Illustration by Clara Nicoll

Young life: Why I’m done with dating (almost)

I can’t keep track of the star sign of every boy in East London 
October 4, 2023

I’m (almost) officially done with dating. No more mullets! No more moustaches! No more graphic designers, I beg! I’m at capacity—I can’t keep up with the number of siblings that every boy in south London has, or the star sign of every boy in the east. Besides, I’m officially out of free space for birth charts on my astrology app. And without the stars to dictate my romantic choices, I’m at a loss.   

I know it’s a little soon to be calling it quits on love, but I’ve spent the past year dating and I am both over- and underwhelmed. Anyone who’s ever used a dating app (especially in a large city) will be familiar with the feeling that there are at once too many people and not enough to make for a satisfying dating experience. 

I’ll vow to never go on a Hinge date again—until the stars align and a brutal hangover coincides with my ovulation window (peak vulnerability). Uninhibited by my usual cognitive abilities, my thumbs will find their way to the depths of my phone, where Hinge has been lying in wait. Therein I find stacks of profiles professing passions for Sunday roasts, travelling and the Arsenal men’s team. 

At university I was chronically drawn to privately educated boys who would mansplain Chaucer to me, and aspiring writers who insisted that I follow their poetry Instagram account right after we’d slept together. This may be a reflection on the limited dating pool that Oxford had to offer. Now my “type” seems to have narrowed even further to art-school alumni with DIY mullets, singular ear piercings and flats in Hackney. And, in a city of nine million people, I have only myself to blame.

It’s not that any of the first dates I’ve been on have been terrible. Pretty much everyone I’ve met this year has been nice enough; polite, pleasant and unproblematic. I’ve almost always had an okay time. He’s talked, I’ve listened, and vice versa. He’s bought a round; I’ve bought a round—it all feels fairly equitable (presumably a far cry from my foremothers’ dating experiences).

So maybe I’m the problem? I know how to have a good time on a date; I’ve got the looks down, the etiquette built-in and the questions and anecdotes locked and loaded. I know how to have fun, but I don’t know how to have a fulfilling experience. Deep down, I understand that this is because I fundamentally do not know what I want. 

Any time someone has asked me “so, what are you looking for at the moment?” I’ve delivered a fail-safe politician’s answer: “I’m not sure, I’m mostly just fucking around and finding out.” Serious or casual, monogamous or non-monogamous, romantic or platonic—I don’t have a clear preference. 

Then again, in many ways, maybe I already have what I’m looking for; two boys (who are both aware that I’m dating other people) with whom I’ve been casually sleeping for the better part of a year. No strings attached, no big feelings, but each with enough affection to make “casual” feel a little understated. We can hold hands at the city farm or accidentally spend a birthday together without it feeling like a big deal. 

These relationships qualify neither as strictly “serious” nor “casual”, “platonic” nor “romantic”—the only thing I know is they’re not monogamous and I also wouldn’t refer to them as “situationships” (as that would imply some level of toxicity). Whatever they are, they sit way beyond the realms of any familiar dating experiences that I or my friends have had. 

If I don’t know “what success looks like”, how can I expect to achieve it? If I’m not ready for a big romance, how can I expect to find it? I think the best thing for me to do is pack it in, embrace my existing roster of casual hookups (literally and figuratively) and let love come to me.