Image description: the text Dates of Our Lives on a pink and purple background
It was almost 5th week and in an attempt to get ahead of the potential 5th Week Blues, I headed home. Home to sweet sweet Cardiff.
The train journey was long. And for all of you who live in the sprawling metropolis of London, transport to anywhere else is shoddy. I took a train from Oxford to Didcot, Didcot to Swindon, Swindon to Cardiff Central and then phoned the taxi firm of M&D to rescue me from the back entrance of the station which is what I imagine an open air crack den to look like.
Throughout all of the train hopping and platform waiting I kept my Tinder on. I let it roam as I roamed. My sole companion, well apart from the fat book on Ming Chinese art I didn’t even bother to glance at.
It picked up boys from everywhere, Bristol, Bath, not Reading because my ticket wasn’t valid for that route, Newport, and of course Cardiff. As I sat there waiting to be collected I swiped left and right with gay abandon. I recognised guys from school, friends’ ex boyfriends, that weirdo who wore a mankini to non-school uniform day – I still shudder at the memory. I swiped on boys in my sister’s year at school. Left, I would like to clarify. I’m no cradle snatcher. It was a whole new world. Gone was the binary of Brookes or books. Instead there were Cardiff uni students from across the British isles. There were Cardiff Met art students, there were University of South Wales lads, there were Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama males. There were local fuckboys, there were boys next door, quite literally in my case since I come from a small village. There were plumbers, tilers, “entrepreneurs”. My head was spinning.
And so throughout this sojourn home I got my daily swiping fix. The result? Well I actually landed on someone I’d had a mild (extreme) crush on throughout school. As a joke really. I didn’t think he’d recognise me or even be interested. It was a little social experiment, the most STEM I’d ever been.
Dear readers, it turns out that early 2000s teen rom coms do not represent real life.
He did, however, recognise me. He popped up, asked me how I’d been. The usual small talk, not very exciting. But then he asked if I wanted to go for a drink. I declined on the basis that I was only at home for a few days. His reaction? He did not give up. He asked when I was leaving and we arranged a time for the next day. I was quite excited. Now my parents might believe I really did go on dates and didn’t simply make them up as a substitute for a real personality. My grandma could rejoice, the chances of grandchildren not dead in the water!
So we went to our local watering hole, he being from the next village over. In true village style, I declined a lift and walked through a field which was a terrible idea since it now gets dark by mid afternoon. Nevertheless, I rocked up and the smell of warm, fermented, stale beer hit me like a heatwave.
He greeted me, bought my drink and we sat down in a nice cosy corner. We caught up. He was at a northern uni and enjoying it. He had just started a Masters in something geography based that sounded to me like poking rocks but he was excited. The drinks flowed. The conversation flowed. We gossiped about the people we’d been at school with and filled each other in on the trials and tribulations of student life. I thought that maybe I was in fact a late bloomer and I had finally blossomed. This was karma for being, what I can only describe as, a nerd in school. The hot boy, the jock for my friends from across the pond, might actually be interested in me.
I went to the toilet and whilst breaking the seal (a mistake all girls know), I messaged my friend and filled her in. There were squeals of excitement and requests for a full debrief after to which I gladly consented to. This was akin to being in an early 2000 chick flick. At any moment now Julia Andrews might burst, or Amanda Bynes might be at the bar.
When the bell was rung for last orders and we slipped into our coats he offered to drive me home. Looking back this was a terrible idea but in the moment laws around legal drinking limits didn’t seem to enter my mind. I said yes, I could avoid the awkward dad-taxi that way and we strolled over to his Volkswagen Polo, complete with crushed cans, and a string of beads hanging down from the rear-view mirror. We got in, he chose some grime song. Less straight out of Compton and more suburban South Wales but points for ambition. And then, he turned to me, and said…
“Shall we go back to yours?”.
I was stunned. This was not the treatment Anna Hathaway received or what Lindsey Lohan was looking for. I declined since my parents were home anyway and I couldn’t even comprehend the embarrassment of that situation.
He replied, thoughtfully, after casually licking his lips like a Tiktok fuckboy, “well, we can always just do it in my car”.
Somehow, dear readers, that did not appeal to me and so I blurted out I was on my period which did the trick. He crinkled his nose, his eyebrows shot up in alarm. He scrambled for the key in the ignition mumbling ‘never minds’, and ‘maybe some other times’.
He dropped me off and skrrted away. Dear readers, it turns out that early 2000s teen rom coms do not represent real life. This was a harsh learning curve for me and so I proffer this tale humbly, and in the same way Aesop offered forth his fables, as a lesson to one and all.
The names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this work have been altered to protect the identities of those involved. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.