this is, it’s like some weird compulsion that I dip out of the second the anxiety gets a little too high.

So I’d downloaded Bumble. It was fine but strange, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a traditionalist in saying a man must message a woman, I am a shy and awkward idiot who finds messaging first difficult. I made conversation with my cheesy lines, but it all felt a little too hollow and vapid. It’s dull to do the introductory conversation several times with different strangers.

I’d signed up to eHarmony, but I hadn’t paid for it. It would cost my liver to sign up for a short period of time. I ended up only being able to trade virtual ‘smiles’ with blurry pictures of strangers I would have to pay to see. It felt a little pointless, so that one was deleted as well (for the second time…)

I’ve joined Match. I met him on Match, so there’s that little bittersweet edge to it. It reminds me of the days when we first spoke, and how it felt to be that 21 year old organising her first ever date.

But it also builds the anxiety. The truth of it is, in a five-year relationship, there is so much comfort and familiarity and love and history. There’s so much that is shared. Even though there’s that cruel part of my brain telling me he never truly loved me in those five years, I know that at the very least he knew me and that we were the closest friend.

There’s the anxiety of knowing that no relationship will be like that one. And I loved that relationship. I loved him. It’s so hard to know that all of the stuff we built up is gone, and I have to try that again.

What if nobody likes me? What if I don’t like anybody? But really, and what I care about most, what if nobody likes me?

I don’t consider myself an anxious person. I’m quite relaxed and I take a lot in my stride. I deal with emergencies at work, and I’m able to do what I need to and not feel too deeply in that moment. But there’s this (sad) ache in my chest when I think about what might happen next from an online conversation, and I can’t quite shake that.

I’ve paid for the Match profile. It was £21 for a month, so I feel like I have to see this through. I’m not wanting for money, and I also don’t see the point in wasting £21 just to prove this weird, sad point I have.

Let’s see what happens.

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.

I’m not calling myself single yet

Yesterday after writing my blog post, I joined eHarmony and felt quite light and free about making an account. It felt like a step towards embracing possibility. It felt important and exciting to potentially meet somebody who would be my new somebody.

I chose pictures of myself to upload to my profile. This forced me to look at the pictures that I’ve taken in the year I’ve had this phone. I’ve avoided looking at my pictures because there are so many of us together, and it’s quite painful to look at pictures of us kissing a month ago.

So I looked at the pictures. I noticed that I haven’t taken any pictures of him in months, or of us together for a similar amount of time. I’m not a massive selfie fan, so the only pictures of me are ones that he has taken of me when we would have a day out.

This attached a lot of baggage to the whole profile picture thing. I chose three. One that was a rare selfie of mine. One from visiting Iceland together in February this year. One from visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour last year, also together.

Do I delete the photos? Within this new framework of aiming to be friends, I don’t really feel like I have to delete them and because our split hasn’t been acrimonious. We don’t hate each other, we’re just saying we don’t love each other anymore.

The profile pictures uploaded. I flicked through the potential matches I had and hesitated about actually paying the £30+ to subscribe to eHarmony and view people’s pictures. It suddenly felt more real when I considered the money. It felt more like a decision to pay and start talking to people. I had a little panic and deleted my account.

I realised that I don’t really consider myself single yet. Granted it’s only just about been a week, so it’s okay for this to not yet feel concrete and real. But if I were to say his name in conversation and somebody asked me who he is, I don’t think I could say ‘ex’ when he still feels like ‘boyfriend’.

That’s probably why I panicked at the dating website. It felt a little like cheating.

Well, that and the idea of dating anybody new is terrifying.

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.

I’m less sad today

I woke up at 11am to my mother poking me and telling me she was going out shopping. I picked up my phone and I looked at rubbish and thought about my new reality as a single person, and just how strange and new that feels. I thought about the new freedom I have and how heady and terrifying that is. Then I had a wee and ate two apples (but not at the same time).

I’m not quite so sad today. I’ve watched my second Adam Sandler movie in two days and realised that his movies make me think about my dead father, which is a nice thing because it’s lovely to have little reminders of my dad every so often. Thinking of a parent’s death also puts a relationship break down into context, because neither of us have died and that’s pretty nice. I don’t even feel like someone has died today, so that’s also pretty nice.

Not quite so nice that my best friend has decided to leave me, but I think that’s okay.

Last night I downloaded Tinder and Match promptly freaked out. Over the last five years, I’m aware that the dating game has changed. I know that I’ve changed too, but it’s very different when you have the smiling pictures in dating profiles looking up at you at 1am.

I mentioned the headiness. It’s exhilarating to think of kissing somebody new, a faceless amorphous somebody who will hopefully not mind my chubbiness or my lack of willing to wax every piece of body hair I have.

He didn’t mind that, and it makes me sad (again) that he’s gone.

But, he was shorter than me, which is easy enough when you’re 5’9. And he didn’t earn much money, which worried a small and secret part of my mind that only comes out at night. He was white, and I am brown, which sometimes concerned me that he would never quite understand some parts of my history.

He was also kind to me, and he was talented. He showed me the delights of live music, and he introduced me to some friends who I hope I’ll be able to keep.

I deleted the dating apps. I’m not ready for somebody new, and I do want to grasp the freedom I have. I might well download them again in the future, but for now, I’ll try and enjoy the boundless possibilities in front of me.