We’re frequently told that if we can’t love ourselves, nobody else will love us either: I call bullshit.
I knew lots of people with low-esteem in loving relationships, and often questioned the mantra’s logic. Nobody loves their character flaws, they just learn to accept them. Which admittedly is still a hop, skip, and a self-help retreat away from despising them.
My self-acceptance wasn’t quite at Lizzo’s level, but I was at least aware that I acted differently around men I fancy.
Somewhere out there was a Bermuda Triangle filled with men who it mysteriously hadn’t worked out with. But what if that was because in a bid to get them to like me, I’d given them a cleaner, curated version of myself, that - however nice - ultimately seemed unnatural?
I met *Cucumber on Tinder. He was an aspiring fashion blogger who’s fashion sense was the worst thing about him. I’d always thought that people were being melodramatic when they used someone’s style as a counter-argument to date them, but perhaps they’d dated men in trilby hats and velvet blazers before.
But really, who cares about clothes when they’re on the bedroom floor? So we arranged local drinks.
And in a bid to be more authentic, I rejected spending four hours leading up to the date in a tornado of dismissed outfit choices, and freshly-trimmed body hair; this time I gave myself 20 minutes. Well actually, life gave me 20 minutes when I woke up disorientated and late from a nap.
But already, without spending half the day hacking my pubes into a shape that still isn’t quite right, the stakes - and my anxiety levels - were lower.
When we arrived, he ordered a gin and tonic with cucumber garnish (hence the nickname). It wasn’t the cucumber you’d expect a gay to have in his mouth on a 21st century date, but here we were.
Albeit a little nervous, Cucumber was warm, interesting, and relatable. Characteristics that contradicted the persona he portrayed, almost as if he were protecting his authentic self too. But I felt relaxed with him: not overthinking my sentences, or worrying about bad angles or lighting.
I just wasn’t sure I felt that infamous 'spark' that singles on First Dates infamously desire.
At the end of the night we shared a brief, soft kiss.
Afterwards I felt elated. Not because of the date, but because of how great it felt to actually relax while on one. It was freeing! Like what I imagine it feels like to take off a bra… after 29 years.
Although that initial fanny flutter was missing, there was enough of an attraction to have a follow-up date.
Seeing as we shared a profound interest in smoking pot and watching Netflix, that’s exactly what we did. It may not have been a traditional second date, but it was pretty ‘real’.
But halfway through the date, as I looked at my scruffy reflection through the bloodshot slits of my eyes, I wondered if I’d got a little too real. I looked like Snoop Dog adopted a baby bird and brought it up in a hot box.
While our first date had brought us closer, I felt like this one took us two-steps back. Any scraps of chemistry ghosted out the window and the only thing I had an appetite for was everything in the cupboards. I wasn’t sure if it’s because the sexual heat was set at room temperature, or that we were too baked to string a sentence together.
Which is why I was genuinely surprised to hear from him the next day. I’d actually only ever got to third date territory twice before, so assumed I’d done something right.
But between his ‘fashion-forward’ persona and some of our interactions; I sensed that Cucumber wasn’t dating as his real self. Perhaps he was, and I wouldn’t want to change that, but it felt like he was probably a bit too high-maintenance. (While I was just high).
And I’m real enough to admit that life was kicking my ass enough for me to have the energy for that level of upkeep too.
Dating personas, like social media, have become a facade that hide our true identity because we feel too vulnerable to show it off. We put perfection on a pedestal, but how many people actually want that?
I didn’t want someone’s cleaner, curated version of themselves, just like they didn’t want mine.
You realise that people aren’t looking for a man to idolise, they’re looking for one to relate to. Besides, nobody wants to spend the rest of their life walking round with their arsehole clenched, no matter how hot he is.
To read more from the Single & Fabulous? series click here.