Dating in London – The Modern Love Letter is a Picture

Romeo and Juliet had a balcony. The Notebook had love letters. Dirty Dancing had the Tango. Nelly & Kelly in Dilemma had sweet nothings whispered over text (or excel?). So you have to question, how do we profess our love in the 21st century? Grand romantic gestures are what we lust after but today have been substituted for something much more sinister. Being wooed? Being courted? Nope. Receive nude pics unasked for? Bingo. We no longer look forward to heartfelt letters sealed with a kiss. The modern love letter, thanks to the evolution of the camera phone, is the Dick Pic.

I had received a ton of requests to talk about ‘unsolicited Dick Pics’. It’s such a hot topic because they circulate cyberspace like the plague. Of course there are definitely times that warrant such shenanigans but I’ll get to that later. When I talk about unsolicited Dick Pics, I’m referring to the fucking terrifying, unexpected amateur shots that infect our inboxes from acquaintances. The ones we don’t ask for. The men who seem to think it’s all part of pursuing a woman. Introduce self, give flattering compliment, ask for her number, send Dick Pic. Wait, what?? When did it become a pulling technique? It’s like deciding to visit The Louvre on the weekend, but before you get there Leo Da Vinci flicks you bunch of texts featuring the Mona Lisa. Like…why would I want to see the art before I visit the gallery? Especially when art isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing thing, and it’s covered in hair.

The topic had actually come to me already a few weeks ago while on a crammed Hammersmith & City tube bound for the TV Centre. It’s rush hour and I’ve crossed my legs to mark my territory using my patent stiletto’s as a sort of weapon ready to stab anyone who comes within an inch of me. I’ve gone for Power Woman today, pretending like i’m not in overdraft, anxiety-ridden and hungover. I lean back in my seat wanting to maintain an air of elegance, not getting too close to the sweaty commuters around me. The train emerged from the underground tunnels in to open air at Edgeware road suddenly providing phone reception. A little old man is hunched over next to me in a musty suit, that looks like it was sewn together in the 19th century. As I lean back, my eye catches his screen. He is watching so intently, what is he watching? Nosy and bored I squint to catch a better look at the flashing images. What is that fleshy montage of movement?
“Fuck” I gasp and stifle laughter.
It’s a young curvy brunette, late twenties maybe, bent over a sink. Completely naked all flesh and heels. It’s a boomerang video and now she’s twerking, tossing her hair around. I am witnessing this, on a 9am train. Firstly, it’s blowing my mind that this elderly little bobble-hat wearing man is working a boomerang vid of a beaut young woman, he must have serious game. Is he a sugar daddy? Is he dating this naked, twerking sink-woman?
Once the initial shock wears off, I get to thinking. Firstly, about how bizarre London is at times but secondly, how unwanted nudes are such a problem.
Given the right circumstances (relationship, infatuation, genuine high levels of hormones) I may request them from someone I’m seeing, or send one. I’m not going to pretend I’m not human. But to the boys firing them off to every girl you match with on Tinder, or thinking acquaintances are salivating over your send, we aren’t.

The same way a male peacock puffs its feathers to attract a female peacock, there are men out there who think we will be enticed by a full frontal close-up. Now before you get defensive, I hear ya. I’m not about to turn this in to a man-shaming piece. We’re all human, there’s a time and place for being playful. If you are engaging in a conversation that leads to mutually consensual photo exchanges, then let your willy fly free in cyberspace. If you’re looking to spice up a passionless relationship, then whip up an amateur photoshoot! The photo’s are not the problem.
The problem, is that it’s difficult to gauge mood over text and I can’t understand why, without warning or a request, someone thinks it’s appropriate to break the ice with a dick pic. A badly timed or ill thought out dick pic will lead to an immediate ghost so proceed with caution as the following case studies demonstrate.

