A list of places I’ve avoided because of boys (Part 1)

(And now have to avoid because the country is on lockdown.)

Nikitah. When you stop dating someone, a place you once visited together might develop an unfortunate association to their name. You’ve deleted their number; maybe it was an immediate cleanse, or maybe you stayed up late to re-read every exchange ever sent, deleting their contact info before you can write them another text you know you’ll regret within seconds of pressing send. The messages are now gone but the memories remain, filed away under “Yikes”. You might make an unavoidable return to one of these places, and a memory will float towards the surface. It can’t pass up an opportunity to remind you that it still exists, a bit like the boy who texts “hey, how are you?” when you haven’t spoken for two years. And so the LIST OF PLACES I’VE AVOIDED BECAUSE OF BOYS is born, because (of course) you won’t be returning to this place again.

  1. The Central Line

I started dating when I went to uni, having grown up in a strict Indian household where “hanky panky” with boys was, and to an extent still is, not allowed. When I was 20, I met a boy (25) and after dating him for a few months I made my fateful journey down the Central Line. It was snowing when I reached Epping, an hour after I left my North London flat. I walked into the kitchen the following morning where he was stood at the sink, back facing me. His iPad was open on the table between us, and I couldn’t help but glance down at the bright screen. I frowned when I saw a girl’s face filling the display; I was looking at his Tinder account. He turned around and smiled as he stepped forward to cover the device, oblivious to what I’d just seen.

I left his house, confused. On the phone the next day I asked why he’d used Tinder when I was asleep in the room next door. He defensively clarified his single status, making it clear he didn’t wish to be tied down by commitment of any kind. This was my first experience of ‘breaking up’ which, even after turning 21, was devastating and so I avoided Epping at all costs. (Not that hard, it’s in Zone 6.)

Last year he texted to say he was at an art exhibition and it “reminded me of you.” I thought it very strange he’d returned to reminisce given that we hadn’t spoken for two years, he didn’t like art and was in a relationship with the girl in his WhatsApp profile picture. Millennial dating terminology informs me that this is ‘Zombieing;’ a return from the grave like something out of The Vampire Diaries, and should be treated as such. Stake to the heart of uninvited conversation, anyone?

An illustration of a coffee cup and pizza box on a table. There is an iPad which has a tinder profile on the screen. The date on the left hand size says "Essex, Feb 2017." The text on the right hand side recounts a conversation from Tuesday, 14 May 2019 17:10 drawn in yellow speech bubbles. "Hi Nikitah how are you? How's life after uni? I'm going to a friends art exhibition tonight, reminded me of you."

2. London Victoria Station

When I was 21 I told a boy (24) that we should stop seeing each other, over text, while he was on holiday with his parents. The text was timed for maximum dramatic impact. We weren’t really ‘seeing’ each other as we hadn’t actually seen each other all summer (not for lack of trying) and in a last ditch attempt of reverse psychology I half hoped my text would result in the opposite of what it actually said. He texted me back the following day explaining he was “sorry but on hols, let me get back to you when I’m home xxx” It was not the reply I was looking for. He didn’t get back to me when he got home so obviously I got back to him, and after learning that his holiday was “good thanks,” I realised I was probably never going to see him again. 

He worked in a tall building next to Victoria Station, where he caught the train to and from Kent each day. Although I was at uni one tube stop away, I still tried to avoid Victoria at the time because it’s fair to say I wasn’t over it. We met up once after matching on Tinder a year later. Our interaction was no more consequential than any other; texts exchanged, interest waning, plans cancelled, culminating in the termination of contact through mutual ghosting. The present had not quite lived up to the memory of the past, and in that lay a life lesson.

In reality, it is not advisable to eagerly collect breadcrumbed maybes from a boy who historically left you on read for weeks at a time before admitting he’d been sleeping with another girl – but still wants to meet up with you, maybe next week? It is instead advisable to take the L and enthusiastically sweep these crumbs into the bin, where they belong.

3. London Bridge Station

It was our meeting place for a string of dates that occurred in the summer of 2019; suggested by him (24) as he worked around the corner, accepted by me (23) as I could easily get a train there from my home in Kent. He greeted me with a canned gin and tonic from M&S, Fleabag-Priest-style, remembering it as my drink of choice from the texts we exchanged, pre-date.

