‘ “Are you just looking for sex, maybe?” Just like that! It was… shaming.’
Tristan shakes his head. ‘Sorry about this.’
I laugh. ‘Oh don’t mind me!’
Ryan recaps for the benefit of his newest audience member. ‘We’d been chatting for a while when he asked why I was on the site – was I looking for something serious? And when I said no, he said ‘are you just looking for sex, maybe?’ Maybe?! I just felt he was being so… judgmental.’
Tristan and I exchange grins.
‘No,’ I say.
‘And if I was just looking for sex, I’d go on Grindr.’
There’s a general murmur of assent. I’m considering canvassing opinions on the online dating question, when Tristan speaks.
‘I tried online dating once, before I met Holly. I went on a couple of dates, and what surprised me most was how… normal the people were.’
‘But now all my friends seem to be on Tinder.’
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘But actually I think the people on there are weirder.’ I laugh. ‘Not that I’m saying your friends are weird!’
‘They are quite weird.’
‘Yeah, well, my weird friends are on it too!’
I’m on it, but I keep this to myself.
Gus, silent until now, speaks. ‘Isn’t it linked to your Facebook account? That’s a bit scary.’
‘No surnames though,’ I say, striving for the tone of an objective outsider.
‘That’s fine,’ Tristan says, ‘if your name’s something generic, like Tom, but if you’re called Tristan…!’
I laugh. ‘Yeah you’re screwed.’
He goes on. ‘The impression I get, is that the girls on it are really keen…’
I remain poker-faced.
‘… and the guys, they’re a bit older, often professionals, and they sound interested to start with, but there’s rarely a second date.’
So not unlike real life then, though I don’t say as much.
At this point, we’re joined by two girls. One of them, a pretty brunette, tries to engage Gus in conversation, but he’s busy doing something on his phone.
We were introduced the other day, at his desk. I thought he was hot, in a rugged, arty kind-of-a-way, crouched at his computer, writing copy.
When he enters the kitchen, I don’t immediately recognize him. For one, he’s tall, taller than me. For another, he has a disarming smile which makes me for a moment forget what I’m doing there; which, when we end up using adjacent microwaves, makes me nervous of speaking; which might be why I don’t admit to being on Tinder, or say anything to suggest cynicism or lack of dating success.
There’s a lull round the table. Tristan, who seems to be the dominant member of the group, breaks the silence.
‘Any progress with getting funding for your PhD, Gus?’
Gus looks up from his phone, stretches. ‘No.’
‘Where do you want to do it?’ the brunette asks.
‘Well… ideally I’d like to do it at Oxford.’
Tristan smiles. ‘Wouldn’t we all!’
‘But anywhere that’ll have me really.’
There’s a pause.
‘What would it be in?’ I say.
Someone asks what area specifically, and he goes into a bit more detail. I want to say something clever, but fear or ignorance stops me. Or perhaps it’s neither. Perhaps it’s that I can see the way the brunette looks at him, the reverent, adoring glances, and I don’t want to be that girl.