Tag Archives: home solo

The post-breakup bachelor pad survival kit

So you’ve broken up, you’ve packed and unpacked boxes and now find yourself standing in the middle of your one-bedroom flat – or studio if you’re very unlucky – single, alone, solo. And solely responsible for the Council tax bill.

You can survive this, of course. All you need to get through it are a few essentials that will make your time in your bachelor pad – or bachelorette pad, of course – bearable

1. White bed linen
Not only will white sheets make your no doubt pokey bedroom look lighter and larger, glistening brilliant-white sheets are a singleton staple.

They’re your studio for all those #hungover selfies or Grindr/Tinder profile shots you’ll be snapping when you’re feeling super-desperate, plus when you bring someone back to your flat for an awkward fumbling, white sheets reassure them that the bed has a good chance of being semi-clean, as they need to be changed pretty regularly.

Patterned duvets – especially ‘achingly lonely single man’-style geometric shapes on a dark background – simply scream “this man is a stranger to Persil”, as they can hide a multitude of sins. If you’re quite slovenly, just cover your questionable whites with a nice throw. Continue reading The post-breakup bachelor pad survival kit


The Charm Offensive

I am 24 and at a friend’s flat. She is having a party. Well, I say party – the lounge is full of people, there are bottles of vodka and dubious mixers on the kitchen table and there is a queue for the toilet. It’s as close to a party as we’re going to get this evening.

I am a different animal as a 24-year-old. I’ve yet to endure all the various, turbulent life experiences that will teach me to be kinder, more humble, accommodating, friendly – all that shit.

Instead I am almost a quarter of a century of awkwardness, curiosity and sugar-topped vitriol masquerading as confidence. A familiar tale to many, I’m sure.

I’ve not been out of the closet long – I’m still working out what to do with my wonky wiring and feelings that I’m now allowed to have. And I get super-nervous around other gay men.

As I pour myself a really large gin and tonic, alone, my friend glides into the kitchen and says: “Claire’s friend Matt is here. He’s gay, but a bit weird. Watch out for him.”

I thank her for – well, warning me, I guess – and pour an extra shot of gin into my glass, sending the contents splashing all over the table. 38-year-old me would get a cloth and wipe it up, but time machines aren’t a thing yet and so 24-year-old me vaguely waggles some kitchen roll in the spillage’s direction and strides out to the lounge to witness this weirdo for myself.

I spy him immediately. He is kind of good-looking, despite being dressed in clothes you would describe unfortunate at best. He throws his head back in laughter at something the guy he’s with is saying.

I have met the other guy before and know for a fact his banter is up there with a night in a Bangkok prison in the LOL stakes, so I assume the hysterical laughter is for somebody else’s benefit. It then occurs to me that maybe he too has had a ‘warning’.

I play that desperately unoriginal game every young gay plays: faux-blindness. Oh, boys, you all think you’re being so clever, but coyness is the one trick every gay guy likes to pull out of the bag first. It’s never convincing and always ends in disaster. But I’m yet to learn that.

So it begins. I pretend I haven’t seen Matt at all and instead trundle over to a corner and start talking to someone much better looking.

It continues this way for around an hour or so. Whenever he walks into a room, I find the earliest opportunity to leave it and if finding myself trapped in a group conversation, smile politely before making my excuses and going to the loo. He does the same – he never addresses me directly and doesn’t cast his eye over me at all.

While our paths don’t cross and we haven’t said a word to each other, the air is thick with something – and it’s not cigarette smoke. Our fellow party guests eyeball us nervously, nudging each other, as if wondering who’s going to bite first.

Eventually, I take a pew in the kitchen and join another conversation. Matt enters soon after me and sits opposite. I am between the kitchen wall and the table and can’t possibly get out without appearing very rude. So the conversation continues.

Matt doesn’t say much, but looks across at me often. It is definitely not lust in his eyes – his hooded eyelids convey a dash of contempt, if anything. I decide I don’t have anybody to impress and let forth what I suppose at the time would’ve passed for bawdy humour but would now seem crass and attention-seeking. I’d do anything for a laugh.