As well-intentioned as things tend to begin, our differences emerged over a series of weeks and months, and thus it ended, on a Monday in October, over text. The emotionless act of cutting ties over a WhatsApp message offended me perhaps more than the actual being dumped part, and so London Bridge Station ascended the list to rank First Place Area To Avoid. 

I was on my way to work a few weeks later, swapping trains and switching platforms, when I saw a beige fleece out of the corner of my eye. I silently cursed the 20/20 vision I gained after having eye surgery, not expecting to notice him in the crowd of commuters swarming the station floor. The first time I wasn’t sure if it was him I’d seen, the second time our eyes met but paths did not, the third time I was fed up of being ignored both over text and in real life, so I sent him another:

An illustration of a text conversation in speech bubbles from Thursday, 21 Nov 2019 08:54. The text reads "I 100% just walked past you in London Bridge" "Lol, oh really? I think I walked past you at the station a few weeks ago as well so our mornings must have synced" "If it happens again we should at least wave haha. I feel like we parted on bad terms but it doesn't need to be that way." "Yeah I fully agree, next time I see you we'll have a chat if you aren't in a rush x"

The next time we saw each other I wondered how many times it was possible to bump into the person you were trying to avoid (apparently, quite a lot), but we both stopped to talk and gain closure in a way which should have been done initially. Since that conversation, London Bridge Station is no longer somewhere I actively avoid because thoughts of the past have remained exactly that: in the past.

An illustration of two hands holding green cans of M&S gin and tonic in cheers. There are pink palm tree leaves in the background. The text sets the date as Monday, 7 Oct 2019 17:28 and the text in a green speech bubble says "I think we will be better off as friends, sorry."

Katie. My list of places I avoid due to boys is fairly extensive. If I’m being honest not all of them will make this list as I don’t want to relive the cringe by writing them down. 18-year-old me had many questionable crushes and took the slightest interest from a member of the opposite sex as a near marriage proposal. Unlike Nikitah I went to uni in the midlands, so the areas of avoidance aren’t helpfully isolated to the South East of England but instead are scattered throughout the nation. So here is a slightly censored list of places I avoid because of boys.

  1. Fusion Nightclub

When I was 18 I hadn’t gained much experience in the dating game. Puberty was rough and I spent most of secondary school looking like a chubby, greasy, acne-ridden, loner. Safe to say boys were not interested… not one bit. During the summer before I moved out for University I decided I was going to start trying a bit with the way I look, and more importantly start leaving my house and on occasion even leave my town and venture into the wonderful world of a suburban night out. Turns out when you leave your house with a considerable amount of alcohol on-board, boys aren’t so scary anymore. 

One of my chosen locations to go out-out was Fusion. A nightclub about 40 mins away which was a favourite for all the local private school kids, plus a few creepy late 30’s men trying their luck. Being that I was 18 and really only had a very half-hearted attempt of a job at a local cricket club bar where I only picked up a couple shifts a month, money was a tad tight. The necessity for pre-drinks was a top priority so you can imagine the state of us when we did eventually arrive in town. Luckily due to the amount of alcohol in my system I don’t remember too much of my early attempts at flirting, which I think is probably a God-send. From what I do remember my attempts at being cute and “girly” was more just a babble of slurred words and staggered wobbling in attempt to dance seductively (something I am still yet to master.)

So for those reasons above I now avoid Fusion which has been made even easier by it closing down a few years ago. It’s probably been replaced with another shitty club but for now I can live safely in the knowledge that even if drunk me decided it was a good idea to try re-living the mid-2010’s, I cannot.

An illustration of a card drinking game, as seen from above. There are pink playing cards facing down in a circle around a drinks cup, with other cards facing up scattered around the table. The cups are on green coasters.

2. The Kingfisher Housing Estate at Uni

First few months of uni were tough, I was pretty awkward and had always struggled making new friends. Add Tinder into the mix and the awkwardness increased exponentially. I went on dates here and there but predominantly my encounters on Tinder consisted of a match, followed by the “You out tonight?” message. Which of course I read as an invite and would immediately run to Sainsbury’s to stock up on Glen’s Vodka, own-brand lemonade and 39p energy drinks with the hopes of potentially meeting my future boyfriend in the Union later that night. 

