Article By Annie Lord
~ NOVEMBER 2021 ~ The first thing I remember really liking about him was how cute he was when he was trying to be serious. The way he said “sound” when I mentioned a gay friend during the date even though I wasn’t checking for approval, just beginning a story, or when he asked me if I’d ever had a Padron pepper before.
Conversation came easily between us. I made fun of him because he was really upset about a microscopic scuff on his trainers; he made fun of me because I kept adding irrelevant details to my stories like, “So, he was in this red jumper, right?” He turned his ring in his hands, ran his tongue over his teeth, said thanks, cheers, thanks, thanks, thanks, when ordering a pint at the bar. He put his hand around my hips and pulled me closer to him, earlier than was appropriate, later than I would have wanted.
Then he told me: “I haven’t connected with someone like this in a long time… Do you feel like we’re getting on? Is that too intense?” and when I nodded, said, “Shall we go and see Dune together at the weekend? I reckon sitting next to you would make the three hours go a lot quicker.”
But there was no Dune, just a couple more days of texting, a “Whoa, so sorry I went off the grid over the weekend,” followed by another couple of days of texting, then nothing but me habitually scrolling to see if he’d watched my Instagram Stories. I might not have been so bothered if this were an isolated incident.
But the same thing happened a couple of weeks ago with a work colleague. And before him the teacher guy I’ve already mentioned, the hippie guy, the guy who I already sort of knew because we met at the pub with mutual friends, but then also matched on Hinge… basically, lots of guys.
In previous columns, I put this behaviour down to the way men tend to gamify sex. Like once they know you would have it with them, their interest wanes because it’s like they’ve “won” the game, so what’s the point in completing it? But I’m starting to think it’s more than this. That their tendency to lose interest swells up and encompasses more of their being than I thought.
“Men just suck,” replies a friend when I ask her about this over WhatsApp.
“I firmly believe that they’ve gained a horrible laziness and fear of interacting beyond a date. Something’s happened to them in the last 10 years that’s made dating them so much worse. Like the only way they know how to interact with women is by overpromising and then disappearing. They are really interested in the moment and then just… forget. I’m not even sure if they’re actively being bastards, there’s just this disconnect between their feelings and their behaviour. Nothing sticks. It’s like they’ve got no object permanence.”
I wasn’t quite sure what object permanence meant so I googled it. The term describes a child’s ability to know that objects continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard. Most infants below a certain age cry when their toy is hidden from sight because they assume it’s vanished. It’s a bit like how men hold hands with you on a date and say, “You’d really get on with my friend Lara,” and then as soon as they get home they forget you and the connection you built together over the last four hours.
I’m not sure why this has happened. Maybe it’s the way dating apps have bred a culture of disposability, the sheer bulk of great women, something I don’t know how to articulate relating to capitalism? Should some professor at UCL do some research on this or something before it becomes even more endemic?
I asked a male friend who goes on a lot of dates with a lot of women why he thinks men are so flaky. He said it was worth considering the reasons why a guy might have gone out with someone in the first place, so listed those along with corresponding reasons why they might lose interest:
1. He’s horny and wants to bang.
2. He was bored at the time of agreeing to go on the date.
3. He wants to boost his ego by confirming you’re interested in him.
4. You asked him out and he said yes.
5. He genuinely wants to hang out with a view to pursuing you romantically.
1. He didn’t really fancy you in person or, despite putting the work in on the date, can see the level of effort required to bang you is too much hassle.
2. Despite the date going super well, his heart was never really in it. He might want to flirt via text a bit but isn’t interested in seeing you again. This happened loads during lockdown, and then as soon as things opened up, people dashed their lockdown girlfriends.
3. He only went on the date to prove that he could “get” you. So, although he appeared to be into you on the date, it was only to make you more interested in him. Bit psychotic, right?
4. You asked him out and he was too weak to say no at the time so went on the date and humoured you but never saw you as someone to pursue seriously.
5. He really was interested in dating you, and although you had a good time on the date, there was something small that made him not want to be with you. Something too superficial for him to tell you outright and risk being called shallow or fickle.
He finished off by clarifying that it’s normal that the guy might appear to like you on the date. He’s sat right in front of you, a bit drunk. He wants to come home and tell his flatmates, “Yeah, she was great, I liked her.” It’s only with hindsight that he sees it wasn’t all that he built it up to be. That you touched your hair too much, or that it was weird that you mentioned how many followers you had on Instagram.
I felt absolutely nuts after this conversation, and thought that perhaps I better stop inventing pathologies and applying them to men. Perhaps I was just too entitled to other people’s affection because growing up I was blonde and relatively skinny and that was the beauty ideal. But then I thought back to the date, his hand on my hip, all those questions about my family. He genuinely liked me, and if he went on another date with me, he would like me again, and again, until we’d formed a solid connection. Until I became permanent even when out of sight.
A few days later I’m at the pub with my friend and we’re talking about another friend of ours who’s been ignored by a man and she says something so lovely, my heart actually turns purple. “I notice new things about you all the time. All these little things that make you special. I feel sorry for these men, I actually pity them, that they’re too lazy, too nervous or whatever to stick around to discover this stuff about you.” She sighs. “They’re really missing out.”