Dating in London – The Game of Hide & Seek

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Hollywood is all about the ‘Boy meets Girl’ moment. In our favourite blockbusters, love blossoms over serendipitous moments with strangers. It’s the classic kismet scene of bumping in to someone, knocking the contents of their purse over, and boom three months later they are in love. Remember SATC? Fate hooked our girl up. Carrie bumps in to Mr Big on the sidewalk, subsequently dropping her purse. The floor is covered in condoms and cosmetics. Disaster. Until of course ‘Mr Big’ gallantly helps her compose herself. Six seasons later they’re married. Does that sound unrealistic to anyone? When I’m unlucky enough to drop my Kurt Geiger, all I get is a distressed half-blind grandmother scrambling to pick up my tampons, perfume and  post-it notes saying Reminder – TRANSFER MONEY, you’re broke and in overdraft. A little less sexy.

The reality is that these Hollywood moments don’t transpire in to real life because they don’t factor in the technology we use today.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s wouldn’t have worked if Audrey Hepburn went online shopping, instead of window shopping.
Bridget Jones never would have triumphantly made Mark Darcy fall in love with her if she had sat behind a keyboard typing “Please send nudes.”
So how are we supposed to find love in today’s swiping era?

Two words for you: Direct Messages.
Today, we are all about The Gram. Without social media, do we even exist? It feels like we are invisible unless our flaming cosmopolitans, our deconstructed bagel bowls and our sunset snaps are posted on Instagram. I can’t walk past a whitewashed brick wall without feeling a baffling urge to stand in front of it and pose. Where Social Media has made the biggest impact though, isn’t in our attempt at being faux photographers. Rather, it’s how it changed the dating game.
“Sliding into your DM’s” began as a pop culture joke but has become a significant means of getting your end away. Urban Dictionary literally defines the phrase as ‘When you start a direct message chain on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hopes of acquiring the booty’. Sure, it’s hilarious. But jokes aside, the private messages of Social Media are a mating ground for fuck-boys worldwide.

To play devils advocate here and not be sexist, i’ll admit, us girls are equally liable for using IG to our advantage. I have done my fair share of responding to Instagram stories with…
‘Damn, looking so good.’
Yes, I am a fully fledged member of the DM society. Usually spurred on by too many G & T’s… when i’m vibing off false confidence.

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Credit: Actual footage of me sliding in to DMs.

Instagram features like DMs and stories are the sole authority for breeding the act of Bread-Crumbing, and a ‘check in/check out’ mentality. We can emotionally check out of a relationship, while still keeping a presence in someone’s life. We can ghost someone, vanish physically, but stick around on their social media in the hope that further down the line when we are lonely, we can hit up their inbox and re-ignite the flame.

Recently I got myself in trouble for ‘Bread-Crumbing’ and effectively playing ‘Hide and Seek’. My nature of being somewhat flaky can sometimes be mistaken for ‘wasting his time’ (valid) and in the process caused a lot of frustration for some very angry boys. Boys who caught on to my fickle behavior. (I’m an AQUARIUS it’s what we do best, look it up.) I decided to share one of these experiences and address the issue. I’m shining a spotlight on us. The women.
This post is dedicated to all the fed up, exhausted men out there desperately trying to get the attention of their unreliable crush. I want to talk about the game of Hide and Seek. The Haunting. The Blowing Hot & Cold that girls engage in now that we have social media as weapons.

The Game of Hide and Go Seek

Round One: You are playing phone-tennis with Miss X, going and back and forth every day.  She’s flirting, you’re flirting, you think it’s a slam-dunk and you’ve got her hooked.
Until she blindsides you… the texts fizzle out and the line goes quiet. 
You feel the spark fading. Crestfallen, you try to get her to engage, to no avail. 

Round Two: You’ve been knocked down. You take the hit then get up, dust yourself off and get back in the game. Right when you are at your peak hitting the gym or going on adventures and feeling good, Miss X notices. She observes your stories, your posts and suddenly emerges from her hiding place to gather some validation and self-satisfaction. The cheeky tart is playing Hide & Go Seek for her ego. Once it’s replenished, she retreats again, and the replies stop.

