Dating apps aren’t killing romance – our attitude is

Another day, another person slinging mud at a dating app.

Tinder, giving boring singletons something to wang on about in All Bar One since 2012, has come in for a slating from historian Lucy Worsley, who claims it is removing the romance from our lives.

Citing romantic novels of the past, which as a historian is her right, I guess, she claims true romance lies in the overcoming of obstacles. The “slow exquisite torture” of love and romance in Jane Austen’s novels has been wiped out by Grindr and Tinder, according to Worsley, who has a new series on BBC Four to flog – and yes it’s about romance through the ages.

The torture of romance in Jane Austen’s books may well be slow, but exquisite it was not – I spent one of the most miserable terms of my life picking apart Emma in A-level English literature, praying a character would do something, anything, other than laugh behind their hand or talk like they were reading out a recipe for roasted ptarmigan to a toddler.

It is very easy to blame the progress of technology for all our social ills – TV has been getting in the neck for decades, after all – but the reality is rather different. We may be losing outdated, traditional courting methods, but we are gaining new ones, and it’s bringing people together like never before. 26 million matches a day on Tinder, apparently. Lizzie Bennet wishes, eh?

The funniest part of Lucy Worsley’s dismissal of Tinder and Grindr is her assertion they make it “too easy” to meet people. She has clearly never spent a night on Grindr battling her way through a slew of guys sending unsolicited dick pics or parroting “hey mr x” at anyone who happens to be online.

Easy? She should try wasting hours and hours and hours cultivating a textual romance with the hottie from 0.7km away who, upon turning up to your date, appears to be his own older, uglier, less articulate brother.

No obstacles to overcome? Try spending an entire summer trying to decipher whether NoFunJustLove only being online after 11pm on weeknights means he’s actually married.

We have less time than the moneyed bores of Jane Austen novels who sail in and out of drawing rooms twisting their handkerchieves in their hands, true, so we have to think fast and know what we want. Dating apps let us do that. When looking for the one, isn’t it best to discount those who most certainly are not the one, rather than waste their time, and ours, feigning love and giving false hope? A swipe-left isn’t cruel, it’s a kindness – you’re sending them on their way to something better, someone else.

While these apps might expose us to idiots more easily than we would have before, here’s a hot take: thundering dickheads, sex pests and monosyllabic douches have been around since time immemorial. They didn’t invent them in Grindr HQ.

It’s not just Jane Austen fangirls who blame dating apps for killing romance; you get it from embittered singletons and, bafflingly, from couples who got together with more conventional means.

“Why can’t people meet the old-fashioned way?” they screech. What is the old-fashioned way? A tragic affair with your boss that leads into cohabitation? Strangers staggering out of a bar together and into 18 months of arguments, over-lit selfies and pregnancy scares? Being introduced by friends who want to get you paired up so you don’t embarrass them by drinking too much at their dinner parties?

Traditional means of hooking up are dying out because they are even less of a guarantee things are going to work out. If you’re going to fail, it needs to be fast. Life is short and, my oh  my, look at the time.

We need to call time on blaming tec for our inadequacies and evolve. Grindr can be a threatening, lonely place, yes, but there are so many positives, allowing us to reach out in ways unthinkable even 10 years  ago. A relationship forged on a hookup app has no less legitimacy than eyes meeting across a crowded room.

And, singletons, if you really think the immediacy of a dating app is standing between you and true love, here’s a three-point guide to turning that round:

  1. Get a decent haircut, for crying out loud.
  2. Up your chat game – “hi hows u?” isn’t cutting it anymore. You can do this. Talk like a normal person, show an interest, be kind.
  3. Have a real hard think about whether it’s the app that’s keeping you single, or whether you’re a crybaby with a fuck-awful personality and an inferiority complex. Just a thought.

The online world killing romance? Tell that to the hearts that flutter whenever they get a match from their dream guy. Preach it to the couple who turned a Grindr hookup into a marriage. And last of all, come say it to me – I met my boyfriend on Twitter and I’ve all the hearts and flowers I need for the moment, thank you.