Case Story One:
My girl Poppy had recently organised a date from Hinge, the dating app with more promise than Tinder. The date in question is an Eton Boy. Prince Harry was an Eton boy and they’re renowned for being posh. Premier, traditional and the elite. I imagine Eton is like Hogwarts but for millionaires. Anyway, Poppy tells me about her impending date over Prosecco on the terrace in Angel. A tall, tennis-playing banker I could tell she was envisioning a future as a trust fund trophy princess reclining on a Chesterfield sofa sipping Moet on her Monday afternoons.
“Chels I feel so lucky to have swiped on a total Gent.”
“It’s about time one of us girls lucked out” I said, rolling my eyes. There’s more chances of pigs flying than a date ending positively for me. If I were Poppy, I’ve no doubt that Eton Boy would wind up being on meth, or a catfish, or an escaped convict.
“He’s taking me to Oblix for a drink, and then a swanky dinner place downtown”
“Well cheers to Eton Boy, here’s hoping”
Famous last words.
It was the morning before their impending date, and Poppy awoke blissfully anticipating the evening ahead and her first meeting with Eton Boy. She opened her phone and before she had even met the kid, was without warning faced with a wrinkled, monstrous worm.
Poppy didn’t go on the date and continues to suffer post-traumatic stress.

Types of Nude Pics

Archive nudes. Like, it’s mid winter and you have tan lines. Or your duvet cover in the background changes daily. Anything that visibly points out the photo was not taken then and there. If we are exchanging pictures I want them fresh. Don’t start pullin’ em from the archives.

The upside down shot. You know, where they hold the camera below and point upward to get a body shot but really all you see is a triple chin and you wonder whats up their nose.

The mirror pic. Vain, but I enjoy the artistic inclination. Always a little more interesting, plus you get an insight in to how clean their bedroom or bathroom so you can do some minor FBI work to figure out what kind of person they are.

The ‘black and white’ shot. Like, am I the fucking Tate Modern? What colour is it, really. It’s very worrying.

The comparison shot. Like there’s a remote in the picture to indicate size. Innovative, sure. But I’m not an idiot, thanks, I can judge the size myself.

The close-up. Likely to induce nightmares, unless you are very familiar and in love with this persons body.


Case Story Two:
Courtney met Bob the Australian at a house party in Fulham. He was rough around the edges, which she liked. An array of tattoos, and a hefty bod. The tattoos were significant as they covered his hands. They did the classic back and forth for a few days, of dismal small talk. Eventually things heated up, and she levelled up on her flirting. So she wasn’t particularly surprised when she was hit with an unwarranted picture, sans-clothes. No, the lack of clothes wasn’t a surprise. What was however, was the picture itself. She scrutinised over it for hours, analysing the detail, finally when she couldn’t take it anymore she called me for some outside perspective.
“Chels, I quite fancy this guy, but there’s a concerning factor” She sighs.
“Yes?”
“He sent me a Dick Pic…”
I hesitate, anticipating what’s next. Knowing Court it’s always something hilarious.
“Well…he’s holding it. In the picture. But his hand tattoos are missing.”
“Okay, so he knows tattoos are like permanent ink right?” I laugh again.
She sends me the photo.
Bob naked, does not match Bob clothed. They are two different Bobs. Bob one has tattooes on his hands. Bob two has no tattoos.  I mean a random Dick Pic is one thing, at least send your own though Bob, for fucks sakes.

unnamed

Case Story Three:
Of course what about when pictures aren’t unsolicited? When they are willingly shared between consenting partners? Well I can assure you, things still go wrong, and it is difficult to retract your secrets from the cloud once they are out there. This valuable lesson that I learned, I will call the Stealth Mission. This one is taking me back to my youth on the North Shore – a small suburb of Auckland, New Zealand.
My Ex-Boyf, Wyatt, was a pretty emotionally explosive guy. We lived down the road from each other and he drew me in with a Skater-Boy charm. What began as cheeky and charming, quickly became serious and we dated for a very long time. But the odds weren’t stacked on our side and with some growth I realised the relationship wasn’t gonna suffice. I broke up with him.
It would be safe to say he didn’t take it very well… no he stormed my bedroom at the time ranting and raving about his trauma and waving his lighter around in an attempt to set off the fire-alarm like a maniac.
Back then he was a totally unpredictable fire cracker. Weeks went by, and something hit me. Do you ever get irrationally worried about what an Ex might do with all the dirt they’ve amassed over a long relationship? I was calmly embarking on a new single life when a fucking terrible thought dawned on me. Wyatt had pictures. Yes, of me. Nothing too X-Rated, just a little lingerie tease for my boyf. But it was enough to strike a dagger of fear in to my heart all the same. Wyatt was not what I’d call a stable character at the time and I knew revenge would be on the table. Panic set deep in my stomach.
He’s going to do something wildly erratic. He’ll post them online or send them around.
My only option, was to go on the stealth mission of a century.

