Finding Love in the Digital Age – How Far is Too Far?

On Friday, I went up to Edinburgh for a long weekend with some friends at the Fringe Festival.

Like any trip away, we were all filled with anticipation of what the weekend would bring. What was the weather going to be like? Which shows would we see that would make us laugh? Would we laugh so hard we cried?

For a singleton like me (currently in one of my I’d like a boyfriend phases) there was also the ever-present question? Would I meet someone? Would I get a cheeky snog or two? Would I fall in love?

Let’s get the first bit over with – the weather was quite lovely, it always is when I go to Scotland, so much so that I’m truly beginning to believe that the Scots are just lying to the English about the weather in an attempt to keep us out.

We saw:

  • Two slightly camp twins – Kane and Abel (think Jack Whitehall but better looking) performing magic tricks (very funny);
  • I saw Harry Baker the World Poetry Slam champion in an archway in a cellar under a bar (atmospheric, amusing and inspiring);
  • Gobsmacked, an acapella group comprising seven members who performed and sang using their mouths as their only instruments (impressive and infectious);
  • David O’Doherty (quirky yet spine-tingling when talking about the marriage referendum in Ireland)
  • Chris Ramsey (cute and hilarious in equal measure)

And a tear or two may have escaped when I was creased up laughing as Chris Ramsey played a disturbing game of ‘Would You Rather?’ with a shell-shocked sixteen year old in the audience.

Did I fall in love?

Well, Chris Ramsey was lovely, and the twins were definitely worth a flirtatious smile, but like most gay guys, my radar was pinging the moment I stepped on the plane on Friday.

Alan. Lovely, lovely Alan.

Sitting in the front row of the plane, we got have a little chat with the air stewards, but I thought nothing more of him after about five minutes having stepped off the plane.

It was only on the way back, after a particularly hellish wait to drop our bags that I suddenly wondered if maybe we would see Alan again. Standing on tiptoes, I to look over the queue of people waiting to get onto the plane…

There he was. I grinned excitedly, and stepped onto the plane, where he immediately raced up the other end of the plane to deal with another passenger’s problem.

We were sitting in the front row again, so I waited, and halfway through his safety announcement, he spotted me, grinned and waved.

A little bit of flirting followed (something which I’m shockingly bad at – but I had my wing-women around who were able to help, both in keeping the conversation going but also in giving me a little extra confidence) – and then peaked when the stewards came back down toward the front of the plane after handing out complimentary drinks.

Not only after two short flights did I have a usual at the on-board bar (Alan’s trolley), but we also had an in-joke which resulted in the remainder of a bottle of white wine being left with me to see me through the end of the flight.

(At this point, anyone who really knows me, will know that yes, of course I fell in love, the man gave me free wine!)

A little more flirting followed and I missed out an epic opportunity to take it to another level when he asked me (after hearing me refer to Little Gay Andy and Big Fat Ron) what came before Alexander – I should have replied “Well, you can if you want?” but I was slightly speechless as I realised he had been looking up my name on the passenger manifest (luckily my wing-women covered for me to save an awkward stuttering silence).

(And as I write this, I’ve decided to nickname him Sky High Alan – which if he’s reading this, I’m sure will thrill him.)

“Where is all this heading?” I can hear you shouting at your computer/phone screens. Did we fall in love and live happily ever after? Did I join the mile-high group?

No and No. I’m far too shy when it comes to people I actually like for something like that to happen. But I did leave my business card, with my mobile number circled and a message on the back.

I left it propped up on my chair, cringed inside when Sky High Alan instructed the remainder of the passengers to leave any newspapers and magazines they no longer wanted on round one, and  headed off the plane, shaking hands with him as we went.

I haven’t heard from him. Our love is obviously not meant to be.

Or is it?

On Monday morning, I found him on Facebook.

It took about a minute, even though I only knew his first name and the airline he worked for (let that be a lesson in internet privacy for you, kids), and I instantly… did nothing.

There was still a chance he had found the card and would get in touch with me, not wanting to appear too keen.

Or he had found it and thrown it away, laughing at my feeble attempts to invoke future contact.

But I did let our Edinburgh group on WhatsApp know that I had found it. Reaction from all of them was instant and negative. “Don’t add him!”, “Don’t message him.”, “Wait for him to message you!”

What if he doesn’t ever respond? I asked. What if he didn’t find the card?

Well, I did know that he had looked up my name on the manifest, so it was possible he might try and find me himself, but I know my privacy settings make it quite tricky to find me.

Surely I owed it to the Gods of “You Never Know” to send a hello?

“NO.” came the reply. “Finding him on FB is creepy!” “There are limits to YOLO – this is outside of those.”

So, I stopped asking my wing-women and their boyfriends, and asked a couple of gays that I know. Their responses were quite the opposite. Do it. Definitely do it. That’s how the world works now. Send him a friend request to make sure he sees it. Do it now.

And I found that very interesting. Could it just be a simple difference that deems what is acceptable and what isn’t? The straight people in my life find it unacceptable, while the gays find it an obvious thing to do.

It surprised me, the contrasting views, where people were drawing the line between what was acceptable and what wasn’t.