Round Three: You’ve been knocked down again. Miss X is blowing cold again. You pick up your balls and try to meet other people when three weeks later, BAM, Miss X viewed your IG story. She views every story. Likes every post. She haunts and taunts you. Of course you bite the bait and message her again. She laps it up until oh no wait…her ego has been successfully topped up. You’re done now. The more you seek her, the more she hides. But when you stop looking she will bait you to come find her. 

Final Knockout: You might think her weekly re-appearances are a sign that she still likes you. She doesn’t. She’s bored, lying in bed watching re-runs of real housewives and smashing the Maltesers when she scrolls past your new Instagram picture. She thinks..“shit forgot about that guy, better not let him move on…”

Miss X doesn’t want a boyfriend, she wants a compliment machine. 

And she will probably haunt you until you block her. Or die. 

I guess what I am trying to say, is that Instagram, Tinder, and Bumble make feigning ignorance easy. In fact, I think a lot of the time we only use it to generate affection and compliments. Our Tinder dates fizzle to nothing, our love affairs become non starters. We have 0.5 seconds to impress people nowadays, and if you don’t rank in the top ten, you’re out, reduced to sparse monthly messages and the occasional ‘like’ on a picture.

Elijah was my first experience in being called out for these actions. He backed me in to a corner and I couldn’t get away with the slippery behaviour. We met on a brisk, February night. It’s a miserable month to be single, when your bed is ice-cold and your spirits low. To make February even more drab than it already was, I had endured a messy break-up over Christmas. For six long months I’d been putting my effort in to a psychopathic fuck-boy. You play with fire and you get burned; I did and therefore had been out of the dating game for a while.
So winter is bleak. My taut summer bod has been replaced by something resembling a bakery roll. My coupled-up friends are hibernating by the fire at home every night (bore), leaving us single gals exposed out in the snow to scavenge for men to warm our sheets.

This is exactly what Stella and I are doing at The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch on a Friday. Shoreditch in East London is the hipster district. It’s home to renegade artists, galleries, graphic designers and all the creative talent. The Ace Hotel, in particular, is an art decor heaven. Stella and I spend many Friday and Saturday evenings there. We usually start in the restaurant; Hoi Polloi, with a kale salad, fries and a cocktail, before moving to the lobby for music and deep alcohol induced conversations. This evening was no different. We walk into Hoi Polloi. I’m wearing my hair tied back in a messy bun, a sheer white tee, jeans and gold hoop earrings. Stella and I have matching camel fur coats, bringing the swagger to Friday. We grab a table and order Espresso Martini’s. It’s been a long day, I need a hit of both caffeine and vodka. We are relaxing and chatting in the booth when our bevy arrives.

“Right. Cheers to swerving fuck-boys and living our best lives” Stella raises her glass, and an eyebrow at me.
The media pretend we get over broken hearts with ice-cream and rom-coms. That’s not true. When women have broken hearts, we heal with alcohol, gal pals, and more alcohol.
“Listen, psychopaths aren’t good for the soul. TWO TEQUILA’S PLEASE” She shouts at the waiter. She continues talking.
If you don’t have a best-friend who is also your wife, therapist, co-conspirator, partner in crime and wing-woman, I suggest you fucking get one.

An hour later and we’ve relocated from Hoi Polloi to The Ace lobby, that sports a DJ on weekends. We are circulating the room chatting to bar patrons, all the artistic/tech types. One man spies me from across the room, and follows me outdoors.
He is mixed race with dark skin and an exceptionally chiseled jaw. I can appreciate his look; a Balenciaga black denim sinners jacket, white tee and all white Reebok classics.
I pull out a pack of Vogues (Relax, it’s just a drinking accessory) and light one, inhaling as he approaches me.
“Have you got a lighter?” A very posh London accent comes out.
I pass him one, and as he sparks his cigarette, he stares at me. We stand in silence for a second before he passes the lighter back.
“God, you are stunning” He sidles up beside me and smiles.
I’m a little gullible for flattery and my insides fizz.
“So are you, I rate this” I tugged on his jacket.
We talk for a bit about our lives; sharing the same music taste, and favourite spots in London. Eventually I make moves to go inside and find Stella. He gives me a lingering look as we say goodbye.

