While I was on OkCupid, there were only really two guys who seemed like serious contenders: the Whippersnapper, and Open Relationship Guy.
On my profile, because the questions you had to fill in were so good, ironically, I did a half-arsed job of answering them; I planned to have a good think and then come back, and never got round to it. My curt profile only conveyed:
a) that I work for the NHS and love it
b) my taste in music
c) which end of the political spectrum I’m at.
A guy sent me a message saying “so, are you a Corbynista or Corbynisn’ta?” which I liked.
We exchanged lots of messages about politics and other things, then agreed to meet. He looked cool from his profile. He had a job doing something creative in TV and liked writing and books.
One thing on his profile was that, ideally, he wanted an Open Relationship. However, he’d written something like “if I really liked the person, it wouldn’t be deal-breaker”.
I don’t think an open relationship would be right for me. I think I’d be too jealous to handle it maturely, if I knew my loved one was out tinkering with another lady. However, I respect the premise. I think it’s a really honest, practical and accepting approach to relationships.
If a common relationship problem is that monogamy is really hard, that one person often ends up fancying or even shagging someone else, and one of the most hurtful aspects is the lying and deceit, why not take the lying and deceit out of it? If you think an obstacle is likely to come up, why not plan for it, honestly and respectfully?
Some people say that we shouldn’t even try to be monogamous, as it’s not natural and is contrary to our animal nature. I have two problems with this argument, though.
Firstly, it’s not true that animals are never monogamous. Lots aren’t, but lots are. About 90% of species of birds have monogamous relationships. Seahorses mate for life, and when one dies, the health of its partner often declines too.
To be fair, we’re mammals, and much fewer mammals are monogamous – only about 3% of mammal species. And, of course, we’re closely related to primates, and most of those guys don’t have monogamous relationships. Chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have various complicated sex arrangements within their packs. However, gibbons do have monogamous relationships.
Bless those romantic gibbons.
Secondly, if we’re worrying about what’s natural and what animals do, animals don’t tend to get Ubers to their dates, and they don’t pay for their drinks using an economic system of tokens to exchange for goods and services that they’ve developed, and they don’t use contraception when they have sex at the end of their dates. And no one is suggesting we abandon any of these systems (apart from London Black Cab drivers. And anarchists. And Catholics).
I think we find monogamy difficult because we’re humans, not because we’re animals. Sure, we’ve got an evolutionary urge to pass on our genes and we’ve got hormones kicking around, but also, we live in a capitalist society that relies on us being permanently dissatisfied with our lives so we keep buying products to fill the gaps, and it uses sex to sell everything. Plus, all of the media we’re exposed to, from fairy tales and Disney to internet porn, from Elvis Presley to One Direction, give us completely unrealistic expectations of love, sex and relationships.
So, hats off to the polyamorous community, even if I think I’m more of a gibbon myself.
I was due to meet Open Relationship Guy the Friday after Whippersnapper cancelled.
However, the day before, a combination of circumstances collided. First, I had really bad period pains, and while ibuprofen always used to sort everything out, now, for some reason, it isn’t cutting the mustard, so I’ve started taking codeine as well. Then, right at the end of the day, I found out that an ex-patient had been found dead, and I felt really shaken up. I was gutted for them and their family. And worried I could’ve done something to prevent it, even though my boss said I couldn’t.
So, when I got home that evening, I did what any mature professional would do, and cracked open the Strongbow.
The next day, the day of the date, I felt weird. It was the combination of codeine, cider and still feeling shaken up. I felt a bit disorientated and I had such a dry mouth. At work, I kept guzzling litres and litres of water and tea, but by the end of every session with a patient, my mouth was making this clacky noise when I talked.
I decided to cancel the date. Something about Open Relationship guy made me feel like I could be completely honest. I said I’d had my first patient death, and felt a bit weird, and I didn’t want to meet him and come across weird for that reason.
Prior to all of this, I had been looking forward to the date, but I was a bit preoccupied with looking forward to the rescheduled Whippersnapper more.
But then, Open Relationship Guy’s response to my message was so nice, it made me like him a lot more:”Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that. Of course we can. Can’t imagine what a patient death is like, I’m here if you want to talk.”
We re-scheduled for that Monday. We planned to meet in the bookshop of the Royal Festival Hall, then walk along the South Bank and find somewhere nice along the river.
