Tag Archives: hook-ups

The straight boy in the cowshed

Tallulah Bankhead, a famously hedonistic film star of yore once said, “They say it’s the good girls who keep diaries. The bad girls never have the time”. And she probably had a point.

When I was moving house last summer, I found a hardback A4 notebook I didn’t remember owning. It had rings from many cups of tea that had been rested on its cover and was faded and battered and red. I flicked it open and found most pages empty, save for a few notes from a meeting I went to in summer 1999, and then, after a couple of pages of doodles and a shopping list for a flat move, there was what looked like diary entries.

The first was undated and written entirely in French – I had just graduated the year before and it was one of my subjects and I was hopelessly pretentious – and spoke about the act of coming out, which I was yet to do to family.

It was self-indulgent, dramatic and ridiculous, but my French was pretty good, I have to say. Following it was another diary entry, again in French but abandoned halfway through, with “Somebody needs French lessons, je crois” scrawled across the bottom.

And then, after that, dated diary entries, about a page and a half each, of what was happening in my life from September 2000 to February 2001. I was living in Edinburgh, sharing a flat with a guy I had met at work. He was straight and I, well, wasn’t, but being gay was very new to me indeed. We are still friends, all these years later.

Amid the trivia of having a rubbish job and trying to earn more money by writing – my, how times have changed – there was a piece about an event I had totally forgotten. It was about the time a straight boy asked me to go into a cowshed with him.  Continue reading The straight boy in the cowshed


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. Continue reading Dating apps aren’t killing romance – our attitude is

31 things you will see people do on dating apps

Dating apps, whether they’re for long-lasting love or a three-minute hook-up you can brag to your friends about, have revolutionised our love and sex lives.

But even with tec so new and exciting, we’re still a habit-forming animal – we can’t resist becoming a cliché.

So here are a few things you will almost certainly see on hook-up or dating apps. Swipe. Left.

1. A guy who does the same facial expression in every photo.
It’s usually a lop-sided grin or a grimace or that wide-open scream face that Caitlin Moran does a lot. Or a pout. They’ll find a preferred pose and stick to it. And it will never be just a smile.

2. Someone who has accidentally uploaded the same picture three times.

3. “Looking for a gym buddy.”
I have a boyfriend, but I would like to get unspeakable with you  in the changing rooms once a week.

4. A selfie taken in a dirty mirror.

5. A selfie with a pile of dirty laundry in the background.

6. An impossibly good-looking 19-year-old who would rather sleep with the Tollund Man than you.
But you try anyway. Continue reading 31 things you will see people do on dating apps

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

Where not to meet your next lover: The gym

I have never dressed sexily for the gym – I have never seen the point. Either I have been partnered during my stack of memberships or, more usually, I have had no interest in romance among the kettle bells. In the dank, municipal hellholes where I like to work out, I have somehow known instinctively that Mr Right was not lurking by the lockers.

While my latest gym is clean and modern, it is most certainly not a place where I will ever feel lustful and attractive. It is so basic, so stripped back, that there is not even a swimming pool – thus it is devoid of the comforting pong of chlorine to mask all the toxic BO of my fellow gymgoers. You don’t just feel the burn; you breathe everyone else’s.

Any attempt I would ever have made to dress sexily – my running shorts are cut pretty high, I guess – is instantly negated by the inability of the staff to really grasp how air conditioning works. Unless you climb up inside one of the three or four pathetic air con units protruding from the wall like tin-covered beer guts, you’re unlikely to experience anything more than a light breeze that feels like it’s coming from several planets away.

A spandex-clad set of cockerels strutting round a farmyard of metal, grunting and always the most unfortunate choices of sock you can imagine.

Thus it takes no more than three half-hearted tugs on a machine that likes to call itself “Lat Pulldown” (very Star Wars cantina) before I am tomato-red, gasping and dripping in vodka-infused perspiration.

While most people are only there because the vending machine is the place to get the coldest Coke Zero in the western hemisphere, for some the gym is a total cruising experience. Cruisier even than being winked at in a public toilet or coughing suggestively in a sauna. I have watched these men (and women, of course, but it is the gay guys who fascinate me) strutting around – a spandex-clad set of cockerels surveying a farmyard of metal, grunting and always the most unfortunate choices of sock you can imagine.

