I didn’t think I’d return to Tinder, but living in a remote village and being quite the recluse, meeting men offline isn’t easy. I’ve been single since breaking up with my ex in August 2022 and have been feeling starved of touch. I’ve been hungering for hugs, kisses and sex, hand-holding, hair stroking and shoulder rubbing.
So I paid my way (fun fact: did you know the older you get, the more you have to pay to be on Tinder?) and hoped I’d find someone just as eccentric as me. It was disappointing but not wholly surprising that there weren’t many I could identify with. A lot of gamers, a lot of men obsessed with trainers, a lot of heavy drinkers. But one (of two) seemed great from the onset.
He looked like a Swedish architect and had a spectacular selection of spectacles. He loved knitwear and walking and reading. He used proper English, didn’t abbreviate, and actively disliked emojis. He sent me photographs of himself in front of a bookcase. SWOON. He was hilarious, intelligent, and compassionate, and the banter was some of the best I’ve ever had.
We texted and talked on the phone over the two weeks before we met up, and I laughed and smiled almost that entire time. He ate up hours of my time, and I loved it. I didn’t go to Tinder looking for a relationship, but I found myself thinking, ‘what if….’
A few days before, I sent a message that said, ‘only two sleeps before you regret swiping right!’ I have to laugh bitterly now at how accurately I foretold his experience meeting me.
Anyway, he came to my village yesterday. The initial introduction was a bit awkward because I was dressed for going out walking, i.e. not sexily, and he was so real and handsome, and his glasses, hair, and smile looked even more gorgeous in real life. It was sort of reversed sex Esmeralda and Quasimodo type situation. I felt somewhat grotesque.
I hurried him outside and, as planned, we went out walking. I showed him the special, secret places I’d discovered on my wanders. I pointed out the trees and boulders and views I loved. I walked relatively quickly, quicker than usual, probably because I was nervous and joyous and was worried that if I paused long enough to look into his face, he would see how I was actually not very pretty at all and not like my photos where I capture my best angles. But I was also eager to show him as much as I could of my little moorland kingdom before the sun holed up for the night.
The banter we tossed back and forth was amusing and light-hearted. I thought it was going ok. I was having fun. We then went for a drink at the pub, then back to mine for a snack before we would head back to the pub for dinner or so I thought. I was tired. I hadn’t slept much in the preceding nights. I’d been cleaning the house, readying myself, thinking about how things would go and finishing work so I could have the day without worrying.
Talk meandered into mental health and became, admittedly, a little dark. I may have been somewhat slumped in my seat, but he sat upright and therapist-like in the chair opposite, which he said reminded him of something you’d see at a nursing home or a hospital waiting room. It was hurtful, but I answered that it was actually a typical Scandinavian style, and I liked it. I figured it was because the playful teasing I’d been subjecting him to wasn’t as funny in real life, and I needed to be ‘bitten back’ or something.
Being the observant see-all fuck that I am, I caught him fingering his watch through his jumper. I could tell he was eager to get off. I’d asked him earlier if he was staying the night. He hadn’t given me a clear answer then, but now he said he wouldn’t stay, and I felt a little nauseous.
A few days ago, full of the joys of ‘what if this brilliant man is my soul mate,’ I’d bought new bedding. I should have keyed on earlier that he wasn’t interested when I showed him my bedroom, and he was hasty to get out of there. I probably did and just shook the idea away. I asked him if he wanted to leave. He replied that he wasn’t ‘itching to get out of the door.’ Not long after, he said he would go to the toilet and then go home.
I was mortified and wondered at what point he realised he did NOT like me. I’m putting my bets on that it was when I first opened the front door. I unfolded myself from the chair and took the empty cups to the kitchen to wash up. When he returned from the toilet, I said, ‘you don’t fancy me then?’ I received a pained look in response, which was significantly worse than if he said, ‘no, I don’t.’ He said, ‘it wasn’t what he expected….’ He spoke more words, but I didn’t fully register them, too preoccupied with dabbing my eyes with kitchen roll and saying in a broken voice, ‘I get it, I get it, I do.’
I said, ‘thank you for coming.’ I think he said, ‘thank you for having me,’ I can’t quite be sure. Then he left. My sister and I were analysing the situation this afternoon over messenger. When I told her about me saying ‘you don’t fancy me,’ and the pained expression on his face, she said, ‘Yeah, he obviously wasn’t expecting you to actually say what he was thinking. And then he thought, it’s awkward now, so I’m going to go.’ In hindsight, I wish that I’d said straight out WITH A SMILE and NO TEARS, ‘I’m an acquired taste.’
After he left, I stood in the kitchen, holding onto the worktop for support for about fifteen minutes, reliving the day through my head in minute detail and trying to pick up where everything had started to go wrong. I migrated to the living room, curled up in a foetal position on the two-person armchair I’d bought before I left my ex, and stared at the empty chair opposite me. I’d had the chair delivered just a day previously because I was embarrassed about how lonely my living room looked. I stared for twenty minutes, not thinking much, and then I went over what might have been wrong with me.
