The next night, another guy at another party walked up to me when I was pouring a drink and laughed. “Sorry, that wasn’t at you,” he said. “I was going to say something but bottled it.” And then we joked about how “Thirsty?” was an awful opener and brainstormed other introductions that would have been more appropriate. We were getting on well, so when he put his hand out and introduced himself and I realized he was the ex of a friend (and had also slept with three others), I was disappointed all over again.
On the third night out—I was being deadly serious when I said I was going to stop being boring—I was at a friend’s birthday party. All the guys there were really hot, with little hoop earrings and sparkly eyes. Unfortunately, they were all gay. And so for the third time, I left a party empty-handed.
I’m describing a recent three-day weekend, but every night out I’ve been on in the last few months has followed one of these three basic formulas. Like a choose-your-own-adventure story where the same thing comes and ruins the happy ending every time, there are simply not enough available straight men.
It wasn’t always so difficult to find a man. In college, I wasn’t particularly successful with men but that wasn’t due to a lack of them. It had more to do with the fact I would kiss them and then run away because otherwise, I would have to spend the rest of my night asking dull questions like “How many siblings do you have?” instead of being with my mates. I’d get really drunk and forget which guy I was with so that I accidentally ended up making out with his friend. It didn’t matter to me that I was letting an opportunity fall through my fingers, I was only concerned about where to sit in the library so that I wouldn’t have to see them again.
A few days ago, I was sitting in a pub smoking area when I heard a guy at the table next to me ask in a Yorkshire accent, “Pint?” I looked over for a moment and then snapped my gaze away because I was embarrassed by how good-looking he was. Think Oscar Isaac if he was younger and more muscly. This guy reminded me of a delicious slice of toast, bulging out big and strong at the shoulders. I wanted to talk to him, to lean over and say, “Yes, please,” in answer to the offer, knowing full well he’d never meant to direct it towards me. I’d make some joke about how the wage gap means technically I’m owed that pint. I thought about asking him where he was from, so that we could have some dumb argument about whether or not my hometown is posh. And after, I could get him back by making fun of his bright blue canvas coat with big pockets that every man in London seems to own. And if there happened to be some fluff on his collarbone, I would lean in close and brush it off with my hands.
Except, of course, I wasn’t going to do any of that stuff because those are all things men are supposed to do to women. And that’s when I had a thought that annoyed me enough that I wrote it down in my Notes app (albeit less comprehensively than this, because I was two drinks down by then). We want men—my friends and I are so desperate for more viable options—and yet we’re still not allowed to do the chasing. We have to feign indifference in order to trick them into believing they wanted us first. Men want to see us as a game they can win. If we showed genuine interest right away, we’d be seen as desperate and needy.
“Who’s saying that?” asked Harry when I brought this complaint to him. “Normalize women shooting their shot; they never do and it’s boring.” I thought Harry was just saying that to sound feminist, but then a few days later I was listening to The Receipts podcast, when the hosts read out a tweet that touched on something similar: “Dating has changed,” they said. “You have to show a man you are as interested in him as he is in you. This isn’t the 1950s.” I remembered how Bumble tells women to make the first move and how I just thought that was a way of differentiating it from Tinder, as opposed to it actually meaning anything.
And then I thought back to the guy at the pub and whether he might actually have liked it if someone else took control for once, leaning back and letting the future happen to him without him having to create it. And at that moment, I was so annoyed at myself for letting the opportunity go to waste, because Lord knows they’re sparse. Next time, I said to myself, knowing how long away that could be.