The older I get, the more nostalgic I become. I don’t particularly yearn to be back there, but I am still fascinated how things felt, and how I reacted, playing scenarios over and over again in my head.
A Tumblr called Last Message Received has set me off wandering through the dimly lit rooms of my own story once again. It’s a sometimes heartbreaking look at the last time people receive contact from a special someone.
Text messaging was a huge part of my dating life. It was the next step after initial interest on a dating site, and it was where you’d really get to know who you might be meeting. Reading through them – and having to do some serious guesswork as to who they were as I’d deleted many from my contacts – I was surprised by how many fizzled out before we’d even met. Voices sound different once they’re released from the confines of a pink and fluffy dating site – that people pay for – and into the realm of the phone screen. Boys give themselves away when they’re chatting for free.
I’ve been wading through my own messages recently – my iPhone is groaning under the weight of them because I refuse to delete any. I’m reluctant to get rid; they tell a story I can barely remember.
Sometimes the texting would go on for weeks before we met, building up impossible pictures in each other’s minds about who might be doing the typing. I’m a boring old virgin at heart so there was very little sexting, and I have never ever sent a dick pic.
All that time spent – or wasted – on flirtation, carefully constructed jokes and an optimistic ‘xx’ at the end of a text, only for all that beautiful groundwork to be undone as soon as we laid eyes on each other.
It was fascinating to see how conversations would suddenly end, usually with a text sent moments before we ruined everything by actually showing up:
He was. He was in the bookshop. When he came out of the bookshop, he was dressed like Doctor Who mid-regeneration and was five years older than his worst profile pic. I lasted about an hour of his stories and berating of my profession before meekly mentioning I had a deadline and had to leave. We never even exchanged a “Thanks for a lovely evening”. It all ended with a “yo” . From a bookshop.
A rare occasion where I was left hanging. We had met twice. The first time I took him to the Joiners (RIP) and got him drunk until he asked whether he could come home with me – then I said no. On the second date, a prized Saturday evening, no less, he *did* come home with me. He was a lazy kisser who didn’t like doing it with tongues. He was very handsome, though, and different from other guys I’d met, so I persisted. In the above text, I’m pretending I’m interested in a presentation he is working on, to a tight deadline. The conversation that comes before it is pathetic. I knew we were done when he stopped putting “x” at the end of his messages.
I wonder how his presentation went. Hope he belched on the second word and crapped himself.
I was. I had been for a while. I’d been looking at him across a crowded courtyard, disturbed by how different he’d looked in his photos. He was a teacher, and was funny over email. His photographs were filtered, however, and he reeked of cigarette smoke. If this seems unfair, he didn’t seem too thrilled with me either. There was zero chemistry and we sat having expensive drinks in an east London hovel like two pieces of cardboard waiting to be put out into the recycling bin. After two agonising rounds, we made our excuses – can’t even remember what mine was – and hopped it. And never heard a peep from each other again.
He was 21 and gave great photo. I was 35 and in need of an ego boost and very possibly a shag. I got neither. He was in turns sweet and ludicrously precocious. I fancied the idea of a night with someone young enough to remember Opal Fruits only as Starburst, but it became obvious very quickly I wasn’t the only one fetishising the evening. He had a thing for daddies and I certainly felt a little too short in the tooth for parenthood. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so we even went for dinner, where he ate with all the grace of a warthog at a pig’s wedding. I deleted his number on the bus home.
I was walking in, wondering whether I should walk out. It was just round the corner from my flat, and we had actually met on Grindr, where I explained, as sexily as Jane Austen reorganising her sock drawer, that I didn’t do “hookups”. This was a lie, of course – we all hook up for the right guy. He was taken in by this and agreed to meet on a date. I quickly realised he wasn’t for me when he started talking about people on benefits. The spear in the side of the evening came when I went to the loo and, distracted by a text from a friend asking how the evening was going, urinated down my leg, soaking my jeans.
He walked me to my door and tried to kiss me. I turned my head the other way and it was even more mortifying than this:
No further messages.
A second date. Another folly, chasing my youth. In his mid-twenties, this guy had surprised me on our first meeting by telling me, as I sipped a pint and a girl sat next to us doing lines of coke off her hand, that he wanted to rip all my clothes off right there and then. We made it at least to his nearby flat before I obliged, where we indulged in a night of whatever, in which he was touchingly, but not disappointingly, inexperienced.
We breakfasted together the next day and things looked hopeful enough for a second date. We met on a hot day in a busy pub after work; he was not at his best. I still had a few more tricks I wanted to teach him however, so persevered and went for dinner. This turned out to be a huge disaster – I found a plastic bag in my pie and he was annoyed that I wanted to complain. Like, really annoyed.
I knew my time was up when he gave me a taste of my own medicine: he invented a deadline and swept right out of my life – and out of my phone – for ever.