And I didn’t even need to spend an entire novel dreaming of him emerging from a lake in soaking breeches to get them, either.

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Image: Flickr

How to be single in autumn

I love autumn. It may be a cliché to harp on about its colours and the smell of bonfires and the transition from wearing the same old pair of shorts to digging out your favourite cable-knit, but it is my second-favourite season. Spring is first; I’m immune to blue eyes but a sucker for a blue sky.

But autumn is beautiful; there’s no getting away from that.

Winter lashes at you with freezing rain and skies greyer than George Clooney’s hair, summer either burns you half to death or disappoints you by not turning up at all, but autumn dazzles you with its good looks, charm and invitations to social events. Trouble is, you can’t date autumn. The leaves would get everywhere.

In spring and summer, it’s fine to be single. People spend most of their time outside, showing acres of flesh, which naturally facilitates flirtation. There are summer flings, and holiday romances. Parties and get-togethers, sure, but the hotter seasons seem to have a much more relaxed air about them.

It’s the time to hang around in a large group of friends, formal occasions are barely a consideration and, a few bank holidays aside, summer likes to keep it unofficial.

“Turn up when you like”, it says, “we’ll be there all day.”

No milestones, no red letter days, just sunshine, cheap prosecco and a spring in your step. Autumn, however, much like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, works best as a duet. Here’s why:

Loads of birthday parties


Thanks to the preceding generation (and, of course, endless generations before it) enjoying drunken, Christmas, New Year and January sex, there are piles of birthday parties to attend in September.

Attending these alone is no big deal unless you’re cripplingly shy, but the conversation inevitably steers itself toward your search for a significant other, even if you’re not looking that hard.

“And how old are you next birthday? Oh, really? SevenTEEN, eh? Are you hoping to settle down soon?”



Next is Halloween, with its associated parties and fancy dress opportunities. Some couples like to dress up in outfits which complement each other. Whether you think this is bloodcurdlingly twee or really ‘cute’ depends on how bitter, scornful and, in my case, drunk you are. As a lone traveller, your datelessness can stand out a little more.

Sometimes, horror upon horror, there will be a fellow single person there, perhaps in a similar costume to you, and people will assume you’re together.

Or worse, said fellow bachelor will take this as a sign that he should come over and chat you up. You will peer intently into your bright green vodka jelly, hoping it will suddenly come to life and swallow you up whole, while he drones on about his job and the new flat he’s trying to buy.

This flat is always above a Tesco Express and a 27-minute walk from the nearest station. As you’ll find out when you stagger home from it the next day.


As a single person you will, of course, be expected to dress in a ‘sexy’ Halloween costume. You will usually need a decent midriff and thighs of oak. Good luck prepping for those.

Other single people in sexy Halloween costumes are the absolute worst. We all like to be noticed, but it seems the only-child gene really kicks in a week either side of 31 October. A pair of speedos, ghost makeup and vampire fangs do not a costume make, boys.

Try not to walk into oncoming traffic as you watch couples buying pumpkins to carve out together and post on Instagram. I know it’s tempting to run over to them and scream, “I’d love to be hollowing out a pumpkin with someone I love but instead every man I meet hollows out my HEART” – but you’d be killing their vibe.

Bonfire Night


Only a few days after is Bonfire Night, where couples will snuggle round the fire in a friend’s back yard or go en masse to “ooh” and “aah” at the local fireworks display, pausing only to look at each other with a milky-eyed expression, in mutual appreciation of the colossal amount of gunpowder exploding in the air above them.

The nearest you get to an “ooh ahh” is listening to Gina G, drunk, alone, after you get home. And your hair smells like a burnt-out car.

The death-slide to Christmas
Once you hit mid-November, party season is in full swing. The shops are full of Christmas lights and decorations and ‘Gifts for Him’ points-of-sale in Boots, filled with all manner of video boxsets, crap shaving foam and atrocious novelty ties and golfing mugs.

