We kissed on the dance floor a lot, it was all very teenage. I know because my friend took a mortifying video of it.
The next day we were texting and decided to go on a date the following Saturday. By the time Saturday arrived, he hadn’t replied for a while, so I assumed it wasn’t happening anymore. I felt the world slipping out from under me again, fell back on my pillow and started clicking through Instagram Stories to distract myself. Saw the thick, hairy wrist of a boyfriend’s arm on a table next to an Aperol Spritz, a plateful of pasta with an egg in the middle, someone doing deadlifts in the gym, and then something that I actually wanted to see. It was a screenshot a friend had taken of a conversation she was having with a guy who kept rearranging their date. “Sorry to do this again, are you around next week at all?” he asked. “No worries,” she replied. “Let’s just leave this here.”
It was such a delicious response, so much better than just ignoring him would have been, because then he would have been able to invent reasons why the date didn’t happen rather than knowing for a fact it came as a result of his indecision. She still sounded casual, though, so it was clear she didn’t give a fuck. And it was conclusive enough to allow her to move on without wondering if he might come back. I decided that if the date didn’t happen, I wouldn’t bother trying again, not because rearranging a date is always inexcusable, but because I don’t like the way it makes me feel.
I thought of all the times I’d fancied people that never emerged, hatching wild plots to get their attention again. It made me crazy. I ruined whole days thinking about it. I wasn’t going to let that happen again, and, knowing that, I felt in control regardless of what happened with the date. Instead of staying in and stressing all day, I went for ramen with my friend and laughed as the salty broth splashed against my face. We were meant to go to an exhibition but couldn’t be bothered, so got iced lattes and sat by the river on a bench talking about stuff we wanted to write instead, and I felt like I wanted to run home and throw it all onto a page. I didn’t feel like I needed to check my phone, I didn’t feel sick, I could still hear everything my friend was saying to me.
Before, I never understood what it meant when women spoke about seizing control of their dating lives. I get that you can be more proactive—you can walk up to men in bars and introduce yourself, you can ask friends if they can set you up with someone. But how do you wrestle control from men when they still have all the power? When the sheer mass of great women available means the odds are stacked firmly against you. When every decent guy has already slept with one of your friends. When none of them can maintain interest beyond a day of texting on a Sunday when they’re hungover. In this economy, what impact can you have ignoring their messages or pretending not to see them on a night out? You can play hard to get, but in the end, chances are it will only be you who doesn’t “get” anything. In walking away, they won’t run through the city in the pouring rain to get you back, they won’t sit down in the shower and cry thinking about every time they fucked up. They’ll probably just start liking a few of your Instagram Stories until gradually they forget about you.