At the next gap in conversation, Matt takes a swig of his drink and leans over, saying loudly to me: “Do you know, I think you’re the most arrogant person I’ve ever met.”

The room goes deathly quiet – the only sound is the ice clinking in my glass as my hand trembles.

I laugh derisively and he gets up and walks out of the room.

About half an hour later, I decide it is time to go. I call a cab and wait for it outside the flat – the sky getting lighter and lighter as I smoke the bollocks off a Marlboro Light.

I hear the familiar diesel engine sound and my chariot pulls up. Suddenly by my side is Matt.

“Er, hi,” he says.
“It’s bye, actually,” I beam as I open the cab door.
“But…” he starts breathlessly. “Aren’t I coming with you?”
“What?!” I shriek. “Why would you be coming with me?”
“I thought I’d be coming home with you,” he says plainly.
I’m incredulous. “Why? I thought I was the most arrogant person you’d ever met.”
“You are. And I want to come home with you.”

I’ll never forget his look as I carefully close the cab door and tell the driver to go – his hopeful face getting smaller and smaller in the distance until it is just a dot.

I’m sure Matt wanted to teach me a lesson I’d never forget, and he did – just not the one he was hoping for. The only thing I learned from him was that I should stop being a dick at parties – and that men are depressingly impossible to read.

Image: cathydelmarnie on Flickr

The Hold-Out

A restaurant. I hate going for food on a first date, but my date suggested it and so here I am.

Leo is a student and 22 – that enchanted age where anything seems possible, but you’re still not old enough to realise none of it will ever happen.

His pictures were, to put it bluntly, deceiving and he is not very good-looking at all, but I’m here now and we can at least have a nice dinner. I can tell he’s not a serial dater, as he’s picked Chinese – nobody wants to spend two hours watching a stranger grapple with chopsticks.

He has been flirting with me outrageously since I got here – he’s all coquettish leans to one side, wry smiles and fluttery eyelashes. I am as responsive as a fridge in a scrapyard.

Halfway through a bowl of noodles that I can’t wait for him and his mouth to finish, he licks his lips and puts down his chopsticks and I know I am in trouble.

“I just want you to know – I never sleep with someone on the first date.”

Here we go. I am nothing if not a sadist, so I ask simply: “Why?”

He goes into a long diatribe about how  relationships can only be brief and meaningless when founded on sex and that he prefers to get to know someone “spiritually rather than carnally”. I wonder which rock of self-help this bizarre statement crawled out from under.

“So how long do you wait?” I ask. “What’s the magic number of dates before you do the deed?”

“About four?”

“Four,” I repeat. “And then what?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“After date five, what happens next?”

There is no response. Just a deep breath. I plough on.

“Well, here you are.” I gesture around the room. “Sitting with me, on date number one. It rather suggests that as magic formulas go, your one for having a long-lasting relationship doesn’t seem to be much good.”

He scratches his head. “Eh?”

I should stop, but I can taste blood and, reader, I like it. “Four dates. Risky strategy.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, you’re giving people an awful lot of opportunities to fall out of love with you.”

He scrunches up his face, puzzled. “What’s wrong with my four-date rule?”

I rest my chin on my hands. “If your formula for starting out on a long relationship is not to have sex with someone until the fourth date, why are you single? Where’s your relationship? Why are you here, now, with me, on a first date, imparting your ‘wisdom’, when in fact it is a load of old pony?”

He laughs nervously. “I don’t know.”

“Well, no. Holding out on sex on a first date is your choice, and totally up to you, but don’t think it makes you any deeper or less superficial to keep your Aussiebums on. It just means you are missing out on a shag. If you’re happy with it, that’s great.”

He puts his hand on my arm and smiles at me in a way I imagine someone once told him was sexy. There is a bit of chive in his teeth. He looks very pleased with himself – like a bank manager cancelling an overdraft. “Are you asking me to make an exception just this once?” he says.

My gaze slides glacially to his hand.

“I do sleep with people on the first date,” I smile. “If I fancy them.” Cue dramatic pause. “You’re safe tonight, Leo.”

He moves his hand back. We spend the rest of the date talking about the weather and ask for the bill as quickly as politeness will allow.