You wander round the high street, slack-jawed and SINGLE, witnessing couples have arguments a throaty staccato whisper in John Lewis, or watch guys panicking over what to buy their other halves. Yes! I’m sure she’d love Homer Simpson cufflinks! Buy them!

And when it comes to gifts, who can forget the thrill of the festive freak-out when the person you’ve been dating for three weeks solemnly hands over a massive Christmas present wrapped in a huge bow, when all you can offer in return is, well, a half-full cup of tepid mulled wine.

Ugh, mulled wine – made from the embittered blood of those who don’t have a date for their work’s Christmas do. Mulled wine at a Christmas market is only really tolerable if you’re sipping it while gazing into the winter-stung face of somebody who fancies you.


Autumn, along with the beginnings of winter, is for couples. To keep warm, you need to move closer. But you can’t move closer to thin air. You have to resort to extra jumpers, hand-warmers, a blankie.

Autumn is for kicking up golden leaves while walking in the park arm-in-arm and adjusting each other’s woolly hats. It’s #instalove.

You shouldn’t be alone. Make haste, then, and line up a temporary diversion to see you through to January, at least. You deserve a full stocking on Christmas Day – and Santa’s busy elsewhere. Next stop: winter boyfriend.

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Image: Flickr

A different, slightly more boring version of this blog appeared on Huffington Post.

What Jackie Collins and The Stud taught me about the world

Following the sad passing of legendary bonkbuster queen Jackie Collins yesterday, you will undoubtedly read millions of pieces by people claiming her books taught them about sex.

It probably sounds over-sentimental, but there’s more than a grain of truth in it. While it would be an overstatement to say jackie Collins taught me everything I know about sex – I consider myself still to be an enthusiastic apprentice – it certainly made me aware there was a whole load of disappointing sex out there waiting for me.

People who haven’t read Jackie Collins would wrongly assume that her books were full of glamorous, amazing shagging. It’s true that most of Jackie’s leading men and heroines are impossibly beautiful, but they tend to be dreadful in bed. Jackie Collins’ characters exist in a world where sex is usually fuelled by drugs, booze, revenge, boredom, money, power and ambition, but the bonking is almost universally terrible.

The best example of this would be the first Jackie Collins book I remember reading, aged 15, and my standout favourite, The Stud. I have moved house hundreds of times and have chucked out classics and heirlooms, but I have never let go of my battered ’80s copy of The Stud.


With a title like that, you’d think the lead character, Tony Blake, would be a masterful stallion, a demon in the sack but, in fact, Tony takes quantity over quality.

The handsome, strutting nightclub manager almost never sleeps alone – he doesn’t really sleep that often – and to hear him talk, he sounds a regular stud-muffin. Yuk. Thanks to Jackie’s wonderful storytelling, however, we learn Tony is actually “a bore” and a “terrible lay”. For The Stud is not just Tony’s story; it also belongs to Fontaine Khaled, a super-rich bitch who owns Tony’s nightclub and is banging him behind her tycoon husband’s back, plus her stepdaughter Alexandra, a truly clueless Sloane who uses Tony to make her friend’s dreary brother jealous.

What’s great about The Stud is none of the characters are remotely likeable, and are all fantastically deluded and unreliable narrators, which, of course, is my very favourite kind of storyteller.

The sex throughout is nothing short of grim. The most ‘exciting’ it gets is Fontaine bonking Tony in a lift, but even then she’s only doing it so she can film it, brag and show it to her awful friends – all of whom Tony is also shagging.

Alexandra has to fight off a drugged-up party animal who tries to rape her – and, as I recall, the man of her dreams turns out to be a crashing bore and a premature ejaculator.

Fontaine tires quickly of our hero, the ‘bit of rough’ novelty wearing off. There is a brilliant line when Fontaine watches Tony come through customs that’s influenced every luggage purchase I have made: “He has a cheap suitcase—nothing worse, a give-away immediately.”