The first thought that came into my head was that he thought, ‘I can do better.’ His previous girlfriend had been a willowy five-foot-ten blonde who looked just as good without makeup as with. I’m five foot four, have black hair, am always asked if I’m ill when I wear makeup and when I don’t. I’m more Orc than Galadriel. Then the thoughts came in from all directions: I’m not the sort of woman he’d want to introduce to his friends or family. My hair is too flat. My face is too round. My eyes are too wide apart. My arse is not prominent enough. My eyebrows aren’t preened. My hairline is too far back. My makeup is not adequately applied. I’m too scatty and not-put-together, and I’m a terrible listener and inconsiderate and selfish and don’t dole out enough compliments. He was probably scared when I said about the chromosome deletion and my previous history of OCD and anorexia and my diagnosis of bipolar, PTSD and, of course, the unstable relationship with my own appearance. I’m too needy with my space. Not touchy-feely enough (though I wanted to be.) Was it that I was just really, really annoying?
I spent the rest of the evening staring at the floor or the wall going over and over all the possible things that might have been wrong with me. Maybe it was the deer leg hanging on the wall, which he thought was cool in theory, but in reality, it was just too weird for his taste. Or it could be my goat skull candle holder for the same reason. This intense scrutinisation of myself may not have happened had I not had several interactions with men over the past several months for whom I haven’t been enough. I’ve been made to feel like something men want to either shy from or keep as a (shameful?) secret.
My self-esteem has been brutalised over the past decade by relationships plagued with lies. Partners who’ve said, ‘you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen’ and then have gone on to cheat. Partners who’ve told me they prefer it when I’m quiet. Partners who’ve hidden me from their friends and made me feel like a ghost in the relationship. There’s nothing quite so soul-destroying as being made to feel like you don’t exist by someone you love.
So people who breezily tell me, ‘you shouldn’t let them get to you,’ need to recognise what I’ve been faced with and how it’s worn me the fuck down, to the point I find it hard to look most people in the eye anymore.
I read the poem Rollie McKenna Photographs Elizabeth Bishop today, and the first line was a punch in the face because I identified so fully: ‘She was a difficult subject. Hated her own image.’
Yesterday was wounding. I felt, at the time, that I should have apologised for being a disappointment and not what he ‘expected.’
I’d considered cutting out carbohydrates in the week before he came so that my face wouldn’t look so round. Then I reconsidered because I genuinely thought, ‘this bloke isn’t shallow, and I think he likes the way I look.’ So I ate lasagne, bread, and fruit cake without worry. I don’t like writing this. I don’t like writing about how much I struggle to accept the skin I’m in, but it’s the truth, and I’ve been writing my truth online, albeit sporadically, since 2004. It would be foolish to stop now.
I’ve just got back from my neighbour’s house. He invited me round for tea. When I got there, he asked if I wanted a biscuit. I’ve been declining recently, but today I said, ‘can I please have some shortbread? I need it.’ He handed me the biscuit tin.
We dissected what happened, and he told me not to blame myself and that it was better to find out straight away than further down the line, which it was. The last thing I said about it all was that I was somewhat irritated that he hadn’t taken his shoes off, which I was brought up to do when you enter anyone’s home. Or at least say, ‘should I take my shoes off?’ I said I didn’t say anything to him because I liked him, and maybe where he comes from (forty miles away), it’s not tradition to remove shoes before entering a home.
Anyway, I’m in bed now with a blanket, tea, a hot water bottle and some white chocolate coins I initially bought for Saga. The heating has been on pretty much since I woke up at 11am. I haven’t brushed my teeth or washed my face today, and I don’t care. Tomorrow I’m going back to finishing the book I’m writing.
I feel brave for inviting this person into my life and opening myself, my home, and my world to them. I’m not to blame that it all left a sour taste in their mouth. I gave him a moose tooth keying when he first arrived and said with a laugh, ‘if you never see me again after this, you’ll always have this and remember the weird woman you met!’ I’ve had a tradition of giving moose teeth to people I like and who inspire me. I do wish I hadn’t handed it over.
Tinder has gone now. He and I joked that I’d complain to Tinder if the date didn’t go well or if I didn’t get enough orgasms. Ha. I regret setting up a new account and spending £27 that could have been spent on books. If a man comes into my life, he comes. If he doesn’t, I’ve got plenty of books to read, words to write, hikes to have, photos to take, friends to love, and a daughter to dote on to see me through.
3 thoughts on “Thank You For Coming – The Anatomy Of A Date Gone Wrong”
Your writing has the kind of beauty that only comes from writing directly from life and especially from telling about and acknowledging the broken things of life. My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains…
This makes me very sad. And he has no taste, ’cause I think you’re great. May fate be kinder to you for the rest of the year.
Thank you my friend. ❤