Building valuable, healthy relationships are central to living a positive and productive life. Bumble has helped change the way we interact, breaking down old-fashioned power dynamics and encouraging women to make the first move. Over the next month, we’re celebrating love. We’ve partnered with Bumble to highlight interesting ways to start a conversation, how to find love in the digital age, how to cultivate intimacy as we emerge from isolation and more. Alongside our helpful and inspiring content, we’ll also share stories of ‘the one that got away’ — because sometimes it’s the love before that leads you to The One.
Let’s call you Hamish. Hamish, you’re an asshole. That felt better than I thought it would. But telling you you’re an asshole isn’t why I’m writing to you. I’m writing to say thank you.
Our origin story was unremarkable. We matched on a dating app, and I had a good feeling about you. A fellow Gemini, you had similar taste in memes and also appreciated the benefits of a meat-free diet. We talked for a week or so before organising to go out for dinner.
When I arrived, you subtly insulted me by kindly stating that my handbag was “normie” (it was a plain black shoulder bag, but sure, go off king) and when we sat down for dinner at a Thai restaurant, you assessed the menu, pointing out what dishes you thought might be “unhealthy”. You said you were planning on going vegan because it’s better for our bodies but later rolled and smoked two cigarettes in the space of 20 minutes.
“Our origin story was unremarkable.”
Throughout the meal, you kept getting text messages and even took a phone call at one stage. You timidly looked at me as your phone rang, I had no choice but to say “you can answer it!”. Of course, in these situations, you never actually answer the fucking phone. You answered the phone. It was your best friend and she was asking where you were, how long you’d be. You hung up eventually and we resumed, though the radio frequency between us had gone awry.
As we finished our food, you told me, “my friends are at a pub up the road, and I think I’m going to go join them”. I couldn’t tell if it was an invitation or a rejection, until you went on, “I’m in a bit of a weird situation,” you began. “Actually, maybe you can help,” oh? “A couple of days ago I hooked up with my best friend and it’s just super confusing and I’m not sure what’s going on.” I’m sorry, how am I — a woman you’re on a date with — the appropriate person to help with such a situation?
Nonetheless, what followed was 30 minutes of us dissecting your relationship with your best friend, and whether or not it would be feasible, or even a good idea, for you to start dating her properly. I look back and know I should have just left when you picked up the phone, but I didn’t because to do that would have been to admit that I cared, that my feelings had been hurt, that you were humiliating me. I cried in the taxi on the way home.
“I look back and know I should have just left when you picked up the phone.”
And you’d think that would have been enough to completely put me off you. But it wasn’t because three months later we ran into each other at a party and you informed me you’d broken up with the best friend who you had started dating after we met. We went on another date a few weeks later and you know what happened? The exact same thing. 30 minutes of you talking about her, your “manic, pixie dream girl” (side note: I honestly cannot believe I even entertained someone who said that phrase aloud let alone invoked it earnestly and unironically) and how you were still sleeping together. I cried as I bought ice cream in the grocery store after we went our separate ways — this time, for good.
Dating is work. This isn’t necessarily bad — all relationships take work: visiting your Mum every few months or making sure to remember all of your friends’ birthdays. But when you’re dating, you’re putting in the work without knowing if you’ll get reimbursed, let alone have your labour reciprocated. Again, this isn’t entirely bad news. Dating can be fun; it can be exciting and it can make you feel good even if the dates don’t necessarily lead anywhere, but dating you was like being a pro-bono therapist for someone who was incapable of basic respect.
“Dating is work — all relationships take work.”
Writer and author of Labor of Love, Moira Wegel, perhaps put it best when she likened dating to unpaid internships: “You cannot be sure where things are heading, but you try to gain experience. If you look sharp, you might get a free lunch.”
But perhaps we need to stop using the possibility of a free lunch as justification for the exploitation of our time and labour. Hamish, you were someone who made me realise that I was putting in too much, giving men like you free passes when you didn’t even deserve a seat at the table. You taught me to be selfish, to look out for myself in those early stages because no one else will.
For that, I thank you. You’re still an asshole, though.