Stats: 22, 5’7″, mousey/blue, Norfolk
Where: London E1
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating: 3/10
Date in one sentence: Bait is not taken.

Image: Zebble on Flickr 

Know your dating enemies: The bicycle

When you have been on as many dates as I have, there are lots of things you dread. Spending three hours downwind of someone’s halitosis, hearing about their ex and wondering whether that a boil, a mole or worse on the end of their nose can all be terrifying events, but one thing that used to really make my heart sink on a date has two wheels and a seat just for one.

You are Diana to its Camilla, and it’s got its eyes on your throne.

What has the humble bicycle ever done to me, you may ask. They’re environmentally friendly, good exercise and most men who ride them have thighs you could open bottles of Coke between. Sure, sure, but what a bike really means is that, unless you’re a hardcore pedal pusher too, there are going to be three of you in this relationship.

You are Diana to its Camilla, and it’s got its eyes on your throne.

Seeing your date – who you’re meeting for the very first time – arrive on a bike is a one-way ticket to a heavy heart. Bicycles are built for one, so if things should get interesting – and I don’t think my use of ‘interesting’ here takes too many dictionaries to work out – you either have to postpone your ardour for another day, or gamely totter alongside him while he pushes the bike home, praying he doesn’t live too far. (I have done this; I have no shame.)

As soon as the handshake is over, his cockblocking bike will whisk him away.

If a man brings his bike on a date, it means he’s fully prepared for a quick exit. No lingering with you at bus stops or vague promises of “let’s get you a taxi”. As soon as the handshake is over – or the peck if you’ve actually got on well – his cockblocking bike will whisk him away. Off go his cute smile, amazing hair and boiled-egg buttocks, weaving in among traffic and heading miles and miles away from your ravenous fingertips.

If he does take you home, pushing the bike along the street with a near-stranger in all that dreaded fresh air gives him plenty of time to snap out of his lusty haze and, as you’re three-quarters of the way there, it’s likely he will turn to you and say those four words every serial first-date shagger comes to dread: “Actually, I’m pretty tired”. No. No. NO.

If you’re lucky, he’ll remain under your spell all the way home, whereupon he will spend what feels like for ever finding somewhere to put the bike, or drag it into his house, leaving it exactly where a flatmate can trip over it in the morning.

Later, as your breathing quickens and things get frantic, he’ll suddenly stop, crying out into the dark: “Shit! Did I lock my bike?”

If you can get over this hurdle to end up actually dating this guy, don’t think his bike has finished with you yet.

Of course, if you can get over this first hurdle and end up actually dating this guy, don’t think his bike has finished with you yet. The thing about going out with a guy who rides a bike is that he’s going to want you to do it too. This isn’t unreasonable, of course; a shared hobby can forge an even stronger bond. But if you’re not into it, prepare for his bike, and other men who do like to ride bikes, to be your main challengers for his attention.

You’ll try, perhaps spiritedly at first, to go for a bike ride with him. He’s more than likely to have an old one lying around – pedal fans buy new bikes with startling regularity – or he will borrow one from a friend for you.

You’ll stumble and wobble and shiver and shake… and that’s before you’ve even got on the thing. It’s harder than you remember. The seat seems so… high and the handlebars aren’t like your dear old BMX, which was the last time you came into contact with the saddle, aged 14.

You draw his attention to the plot of One Day.

Your bike-loving boy will watch wearily, ask you if you’re sure you can’t do it, before telling you it doesn’t matter and you can always have another go later.

Desperate, knowing your fate, you relay all your fears about riding in the road and being squished by a van. You draw his attention to the plot of One Day. You tell him about the one time you rented a Boris bike and had to pull over and PUSH it along the pavement because  old ladies in Nissan Micras were heckling you as they overtook.

He says he understands. He gives you a playful chuck under the chin. He pats his bike. You will never see him again.

The bicycle has won.

Image: nyclovesnyc on Flickr

The Reluctant Mean Girl

Midweek. Another bar. Another pint with a stranger. I sit and wonder where I’ll be in five hours. Will I be back in my flat ignoring the ironing or will I be tangled in Egyptian cotton and kisses with tonight’s contestant?  You just never know.