There was one specific boy who would message weekly at Tuesday around lunchtime asking if I’d be attending “Stupid Tuesdays” at the Union later. I would ignore him for at most 30 mins and then respond nonchalantly saying “Maybe, you? x” to which he would not respond. This meant that I would spend the rest of the day trying to find a group of people to drink with so that if I did meet him, I could ditch them and see him and if he continued to ghost me, I could pretend that I was having a good time and that meeting him wasn’t the main objective of the night. This led to me having many shitty nights up until about 2am when he would finally reply saying “I’m by the bar come find me.” To which I would diligently obey, ditching my uni acquaintances immediately in the hope to get some validation from a member of the male gender. Which of course was always a flawed plan as British flirting is essentially insulting each other until you start making-out.

An illustration of a text conversation from "Sometime in the 1st term of University, 2015." The text in speech bubbles reads: 11:00am "You out tonight? x" "Maybe, you? x" 2:00am "I'm by the bar come find me"

This would repeatedly happen over a few months with the same boy, to the point where I was starting to get frustrated at the lack of progress in gaining anything worthy of being Facebook official. One night we started the routine of finding each other in the Union, and by ‘finding’ each other I mean I looked for him after he sent me a half-hearted text revealing the general vicinity of his location. I bumped into his mates, two twins who were on my course and I smiled, saying “Hi”. They began to laugh at me, saying that I was too ugly for him, that he was better than me and basically implying he had been shitting on me behind my back. At which point my friend shoved them both pretty hard, GIRL POWER-style and we swiftly vacated the Union with me trying to hold back tears. 

We did not message again.

The boy in question and his pals lived in an area called Kingfisher outside campus, or at least I think he did, he never really told me. It was enough for me to do anything to avoid that place as my cringe-o-meter goes off the charts when I think about them. Unfortunately I couldn’t actively avoid my own course so I would often have to be revisited by the memory of that night in class. Especially when we had to do presentations and they would snigger at the back of the room when I stood up. 

3. The Hill Outside the Art Department at Uni

Continuing with the theme of Tinder dates was my first real date. I’d matched with a guy on Tinder and he seemed nice. 18, bearded, and from the local area – a massive turn on as I wasn’t really enjoying uni at the time and thought dating someone in the local area would help me meet new people. I assumed he was at the uni as pretty much everyone in the town aged 18 to 25 was. 

The first date went well; he picked me up in a massive Land-Rover (which he borrowed from his mum) and drove me to a beautiful pub by the river where we had a couple drinks and chatted awkwardly. It was a good date but there wasn’t really any spark. Nevertheless we continued to chat as I was enjoying the distraction. The second date he asked if I wanted to hang out and eat lunch on the hill next to the building where I studied. During that date he divulged that he wasn’t actually at uni yet but was actually the year below me and still in college. This was a massive red flag for me… how could I, an 18-year-old university student, date someone who was still at school… I was just way too mature for him. I mean we were only about 4 months apart but still, the maturity you gain from a term at university really grows you as an adult and he would just not understand how mature I was, you know? (FYI this is sarcasm, please don’t think I’m this deluded now.)

I agreed to go on a third date even though by this point I had pretty much decided I wasn’t interested. He came to my room in halls as I thought the ‘dumping’ was best done in private. An hour went by and I was definitely pussy-ing out. As he left he went in for a kiss which I swiftly blocked with my cheek and about 20 mins later I sent a message saying how I didn’t think this would work. Stating that we were at two different points in our lives and some other bullshit like that. This was the first time I had ever been doing the rejecting and it did not feel good at all. I would take being the dump-ee any day over being the dump-er. 

Thinking back to this I must have sounded painfully patronising but I’m blaming it on my younger version of myself in a hope to shift the guilt. From that day on, the dreaded hill was out of bounds as I would do anything to avoid having to be faced with him and my shitty reasons for rejecting him.

Through writing these we have realised the sheer amount of places we avoid so we think we are going to make a part two. If there’s one thing Katie’s degree in Graphic Design taught her it’s that our generation has an average attention span of about 8 seconds, so we are already pushing our luck. Look forward to hearing more about our appalling attempts of finding love and the places we avoid due to the many failed ventures.

An illustration of orange hands swiping through a dating app on a phone. The text conversation reads: "Hey cutie, how's it hanging?" "Yeah I'm good, and you?" "Good wanna fuk?" "Nah I'm good... thanks though." "LOL I was drunk!"

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