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It's Thursday night, around 10 pm, I'm sitting at my laptop, eating a large portion of takeaway chips and watching 10 Things I Hate About You. Yes, it is 2017. My phone lights up. A WhatsApp message from a guy I met two weeks ago and who I have been messaging occasionally since. PG stuff.
"What r u p to?" - I cringe at the phone speak. "Reading a book" - I lie and cringe at myself.
"What's the book about?" I'm thinking about what Julia Stiles represents in the movie and say the book is about romance and is also kinda funny. Should I just say that I'm stuffing my face with potatoes, being lazy and be over with it? Does that mean I like the guy? Does that make me a bad person? Doesn't matter. The further into our conversation, the worse it gets. Somehow, we start speaking about how hot it is in Europe right now and then he tells me he is in his flat naked.
I raise an eyebrow. I know where the conversation is going. Then I shrug my shoulders and honestly don't know what to say to that. I blink at my phone screen, whilst putting another chip in my mouth. Do I compliment him on being naked in a 30+ weather? Do I say that I would love to see him naked in person? Do I send a heart-eyed emoji? The horror face one? Should I say I'm naked too?
I go with the question instead: "Do you work out?" Then I look at my laptop, Joseph Gordon Levitt tries to speak French with Larisa Oleynik. JGL says "May I offer you a parsnip? "and I wonder if it's a French euphemism for "fancy a shag?"
Maybe I asked for it. I shouldn't have done it.
"I don't work out" the Whatsapp guy says. "But here's a pic from today. What do you think?"
And then it comes. The dreaded picture. I get a notification on my phone first. I hesitate to open it. But I'm being brave, plus the guy sort of seems alright. I click on the green line of the message.
It is the infamous bathroom mirror selfie. A bare torso and a towel loosely hanging on the hips. The guy must be confident. May I just say that I've had better? Guys' photos I mean. Anyway... my brain starts looking for an appropriate answer again. I really don't feel like sexting. I also feel angry at the same time. Sure, thanks for not sending me a dick pic, but I didn't ask for the towel version either.
The selection of possible appropriate replies goes from "It doesn't look like you're working out" to "You look fantastic!". I then decide to pick something in the middle to not sound like a total bitch or an attention-seeking whore. There's a fine line between the two, you know.
"Not bad," - I type with a look of confusion and hesitation on my face, barely waiting for an answer. What did he expect me to say? Two seconds later I get a cheerful "Thanks!" and my face goes from confused to "okay, whatever". Have I done well? I finish my chips. Kat Stratford aka Julia Stiles reads the 10 Things poem.
I reminisce about the before-all-the-mobiles-era-gone-by. How did we cope with our inability to send nudes to each other? Yes, there were (still are) men who would flash people in public. However, on my own phone I prefer people abiding to my nudes rules, and if I didn't specifically ask for them, it genuinely means that. My friend's eagerness to show me his groin produces a seemingly innocent snap of his Kindle lying on his knees, right next to his equipment, thankfully still clad in what it looks like two day old boxers. Now in my inbox. Not a euphemism. I open the message but don't say anything.
I believe nudes are okay, when the relationship between people is somewhat stable, but don't expect me to undress myself or see you with your parsnip out after two weeks of texting.
On my laptop screen Patrick (Ledger) and Kat (Stiles) kiss next to the car. Ending credits start rolling. My phone flashes with yet another image that I don't want to open and I think to myself that I am just a hopeless romantic who wants a harsher punishment for casual conversation violators.
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