Personally, at first I found leaving the card a little creepy (the whole thing had a bit of a whiff of hitting on teacher about it) – but I went with it. I didn’t find finding him on Facebook as creepy, but actually then contacting him? In the message I drafted in my head, the first thing I did was apologise for being creepy, so obviously my gut reaction was that yes, this may be crossing the line.

The girls were able to clearly draw a line. The gays drew a line between sending a message and friend requesting him (well one of them did).

Where would you draw the line? How far is too far when tracking down a guy you like on the internet? How is it any different to hanging out in a bar you know your crush frequents, in the hope that you might get to talk to them.

Where would you draw the line?

Maybe this blog post is crossing the line?

Where did I draw the line? I’m not sure yet. Part of me thinks, despite what the girls said, it would be acceptable to message him today (the day after meeting him). However, it is very clear in my head that if I do message him, it would have to be today.

Thinking about someone for DAYS after meeting them, then tracking them down on Facebook to ask them out? Nauh.

So, there you go. I’m not sure where the line is, but it will definitely be drawn come midnight tonight. After then, the only hope I have of ever seeing him again would be to keep booking myself onto Virgin flights with the futile aim of bumping into Sky High Alan again.

Now THAT would be creepy.


(Not) Looking for Love Part 1

Towards the end of 2014, I decided I was going to find me one of those boyfriend things.

I’ve never really had the most successful of love lives – though it’s not been completely inactive – and part of that has been of my own choosing, never really wanting anything permanent.

I’m happy in my own company and I work long hours. Sharing the precious few hours I get to myself with someone else has never really been a priority.

Occasionally, I get a bit lonely and want to spend some time with people, but that’s what friends and family are for. So again, that boyfriend thing never really appealed.

Of course, there are SOME things that friends and family can’t provide, but I’ve always found sex a little overrated, time consuming, and frankly, a bit dull at times. I don’t know, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

But something changed, and I don’t really know what. Maybe it was that three of my friends got into serious relationships – one of them someone who up until that point had a similar attitude to relationships as me.

Maybe it was because it was cold and I needed to find a new way of keeping warm. Maybe I just wanted more presents for Christmas.

The point is… I asked somebody out. Confidence has never been a problem for me, except when it comes to men – so for me to directly ask someone was big news. (Even though it was via a Direct Message on Twitter – it still counts. #BabySteps)

The answer was “thanks, but no thanks” – and I moved on, got over it. Which was a new experience for me. Normally, if I ever do like a guy, before I even talk to him, I’ve idealised him in my mind and planned our lives together. This usually leads to disappointment, but it’s a by-product of the endless chat that has come with meeting people on social media.

Exactly that happened shortly after Christmas, when just randomly chatting with someone on twitter we started sending each other direct messages. He was cute, been following each other on twitter for a few months, not ever really considered anything before. Partly because he lived SO far away.

We spent a whole night chatting, first on Direct Message, then via text. We found we had so much in common, and we were laughing about how fate seemed to be throwing us together. We both talked about the future, about running off to live away from all of society in some forest somewhere – he even jokingly asked me to marry him.

Then, after a week and a half of non-stop chat, he ended it. Said it was nothing personal, but he’d realised that he didn’t want to be with anyone, he wanted to remain single.

I wasn’t devastated, partly because I was expecting it (one doesn’t get rejected by as many men as I have without starting to be able to read the signs), but partly because it was something I’d said to guys before. One specifically comes to mind, where there was nothing wrong with him, a perfectly lovely, attractive guy – I just didn’t want to be in a relationship with him.

But I was a bit upset – because again, I thought I’d made a connection, and again, it came to nothing.

But, I surprised myself, the following day, by being completely over it. And that’s nothing against the guy, but what we had – like most virtual relationships – wasn’t real. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it massively at the time, but found afterwards I didn’t miss it.

And then I realised I didn’t miss it because, he wasn’t the right guy for me. The stuff I enjoyed was all the bits that come with a relationship, someone to chat to (even if it was only over the phone), to tell stuff to, to make me smile when he compliments.

I miss that, but I don’t miss him.

So I’ve learned something. I’m NOT going to find me one of those boyfriend things. I’m not gonna look, because I’ll just try and force it again.

But I AM going to start saying yes to things, going out and doing more stuff, where I might meet some new people, and if one of them new people happens to be the right guy for me, well that’s wonderful, but I’m going to let him find me.

This new attitude has already started to reap rewards, when, last weekend I made the trip up to London for a two hour pre-launch party for Helen Lederer’s new book (review to come soon).

Old me, wouldn’t have wasted money on such a short trip, especially one on my own. He would have just stayed home, watched TV, shuffled stuff around the flat and maybe have ventured out to McDonalds for a burger.

New me, travelled up, had a lovely time, met some new people, made some new contacts, and even made a handsome guy give me his number. It was happening before I even thought about it – didn’t ask him for it, didn’t offer mine, just told him to give me his number.

I might never see him again, I might run into him next time I’m in London – who knows. But I’m not gonna over think it. It’s possible and, indeed probable, that he didn’t want to give me his number, but it was his real one, because I did send him a little text and he text back. We left it with maybe a drink, maybe sometime.

A chance encounter, that came out of me not looking for love, that has led to a ‘maybe’.

I’ll update you sporadically on my non-quest, whether you want to be updated or not – I’m still not looking for love, but I think I’m finally ready for it if turns up.