“And you wore pink!”
I nod at his polo shirt, knowingly. “Perfect shirt for tonight!”

My date tonight bristles with efficiency. He was on time, buying drinks and sitting opposite me with a rictus grin on his face, in his pristine baby pink polo, before I knew what was happening.

“It seems weird going on a date on a Wednesday, no?” he says.

“Wednesdays are perfect, I think,” I reply. “And you wore pink!” I nod at his polo shirt, knowingly. “Perfect shirt for tonight!”

He narrows his eyes. “I don’t follow.”

“Oh, errr,” I stumble awkwardly. “It’s from Mean Girls. They say ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’. Yes?”

His face is blanker than a blank thing on a blank day in a town called Blankton.

I probe further: “Do you know Mean Girls?”

He leans back in his chair and his face changes to a look of bemusement tinged with disgust and a dash of weariness.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he sighs.

“I mean…” he shakes his head dismissively. “I just wouldn’t even want to watch Mean Girls. I’m not into trashy movies.”

I gulp, feeling dumb and shallow.

“It’s a film. Written by Tina Fey. Lindsay Lohan was in it? It’s quite old.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. I mean…” he shakes his head dismissively. “I just wouldn’t even want to watch it. I’m not into trashy movies.”

I shrug. “It’s not trashy, really. It’s quite a clever, knowing kind of comedy. Not as good as Heathers, but in the same ballpark.”

“I don’t really like the kind of films that gay men usually like,” he replies.

Oh, I see! BINGO! We have the new gay stereotype – the gay man who refuses to conform to a stereotype! How lucky for me to have snared this rarest of beasts. And barely halfway through our first drink.

I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he’s waving in front of me.

I have two options. I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he’s waving in front of me. Egyptian cotton, or home alone? I imagine the pristine sheets. Lovely. Then I think of him in them, beckoning me to a world where sex means never watching a popular movie again. Decision made.

“I don’t like it because I’m gay, you total snob. I like it because it’s funny.”

“Yeah, right,” he replies, folding his arms. A drawbridge goes up with great speed. “But you think it’s a  funny film because of the bitchy dialogue and the pretty, evil girls being all ‘fabulous’, right? It’s just a bit… obvious.” He unfolds his arms for a brief second and waves them dramatically in the air.

“So you have seen it, then?” I smirk.

“Uh.” A pause so long you could actually use it to nip off to watch Mean Girls. And then: “I might have done actually.”

I’m back in my own kitchen – alone – within the hour.

Stats: 5’10”, 31, mousy brown/brown, Devon
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: 3.5/10
Date in one sentence: Gay guy thinks pretending popular culture isn’t a thing makes him less gay.

A truncated version of this post originally appeared in the monthly dating column I used to do in Gay Times magazine. I now answer GT readers’ dilemmas and dole out relationship advice. Take a look at the Gay Times website to see when the next issue is out.

The Late Great Letdown

Searching for Mr Right, it’s a sad fact that I’m equally Mr Wrong for plenty of others. Could tonight be different? It is, after all, our second outing. Our first date seemed to be a meeting of minds, if not bodies. While we both definitely fancied each other, we didn’t so much as kiss. It felt liberating, refreshing, to end things on a high note but stay out of the bedroom. Not that every good date has ended in a roll in the hay, but there’s nothing wrong with a wander round the field if you fancy it.

After a few texts, we agree to meet again. It does take a good fortnight before any plans are in place, and while usually alarm bells would be ringing – if you really want things to get going, you see each other pretty sharpish – he does sound genuinely regretful that he’s been so busy. I have half-forgotten what he looks like, but I do remember liking what I saw, so am looking forward to round two – a Sunday evening.

Oddly, he says he wants to go back to the same pub we met in first time around. This has never happened before – usually a date will want to try something different for a second date, or leave the choosing up to me, but my date is adamant. One concession to changing things up is “Maybe we can eat this time?”