It seems no part of the gym is off limits when it comes to being chatted up or flirted with or, in the most extreme of cases and depending on your proximity to Vauxhall, a spot of shagging. The sunbed room at my gym – 12 tubes, an Ikea chair and a bin filled with discarded wet wipes – is almost always occupied and I have never seen any ultra violet light beaming from under that door.

The locker room is where things begin, of course. I have lost count how many times I have shot down clumsy attempts at flirting as I stuff my bag in a locker only to find it’s broken. (About six or seven, in reality.)

The reality is I find the situation even more awkward than them, gradually going redder and redder and looking anywhere, at anything, other than their eyes, arms, pecs or, on one most unfortunate and unwelcome occasion, their depressingly low-hanging balls.

A range of subjects from where I got my padlock to the colour of my socks, via the incredible “Where did you get your hair cut?” have been among the awkward opener for potential suitors.

Of course, in my head, my tongue is an anti-aircraft gun and these hapless blokes are the Luftwaffe circling. Bang! Bang! Bang!

The reality, however, is that I find the situation even more awkward than them, gradually going redder and redder and looking anywhere, at anything, other than their eyes, arms, pecs or, on one most unfortunate and unwelcome occasion, their depressingly low-hanging balls. As soon as politeness will allow I give a friendly, yet curt, nod and head out of there.

I have seen it work on others. The chat will begin super-innocently in the changing rooms, and then once they’re out in the exercise area, chat will turn to protein drinks, running times and before long they’re ‘spotting’ each other’s ‘reps’ in that sweat-glazed palace of meat that is the free-weights area.

This part of the gym is full of mirrors, and our boys spend as long as possible glaring into them, but actually at each other, trying desperately to gurn as sexily as possible. The success rate is below sea level.

Not that it deters them – like attracts like, after all. Before you know it, they’ve got their towels over their shoulders and a mortifying time in the locker room for everyone but them is all but guaranteed.

But how to avoid all this eye-fucking and unrequited lust across the yoga mats? Well, why would you?

Just watch your eye contact; participation is automatic and there’s only one way to get yourself an early shower…

Nobody ever said all football fans had to be able to score goals at Wembley. Strap yourself in for the ultimate spectator sport – you still get the fitness benefits but don’t have to compete. Just watch your eye contact; participation is automatic and there’s only one way to get yourself an early shower…

Once you’re muscle-buddies and getting regularly up close and physical, though, what next? What about the times you can’t always make a training session? Is he there without you, making those same locker-room eyes at the cute guy on the treadmill? What if he says “great pecs” to all the boys? Is his spandex hanging out with other lycras?

Maybe look further for your next partner than the end of your dumbbell – save your communal sweating for the bedroom.

Image: Flickr

The One-Hour Wonder

The main problem with huge, exhilarating events is the crash back down to planet normal afterward. There is the inevitable need to prolong the high, to stave off the mundane.

It is when bored that I am at my most very dangerous, and the warning lights are certainly flashing now as I sit in my lounge staring at the wall just minutes after arriving back home after my friends’ beautiful wedding. The day itself was perfect and the couple radiant. The setting, in the grounds of the groom’s parents’ house in Kent, was so idyllic and flawless that my flat feels like an oversized KFC bucket in comparison.

It is Sunday. The phone goes on. And that app is launched. Last time I was this bored, I ended up sharing a bath with a stranger. Like I said, boredom can be dangerous.

Being literate and enjoying full sentences can be something of a barrier on Grindr. While all those little avatars of six-packs claim to be erudite grammarians, it seems nobody is safe from that dreary “hows u??” or “heyy mister”. So when I hear that magic ping and see a headless torso wishing me “a very good afternoon, handsome” I am intrigued, interested.

We get the usual rigmarole out of the way very quickly. “Any more pics?” and “Yes, but can I see what your face looks like” are soon despatched and I find myself chatting amiably to a very good-looking man with strong features and the most marvellously perfect body I have seen in a long time.

His thighs are huge and muscular, his stomach and chest rippling and he has biceps that would make Zac Efron self-conscious. Yet none of this perfection looks over the top or ridiculous; it’s all in proportion and not at all intimidating.

This isn’t someone who spends all day and night in the gym – he’s actually fit. These are real muscles; they are earned. In the next breath comes the reason: “I’m a volleyball player.”

Hold. The. Phone.

I instantly assume this poor creature is massively bored and only talking to me to pass the time of day. He is woefully out of my league. But it seems he has different criteria he needs to tick off because before I know it he is complimenting me on my English (he is, it transpires, Spanish) and saying I sound as if I might be quite bossy. Well, he’s got me there.