Poor Tony grows to loathe Fontaine and not only tries to rip her off but soon turns his attention to demure Alexandra, stupidly falling in love with her. Alexandra doesn’t stay prissy for long and soon becomes a slightly less ghastly version of her wicked stepmother – dismissing Tony as nothing more than a bit of fun.

To say The Stud was “of its time” would be an understatement: creepy, peripheral characters dabble with underage girls – the book was published in 1969, long before Operation Yewtree – Tony talks like the very worst kind of clueless hipster and it’s quite routine for women to be groped or treated like shit.

What Jackie Collins always did brilliantly was paint a picture of glamour and perfection and lead us to covet our characters’ lifestyles and riches, only to carefully and calculatedly deconstruct it, ruining it for us and them. The Stud is her most masterful example. Using the three narrators, she picks apart their bravado, dreams, ambitions and supposed intellect, revealing them all – and all of us, of course – to be pathetic, miserable and doomed to failure.

In The Stud, Jackie’s characters learn that cash, champagne, dancing and shagging can bring us only temporary happiness, and you can’t make someone love you. A life lesson for us all. Read it, and remember the fragility of everything around us.

And thanks to Jackie, I became determined never to be a lousy lay like hapless Tony, selfish Fontaine, dim Alexandra or the supporting cast of lecherous and terrible shags.

Did I manage it? Well, you’d have to ask some other narrators. And even then, I wouldn’t believe a word they say. Jackie taught me that.


I loved this image so much, I had it put on a T-shirt
I loved this image so much, I had it put on a T-shirt
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17 things more annoying than selfie sticks

I don’t mind selfie sticks. I think they get a bad rap. It’s so drearily predictable people would moan about them, too, isn’t it? I heard someone the other day say that selfie sticks were “end of civilisation as we know it”. Not the refugee crisis, or war, or transphobia or Hollyoaks, but selfie sticks.

Even Brooklyn Beckham – whose every word I hang on, believe me – has come out against them in his iconic guide to Instagram that had my eyes rolling so hard they played the tune to his mum’s opus Not Such An Innocent Girl.

Why we can’t get our heads round the fact people want to take photos that include themselves is a mystery to me. It’s a stick. It’s no different from a delay-timer on a camera or using a tripod. Why shouldn’t you be in your own photos? Nobody else is going to take pictures of you.

Last week I went to a social gathering and was asked if I could take a group shot. I had to stand on a chair to get everyone in. I looked and felt stupid, and everyone could see up my T-shirt. And then someone arrived with a selfie stick and everybody had loads of fun posing and frolicking with people they’ve never shared a photo with before.

We devote a lot of energy to moaning about selfie sticks and the people who use them, and we need to divert this passion somewhere else. There are so many more deserving recipients of our ire and derision.

Here are just a few:

1. Loud people on coke
We’ve all sat in a bar at the next table to those awful, loud people on coke. They think they are hilarious, that they’re being oh-so-sneaky trundling off to the bogs every two minutes. Most of us have probably even been those people.

Congratulations on being ripped off and a big well done on your substandard class A drugs and bravo for becoming even more boring than you were before you rammed that glorious 75% glucose crap up your nose. Please pipe down. And stop saying “beerage”.


2. People saying, “I’m mad me”

3. That date who’s just gone gluten-free and wants to tell you how bad bread is for you
Usually while you’re about to jam a big chunk of pain de levain in your gob.

4. People who say, “Westminister”

5. Metrospreading
The trouble with manspreading was its restriction to men. Women, and other men who sit like normal people, understandably felt left out. Hooray, then, for Metrospreading, the antisocial commuting pastime that dickheads of any gender can enjoy!

