Strings Optional

If you were to describe an ideal date for you, what would it be? A fancy dinner? Beers on the beach? A walk to some beautiful waterfalls? Or maybe it would be playing video games and eating junk food?

I didn’t know that last option would strike such a chord with me until I matched with a guy on Tinder and his opening line was “wanna play Mario Kart and eat ice cream?” and, dammit, the only answer I could give to that was a resounding “hell yes!”

And so we arranged a first date fairly quickly, which I always like. We did amend the initial plan, though, to just meeting for ice cream so that we would be in a public place, could both check out the other’s level of crazy and make sure we were both comfortable but, all being well, then a second date was going to be Mario Kart and ice cream at his place.

He was a 25 year old personal trainer, originally from France but had moved to Canada when he was 6 so was French accent-less, and was on some crazy bulking “diet” where he had to eat a ridiculous number of calories in a day – so the ice cream was really just to help him. And who am I, if not a supportive person?

We met at an ice cream place near where he lived – I went over a bridge for him. Well, technically I went over a bridge for ice cream, but… semantics. I wasn’t sure what to expect. If I’m being totally honest, I had 100% swiped right for the abs. The shirtless pic of him among friends had really got me. I still remember it, green leaf print board shorts, stupid look on his face, throwing some sign with his left hand that I’m not cool enough to understand the meaning of and with these glistening abs of steel.

As I’d found out with Arms, you should never judge books with good abs by their cover alone but his date suggestion, of Mario Kart and ice cream, was hardly a trip to an art gallery, so I didn’t know how much would be below the surface of the abs.

Thankfully, as we tucked into our ice cream, having been shown by him the best combo to have at this particular ice cream place, it became clear there was in fact a lot going on under that taught washboard stomach. He’d studied back in France for a year, found a lot of the North American way of life to be boring and vapid, was starting to build out his own business and loved repairing old motorbikes.

It was a good first date, even when his best friend and girlfriend happened to turn up for ice cream. They seemed nice, which is always a good sign, and it was an easy and fun chit chat that Frenchie, as he would be known, navigated smoothly. The only reason the date ended when it did was that he worked early mornings and so always had early nights. We said goodbye on the street, confirmed we’d do Mario Kart and ice cream next time and with a quick peck on the cheek, I was headed home.

Less than a week later and I was making my way over to his place – I travelled! Again! We’d also added pizza into the mix so essentially I was heading to a date dreamed up by a nine year old boy – pizza, ice cream, Mario Kart. And I wasn’t necessarily complaining.

It was a very fun night. I was absolutely abhorrent at Mario Kart, and devastated that I’d lost all the skills I’d had as a kid. It was most unfortunate considering we’d shared a fair amount of banter back and forth pre-date about who was going to kick whose ass. Turns out my confidence was misplaced.

My confidence that night in general was a little AWOL. In the week between dates, we’d had a fairly frank discussion about what we were both looking for and while up until that point I’d always been of the opinion that I was looking for a relationship, I was heading home to the UK for the entire month of April, so had decided maybe fun was a better option for now and when I came back I could re-assess. That sentiment worked with him and so the second date came with the unspoken expectation that while on the surface of it, it sounded like a nine year old’s dream Wednesday night, it was probably going to end a little differently.

And while over the months my confidence had been growing, there was something I found intimidating about the fact he was a personal trainer. It’s like when your hair needs doing and there’s a hairdresser in your group. Or when you’ve had some house renovations done and a contractor friend comes round to visit. You’re always worried about their judgement. In this case, I was worried that Mr Personal Trainer was going to be critical of my work-in-progress-body.

I know, I know, I know, body positivity is where it’s at. Who gives a fuck what someone else thinks about your body. Your body is incredibly strong and resilient and should be shown more respect than to be cheapened by numbers on a scale. But let’s be honest, when you’re thinking about being naked, particularly for the first time with someone you find attractive, there’s often a little voice in the back of your head hurling doubts at you.

But the voice got real quiet, when after Mario Kart and stuffing ourselves on pizza and ice cream – seriously, he might have been bulking, but I shouldn’t have been – the next, non-nine year old part of the date slowly but surely progressed and at the first stage of nakedness Frenchie stopped kissing me to say “your body is hot”. Umm, well, that’s not the worst thing to hear, especially from someone who improves bodies for a living.

