My friends can’t understand why I bubbled with my ex — but it made me a dating optimist

Pravina Rudra
·3-min read
 (Natasha Pszenicki)
(Natasha Pszenicki)

Let’s just be friends” is usually intended as a paltry palliative for someone you have no desire to see again; the dating equivalent of handing someone a feather cushion before gently shoving them off the cliff. Yet somehow, six months after saying this to a guy I dated, we’re such good friends we’ve been bubbling since February.

When we initially broke up after dating last summer, I knew I didn’t fancy him — but also that, unlike everyone else I’ve ever met, he didn’t annoy me after spending a weekend together.

In October, we hiked through Sicily together and in the months since he has taught me to cook while I’ve taught him to talk about feelings. I have come to understand those nauseating pronouncements couples make about “how you only truly grow” in relationships — we calmly point out each other’s innermost failings; those blemishes, quirks and verbal tics you only see when you get up close.

I don’t want to sound too Goopy Gwyneth, but I increasingly get the “conscious uncoupling” thing. I used to think relationships should either be forever or never and served no purpose if they didn’t hasten you down the aisle. Indeed, female friends asked “what’s the point if he’s not The One?” — I suspect due to the increasing consciousness among millennial women of “time-waster” men; how our fertility fades with age and the ensuing “Panic Years”. But I couldn’t bear the notion that every day over 25 should be spent collaring every man in a seven-mile radius in the hope he might fancy doing something with my eggs before their Use By.

Admittedly, my situation feels unconventional — like I’m having the no-sex-before-marriage relationship Asian parents like to imagine their kids conduct. Not that anyone believes we’re friends without benefits. Most assume either that he’s trying to slither between my sheets, or that I’m days away from the rom-com realisation “it was him all along”. It only makes me think ruefully of the Harry Met Sally adage that men and women can’t be friends — as though heterosexuality is defined by ulterior motives; men too deviant for the purity of platonic love.

In any case, during the pandemic our set-up was public health mandated — we had to limit our contact to a few select individuals and watching Matt Hancock giggle about casual sex quelled most of my generation’s libidos. But now Covid is ending, we know we ought to start dating again: there’s the prospect of balmy summer evenings out, the new second base (picnics — walks were first).

Part of me feels uncomfortable logging into Hinge, as though I’m being unfaithful. But mostly I feel more optimistic than ever about dating. I used to be convinced there wasn’t anyone out there for me. Now I’ve met one person, I’m pretty sure there are more.

More than clots, the main physiological effect of news about AstraZeneca has been to elevate the blood pressure of women across the UK; we’ve faced a far greater risk of blood clots from the contraceptive pill for years. While you can be treated for clots if you recognise the symptoms on time, anyone with a few female friends has heard plenty of other anecdotal evidence about the Pill — the sudden depression, the weight gain — and the irony of their sex drive being removed. All are, of course, dismissed as frivolous, female-only problems.

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