I call him.
“We need to talk.”
“We haven’t talked in weeks Chels, what the fuck do ya want?”
“Just, to catch up with you really now that things have calmed down”
“Oh. Okay. I guess come over then”.
I had no plan, or strategy, I was going to wing it. I didn’t want to outright ask him to delete them because drawing attention to it might remind him he had them – and then he would do something stupid accordingly.
Half an hour later I found myself parked in a uni-boys flat, surrounded by bongs and rizzler wrappers. I nervously crossed my legs scanning the room for ammo in my mission.
“Want a tea Chels?” He offers.
“Yes, thanks”
As soon as he is out of sight I hop up and pace the room. Right. His phones on the table. This is easy, just need the passcode.
“My phones dead, can I call on yours?” I shout. He shouts back the password, no drama. No problemo. This Mt Everest climb was starting to look more like a small hill.
I furiously scroll through his files, and sure enough there I am. Full frontal, embarrassingly posed on the bath ceramic side of all places, in the mirror. (These are high-school style shots, you know… the kind before selfies existed and you tried your hand at some outlandishly awkward photos). Shit. I delete them all hastily and breathe a sigh of relief. I’m delicately placing the phone down just as he comes out with two jasmine teas and a cigarette in his hand. With lack of time, I slip it in to my pocket instead.
“I’m so glad we get to talk” He says.
I nod smiling.
As I sip my tea I stop dead in my tracks.
Fuck. I EMAILED THEM TO HIM. They will be on his LAPTOP.
Mission retract-racy-snaps just reached a new level. Why hadn’t disappearing photos been invented yet??
Okay, full stealth mode. I slip inside feigning I need the bathroom. I find his laptop beneath his bed.
The email of course requires a log on, and thank god I can send a forgot password prompt to his phone, which I still have in my pocket. I retrieve the prompt, change the password (Sorry Wyatt, seriously hope you don’t read this) and flick back to the laptop realising I’m in. Success. I triumphantly punch the air in joy and scour for any imprint of me, deleting all the traces.
Suddenly, his head pops around the door, sending me in to cardiac arrest. In a fake British accent he shouts
“Alright love, what ya doing poppet?”
Then he maniacally laughs at his accent attempt, failing to actually notice I’m knealt down with his computer in hand. As I write this I’m laughing out loud. He is actually quite funny in an endearing , if not completely unstable, way.
A few hours later, I leave his place, firmly on friendship ground and an accomplished mission. I have the nervous sweat patches and racing heart to prove it. (Shoutout to Wyatt because we’re good friends now and hope this doesn’t change it. Assuming he’ll be more angry about the stolen nudes than the blog post…)

My dalliance with image recovery, and my experiences with the Dick Pic brigade, have helped me to look at life differently. Behind closed doors everyone has their secrets. You never know what the people around you are doing away from the public gaze. Some are saving lives. Some are having affairs. Some are just planning whether they want Katsu or Karage chicken for dinner. But some, probably many, are harbouring a folder on their phones full of naked pictures ready to go on exhibition and be sent to unsuspecting acquaintances.

There is nothing harmful, illicit or inappropriate about taking photos and loving your body. LOVE your cellulite, your third nipple, your dad-bod or washboard abs. If loving those parts include running around the house like a naked headless chicken to take nudes in the best lighting then so be it. But for the sake of my sanity and every other woman’s out there, do due diligence before sending. Check whether we want to receive a modern love letter or whether really, your secret is best left untold to remain safely in your camera roll… no stealth missions required.

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