Chiara is a 41 year old woman from Sydney, Australia who finds herself single after 18 years with her ex. Here she recounts one of her experiences using dating app Bumble.
You have to start somewhere
I hang up for the third time to my best friend after leaving a more frantic message than the last. What was I doing; was I that desperate for attention that I was driving to a stranger’s house in the middle of the night? Middle of the night… OK that may be a slight exaggeration as it was only 9pm. But for me this was late to be heading out to start the evening. I needed the reassurance of Annabelle to calm me down, but she wasn’t answering. I’m sure these messages might sound funny when she listens to them.
This was my second attempt at meeting someone off Bumble. The first hadn’t been successful but I blame Annabelle for that as it was she who had swiped Eduardo. She said she liked the dark Italian look, so maybe she should have gone out on a date with him. In all fairness, I could have just not talked to him when we matched, but I was curious to see what would happen. We met and there was no connection, but he still wanted to come back to my place for ‘coffee’.
I tried my luck at swiping again, and this time it was all me. No need to have a friend do the dirty work again. His name is Dante, an Italian living in Coogee, a suburb of Sydney. So here I am in my car driving there. I’ve lived in Sydney my whole life and have never been to Coogee. The eastern suburbs is not an area I frequent often. It’s just not me but every single person on Bumble seems to live in Bondi, Coogee or Manly which are on the coast- so if I’m going to get some of the single action, guess it’s time to get out of my comfort zone and see how the other half live.
I’ve gotten lost a couple of times and have had to pull over and reassess the map. I could use the GPS in my car but that would be too smart and the way I’m feeling right now, I’m not.
I’m going to a man’s house that I have never met. I texted Annabelle his name, number and address, adding that if she didn’t hear from me in the morning then this is where I was, for the police to get my body. Ok, maybe a tad overdramatic. There was an element of stupidity in what I was doing but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t had sex in 10 months, and I was in desperate need for some action. I needed to get back on the proverbial horse.
My ex had moved on from his life with me and it was time I did the same.
As I drove down Dante’s street, I was freaking out and cursing the bloody eastern suburbs parking situation, but as I turned the corner there was a space and I did an awesome parallel park. This was fate. I rang Annabelle one last time to see if she would pick up. She didn’t. I left a message “Ok, I’m here and I’m going in”.
As I walked down to Dante’s house, it hit me how little I knew about this person. He had been in Sydney for 7 years and was a film director. In all his profile photos he looked different, short and long hair, with and without beard. It was going to be interesting to see which look opened the front door. There wasn’t really much texting beforehand. I had only swiped him the previous evening and we had only sent a dozen or so messages back and forth.
There aren’t any rules to dating or life, I kept reminding myself. I’m a 40-year-old woman and if I want to go and meet someone on a Friday night that I didn’t know and had met on a dating app, well then that’s my prerogative. A comment my ex had said to me last month popped into my head, when he told me he was moving his girlfriend of 2 months into his new house: “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I?”
Fingers crossed it’s two times the charm
I knocked on the door of Dante’s house; my heart was beating at a million miles an hour. House is a loose term, converted shopfront really. Through the curtained glass I could see a figure move down the spiral staircase towards the door. Here goes nothing.
“Hello, how are you?” His greeting was warm with his thick Italian accent. He leans in for a kiss on each cheek; oh yeah that’s right, that’s what Italians do. I should know that after all. I come into the room, it’s small and cosy. Every space seems to be filled or covered, not what I expected a single man’s home to look like. He’s talking away, any awkwardness dissipating. He starts cleaning his small kitchenette, explaining that he had people over the previous night and had cooked. A man that can cook, I’m impressed.
I sit on a stool at the kitchen counter and try to look relaxed, like I do this every day. But I’m a fake, I’m not sure how to talk to guys. I’ve been in a relationship for the last 18 years and even before that I was never very successful with talking to guys. Probably one of the reasons why I put up with so much in my marriage, the fear of having to be out there and go through it all again.
I think I’m doing OK at passing off as being confident in my situation, Dante seems oblivious to my internal dialogue. After washing wine glasses, he pours us some red wine. I don’t drink red wine but I don’t tell him this. He pulls out strawberries and starts making a chocolate sauce on the stove. He’s making us dessert. Is this his move to seduce me, because right now I’m pretty sure I’m a sure thing. I look at him while he works away. He is a good-looking man, his longish hair is pulled back in a pony tail and is shaved underneath and he has a beard. This is not the look that I would normally go for. But I can still appreciate that he is good looking and his accent does wonders for my loins.
He asks the question that I think I will be answering a lot as I meet new men: “So how can a gorgeous woman like you be single?”.
I recount the last few years of my marriage. He seems understanding as he then recounts his relationship with an ex-fiancé. Now we both know why we are single and on online dating apps to find someone new.
Dante is a very passionate man in every way, for what he does and for life. It’s hard not to get swept up in his excitement and he shares his interest in filming and makes me listen to different music and watch different clips he has filmed. He smokes every so often, standing by his opened front door as he does. I stand by the spiral staircase as he does so we can continue our conversation. A lot of time has passed but the conversation just keeps flowing. I’m really enjoying myself.
Will he make a move?
As I stand by the door watching him smoke, I wonder how does this move to the next level. Do I make the first move, does he? I’m pretty sure he likes me. It would be so easy for him as he comes back in to come up to me by the staircase and kiss me. But that doesn’t happen. I look at my watch it’s getting late. I have my son’s birthday party tomorrow with 15 children coming over for his party. I’m yet to finish the cake. Whilst trying to be carefree, the responsibility of my life lingers at the back of my mind.
After four to five hours of talking he finally makes his move and kisses me.
It was exactly what I needed; I couldn’t even remember the last time I had kissed someone. When you’re in a relationship you take each other for granted and forget the simple pleasures. This kiss was so simple, but it made me feel so wanted. He bit my bottom lip, God it felt so good.
“You kiss like a Sicilian” he tells me. I don’t know what that means and I’m also not about to start arguing that I’m Australian, despite where my parents were born.
We decide to move upstairs to his loft bedroom to make ourselves more comfortable. This is happening, I tell myself. I’m about to sleep with another man other than my ex-husband. My body so wants this, but my mind is fraught with self-doubt about how it will be. Will he think I’m fat? Will he think I’m not good enough sexually? My self esteem is not high right now courtesy of the ex-husband.
Dante puts me at ease though, he says all the right things. Tells me how beautiful and sexy I am, complements me on my red lingerie – yes, I came prepared – and I can’t help but enjoy myself. I forget all the bullshit of the last year and have fun like any single 40-year-old should do.
We fall asleep at 5.30am; he gives me some pyjamas that I can wear which I think is sweet. I mentally make a note of what time I need to leave to get home in time to finish making the cake. A few hours later I wake up and decide to leave, should I wake him up? No, best to let him sleep. I get dressed and head downstairs where I leave a note but as I’m about to leave he comes downstairs half asleep and gives me a hug goodbye.
I walk out of there with the biggest smile on my face. I did it. It was that first step I needed in the right direction in feeling that I would be ok. That men still found me sexy and attractive. That my husband’s opinion of what he saw as my flaws, was just that – his opinion. Not everyone else feels the same.