Modern Romance (Part II)
(Yesterday, our unnamed protagonist made tentative steps towards finding love on his smartphone. Today, we pick off where we left off - with him having matched a potential suitor.)
'Thank you! I like your hair! How are you?' she replies to my formulaic opening. Thankfully my flab-obscuring profile photos also successfully conceal my ever-enlarging bald patch.
'Thanksss,' I type, before deleting the extra s's in a fit of cringe. 'I'm well, just reading at the moment' – I'm not, of course, I'm mindlessly judging hundreds of women on an app due solely on their appearance, hoping to score - '… how about you?'
I hope she doesn't ask what I'm reading. I look at Hitler's Willing Executioners sitting on my bedside table: probably not a good one to start with. Especially not with a girl from Krakow: even I – not exactly an expert at seduction – know this. My eyes flit across the bookshelf: Man Versus The State – no, Enoch Was Right – again, no, Ordinary Men - Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Christ, definitely no.
'So what are you reading? Anything good? I've almost finished reading Brothers Karamazov, really great,' she quickly replies.
'Oh, just some 20th century history,' I vaguely respond, mildly intimated by the Dostoyevsky reference. I read Crime & Punishment but barely remember a thing about it. I wonder if I'm the only person who reads these classics with the sole intention of future boasting rights but who fails to take anything in along the way.
I change tack. Can't out myself this early.
'So how do you like living in London?'
The answer to such a question must always be exceedingly in the positive. The bars, the theatres, the restaurants, the omnipresent fear of getting knifed by a disgruntled youth: sheer joy. Not to mention the high premium you pay for all of it. A room just big enough for a double bed, my collection of socially impermissible books and a wardrobe all for over £10,000 a year. It's probably smaller than Raskolnikov's squalid room. Still, the human-rights breaching crampedness of it all is justified by the unrivalled selection of sushi restaurants nearby.
Twenty-first century poverty: all hastened along by £15 tempura prawns and a mind-bendingly diverse array of dishes involving avacados.
Katherine, 21. Suffers from Wanderlust, apparently. Radical feminist. Left
'Oh it's fantastic! There are so many more restaurants than where I'm from and I love going to the theatre whenever I can!'
Well, quite. And what does she do for work, I ask.
'I work for a small Swedish non-governmental organisation. We specialise in donating plimsolls for underprivileged ballet dancers in the Sahel. It's really hard work but it’s so inspiring.'
I roll my eyes. Another crew of well-meaning people sitting in an office farting professionally into the endless void. At least she can't see my oculars pirouetting dismissively: I suppose that's one benefit of the Tindersation of the relations between the sexes.
Still, who am I to judge? Maybe she is making a difference to the twirly Timbuktu ballerinas as they battle the golden Saharan sands and try to win over the notorious ballet-sceptics of Boko Haram. A tough crowd to please, at the best of times, let alone whilst wearing a tutu.
In contrast my job does nothing for anybody – certainly not for me. Neither monetarily – I don't dare check my bank account – nor spiritually, if thank doesn't sound a touch wanky. I sit at a computer writing emails to people who I have never met, nor whom I particularly wish to, filling my correspondence with the correct verbiage and grey euphemisms of the modern-day. Just reaching out and checking in and touching base. Spreadsheets are updated and databases verified. I'm sure if I didn't do any of it nobody would be much the wiser. I'm just another cog in the modern job creation nightmare.
Certainly, I strive to do as little possible. Enough to justify my existence, but not so much that I might have to cut down on my Daily Mail reading. My colleagues are same, if not worse. It's like one big Ponzi scheme. It's one of the mysteries of the modern workforce: spending eight hours in an office to do a workload you could do in three, maybe four, filling up the remainder of the time with objectiveless meetings and instantly forgettable trainings. Not to mention the coffee breaks (did I mention that I Live For Coffee?).
Still, with no actual work to do – all our factories now in the sultry climes of Guangdong under the caring, watchful eye of our Chinese soon-to-be overlords – there isn't much else to do but pretend. I'm sure before long we'll all be automated out of these few remaining pretend jobs. Then we'll be stuck at home, only able to have coffee breaks by ourselves. Hasten the day.
Julia, 30. 'Never Kissed A Tory.' Left.
'That sounds really inspiring,' my thumbs lie, 'how did you get into that? It sounds pretty niche.'
It turns out that Agatha has a Swedish uncle who works at the embassy in Bamako – where the hell is that? In Mali, apparently – and he helped set it all up. I'm always impressed by the number of people I meet who can claim these strange relatives with enough influence or status to help them get here or there. Usually it's very modestly put. 'Oh, I've an uncle,' perhaps, 'who works in media.' Turns out he's Director General of the BBC.
But she seems nice, which is rare enough in a world where girls have been taught that their emancipation is licence to act as bad as the worst of men. Sometimes I feel like I am from another era – or perhaps another planet – when I see the mini-skirted, boozed-up beasts of town centres across the country on Friday and Saturday nights. Empowered, perhaps, but a sorry sight for sure.
Scrolling through Agatha's photos again – have to be thorough – and there's no trace of late night alcohol-soaked brawls in Bedford town centre. I should do my best not fuck this one up like the rest. Or at least not as quickly.
Still, it's getting late. Work tomorrow and my repetitive robot-like work won't do itself – at least not until the blessed automation comes along. Then we'll be subsidised by Universal Basic Income, paid to sit at home while watching Netflix and perverting the last few unadulterated brain cells via PornHub-fuelled fapathons.
I bid Agatha good night, mandatory :-) suffixed on to the message. After all, who doesn't like smilies?
'Good night,' she responds, 'speak to you later!'
No smiley, no kiss. A blow to my confidence. Definitely shouldn't have used the smiley.
Perhaps a match or two might make me feel better about myself. A shot of Tinder-tinged dopamine.
Becky, 25. Organic food enthusiast. Big on social justice. Loves cats and coffee. Certainly a left, but what the hell. Right.
My thumb gathers pace.
Lizzy, 29. Right.
Maria, 24. Right.
Polly, 19. Right.
Olive, 21. Right.
Alexandra, 22. Right.
Jasmine, 44. I hesitate. Right.
I wait. Nothing. Not a peep. Not even the middle-aged divorcees.
Bugger it, time to sleep.