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.
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.
I often forget how lucky I am to live in a city like London, surrounded by people who are open-minded. Other people talk sometimes about the pressure from friends and families to settle down and I find it all a bit bemusing: But, why do they care? It strikes me that it must be hard not to internalise that pressure, to suck it all up like a mouthful of slime. Worry. Fear – it’s catching. Quick! Everyone shack up before the music stops! (Tip: the music doesn’t stop until you die, kids.) Every now and then I get my own, sharp taste of it. Like when I met up with an aunt recently, who I haven’t seen in 2 years and who doesn’t know I’m out. She walks through my front door and as she’s wriggling out of her coat, shrieks “now darling, why aren’t you married yet?”
I have a complex relationship with getting older. On the one hand, I love getting to know myself, all my strengths and weakness and weirdnesses. I love unpicking the assumptions I’ve made about myself and watching them slither to the floor: oh, so you do like mushrooms; you are an outdoorsy person; see, you are brave. When you’re young, you’re always rushing to fall in with the crowd. You wear shoes that are wonky on your feet because you want to fit in. Age brings understanding and confidence. You start to coax the real person out from their hidey hole, bit by bit, until all of a sudden they’re standing tall beside you. On the other hand, as soon as I hit my thirties, my tits collapsed. It was like – BYE! Have a nice life! I went from being a Baywatch Babe to basically a surfing board with a couple of very old balloons taped to the front, dangling in the wind.
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.
Where do you stand on honesty? Are you an everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink kind of person? Or do you take a more…curated approach to candour, drip drip dripping the truths as occasion demands?
I don’t want anyone to freak out or anything here, but I think I may have found happiness. I know, quick! Bottle it! Sell it! Spray it on children! Spray it on Tories! Dunk Trump in a pool of the stuff and just vacuum pack him in there like a little carrot.