And it’s over. 10 days. 15 messages. I’m not even sure I can use the word over – did it ever really begin?
It was all going well until I suggested meeting up. We’d ticked off friends and homes and passions with no major upsets. We’d had a cheeky flirt – just a flash of thigh, a spot of conversational cleavage – to up the anticipation. We’d swapped our real names, which in the world of anonymous internet dating is, well, keen. Then I ask about meeting up and she goes as squirmy as fish in a bucket.
“I’m sure a cocktail is doable,” she says vaguely. Uh huh, uh huh, but, um, when exactly? I think. Still, I take the hint and drop it.
A few days later, fresh off a bottle of Pinot, I text her suggesting we book something in.
“Book something in…” she replies, “hmmm.”
“Are you not a fan of being booked in?”
“It’s a bit formal,” she says sniffily.
But…you live in Manchester! I think. If we don’t book it in it’s not happening! I get playing it cool, I really do. But she’s joined a website called Soulmates. I mean, really? It’s like going to a heavy metal gig and complaining the music’s too loud. Or grumbling about the lack of tanning opportunities on your winter holiday. “Yeah, I know it’s a chicken shop but WHERE’S THE VEGAN OPTION.”
Nowhere, love. You’re in a chicken shop.
Still, I let it slide. Patience. We get back on an even keel and everything’s going fine until she messages me about an intern in her office who asked her out.
“She’s 21,” blushface. “It’s soooooooooo awkward,” blushface, blushface, tense face, blushface.
“Bless her,” I say, “It’s quite sweet really but, yes, awkward! Did you have any idea?”
“No I didn’t. My assistant, however. I do have a feeling something’s going on there….”
Okay. O-kay. Clearly this woman has not grasped what is and isn’t appropriate dating fodder: films, music, food, feminism – all good. Rundown of every woman who has the hots for you in the office? No thanks. Maybe she’s an absolute fox but I’d kind of like to find that out for myself.
I gently disentangle myself. Still, I wish we’d managed at least one date. When you’re not dating weekends can loom large, as big and empty as the galleries I tread alone. I’m a sociable person – a brunch or dinner may be a bright spot in the gloom but what I really want are weekends bathed in convivial sunshine. After a certain age, that takes work. So I do. I book in LGBT+ socials at work. I go to meetups. I organise drinks with old friends I haven’t seen for donkey’s years. I work at making connections in the same way I work at finding love: with a dogged, open, hopeful heart.
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but outside it’s already looking a little brighter.