This was before my ex-boyfriend moved out for the month; my ex-boyfriend texted me saying he was going to be home late, because he’d got tickets for a special screening of a film, with a question and answer session with the director.
I had a bad feeling. Could this be somewhere along the South Bank? I texted him back saying “oh cool, err, whereabouts is that being held, out of interest?”
He didn’t reply in time, but I looked online. Just as I feared – the Royal Festival Hall!
I texted O.R. Guy saying ‘for convoluted reasons I’ll explain later, can we meet at Embankment, rather than the Royal Festival Hall?’.
So we did. As soon as we met, I thought he seemed completely different to how I had imagined. I had pictured him to be tall and aloof and slightly acerbic (I’m not sure why, but I don’t think his profile photos were very informative).
But he was the same height as me, warm and not acerbic.
When we were walking to the pub, he asked me a bit more detail about my job. When I answered, he said “oh, I’m on antidepressants”.
I looked at the clock. It was 12 minutes since we had met at Embankment.
That was a new record. For some reason, most of my dates seem to have a section where I have to put my Work Hat on, but before we’d even got the first drinks was a record.
Much later on, we got back on to mental health more generally, and he said “I think everyone should be talking about mental health more, so there isn’t the stigma”.
Damn. He’s right. I was a total bitch for judging him for talking about mental health after 12 minutes. If everyone had his attitude to talking about mental health, things would be so much easier for my patients.
It was just that I didn’t want to talk about it right then. If I went on a date with a mechanic, I’d probably expect them to be fascinated by my recently replaced exhaust. But if you were a mechanic, you could say “actually, I’m sick of hearing about this stuff after the day I’ve had, can we talk about something else?” But with mental health, it can be so difficult and painful to talk about, I feel like I have to do an absolutely top job of listening, whenever it comes up.
Anyway, we went to a pub that was quite busy, but found a free table. We quickly realised it was free because it was in a draught by the door and was absolutely fucking freezing.
We chatted a bit and shivered. We talked about our weekends, and the US election.
Then, a big square table nearby became free. We decided to poach it, to get out the draught. There were an awkward few minutes where we both kept going to sit at different corners of the big table, and then realising and both changing to the opposite corner at the same time, and then changing back. I felt like I spent 20 minutes going “oh, sorry, are you… I’ll come round to your… oh, hang on, oh so you’re coming…, sorry…”.
Quite early on, I felt like there was no spark, but I liked him.
I decided I was peckish so we went to a Pizza Express. Somehow, although the restaurant was pretty quiet, we ended up sitting at a table right next to another lady. As the tables were quite close together, she could hear everything we were saying, and I’m almost certain she was listening.
We ordered our pizzas, and talked about things like books and films we liked.
I went to the toilet, and checked my phone. I had a message from the Whippersnapper. Our rescheduled date was supposed to be the next day.
“God I think I’m flu-ridden. You know when your throat is fiery?”
I fired off a quick reply saying “is this a precursor to you cancelling again?”. It was a bit blunt, but I wanted to know what was happening, was disappointed at the prospect of him cancelling, and I’d had a couple of drinks. I went back to our table.
O.R Guy and I started talking about the pros and cons of different dating apps. We talked about one called Bumble, where the women have to make the first move.
“I’m dating someone at the moment who I met on Bumble”. He said.
Eavesdropping Lady’s ears pricked up. I didn’t expect him not to be dating anyone else, especially as I had a date for the next day, but I also didn’t expect to him to tell me about the other people he was dating. Although, I kind of expected it more than usual, because of the Open Relationship thing. I’d had more of a heads up than Eavesdropping Lady.
“Are you. Ha.” I replied.
A bit later, the conversation moved onto our beliefs about marriage. He said he never wants to get married, and that working freelance means it’s better to be able to move around wherever there’s work, and not be tied down.
“Oh, I’m really desperate to get married!” I replied cheerily.
I think Eavesdropping Lady was on my side about this.
I do want to get married in the next few years, but normally I would tone this down on a date. However, as I knew there wasn’t a spark, I wasn’t too worried about coming across Miss Havisham-like.
At the end of the night, we walked back to the tube and talked about podcasts we liked. We hugged before going our separate ways.
Over the next few weeks, we established via text messages that we both wanted to meet up again, but only as friends.
And we have done. We’ve been to the cinema and then for a drink twice. We chatted about our dates and things. I hope he becomes my Official Cinema Friend.