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.
“Go on, send her a message.” “No.” “It’ll be fun! Look, she’s a pole dancer!” “No, what’s the point? I’ll be going home soon.” “That’s the point! Or what about this one? She’s cute.” “Dammit woman, no! I don’t want to have empty sex with some stranger.” “Fine.”
I think I’ve realised why people get married so young. I always wondered what the big rush was. What’s your hurry honey? Forever can wait another year or two. Strap on a backpack and hit the road. See the world. Make love with the wrong people. Make friends with the right people. Mess up. Learn. Fill your head with memories that will nourish you in the decades to come.
Forgive my ignorance, but what’s the deal with the whole lesbian vs bisexual thing we’ve got going on? I’ve felt it, the fear and the resentment and the wilful misunderstanding simmering beneath the surface. Sometimes it bursts out on Twitter or Facebook like an angry boil and the trolls crawl out from under their bridges with spikes. How did we get here and why? It’s even touched my own relationships. Several of the women I’ve dated have been bisexual. When I talk about being gay, almost every one of them has rushed to clarify their sexual status: “Um, actually I’m bisexual. Is that okay?” Well, of course it is – why wouldn’t it be? I don’t care how a woman identifies – gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, label-less, otter. You want to go and start building little houses in streams? Go for it. I got your back, beautiful. As long as you love me.
I had a friend once who had feelings for me. Actually, let me not mince my words, Englishify them like a cup of weak tea. He said he was in love with me. We were friends for years, first at work and then at play and I think, deep down, I always knew how he felt. A love like that finds ways to escape, in looks or gestures or the occasional drunken slur: “so, do you fancy going for dinner and then I love you let’s get married checking out thingy’s party?” Did I try and temper his feelings? Encourage him to meet other women? Give him space? No. I liked it.
As you get older, friendships become so important. It’s ironic really, as often friends are the first thing to go in our big, busy lives. We get partners and kids and houses and suddenly we’re stressed, stressed, stressed and we’ve got no time and the babysitter just cancelled and why the fuck are my car keys in the dishwasher? and we let our friendships thin just at the time we need them most.
Regrets are terrible things. They’re like pieces of glass littering a beach. As you roam back over your memories it’s all warm and soft until you feel the sharp slice of them through your feet. They hold so much power. What could my life have been if only I had followed my heart, held my nerve, chased my dreams? The path you took will never be as exciting or fulfilling as the one that passed you by.