Halfway through the evening, in the crowd I feel an arm sling around my shoulder.
“It’s my dream girl” Elijah whispers in my ear, sending shivers down my neck.
“Are you following me?” I ask, with a wry smile.
“Would you mind if I was?”
I’ve now got a few glasses of Prosecco coursing through my veins and it seems he does  too, with an extra dose of confidence. He puts his hand behind my neck and pulls me close, breathing in my Miss Dior. We kiss, and the music in the background fades away. His hand on the arch of my back as our lips touch. It’s sexy. I enjoy every second of it.
We spend the rest of the night together interlinking arms and vibrantly chatting away. Elijah is working for an esteemed Law firm, as he finishes his Law degree. He is passionate about á la mode urban fashion. He struggled with girls in high school and now that he is ‘influencing on Instagram’ (yes he said this) he is attracting a lot more attention. He tells me I should feel lucky he has chosen me. BOY please. 
There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance and he is leaning towards the latter.
“I want to take you out this week Chelsea”
“Like a date?”
“Yes, like a date” I contemplate my answer. He’s self-entitled, and pretentious. But also attractive, and intriguing. Mostly because I have never dated anyone like him.  He seems safe. No visible serial killer signals.
“Sure, why not.”

On Monday, as I’m on the Hammersmith & City line tube to Wood Lane, I scroll through his Instagram. It’s a flashy feed covered in designer brands, snaps of him at Soho house, Elijah pouting in front of a Lamborghini. Superficial, obviously, but i’ll give him a chance I think to myself, because I was interested.
It’s easy to be interested in the beginning. In today’s age liking someone means you fire off messages like an AK-47. Wake up, message them. Throughout the day, message them. Go to bed, message them.
Unfortunately with all the distractions technology offers us, it’s near impossible to keep your stamina. Things fizzle out and we get bored, so easily.
It’s still Monday and in the evening after a tiresome days work, I turn my key in the front door and collapse on the sofa still in my heels and office wear. I’m reclining there, when my phone goes off. It’s a video from Elijah. An eighteen minute video of him, without a shirt on, talking about his pro bono law work of the day. Eighteen minutes of one sided conversation. His voice droned on and after two minutes I zoned out and started making a Halloumi Salad, forgetting my phone on the sofa. Chopping the lettuce, still talking. Frying the Halloumi, still talking. Serving it on a plate, still talking. I think he really likes the sound of his own voice. At this point I’ve mentally checked out and forget to reply. At eight o’clock in the evening a sarcastic message comes through.
“Leaving me on read? Are you for real? Nice one.”
I felt a pang of guilt for forgetting, I really did. But I’m also a little irritated. No need to take that attitude, I think to myself.
He follows up with a call, that I let ring through. I should have come clean, and told him I wasn’t that interested, but did I? No of course not. Because I wouldn’t be a millennial dater if I actually left things on a mature and honest note would I. Nor would I have any blog content.
C: Sorry… i’m actually out with friends at the moment but i’ll message ya later
LIE. Lie. I’m a liar. I’m on the couch in sweatpants with a peppermint tea, dark chilli chocolate, watching Game of Thrones.

Hide and Seek works like this. You get an initial adrenaline rush that comes from securing an attractive love interest. But once we see red flags like blowing up before you’ve even embarked on date number one, its no longer a game, it’s a chore. So in true H.A.S fashion I withdraw. I become flaky, unresponsive, and leave Elijah on read. His messages drift further and further down my WhatsApp Inbox. Forgetting someone is as easy as making toast in 2018. When we are excited about a love interest, they get on our snap-streaks, they sit at the top of our Instagram messages, we put hearts by their names and are on call 24/7 should they want to chat. But if the spark isn’t there, neither are we.