Ugh, and I hate that I even wrote those last three paragraphs. I want to be one of those people that’s like “This is me bitches! Take me as I am!” And some days? Some days I am. Other days, most days, I’m like the majority of women (people?) who don’t always totally love everything about themselves.

Lying half naked on his couch with his compliment ringing in my ears definitely helped me relax and enjoy it more than I might have. Which was good, because his body, the sex, it all absolutely should have been enjoyed. There wasn’t a lot wrong with any of it. Apart from maybe the Mario Kart music going round on a loop in the background…

Despite the mood killer of the Mario Kart musical accompaniment, it was fun, we both seemed to enjoy it and as I left that night, saying I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see him before I left for my trip home, he asked me the most romantic of questions – “how do you feel about a threesome?”

My instant reaction was to ask which sex the third would be and he responded “whatever you’d want”. Hmm, interesting. I laughed and without answering kissed him goodbye and said I’d maybe see him in a month or so.

We weren’t in touch while I was away but when I got back I messaged him to catch up and see how things were. I realised that in the two dates we’d had before I left and now I was back, every time we texted it was easy, uncomplicated, straightforward, maybe slightly transactional? And I didn’t mind it. I always knew where I stood. Can you do this time? Yes/no. Does this time work? Yes. Great. Done.

Between his early mornings, my training for a half marathon and a busy social calendar, and his second job as a Butler In The Buff – yep, he’s one of those guys that has to serve champagne to drunken bachelorette parties wearing nothing but an apron – it was hard to get time to see each other but when we did it was always fun and it was always leading to one thing. No, not Mario Kart.

Most of the times I went over to his place, but I decided to put a stop to that after we ended up in his bedroom one time – yes, it had been the couch or bust before that but then he got a flatmate – and his bedroom was… questionable at best. Rancid at worst.

And, seriously, I need a clean and tidy surrounding to be able to fully get in the mood. The fact that his bed wasn’t even made, and I don’t just mean the covers turned up, I mean there were no sheets on the bed, and that you couldn’t see a surface because every inch was covered in.. stuff… it just didn’t make me feel super comfortable. Helped least of all by the fact that on the far side of his bed I noticed an open condom wrapper and bobby pins – neither of which had come from our interaction that night. It was definitely one of those “WTF – how did I get here?!” moments I write about a lot.

So I took a step back at that point and wasn’t planning on seeing him again, but he must have caught me at a weak spot because I ended up seeing him one more time but insisted he came over to mine. At least I knew where my sheets had been.

He came over on a sunny Sunday afternoon and brought some wine. We shared it on the balcony and chatted about life, his business, my dating. He was fascinated by me being 32, almost about to turn 33, and when he found out I was divorced – it had never come up in conversation prior to that day – it was a massive turn on for him. Which was just plain weird to me.

But regardless, whatever effect it had on him, it was a good one, we had some of the best sex we’d had that afternoon. Something I’d also learnt over this time; 25 year olds are unbelievably generous in the bedroom department. It was a revelation. And an incredibly welcome one. There is definitely something to be said for dating, or at least sleeping with, younger guys. Though maybe not as young as Billy The Kid

Following the afternoon of sunshine drenched sex, we didn’t see each other for a few weeks due to conflicting schedules and two weeks later as I was out celebrating my birthday weekend, I got a text from him, about plans we’d made for the following week, saying he’d met someone and was dating her exclusively now but if I still wanted to meet up as friends we could.

It was a really weird feeling. Or rather it was really weird because there was no feeling. None. Other than “hmm, ok, nice.” I declined his offer to meet as friends, I hadn’t been on Tinder to meet friends and I thought it might be a bit weird for his new girlfriend. But it was the easiest “break up” I’ve had. There was no emotion involved. It had been purely about the sex and while it was unfortunate that that wasn’t going to be available anymore, it wasn’t like it had been happening that regularly anyway so it wasn’t a great loss.

And so a few days after my 33rd birthday I was able to confidently say that I’d engaged and disengaged from a no strings attached relationship. And, more importantly, my pride, my feelings and my self worth were intact. You really do never stop learning about yourself, even from 25 years olds. And the threesome never did come up again.

 

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