To take part, simply get on public transport – preferably at the busiest time of the day – brandishing a newspaper. It doesn’t have to be the Metro but they’re oh so handy. Then, once packed in nice and tight or parked on the last seat on the train, open said Metro as wiiiiiiiide as you can. Extra points if it touches the face or arm of the person next to you.

Don’t apologise; it spoils the moment. If you’re extra sadistic, cast the odd Lady Di glance over at your neighbour and watch in glee as his or her face contorts in simmering rage and soul-crushing powerlessness.

You. Absolute. Bastard.


6. Wandering around Borough Market with a glass of prosecco in your hand, gushing at the free samples of chilli chorizo…
…yet sneering at young people drinking blue WKD in the street. You are the same.

Your drink may be in a tall glass and have come at an outrageous price, but you’re just as much a street drinker as they are, baby. You’re not cool. You’re just hopelessly upper-middle class.

7. People who haggle over bills in a restaurant because they “didn’t have a starter”
However, even worse, by a country mile, are…

8. The people who fill their faces with the most expensive things on the menu and drink vats of wine knowing the bill will be evenly split at the end of the meal

9. People who think Madonna is too old and should “give it up” yet got misty-eyed about the Queen being old and still working


10. People visiting London for the weekend
who say things like, “Oh I could never live here” and “It’s just too busy; too much going on”. Please allow me to pay for your Uber to a train station or airport of your choosing.

11. Sam Smith

Source: GQ
Source: GQ

12. People who don’t know how to use self-checkouts but insist on using them anyway
It’s OK if you don’t get how they work, or understand there’s a process you simply must follow to avoid everything going horrifically, cataclysmically wrong. Tec, it’s not for everyone.

But to wilfully queue at them, confident “this time” is the one, when you’ll crack it – even though you know you’ll have to get the assistant to scan everything for you, while the rest of the queue wishes you were dead – is evil, frankly.

Even the ignominy of having to call over the assistant for the sixth time, as the machine bleats “Please place the item in the bagging area” at ear-crushing decibels, doesn’t stop them.

Ban. This. Filth.

13. Living statues
There is a man on the south bank who paints his face to look like a pug and then sits in a box all day and expects you to throw money at him.

14. Paying for a huge round of drinks, separately
“Yes, so it’s the gin and tonic on this card, and the craft ale on this one, and I’ve got cash for the pornstar martini.”

I’m thirsty. What the hell is your damage?

15. That posh pronunciation of “negotiate” that has what sounds like an “s” in the middle

16. The champagne bar in Westfield, White City
Can you imagine Alexis Carrington pulling up a pew in this joyless collection of worktops amid vague promises of canapés and enquiring about the vintage Krug?

No, of course you can’t. You should never drink champagne any way, or anywhere, Alexis wouldn’t.


17. Dishes of salt and pepper on restaurant tables instead of proper mills or shakers
I know this is an aesthetic thing or urban or rustic or whatever, but those dishes of salt where you have to put your fingers in, grab a few rocks of salt then sprinkle them over your food are disgusting .

Do you know how many people there are out there who don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet? Or pick their nose and EAT it? Fucktonnes, that’s how many. And they all sat at your table before you. I can’t believe we haven’t taken to the streets over this issue.

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Image: Flickr

Sam Stanley’s coming out is a victory for us all

Another sporting star came out at the weekend. How good it feels to say that almost mundanely, like I’m reading out cricket scores or recounting a chicken-pox outbreak at the local nursery.

The fact is, of course, that Rugby Union star Sam Stanley’s decision to come out in an interview with the Sunday Times is anything but mundane. Coming as it did just a fortnight after the coming out of another rugby player Keegan Hirst, you could be forgiven for thinking this was no big deal, but if anything, Sam’s decision to tear up his Narnia passport is even more compelling.

It’s clear that, like Keegan, England Sevens player Stanley has been trying to come to terms with his sexuality for years. Hirst married and had a child while he wrestled with his glittery demons, while Stanley went for a different kind of repression – he had a gay relationship, but never told anyone about it. Even though, in a way, it was in plain sight.

