Dating North London: IRL vs Textlationship

Written by: Sophie Taylor

Looking for a best friend

It’s been a few months since the last instalment of Online vs Offline.

I deleted Bumble, Happn and Tinder, flirted with the idea of match.com, went to a friend’s wedding, heard the Vicar call my name instead of the Bride’s and reflected briefly on the crushing inevitability of my own spinsterhood before realising everyone was laughing in the pews and I should probably join them.

It didn’t help that some weeks before this I was ghosted by possible love of my life guy.

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The one who kept popping up on the dating apps, tuning me in, fading me out, breadcrumbing me down the forest path. We had what would be defined by Cosmo as a ‘textlationship’. Welcome everyone to this month’s latest slip knot of a dating term. A textlationship, as you can imagine, involves a lot of messaging and not much meeting up. When it comes to dating it’s pretty detrimental to the development of a relationship. You can hide behind your online persona and witty little texts while neither of you get to know each other in any real way. 

Then my WhatsApps went undelivered, my texts unread and my heart sank.

I got very good at WhatsApp and Facebook stalking, Instagram prowling and got compliments for my muscular typers thumbs.

But then one morning, having not heard from him for a week or so, I found myself staring at a blank outline of a head.

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As someone not particularly au fait with the meandering wasteland of social media, it took a little while to realise he’d blocked me. Then my WhatsApps went undelivered, my texts unread and my heart sank.

the meandering wasteland of social media

A few months later, with a 30th birthday under my belt and a boxset on iPlayer, I reinstalled Tinder. Eyes half closed I dragged my finger here and there, even sleepily swiping upwards at one point, inadvertently showing super love for a humourless moccasin-wearer.

One profile in particular had caught my eye, but nodding off and out of episodes, I gave in to sleep.

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A twinkly eyed cheeky chappy with a laugh like Sid James. I knew I was done for.

The following morning I noticed I’d matched with the twinkly eyed cheeky chappy who’d caught my eye. Whose bio simply read ‘Looking for a best friend’.

Screw heartache! Screw breadcrumbers! A new bestie was exactly what I wanted.

Fortunately he was forthcoming and we ended up meeting that very afternoon. Unfortunately he was more attractive in real life with a husky voice and a laugh like Sid James. I knew I was done for.

From a rushed first pint at Dalston Curve Garden right up to an old fashioned from Original Sin, we dipped in and out of bars, pubs and alleyways laughing and bumping in to people he knew on every corner.

It was a breath of fresh air and all the other clichés you roll out when you’ve been having a bit of a shitty old time of it.

 

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We went on five more dates that week and have taken up real estate in each others pockets ever since. Exes have cropped up, we’ve endured time apart and we’re still getting to know each other’s little quirks (like why do I spend so much time in Angel? Why does he whistle when he’s stressed?). But the last four months have been one long extended belly laugh / happy sigh.

Fuckboys, ghosters, benchers; I’ve met them all.

Starting off this experiment I was so sceptical about online dating I didn’t even want to download the apps in the name of research. My views on dating in general weren’t much more optimistic, given my past experience with the whole murky scene in London.

Fuckboys, ghosters, benchers; I’ve met them all. But I had also made it difficult for myself by placing importance on old, romantic ideals.

I believed it was only meant to be if you met in real life, both reaching for the same Bill Murray video at Blockbusters or Beastie Boys album at HMV. You know, like a real life person of 2017. I discovered I am a nostalgic luddite and a huge snob.

I also discovered that it doesn’t particularly matter how you meet, as long as you keep meeting. Offline.

 

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So in this completely scientific and wide reaching, in-depth experiment we have found a winner. Congratulations online!

Although Online wins overall, the person I met is very much right in front of my face. Not hidden behind a screen. In fact, we are constantly in each other’s faces. I have met his family, cooked a gross meal for his friends and he’s seen me vomit up cooking wine.

One surprising bonus I have gleaned through taking the Online vs Offline experiment, is a newfound appreciation for London. Where before I would shuffle around the same old areas over and over, head down and eyes firmly fixed on the no 30 home, I now see the city in a strange new light. 

a newfound appreciation for London

The person I met online is open, gregarious, knows the birthdays of homeless people we meet on the street and knows London like the back of his hand. We will flit from unknown pop up to little-known secret local and I have seen and met more people and places in the last four months than I have in the last four years.

I no longer keep myself to myself, pounding the same old routes round North London with my eyes half closed. It is of course very much the honeymoon period where everything is still fresh and silly and a big old hoot. But I am happy enjoying it all with a new best friend, in the moment, IRL.

Read more from Online vs Offline.

Original illustrations by Julia Potocnik at The Barefaced Movement.

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