Ethical non-monogamy, first date gifts and NSFW pics — I’m back on the dating apps and it’s a minefield

Lucy Holden  (Picture: Matt Writtle)
Lucy Holden (Picture: Matt Writtle)

After a full year off dating, I’ve been back on the apps for a month and despite the horrors covered in my piece on catfishers and so-so sex two weeks ago (I got some angry messages from men and many “oh my god, I know” comments from women) — I appear to be on a lucky streak, mostly.

Of the four guys I’ve met, I’ve friend-zoned The Teacher and asked Drinks App guy from Feeld, who I’d had a quickly-suggestive lunch with, never to text me again (whispering into someone’s ear on night one that you “never want to sleep with anyone else again” is a serious red flag). So that’s left two lovely, but very different men.

I now find myself constantly fascinated by the etiquette of modern dating. Gifts on first dates, for example. The Teacher brought me a dog-eared book he’d loved. The Drinks App guy arrived with a just-bought novella about an unsuccessful affair and a bottled Martini. The third — a pea farmer (really) — had brought two pheasants hanging on a string and plucked them for my dinner. The fourth — a sound technician — had his car stolen during our date in a kind of anti-present that meant I had to spend much longer with him than I’d planned to, and which was great fun, once we’d dealt with the police.

Having left the nunnery and emerged on the newest dating app Feeld (described to me as the least “vanilla” of all of them), I was wide-eyed at the things people were offering and asking for sexually. Googling 300 different acronyms for new dating expressions I’d never heard of, I saw that a lot of people seemed to be into ethical non-monogamy (ENM) these days. Basically, shagging around but being honest about it, which was “nicer”. I wonder if it’s a consequence of the pandemic, and all that forced time off sex?

Feeld also appeared to be the only app where dick pics were immediately acceptable. Drinks App had included a Lucozade bottle in his for scale (helpful). Then another arrived from an ENM guy who’d made his own GIF of a kind of springing dick-trick against a toilet bowl, which was creative, if gross, I suppose.

It was great to be back in the fray partly because I’d let go of the pressure to turn things serious, and had rather lower expectations. But there have been inevitable downsides to life outside the nunnery. Like climbing a mountain with burning cystitis to scatter the ashes of my mum’s friend last week, feeling full-on Fleabag.

Then again, it’s all been so fun so far. The sound technician wanted to cook me mac’n’cheese and the pea farmer wants to show me his crop. A euphemism? I wondered, as I told him I was free on Thursday.

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