His big reveal may have come this weekend, but Stanley has been carefully peeling off the layers for all to see for some time, via his Instagram. While it’s not exactly a surprise that nobody noticed – social media is, after all, about looking back at your own posts and interacting with only a few others, no matter what people might tell you – Sam’s relationship made barely a ripple until he himself decided it was time to come clean and put it in black and white.

And yet the most refreshing part of Stanley’s coming out is not that he’s shaking the mainstream by its shoulders and changing its perceptions of both sportsmen and gay men, oh no. It’s his boyfriend. Sam Stanley is eschewing the doe-eyed, lithe youngsters who would no doubt sleep on a bed of nails to do his bidding and has, instead, fallen in love with Laurence, a friendly looking, older man who may not be able to drop and give you twenty but would certainly stand by and applaud gently while you did.

La spiaggia 🇮🇹☀️❤️👬 @lorenzo_uk

A photo posted by Sam Stanley (@samstannerz) on


When Tom Daley set up his camera, plonked himself on his Union Jack cushions and told the world he liked boys too, there was a powerful tsunami of goodwill. Fast forward a few newspaper headlines, however, and the revelation that Tom Daley was not puckering up for a fellow 21-year-old but instead a buff, experienced film director almost two decades his senior and, from certain quarters, the warmth quickly evaporated.

Coming out alone wasn’t enough – the Olympic bronze medallist had to live up to the gay fantasy too, and scores of young men in their early to mid twenties – and beyond, let’s face it – were outraged that not only had Tom gone and worked all this out for himself, he’d gone off and done a bunk with someone old enough to be his gymslip dad.

Dustin Lance Black, of course, may have had the undesirable advanced years, but he did at least have the six-pack and buns of steel – not to mention other attributes he may or may not have displayed in some unfortunate photos doing the rounds of the internet. Sam’s domestic setup, however, is a glimpse at the real face of gay relationships.

It’s not uncommon for younger guys to seek out the comfort and experience of a couple of generations up when they first come out, whether socially or physically. Many dismiss it as sleazy but age is just a number and, when it comes to coming out, we all start at zero – no matter how far along our personal timelines we are.

Isn’t it somehow reassuring that the rugby union centre has foregone the Instagram-ready cliché of dating his own reflection, a matching pair to cause ripples of excitement wherever they go on the gay circuit or to stay in and spend nights in front of the fire counting each other’s abs?

Instead he’s got himself a man who’s been though his own journey – Laurence himself was married and had children before coming out – and hasn’t spent his entire life deep-throating protein shakes and seems all the more comfortable in his own skin for it.

Sam and Laurence go on holiday together, attend Bette Midler concerts together, go out and have a good time, and they look hopelessly, beautifully in love.

Those in glee at Sam’s coming out hope it will spur on more sportsmen to be role models and vacate the closet for good, and while that wouldn’t be a bad thing, my main hope for this is that we remember gay relationships come in all shapes, sizes and ages. It may be longer than a fortnight before we coax another rugby player out to boogie underneath the glitterball, but if we can grant a bit more visibility to our older and – dare I say it – cuddlier gay brothers then Sam’s struggle will not have been in vain.

Sam Stanley’s big reveal isn’t just a victory for closeted sportsmen or gay men hungry for a masculine, ‘everyday Joe’ role model. It’s a sweet win for those of us gay men who feel a little pushed aside by the chiselled cheekbones, jutting hips and oh-so-smooth complexions of your average gay bar – sometimes those of us with a few more miles on the clock get the guy. Dreams don’t belong to the young after all.

So, youngsters, don’t howl at the moon that your magic youth couldn’t snare you a strapping lad like Sam – feel cheered that one day, if you’re extra lucky, you might actually get your hands on a Laurence.

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Image: Ealing Trailfinders

I’m with stupid

At school, aside from all the usual tribes and factions and ‘cool kids’, there were two distinct groups you had to belong to, and you didn’t get to pick which. You were either “thick” or “brainy” and there wasn’t really much in between.

