/ Expensive Lingerie (2018)

That winter she joined an online dating site, specifically one for older men and younger women. With her flatmates, on the sofa, they spent hours scrolling through pages and pages of men in their forties, fifties, sixties and seventies, cringing and laughing nervously at the old balding men in sports sunglasses, who beamed into cameras from their yachts, from across candlelit dinner tables, from the balconies of their Spanish villas.

When her flatmates got bored and slunk back to their bedrooms, she sat there and continued to click around. She wasn’t sure if I knew what she was looking for. An older man, clearly. An older man who would take care of her, whisk her away and out to dinner, away from the minimum wage retail job and instant noodles.

B was 49, a photographer with blonde hair, in black jeans and thick white cotton shirts. His photo showed him, camera around his neck and bottle of water in hand, in some Californian canyon of sandstone. After paying the £10 for the dating site membership which allowed her to read and send messages, she contacted B.

They exchanged emails for a few weeks, where he said things like this:

“You are lovely indeed and you completely intrigue and excite me. I especially like your witty and very shy charm, your enthusiasm for life (and expensive lingerie), your old soul wisdom and honesty, your naughty and wild side and your refreshing sense of freedom. I think that it would be a good idea to meet up…. and maybe soon, just so that you don’t get bored and do a speedy runner.”

Having an enthusiasm for expensive lingerie was something she’d constructed, of course. It sounded good. It worked.

They decided to meet, although they were living 300 miles away from each other.  B booked her a flight to London – she would spend the weekend with him. He had assured her that if there was no physical chemistry, there would be no pressure for them to have sex, that there was a spare bedroom that she could sleep in. She did find him attractive, and she was fairly sure that she would sleep with him, but she felt good that he had suggested this, safe.

On the flight she was nervous, mainly because she hadn’t had time to shave her legs and the high neck of the cheap black dress was making her neck itch.

They met at the airport.

When he was driving us back from the airport, she felt awkward – badly dressed and ugly, the seatbelt uncomfortably tight. She learnt that B’s two children were both girls and were not young children, as she had hoped, but in their early teens. Both of these facts made her feel highly uncomfortable. She knew that there were children, but she had hoped they were much, much younger than her. In fact, there were 28 years between her and B, 6 years between her and the older daughter.

He drove them to his house, which had dark wooden floors, large prints of B’s black and white photographs on the walls and leafy plants on the windowsills. He made them lunch, salad with avocado, and they ate in his garden, basking in the spring sunshine.

They kissed for the first time. He asked me why she was so shy. She didn’t feel very shy but after considering it, she guessed she was worried about being a bad kisser, and she had wanted to impress him. He liked kissing her and so she felt happy.

Then he went out for a meeting, while she shaved my legs in his shower and sunbathed in the garden.

When he got back, he led her up to his bedroom and they had sex.

Over the weekend, they went to the theatre to see some slapstick comedy, and to see some dance performance. They ate sushi. They had sex.

On Monday, time for her flight home, she felt sad, but couldn’t explain why. B seemed a little annoyed by this sadness, maybe seeing it as sentimentality. He stopped the car and she walked across the car park and into the airport.