By the time I got to date three, I already was experiencing dating fatigue. I had gotten over-excited when this whole thing started and arranged three dates pretty much on the trot, and I felt wiped out even after just two dates. After a Sunday night eating waffles and drinking cocktails (ill-advised on a school night, particularly the Espresso Martini), I committed to a full day of work and then a night of what was probably going to be more drinking.
I met C on Hinge, where one of the ‘icebreakers’ on his profile said “what if I told you that I’m in an open relationship, so not looking for anything serious.” And, naturally, I was intrigued.
We matched and he asked me about my tattoo (the shoulder mandala), the conversation drifted into polite small talk. I lamented the health of my poor liver, who was not used to absorbing as much alcohol has it had in the past few weeks – what with Christmas, New Year and the drink-heavy dates. He empathised, before asking: “Speaking of drinking, do you fancy getting one soon?”
TO BAIL OR NOT TO BAIL?
On the day, C and I were chatting on WhatsApp a little bit, when he said, “I’m not gonna lie, I’m still feeling quite ropey. Just to warn you in case I seem a bit out of it tonight.” And I’ll admit, with how I was also feeling, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to cancel. But you know how these things go; you promise to reschedule and often it never actually happens. So, I decided to woman up and stick to my guns. After all, I still had a lot of dates to get though (23, to be exact).
“Me too,” I wrote back, “but I’m sure we’ll be fine a couple of drinks down.”
Originally, I had suggested going to the same place I took A, because it’s the only place in London I know that does a very reasonable happy hour. Would it be weird to take a date to the same place I brought a previous date, just days ago? Maybe, but I wasn’t going to dwell on it. And in the end, we didn’t end up going to that place because of issues with the tube. Instead, we met at Waterloo and ambled around for a place to have a couple of drinks.
C and I settled for a place near the station – perfect for if I wanted to escape quickly if I wasn’t feeling it – and sat by a nice little table by the window. When our drinks came, he raised his glass so that we could cheers to meeting.
Once we got properly chatting, we found that we had lots in common: watched a lot of the same films, read a lot of the same books, and had similar views on a bunch of things. C mentioned liking comedy and occasionally going to see open mics, and I told him that as of recently, I had been performing stand up on occasion. I wish you guys could have seen the look on his face, his mind was completely blown. It could have been because we were a few drinks down at this point, and had only shared a bowl of chips between us, but it did feel slightly over-exaggerated.
“I would just never have pegged you as someone who does stand up,” he said.
“Is it because I’m a woman?” I joked.
“No, not at all,” I could see that suggestion made him uncomfortable, “It’s your demeanour, I guess. But I’d love to see you perform one day.”
He asked me what I talked about in my set, and I explained that my USP was along the lines of “a very awkward, bad millennial.”
He gave me a look, “I wouldn’t have pegged you for being awkward – you don’t come across that way at all.”
This is something I get a lot. I explained to him the best way that I could (because I don’t understand it myself half the time) that my awkwardness and discomfort in social situations is always there, but the confidence that masks it is selective – although I’m not always in control of it. “Although,” I told him, “I’m always at my most confident at job interviews or on dates. Probably something to do with the adrenaline.”
After a while, I worked up the courage to ask him about his open relationship. C gave me a knowing smile, “You should have just asked me sooner.” And maybe I should have, but I was preferably waiting for a time it would be brought up naturally into the conversation. “What do you want to know?” he asked.
THE BIG QUESTION
It turns out that he and his girlfriend had been together pretty much throughout school, and as they came into adulthood, the topic had been brought up. They still loved each other and wanted to be together, but after so many years together, there was a curiosity of getting to know other people. C noticed that once he and his girlfriend opened their relationship, it was a catalyst for a few of their friends and acquaintances for doing the same.
He mentioned that it goes through phases, that they don’t actually date other people very often. However, C‘s girlfriend was currently travelling around Asia for a few months, so the freedom to see people and go on dates was a good way to “scratch an itch” (his words exactly, interpret how you will).
I found this all very interesting, having mainly only been monogamous myself. I say ‘mainly’, because there has been been time where I have dated two people at once, in the early stages of courtship, but there was always a moment when I felt like I had to make a decision: to weight up the pros and cons with, and see who I’d like to pursue something more serious with. I’ve never been in a relationship where my partner is already in a relationship with someone else, or we have both agreed that it is sometimes okay to date or sleep with other people.
I asked C if he found it easy or not. “Most of the time, but not always,” he admitted, “With any relationship, you have to communicate your thoughts and feelings. But in a open relationship you have to make a continuous effort to do so. We’re not immune to feelings of jealously or insecurity, but we make a point of talking things through, so that we can adjust the ‘rules’, or simply just to talk things out so that it’s not bottled up. It takes work, but we’ve established a good routine.”
At the end of the night, he gave me a kiss on the cheek before we parted ways. I had a nice time, but I felt like I couldn’t really suss him out. Occasionally, when conversation had lulled in the evening, he would give me lingering looks which could have been interpreted as flirting. But, other than paying for our drinks and food, there was no suggestion of romance in their air. No indication that I would be ‘scratching his itch’, as it were. You could factor in that it was a school night, and that we have both established early on that we were not functioning at 100%. But then again, no suggestion of another date had been made, and we haven’t spoken much since, so… *shrug emoji*
I’ll leave you with the rather obvious soundtrack pick of Three of a Perfect Pair by King Crimson, and open the floor to this particular question: Could you be (or have you been) in an open or polyamorous relationship?