When he arrives, I see he is still good-looking, although not as smiley. Plus, he’s 15 minutes late. He was also late on our first date, but this time there are no apologetic texts or jokey drink requests, he just turns up, panting like a poodle. It does, at least, look to have run the last few steps to the pub. His eyes flick over me, but his expression is unreadable. He gets himself a drink. He didn’t offer me one, but perhaps he saw I already had one. It is, of course half-empty. I was on time.

He finally sits, looking me and up and down again, keenly, I think. He’s sexy, stylish and smells like a corner of heaven. We’ve both browsed the aisles and been enchanted by the packaging – let’s see what’s inside.

At first it is almost like the last date. He’s funny, and talkative, saying all the right things when I ask, but I’m not sure he’s quite as enamoured. He says he has come straight from a barbecue with friends and that he’d been having a great afternoon. I start to feel sorry I dragged him away. He’s distracted, and can’t get comfortable on the large couch we’re sitting on, turning that way and this until he finds the perfect spot – with every limb facing away from me. OK, then.

I rapidly become nervous as I see a sure thing slip away from me. The first date went so well, I hadn’t really felt like I was trying; now I’m flailing and babbling. And when I’m not firing off questions, there is silence. I watch him fidget like a constipated toddler on a tricycle trying to let out a fart. He fiddles with his laces, runs his hands through his hair, undoes and refastens the top couple of buttons on his shirt and taps his tanned throat edgily. He’s about as excited to be here as you would be your own cremation. It is all going to shit, but I don’t think it’s anything I have done. I have played it exactly like last time. He said he wanted to do it again. We’re even in the same pub, a perfect spot for an exact rerun. What’s changed in two weeks? Apart from absolutely everything?

A waiter approaches the table with menus.
“Will you be eating?” he drawls, running a stained cloth over one far corner of the table.
I look at my date for confirmation. “Are we?”
He stares back blankly. “Errrr.”
The waiter lingers, silently. I gaze up at him. “We’ll have a look at the menus.”
The waiter shrugs and slides the menu across the table, now even stickier thanks to his half-arsed wiping, and walks off. My date and I both stare at them, but do not pick them up.

Finally, a question from my date. “Do you watch any boxsets?” he asks, his eyes trained about three kilometres to the left of my head.
Great. I shouldn’t waste the opportunity, though, so start to tell him about what I’ve been watching.

Suddenly, as I’m three sentences in, he jumps up, announcing he’s off to the loo. I sit meekly, awaiting his return. I’m sure I heard the distinctive hum of a vibrating phone just before he leapt up. No. Surely not. I’m probably being paranoid. A barmaid comes over, asking whether we need more drinks. I consider this. Best to wait.

And wait I do, a good five or six minutes. It doesn’t sound like very long, but when you’re on a date it is an eternity. Eventually, he returns, sits and turns toward me (finally!) with a pathetic little cough.

“I’m starting to feel a bit ill,” he says, patting his stomach.
“Oh dear,” I reply, with a hint of genuine concern. “Are you OK? Do you need to, erm, go?”

I am, naturally, expecting him to say no. He didn’t say he was dying and he looks, well, fine. I am about to be disappointed.

“Yeah, I wanna go,” comes the heart-stopping reply. As soon as he says it, he visibly brightens and picks up his drink. Realising an ‘ill’ person probably wouldn’t want to finish the dregs of a pint, he quickly puts the glass back down and turns to me once more.

“Thanks for being so understanding,” he whimpers.
I look back at my glass, by now long empty, and feel sorry this handsome man isn’t likely to be buying me a drink any time soon. He could really be unwell, of course. But I know he isn’t. Call it cold feet, a change of heart or a better offer coming his way, but he regretted making the date before he’d even set off. He’s used his Get Out Of Jail card; I’ve been there.

We leave together. I check my reflection briefly in the mirror as we walk out of the door, wondering whether I have grown an extra head since our last date or aged twenty years. “I’m really sorry,” he says, with the smallest allusion of sincerity. “Let’s rearrange for next week when I’m better.”

Last time we met I offered to wait with him for his bus, but tonight I just nod dumbly and turn away. I look back just once to see him bounding up the road, checking his phone. I hop on my bus and slump into the seat farthest away from everyone else, guessing (correctly) that I’ll never hear from him again.

