Dating 101

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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