“I do like to get what I want, yes,” I reply, before realising that makes me sound like a high-maintenance bonehead. I quickly add: “But I always ask very nicely.”

His reply comes as fast as lightning. “And what would you ask me to do? And you don’t have to ask nicely.”

OMG am I being sexted at? I start to mildly panic. I’m not at good at this. Despite my sexually liberal leanings, I am at heart a mortified Victorian.

Luckily, my brain remembers I am still drunk from last night and so the ribald charmer who only gets an airing once I’ve had several pink gins comes to the fore. It only takes three or four more sentences that are, um, unsuitable to print in a family newspaper before he is firing over his address, telling me his real name and asking me to hurry up.

I put product through my hair, change my T-shirt, give it two squirts of Chanel (my two is like your four) and am skipping down the stairs to the street like I am off to meet Santa himself.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

I know exactly what I’m doing.

My bravado is terrifying, but it’s all I have right now.

It takes me about 25 minutes to get to the street where he lives, amid a sprawling estate with tower blocks looming over me. I ring a buzzer, hear a gruff “hello” and get in a very frightening lift with scratched mirrors and a carrier bag filled with something.

The lift doors open at the appropriate floor and I can see the apartment door directly of me ahead is ajar, yet behind a security grille which covers the entire doorway and is locked. Keys jangle. A face appears. And then a body. There is my ‘date’.

We seem to have different ideas of what 5’10” actually is, as he is shorter than me, but no matter. He looks much more average in the flesh but is still good-looking, and looks like he has just got out of the bath. While he’s not wet, he is super clean and is dressed in a crisp white T and some baggy shorts. He’s pale.

He says my name, and lets me in. I follow him down the hall into his lounge which is clean but packed with too much furniture and three clothes-dryers groaning with fashion I would generously call ‘European’, along with assorted sporty attire.

“Would you like a drink?” he asks with a tiny smile. His lips are quite thin. My mother would not approve. Of any of this.

“Water, please.”

He gets me the tiniest glass of water in the world and I sip it nervously while he stares into space and asks me a few questions about myself.

After five minutes of this sexually-charged inanity, he moves toward me. I moisten my lips in anticipation, trembling slightly – my Dutch courage but a memory.

“I don’t like kissing that much,” he says. Oh. I am disappointed. I do. “Shall we go to the bedroom?”

He leads me to his room – a bright, white sparse cell with a huge window and no blinds – and undresses me quickly. And then himself. My disappointment evaporates.

When it is over, I look down at my belly – bloated from the excesses of yesterday and pale and unappealing – then to his: taut, exquisite, and rising and falling with his deep, rapid breathing. He looks straight at me. “Shall we have a shower?”

We make our way through to his bathroom. It is the usual rented flat shade of depressing, with mushroom-coloured tiles and a mottled shower screen that probably won’t last many more drenchings.

I clamber into the bath, feeling as gracious as a fawn on rollerblades, and stand feeling hopelessly exposed and stupid. He climbs in too and starts the water, holding the shower attachment in his hand and showering first him and then me, in turns like an old man absentmindedly hosing his begonias.

He’s expressionless as he takes shower gel and squirts it into his hands, soaping himself before slathering my shoulders with a few stray suds.

I simply have to speak because he’s not kissing me or anything and the sight of the bubbles running down his body is making me feel light-headed. But it seems this is not sexual for him at all; he may as well be bathing a pug.

“We should have done this earlier,” I squeak. “Got us, errr, in the mood.”

He continues to look through me, and a mere slit of a smile crosses his lips. “Uh huh.”

It’s increasingly clear this shower is purely functional; there isn’t to be an encore. I am not to be treated to a satisfactory outcome of my own.

Eventually my X-rated water torture comes to an end and he turns off the shower and hops out, grabbing the nearest towel and offering it to me. I step out with all the grace of a ‘90s ladette getting out of a black cab and take the towel.

He stands before me, his face a picture of vague amusement, and helpfully guides the towel to places I may have missed, carefully patting me dry before taking his hands and smoothing down my hair into a side parting, so that I look like a superannuated schoolboy. Butter, however, certainly would melt.

I follow him back to the bedroom and begin to pull on my clothes, which now smell stale and beery and belong to what I felt like an hour ago.

He regards me as I dress before breaking the silence with a shaky “You have a nice, uh, butt. And legs.”

