When someone ‘curves’ you, they’ll keep replying but slowly take longer and longer and always wrap it up in a pretty little apology bow, as Zoë Rocha learns the hard way …
“So that’s it. I think it’s all over,” I tell Richard over an emergency catch up dinner in Muswell Hill. I’m talking about Daniel, the guy I had the most perfect date with three weeks ago. “He’s cancelled again and hasn’t replied to reschedule. And I can see the two blue ticks!”
“How long has it been?” he asks. A very reasonable question in light of my overly dramatic statement.
“Twelve hours,” I say. “Did I do something wrong?”
He scans my texts in which I thought I was portraying nonchalant and relaxed – but on review they may actually read more like hyperbolic love letters from a very tipsy Daisy Buchanan – and looks at me sadly.
“Your instincts were right. He’s curving you. Just block him and move on.”
Now, as an online dating novice who has only just dipped their toe in this strange new pond, this new term caught me completely unaware. I’d researched the old faithfuls like ‘ghosting’, ‘breadcrumbing’, ‘prowling’ and even ‘throning’ – but ‘curving’, what fresh hell was this?!
But apparently ‘curving’ is now a very well-known phenomenon amongst daters – rather like ghosting, but without the disappearance – when someone curves you, they’ll keep replying but slowly take longer and longer and always wrap it up in a pretty little apology bow. They also usually convince you they really want to see you but cancel at the last minute with a sign off like “Really sorry. Will rearrange soon though.”
And that sneaky little “soon” keeps you staring fruitlessly at your phone, and those bright blue ticks, waiting for a time, or a date, or any little kernel of a plan. But it never comes. Instead you start to question your own self-esteem all while becoming crazily more infatuated with your paramour. It’s a modern-day form of torture really.
A day later, in my quest to stop obsessing about the unanswered blue ticks, my sudden lack of undesirability, and in fact move on, I go for a run along the Southbank with my friend Kerry who asks me how my dating adventures are going. I tell her how I’m irrationally mourning the sudden death of a relationship that lasted all of a few weeks in which we only actually saw each other IRL twice after we matched on Hinge. I pull up his dating profile, the heading “Best Travel Story” is followed with, “Making a bet in San Francisco on the outcome of a foot race with a racing driver in Japan that resulted in me found asleep naked on a Lilo in Bali”.
“See, we were soulmates…we both like to travel.” I gush, waving another photo of him staring wistfully into the distance with a pint and a miniature dachshund.
“Babe, you hate motorsports, and you already have a dachshund. Do you think perhaps you might have projected your romcom ideals onto this man?” She can be annoyingly perceptive sometimes.
Had I ignored all the red flags because I was too preoccupied fantasising about how perfect “Zoë” sounded next to his last name?
I ponder this for a while and think back to those heady early days of our “relationship”. Our romantic first date with lingering gazes on my terrace under twinkling fairy lights, sipping eye-wateringly overpriced margaritas that I’d had to leg it out to grab from an artisan stall in Borough Market at the last minute when he announced he didn’t like wine. The adorable pet names we’d settled into so swiftly – romance really does make you mentally unstable, only someone who was teetering on being completely unhinged would think that being called “Trouble” or “Baby” in your mid-thirties was acceptable! Our shared Spotify playlists full of pretentious acoustic jazz music…
Perhaps it was entirely my fault that I was now hurting so much. Had I ignored all the red flags because I was too preoccupied fantasising about how perfect “Zoë” sounded next to his last name? While I was idly musing on whether I’d commute to Southend-on-Sea for romantic weekends by train or car, was I ignoring the fact that he was gradually becoming more elusive and that our saucy texts had shifted from “You’re bloody gorgeous” to “What’s your favourite sandwich?” If food is a language of love, I’m not sure that analysing the superior attributes of a BLT or Club Sandwich really turns me on. (But in case you’re interested, the answer is 100% the Club Sandwich – Daniel did not agree. This was probably the beginning of the end if I’m being entirely honest with myself.)
More days pass, and the two blue ticks still taunt me. Kerry and Richard invoke a temporary hiatus from my melancholy drinking of overpriced margaritas, and listening to pretentious jazz music, to take me for dinner. We’re two courses in and I’m mid-monologue about how it’s basically a Greek tragedy that we never even got a photo taken together – (not even a selfie, I mean if it’s not on Instagram did it even happen?!) – when finally a message flashes up. Typical, just as I am starting to accept it’s over, I get punched in the stomach with a curve ball.
I tap it slowly. Breath paused. This is it. This is going to be the moment where he says how unbelievably sorry he is for the radio silence but he was either a) rescuing a tiny child from a wild forest fire (or the Essex equivalent!) b) volunteering at an NHS Hospital, like a modern day hero, so obviously couldn’t use his phone near lifesaving heart monitors or c) got scared because our blossoming romance was simply seeming too perfect.
I scroll through and read it, “I’m out for my first beer since lockdown. It’s a right shock.” That’s all. Are you kidding me? That was what he waited eight days – EIGHT – to say? Byron and Shelley eat your hearts out, there is a new wordsmith in town!
“Well, he’s a clown, you deserve way better, he was punching anyway,” Kerry says immediately while signalling for an urgent round of margaritas – girlfriends always know exactly what to say and do in moments like these.
Richard, however, cuts straight to the point as I try to find any hidden meaning in each part of the text – does this mean he’s thinking about me? are we back on track?? what shall I pack for my minibreak by the sea??? “Just block and forget about it. He doesn’t know what he wants so don’t stick around to find out.”
It was that straight forward. I was caught in a “slow fade”, a fun catch and release game that allowed Daniel (the ‘curver’) to phase out little old me (the ‘curvee’) while still getting to feel like the ‘good guy’. Clearly this was going to be as slow and painful as I allowed it to be.
I take a moment. I look back through our two months of texts before I go to delete them. I scroll through page after page of romantic messages, witty anecdotes and talk of plans that never materialised before I pause on one:
“It’s unnerving when you hit the jackpot eh, beautiful? Xx”
I smile and think to myself, ‘Yes, Daniel, yes, it is. And I very much look forward to when that happens.’ I may have kissed another frog but at least Daniel allowed me to break the seal of my new online dating life…and I found a reawakened love for margaritas and pretentious jazz along the way! Plus now I can stop pretending I enjoy watching Formula One races every Sunday – there’s always a silver lining, eh!
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