Home time, Mr Wrong.

Date rating: 3/10
Date in one line: Time’s up.

This post is a follow-up to the Late Great. It went pretty well, surprisingly. Give it a read.

A truncated version of this post first appeared in GT magazine, where I write a monthly column about my dating experiences. Find out when the next issue is due on the GT website.

Image: Flickr

The Boy in the Apple Store

The Apple Store is a strange place. It does its very best to pretend it isn’t a shop. There are no tills ringing or sour-faced shopgirls stacking shelves with garish product or hurrying along pretending they’re too busy to help you, no groaning rails or higgledy-piggledy stacks of boxes. The Apple Store, especially the one in London’s Covent Garden, is more of an ‘experience’. Smiling pretty boys in skinny jeans loiter at the doorway with eager smiles and eyes so wide they can only be the result of a recently dropped ecstasy pill. They have youth, enthusiasm and a handy line in charming condescension. You could be excused for mistaking it for a bar or café, not a global corporation desperate to get its hands on your hard-earned cash – the more noughts at the end, the better.

But where there is wireless, hardware, oak beams and credit cards, there is retail; and here I am, wandering around it on a Saturday, looking for nothing in particular. I’m glad my own MacBook Pro, which wheezes like an asthmatic vuvuzela every time I turn it on, is at home and not here to see the sleek, steel-encased upstarts that will one day replace it both in my affections and upon my knee. The place is crammed with Apple fanatics in all shapes and sizes and with every variety of facial hair imaginable. Ageing computer geeks, tight-skinned students, emo girls, hipster grandmas, confused middle-class parents rife for a fleecing by their offspring and me, peeking over everybody’s shoulder to get a look-in at a machine so I can check my email, as my ever-unreliable phone is about to gasp its last in battery power.

I’m having no luck, so decide to move upstairs to find a free computer. As I make my way to the staircase, I notice three younger people – two guys and a girl – standing at the foot of it and looking my way. One guy is whispering in the ear of the other guy and looking at me. It’s making me a bit uncomfortable, but I carry on – I’ll leave being afraid of youths until I’m elderly. They’re dressed in that odd, young way – nothing seems to fit them properly and one of the guys looks like he hasn’t taken his baseball cap off since he was a toddler. They are, of course, all beautiful in their own way. One of them especially so.

I walk past them and start up the steps. I manage only two or three paces before I feel someone rush past me and stop right in front of me. It is Guy 1, the whisperer, sans baseball cap. I don’t have much time to take him in, but he is young, cute and staring quizzically at me.

“Excuse me?” he says, in an accent I immediately recognise as French. By stopping, I’ve already excused him, I guess, so I don’t reply. He goes on: “Are you gay?”
I’m confused. It’s not often I get asked this question in public, let alone in the middle of the day. And even though we’re in the middle of the uber-liberal, peacenik outpost of sun-kissed California that is the Apple Store, I’m wary. Why would he be asking? Is he a homo or a homophobe? Is he going to kiss me or punch me on the nose?

I can’t think of what to say, so I say nothing. His eyes search my face, desperate for an answer. I eventually say “Sorry?” to fill some stale air.
He begins to falter, before continuing: “It’s just that you are very good-looking.”
He pauses for a second, bows his head in embarrassment and looks like he’s about to say something else. He doesn’t, however, and darts off, away from me, just as I manage to blurt out a stunned “Thanks”.

Thanks? Is that it? The best I can do? It’s not as if I get told this every day. Not since my adoring grandmothers died have I received such enthusiastic (not to mention unsolicited) compliments on the way my face is set out. How are you supposed to react when someone praises your looks? And why would they be doing it right here, right now? Does he want me? What for? Should I be flattered? I am more than flattered. Would I feel the same if he hadn’t been such a mouthwatering proposition himself?

I start to make my way back down the stairs, I don’t know why. To get his number, maybe? To ask if he’d like mine? Instead, I notice him leave the store. As he does, he gives me a backward glance, full of mortification and missed opportunity.

And then he’s gone. Shit.

More like this:
– The Hogmanay Kiss
– The Steal
– The First Crush
– The Late Great Letdown

Image: Flickr