There was a time when I used to spend much of my life adorned in my fluffy purple dressing gown with a cup of tea. I lived in a characterful little cottage in a good area and I regularly binged on delicious gnocci from the Italian shop on my street. It wasn’t your typical student existence, but then again, I am never your “typical” anything.
I looked down on my once-upon-a-time trampy blonde housemate who would squeeze into far-too-tight clothes and kiss far-too-greasy-haired boys at trance parties. I was annoyed to find my ice box being used for jello shots, and grossed out at the prospect of some foreign underwear being thrown in with my washing load. You see, I was not on the hook up trail, but rather fancied myself on the fast track marriage path to domesticity and all things shared. My boyfriend and I called each other sickly sweet little pet names enough to make any self respecting person queasy, and rarely going out, I baked on Friday nights.
I was blissfully happy, except for when I wasn’t. Love has a funny way of making everything seem glossy and optimistic, and I had an endless rom-com montage of memories playing in my head that convinced me to forgive just about anything. Youthfully naive and idealistically inclined, I thought it was love, but it was probably more like co-dependence.
The present day me writes this from a small cul-de-sac about 6,000 miles from that charmed life I left behind. And I have just a few days ago gone on my first date in 5 years.
I procured said date off tinder, and after a long day of studying, I jumped at his offer of meeting up for a drink. Phd Tinder was a 24 year old student at Oxford, and man was he successful. Initially, I blew him off for about a week before we met for drinks, wary of his frequent use of winky faces and sexually suggestive statements. Shamefully, after a week of going incommunicado on him, I found out he was pretty famous on the web and changed my mind.
All too eager for what I was sure was fast turning out to be a booty call, Phd Tinder responded to my text almost instantaneously. He slickly suggested either a bar near his flat or his flat itself for a “quieter ambience”..I brushed this off with a comment about not wanting to get Tinder-murdered. I’m still convinced it’s a thing. He promised not to murder me, but I rebutted with “Isn’t that what any murderer would say?” Bar it was.
I quickly shaved my ever growing winter legs and tried to resemble the girl in my photograph, for sheer fear of being labelled the “The Oxford Catfish”. After putting on my best dress, I ordered a taxi and was off to meet the famous yet perverted stranger of my tinder dreams.
Turning a few heads as I walked into the bar, I approached the wrong guy and was off to the start of a very awkward conversation. Tinder fail at only 30 seconds in.
Soon realizing my new Turkish friend was not in fact my date, I made a quick escape to the bathroom and received a text from Phd Tinder saying “Blue checkered shirt at bar. Come over”.
“Oh God“, I thought. “Is this what it feels like to be an escort?”
“No,” I told myself, “Escorts get paid. This was your choice”..
Somehow, it didn’t make me feel any better.
I ducked my head out the door and saw a man who was shorter and more square than his profile suggested.Although I seriously considered hiding in the bathroom until closing time, I decided an exit would be too obvious and too mean, so I went ahead and actually met him.
Initially, it felt awkward as he said “Pleased to meet you” in front of other people at the bar, who smirked knowingly. It was a Sunday evening and it wasn’t busy, so we sat down to get a drink at the bar. I breathed a sigh of relief, it was either the barstools or the intimate couches under the dimmed lights. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be rolling around the sofa at one of my favourite cocktail haunts with a stranger.
The conversation went surprisingly smoothly. He was chatty and took an active interest in me. Initially, it seemed a bit stilted like a question and answer session, but things soon started to flow and we shared some common grounding. Facially, he was fairly good looking, but his intelligence and charm knocked me out the park.
We laughed and talked about our upbringing, travel, his time at Harvard, our aspirations, philosophy, science, society…he was interesting but not pretentious, and he breathed life into every topic. I had never felt so intellectually stimulated. Time was flying by and I was having a good time. For the first time in a long time, I saw myself through someone else’s eyes as intelligent, pretty and interesting. All those things I stopped feeling after A left me.
It was soon closing time at the bar. He offered to walk me home, but I told him it wasn’t walkable and ordered a taxi.
The taxi was going to take 10 minutes and it was too cold to wait outside. Phd tinder took me into the lobby of his apartment block, and as he showed me the view out the window, he leaned into kiss me.
It almost played in slow motion, his eyes seemed to close long before they reached my face, rendering him for a few split seconds an open mouthed, shut-eyed fool fast advancing into my personal space. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. But, before I had time to fully process it, his lips were on mine and it was happening. I kissed him back and tried to lose myself in the moment despite a racing mind. It felt strange and I wasn’t used to his technique, but it wasn’t unpleasant… I started to enjoy it.
As he began to get a little gropey, my phone rang with the taxi. I told him I had to go, and he said he wished I didn’t. We parted ways and he expressed that he’d like to see me again sometime.
The taxi driver smirked obtrusively and asked if I’d had a good night. I was on my way home after my first date and I hadn’t got tinder-raped or murdered yet.
Maybe this isn’t so weird after all. A second date next weekend has been arranged.
There’s still time to murder me yet.