On Wednesday evening I am lying across Stella’s bed with a towel wrapped around me, having just stepped out the shower, when a voice note comes in. It’s Elijah in a ferocious tone, bleating down the phone about my lack of response.
“So, do you think I just live to chase after you? I have reached out multiple times. I simply expect a response. Ideally I would like to see you Thursday, however I am awaiting a response from you. I am increasingly busier with exams so the least you could do is make an effort to see me, the way I am you.”
Oh dear, drama.
I flick him a quick message explaining that I am too busy to date at the moment, and maybe another time. His response is an essay akin to Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was so long, it fit in to four screenshots (that I sent to my girls in awe). He was throwing rage at me left right and centre. I  can appreciate honesty and expression of feelings, I’m not suggesting males should avoid pouring their hearts out to us girls. Seriously, we love that shit. But maybe save it for date two or three at least. Elijah was like the firing squad, targeting me. To say it unnerved me would be an understatement, and I stop contacting him altogether.

Of course in Hide and Seek, we don’t hide forever. Eventually we emerge, wanting to be found, that’s the point right? Three weeks later, I am out with the girls. We are in The Old Queens Head on Essex Road, Angel.
After a few tipples, i’m enjoying the atmosphere, and make that silly booze induced decision we all make occasionally, to rendezvous with someone from the past. Elijak pops in to my mind having not actually spoken in weeks, and I decide to ask him to join me at the pub.
“Looking fresh tonight” I send in retaliation to his Instagram story.
Yes, I had released the fish in to the wild, only to throw my rod in to the pond to reel him back.
“Would love to see you, I’m out in Angel. Let me know if you’re around E?”
I messaged Elijah, but with no response (it’s after midnight to be fair) I call an Uber, detour for a Five Guys burger, and head home to sleep.

Sunday morning I’m propped up in bed with my silk pyjama’s and a cappuccino reading through my DMs. Elijah’s response in the morning, no surprise, is wildly sarcastic.
“Oh she replies…I was asleep when you messaged me. I don’t know who you think you are, but I can’t stand your behaviour”
I’m irritated. I sip my coffee, the irritation nagging me. If I wanted a scolding, i’d go home to my mother. I do wonder though, whether I’m only annoyed because I’ve been caught out. So often, I ramble on about a boy disappearing and the relationship dying out only for him to re-appear like it’s a man-zombie apocalypse. Elijah was bold enough to shame me in to realising I’ve just done the same thing.

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I’m also starting to connect the dots here. Lawyer. Law. Debating. He likes to argue. He likes to win a case. I feel like i’m on the stand in a courtroom and he is firing accusations at me. On one hand, there’s a certain amount of guilt and I’ve committed a dating crime; two counts of ghosting, one count of bread-crumbing, three counts of avoidance. On the other hand I feel justified in slipping away from confrontation, and think that his fierce responses are unwarranted.

The happy ending here, would be that I solemnly listened to Elijah and never again played the game of Hide and Seek. But that wouldn’t be an authentic tale. I’m guilty of embarking on the game on other occasions. The thrill of the chase sometimes shrouds how we actually feel about someone, and when we are faced with reality, we begin to dip in and out completely unsure whether we want to stay or go. Sometimes we think we have caught feelings, when the lust is probably just hunger and boredom.

I did learn a lesson though. That we should be more honest in our love affairs and stop engaging in online amusement tactics. If you want to know how someone feels about you, meet them. Oxytocin isn’t released over a text message. You can’t caress an Instagram picture. You’re not going to have chemistry with a Tinder bio. If you aren’t going to meet them, and the connection isn’t there, let it go. It makes me wonder whether the dating game would be more enjoyable, if we could clear our conscience and learn to catch and release. If you’ve snagged yourself a man but you aren’t feeling it, let him go. Release the fish. Once you’ve let the anchovy go free in the wild, your rod is clear and ready to hook yourselves a swordfish honey’s.

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