I laugh nervously in the hope it will stop him calling out any further random body parts.

“Yes.” I sigh. “You look like a painting,” I say, revelling in his furrowed brow as I zip up.

As he opens the door to see me out and unlock the unwieldy grille, he almost leans in for a kiss but then seems to change his mind and shakes my hand. I wonder why he chooses the hand; it’s not as if he doesn’t know where my mouth has been. But like he said, he doesn’t like kissing that much.

I say goodbye cheerily and slink down the stairs and out into the open air again, breathing in deeply and joyfully. I chuckle to myself as I make my way back to my seedy bachelor’s pad.

Life – it’s fucking brilliant, isn’t it?

Stats: 27, 5’10” (not), brown/brown, Santander
Post-date rating:
Date? Come on. But 8/10

Date in one sentence: I never cease to surprise myself.

Image: Flickr

What Gaydar did next

You know what they say: “evolve or die”. And in a world where your next French kiss might be no farther than the end of your backyard, gay dating and hook-up sites have had to change faster than most. Way back when Grindr was nothing more than just a vague wet dream in Joel Simkhai’s mind, the king of the road when it came to meeting guys was Gaydar – its array of oiled-up nipples and extreme close-ups as synonymous with the late Nineties and early Noughties as Steps, Harry Potter and Britney.

Gaydar broke through where other sites could not, bringing your friendly neighbourhood gays right to your door – most of the time welcomed. Gaydar is where a lot of our ‘saucier’ social media obsessions began: selfies, knob shots, picking your best pose and, best of all, telling a few fibs about how faaaabulous you are.

I first set up a Gaydar profile, around a decade ago, while I was in a relationship, bizarrely. In a really quite frightening example of foreshadowing, I wanted to a do a piece on how what you put on dating profiles could affect the reaction you got from punters on a variety of dating sites. I sat with my then-boyfriend and we filled in the form as honestly as we thought everyone else would. In other words, not remotely.

It asked the most personal of questions, including the question to end all questions. No, not that one (I put “extra large”, FYI), but the one where you list your fetishes. The options were dazzling to a younger me, whose presence on the gay arena thus far had veered very much toward the vanilla scoop of the Neopolitan knickerbocker. Muscles, jocks, sportswear, twinks, tattoos, armpits – no predilection’s stone was left unturned. I’ll leave you guessing which ones I selected (‘armpits’ certainly was NOT in my final five). I did, of course, lie about my height – it’s the unwritten law of internet dating that all men will.

I finished with a flourish and uploaded a blurred photo that was about as representative of me as a Crimewatch photofit of the Cookie Monster would’ve been, digital cameras being fairly thin on the ground back then, and waited. My lack of pictorial skin worked against me, sadly, and I didn’t exactly have to fight off many admirers. Thanks goodness I wasn’t looking for real.

By the time I was back on the market and had a genuine use for it, Gaydar had faded into the background of the dating scene somewhat, concentrating mainly on extending its brand through bars or radio stations. Grindr, Blendr, Zoosk, OK Cupid et al moved in on an unsuspecting audience who perhaps hadn’t previously realised just how gagging for it they actually were.

But now it’s 2013 and the gloves are off. At least I think that was a glove. Gaydar has recognised what gay men want – or at least what they say they want – and is going mobile. It has had what all gays need when they’re feeling against the ropes – a makeover!

While they’re not entirely leaving their hook-up heritage behind, they’re keen to make themselves known as a dating website. Their new service ‘Gaydar on your mobile’  takes what people love Grindr for and has given it more of a personal touch. There’s a ‘Find Him’ function, apparently, which allows you to tailor your search to your no doubt exacting criteria and saves you scrolling through the same old mugshots. And you’re not just restricted to the local talent – you can cast your net farther than your local postcodes in the effort to find Mr Right, or even Mr Right Now. And, as it’s not available through the App Store but directly from Gaydar, there are fewer of those pesky ‘restrictions’ to hold you back. Reading between the lines, I’m guessing this means you can post more pictures of your pecker without fear of reproach. But I’m not sure – I have never actually done that because my mother has broadband now and I don’t want Christmas to be any more excruciating than it needs to be.

So if you’re a sandwich short of a sausage, have a look on m.gaydar.net and see what’s available.

Full disclosure: Gaydar did ask me if I minded blogging about their new mobile service in exchange for a swanky dinner. And so I said yes, as long as I could do it my way. And I rather think I have.