Be declared a thicko, and over a decade of jeering, patronising and belming awaited you. Usually, once you left school to go and do whatever your intellect had allowed – be it university or a job or unemployment or, in the case of many thickos from my school, parenthood – this would fall away and you could be left in your own little world. Your perceived lack of intelligence could, unless you were particularly unlucky or had the kind of drunk, hectoring relatives who ruin Christmas, remain hidden.

Until social media.

Oh, God, we blame social media for everything now, don’t we? From our children not talking to us, to people being murdered, via clumsy, dimwitted racism and sexism. We have never been more aware of the idiocy that surrounds us – apart from our own.

People we would never associate with in real life are suddenly front-and-centre and all up in our grills with their lame anecdotes, ancient memes and dreary inspirational psycho-babble. And, of course, flaunting their literacy, or lack thereof, all over our timelines.

Thankfully, for those of us who never got the chance to sit at the back of the school bus, screenshotting has allowed us all to taste that superiority. Screen-grabbing does have its uses when it comes to highlighting sexism or racism or other deplorable antisocial behaviours – and when these happen to you, these are your stories to tell and you have a right to share them. Nobody gets to write your autobiography but you.

When we’re taking screen grabs and calling out people’s bad grammar or spelling in their status updates and having a good old chuckle, however, we’re regressing to the playground.

I was really disappointed, then, that BuzzFeed joined the jeering throngs with this piece entitled 28 Pictures That Will Destroy Your Faith in Education, which showed screengrabs of Facebook status updates and tweets from people whose grasp of grammar and spelling was certainly less than stellar.

I get that the piece was merely aggregating content freely available elsewhere, but it felt like a misfire from  one of the fastest growing, and most influential, content organisations in the digital arena, making some big-name hires from some of the most respected newspaper and media outlets in the world. A step backwards into the “old” internet.

The headings are pretty grim. “This genius.” “This intellectual.” And if you break the oldest rule of the web and actually read the comments beneath it, you will see a massive pile-on, hordes of brainiacs eager to laugh at the dummies. Ironically, there are plenty of spelling mistakes strewn across them.

We’re tackling sexism and racism and fat-shaming and camp-shaming and calling out perpetrators in tweets and a gazillion think-pieces, but making fun of those with a lower level of literacy is, it would seem, still OK.

I don’t agree. There are lots of different reasons why someone may not have the same spelling smarts as you – lack of opportunity, dyslexia, difficult upbringing, or maybe just a general lack of brightness. Not being clever is something few people can actually change, and the education system can fail even the sharpest knives in the drawer.

Plus, is there anyone more boring and depressing than a self-appointed ‘grammar Nazi’? Wielding the red pen of justice and joylessness, their motto “I think you’ll find…” and a fuck-tonne of wearisome old “you’re/your” pedantry  etched on their ice-cold heart?

Congratulations! You can spell! You can string a sentence together! How about you use this intellect for something helpful and interesting rather than kicking a dog that is certainly already down?

Have I done this myself? Have I judged people on their ability to rack out the ABCs rather than what they’re like as a person? Definitely. And I am ashamed. Mortified.

It reminds me of years ago, when I was a haughty, self-important 21-year-old, I proclaimed I didn’t “suffer fools gladly”. My dad, who was with me at the time, looked at me, disappointed, and reminded me gently: “Have you  never been a fool? Can you honestly say you haven’t done anything foolish?”

I felt chastened, rightly.

Ripping a person to shreds because their IQ isn’t as stratospheric as yours? That truly is the dumbest of the dumb – and that’s what “destroys my faith in education”, not a misspelled status update.

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Image: Flickr

How to be “the boy”

You can’t move on social media or in an airport novel for mentions of “the boy”, that mythical perfect boyfriend who gets their partner’s eyes and tweets all a-flutter.

