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.

Is it possible to be friends?

I saw him today. It’s been six weeks since he broke up with me, and I still struggle to call him ‘ex’ but that’s fine. I saw him because it turns out that his passport was in my house following the anniversary trip that we took in April, four months ago. We met for lunch and I gave it back to him.

(Thankfully because I felt like some kind of mafioso withholding it from him even though that was never my intention)

We updated each other on our lives. Not much to tell. His hair is longer, and I struggled not to brush it out of his eyes, or to dust the crumbs off his t shirt. It’s hard not to hold his hand or kiss his cheek, but I feel like that will get easier.

A couple of strange moments: he sat next to me rather than opposite me while we ate. He asked me to send him pictures of the holiday I’m taking next week with friends. I think we’re both finding it tricky to traverse these new boundaries and find out where this tentative friendship is going to sit.

So can we be friends in the future? I feel like we can, but I don’t know if that’s just because right now we miss each other and there’s comfort and history there. I’ve been told by four different friends that it’s not possible, but I think I’m willing to try.

I went to a wedding

It’s been nearly four weeks. Where did that go? How has it been four weeks since he loved me?

How melodramatic.

It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I remember in the early days of our relationship, I used to count every day and week. Our anniversary was April 19th, so on the 19th of every month for at least two years, I was so excited that we’d reached another milestone. Now I’m counting that time in a different direction.

It does feel easier. I don’t often have that same pit of dread when I think of him, and I can make jokes more easily about our relationship and the natural imperfections that we had (that everyone has).

I can’t contemplate the reality of dating somebody. It would be nice to jump straight back to when he loved me and to enjoy the things we enjoyed, but I can’t think of anybody else touching me or kissing me. Or even talking to me – but let’s ignore my little piece of introversion.

I’ve deleted the latest dating app that I has downloaded. It started to feel so pointless, and I did start to feel like I was leading people on with my online presence and my unwillingness to reply. These are people who want to be with somebody, and all I could focus on were the minute grammar errors to use as proof that they weren’t worthy of my time. So it also started to feel like I was being a dick.

I went to a wedding yesterday. My friend of 8 years was marrying his partner of 6 years (fiancé of 2 years). I went along with my friend of 5 years to replace the boyfriend of 5 years who decided he didn’t love me anymore.

(I can’t stop saying that phrase, is that a problem? Do I have an issue?)

It was a lovely day. The ceremony was lovely and I cried. The speeches were lovely and I laughed. The music was shit, which it always is with any random DJ that someone hires for the best day of their life. I felt happy for my friend – never jealous (which I was relieved about, because that would’ve been another dickish thing about me this week).

So, this shit DJ. He played a lot of breakup music. Weird thing to do at a wedding anyway, but in that golden alcohol haze after a bit too much gin, it felt like every song was directed at me.

The sad breakup songs became poignant. The triumphant breakup songs were too much. The songs about loving yourself after a breakup were annoying, because I don’t right now.

Then he played Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. It’s strange and catchy and it was everywhere for one summer five years ago, so it became our song. We had talked about Daft Punk when messaging on Match. We listened to Get Lucky and complained about how it was following us. He learned to play Get Lucky on guitar at a guitar camp he went to that was our first trip away together. It was our song.

I looked around at all of the couples on the dance floor. There were so many happy, comfortable people who just seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I looked at my friend, and despite how much I love her (platonically) and think she’s brilliant, she’ll never be someone who is just for me like he used to be. I started to cry, slowly, silently, privately.

I sat down. Pissed about on social media on my phone for 10 minutes and got up and pretended I was okay. I feel like this might be a theme for a little while.

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’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 still the same person

He broke up with me on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I lounged around the house with my mother looking after me. On Thursday, I attempted to eat at a restaurant and promptly felt nauseous after every song in the background made me think of him. On Friday, I saw a light-hearted musical film and cried more than is appropriate. On Friday night, I prepared for my shift and now I’m here, on my break, eating crisps.

Crisps are an excellent thing to eat no matter what is going on in your life because crisps don’t ask you how you’re feeling.

On the Tuesday, I made a Facebook post about the breakup. It felt a bit strange to share something so intensely personal about 6 hours after it happened. But I couldn’t bear the thought that people at work would ask me about him and I would have to have the same awkward conversation about my heartbreak several times.

The upside of the Facebook post is that my wonderful, supportive, caring group of colleagues know and are treating me kindly accordingly. The downside is that for other people, this is a minor drama that they’re distantly aware of. It’s not impactful to them. It’s not important beyond the realms of quickly making sure I’m okay. This has forced the breakup to become normality, when for me, the thing that keeps gutting me is it’s new and longlasting strangeness.

I work in a team full of women. I can struggle and think of maybe a handful of single people, and one of those is because she is asexual and aromantic and has no desire to be in a couple with anybody. It’s hard to hear about people’s husbands and partners and boyfriends and girlfriends, when my best friend has left me. It’s tricky to hear stories about ‘aren’t men silly’ when my security blanket has decided not to be mine.

And I suppose that’s what this feels like. It feels like I’m exposed, and without that comfort of somebody who was ‘my person’ and dedicated to me. It really does feel like my security blanket is gone, because when you’re happily ensconced in a couple, there’s a certain amount of immunity from the bullshit that single people face.

In getting back to work, I’ve been forced to realise that I’m still the same person. I’m a health care worker, and my patients still need me and listen to me as ever before, because as far as they’re concerned, I am a concerned and available professional that’s there for them.

It feels strange to put on my uniform and put on my professionalism and embrace it like the facet of my personality that it is. It feels strange that I am changed and sad, when externally I look as I ever did before.

Ultimately, I take comfort in the fact that I can function. It’s good to know that I’m not useless just because he doesn’t love me anymore.