“Meeting the boy for drinks later,” they coo, as they skip down to whichever chichi future-dive their beau is sitting in, batting his sweet little eyes at the rest of the clientele.

But who is The Boy? How do you get to be one? What does he do? Much like the “Cool Girl”, “The Boy” is a fantasy of perfection.

In my head, The Boy is not the reality: an amiable, farting beard machine who clogs up the plughole, always makes you reach for the tissues and has never heard of a courtesy flush. The Boy for me is a handsome, slightly malevolent, and somewhat enthusiastically dull yet louche character like Dickie Greenleaf from The Talented Mr Ripley. Do you have one? Are you The Boy?

Behold The Boy checklist:

His nipples align perfectly. His skin is soft and shines only with youth and brilliance, not oil. There are one or two blemishes – perhaps a chicken pox scar or a dinky mole, but the faults are few and far between.

When he beckons, you come.


Perpetually 27, his Sundays are Instagram-ready hours of lazy brunches, huge roasts served on slabs of slate in that pub in East London – the one from Time Out 7 months ago. Mocktails!

Nobody is every quite sure what he does, but his job at least sounds good on LinkedIn. It involves vague transatlantic travelling, using the word “synergy” in meetings,  and lots of Uber rides. The Boy has a perfectly curated playlist just waiting to go as soon as he bounds into the car and, needless to say, he has a 4.9 star rating.


He always gets upgraded from economy and buys his cleaner a birthday and Christmas present. Even though he’s never met them.

He drinks, but not to excess, and looks down on drug use, save for a few dabs of overpriced cocaine at New Year or on his birthday. His body is indeed that temple you hear so much about, but he’s not averse to a crafty, slightly drunken cigarette with his gal pals. To show he’s not a committed smoker, he holds his fag awkwardly and giggles with every puff.


His parents live in the house he grew up in, which they own, and he dutifully visits them at least once a quarter, spending weekends petting and photographing the family dog. The Boy’s parents fell out of love at least a decade ago but are staying together for “the children” – they do so hate to see The Boy cry. He has at least one slightly less attractive, earthy sibling, who’s very proud of him and doesn’t even have the wit or the brains to good-naturedly resent him.

He’s on good terms with all his exes, save for the one who broke his heart when he was 19. It gives him a malicious pleasure he will never admit to hear that this ex has hit the skids and gained ten pounds.


He accepts all your gifts with good grace, even when you bought the wrong thing. He shoos away your compliments but is secretly disappointed if you don’t toss an accolade his way before every meal.

He has a cabal of close friends – all awful, but they make him look better – who send him inspirational texts and tweets telling how amazing he is. They like all his posts on Instagram, even if they’re really boring. You want The Boy to know you like him, so that he likes you back. But he will only like you back – he never likes you unrequitedly. He posts Vines and memes, all pretty derivative but posted just about early enough so he can get the credit for them going viral. He nicks them from Reddit.

His flat, a new build next to a river, glistens with spendy kitchen appliances and ice-cold fashionable flooring. He purposefully leaves fingerprints on the glass of his balcony just to make sure the cleaner really earns those birthday gifts. He has toyed with the idea of having sex on this balcony but can’t work out where the best place for his iPhone would be. He’d want to film it, of course.

He has sex, knows all the moves, but is never, ever sexy. His underpants may as well be full of cardboard. He’s loud when he comes.


In the bedroom, candles and rope lights glimmer and the white walls and selfie-ready bedlinen make it impossible to see the join. He steams all his vegetables but has a weakness for ridiculous ironic junk food like deep fried hot dogs. He will allow himself one of these aberrations a week and do 200 extra squats in the gym.

He has a personal trainer, who told him on their third session he had no idea he was gay. The Boy was elated.

But here’s the thing:

I fucked The Boy. He’s a lousy lay.

You’re welcome to him.

More like this:
7 online dating liars we all meet eventually
How to live alone
The Hot Mess
The Stranger on the Train

Image: Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection.


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