Liam & Jess

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JESS: You have to like, wade through quite a lot of like, very posey people who are obviously trying to put their body and their face first.

LIAM: I was already a bit nervous, and I was like, I thought ‘if I’m first here it’ll be ok’ but I was late and I had to like get a sort of dad run on.

JESS: With him I was like “oh my god this could go somewhere”.

MARIA: Welcome to Equal Parts, a series of true love stories, told by the couples themselves. This week: dating in the digital age, what happens if you approach tinder as a social experiment, well… you might just meet the one.

JESS: I’m Jess, I live in Manchester, originally from Cambridge, er my partner is Liam, and I’m Head of Communications for a small digital design agency in Manchester.

LIAM: My name’s Liam, my partner is Jess and we both live in the Northern Quarter.

We’ve been together for around… a year and…. Three months I’d say… officially. There was a three month period of the dating, the dating period.

JESS: So I, had actually just, not just, like six months’ previous come out of a really long term relationship, erm so I’d been single for a little while, and then, I’d seen obviously all my friends in the world of online dating, and I have to say I was a little bit envious. Because it always looked so fun from the other side! And none of them were like making the most of it.

People would be on it and they’d be like, oh you know, “there’s just no-one good on here, I’m not matching with anyone good” and you’d just think like “it’s because you’re not looking in the right places, either you’re too, er strict on who you think is perfect, or who you’re looking for based on a picture”, obviously that’s just, that is the world of online dating but I think people become quite methodical about it and they just go for the same people, and then, not happy with them. You think “it’s because you’re going for the same people, you have to expand your, I suppose your aim of it”.

It can’t always be about meeting ‘the one’ and looking you know, into the future, it should be about maybe you can just meet friends, you know, you’re obviously on a dating app for a reason, but maybe if you actually take it from that bass level of, maybe I’m just going to meet a nice person, that I can then hang out with, and then take it from there, that’s much more natural than jumping straight into thinking ‘am I going to marry this person’, ‘am I going to have babies?’ etc etc.

LIAM: I think the experiences of Tinder is always sort of hit and miss for everybody isn’t it, it’s just, but I’d say that’s sort of the same thing for all dating, you know it’s hit and miss, it just depends who you meet on it.

JESS: So I was like right dammit, I’m just going to jump straight into it, I’m gonna see what it’s all about, see who I can meet, just about expanding erm you know, where I was at that stage of being in Manchester, and after being in a relationship for so long, you do become quite dependent on someone else and your social circles completely get splintered after that.., so yeah it was an interesting point in my life for me to then meet someone who I connected with so well, erm, after a relatively, yeah, short period of time, which is really exciting.

I was actually on holiday at the time, and me and my friend had gone away for like a long weekend, erm, and we’d been delayed at the airport, and I was like ‘right, this is the time, if any, gonna download it now, see what it’s all about’, erm obviously I was in a foreign country so it was completely skewed everything when I got back as well, erm but it was just interesting, it was an interesting way of meeting people.

I work in a very small company so I don’t have that option… you know a lot of people you work in a business of 150+ people you’re bound to meet someone you know, a friend of a friend, that kind of thing. But I’m working with two people, both in long-term relationships, both of whom’s friends I’ve known already, so it’s like, that pool is not really there. Erm so yeah it was just interesting to see the different kinds of people out there, different you know things that people are doing with their lives, where people are going. Why people are in Manchester, why people aren’t in Manchester, erm, yeah it was just interesting. Bit like a social experiment. To be honest I probably didn’t see it as a dating app at first, probably went into it with quite like a, yeah, psychology mind to it, kind of trying to analyze people a little bit too much, but kind of added to the fun.

LIAM: I was actually  a lads’ night out in Liverpool, er with all my mates for a, I think it was someone’s birthday, and I was flicking through and the first picture I came across was Jess like stroking a dog. I just went, ‘right yeah, points for that, you’ve ticked all the boxes there’, straight away looked through her pictures and was like ‘yeah, definitely’.

JESS: I can absolutely picture the pictures he had on it. Erm, and I remember when we matched and, I don’t remember his profile word for word but we had both definitely mentioned The Simpsons. Because I had The Simpsons in my profile, and I’m pretty sure the first thing he sent me was a gif of Ralph Wiggum waving, erm [laughs] very true to my heart.

LIAM: We are like, really big erm Simpsons lovers. Especially like, between seasons 1-10 any quote, that’s it like, we know what we’re talking about. She’ll mention something in passing and I’ll be like [clicks fingers] I know it.

JESS: He just, looked like a genuinely nice person. Obviously on dating apps you have to like, wade through a lot of, epope, holding fish… that seems to be a really big thing on Tinder… yeah you have to like wade through quite a lot of like, very posey people who are obviously trying to put their body and their face first. And obviously, Liam’s very attractive, but, he seemed like he had a personality to it as well, he had pictures of him and his friends, pictures of him and his dog, which obviously is a selling point.

LIAM: When I was a kid erm, we never like had a dog, so my Dad always had like Jack Russells and stuff like that and we were always like pressuring him “please can we get a dog”. We managed to convince him. Soon as we got one, when I was about… 14, I’ve been like in love with them ever since, they’ve always been amazing. But Jess is the flipside, she’s never had a dog.

JESS: I’ve always wanted a dog, like I’ve literally wanted a dog since I could write a letter to santa, it’s always been on my list, always been on my Birthday list.

LIAM: She looks after a dog for one of her friends on a Monday, she takes pictures with them and all sorts.

JESS: I think at that time, I think on my Tinder profile, I probably had a picture of me and three dogs… none of which are mine, all of which belong to friends. And I had to put like a disclaimer on it to say like “none of these dogs belong to me, please don’t match with me if you think I have a dog”.

I think it shows a lot about a person if they like animals, and dogs are just the best to me.

LIAM: It was definitely a big ice-breaker.

JESS: Erm, quite quickly arranged a date in person, which felt, yeah it just felt natural, the way we’d been talking, it was very erm straight in, to being like “how was your day”, just genuinely interested in each other, and...yeah it just kind of then moved onto “let’s get a drink and you know see how things are” there’s no point carrying it on forever online and never meeting up. You have to do it at some point and see whether the spark’s there or not.

LIAM: After a couple of days of texting we met up at The Gas Lamp. I was already a bit nervous and I was like, I thought ‘if I’m first here it’ll be ok’ but I was late, I was running late, so I was like running down the road, but yeah first time I walked through the door I was like ‘oh god’ I was like in a complete and utter fluster.

I completely lost track of time, so I was getting changed at work and er like someone mentioned to me, like “oh have a good, have a nice time” I had to like run to the toilet to get changed and make myself look like, at least presentable. I think I was wearing a dark jumper, and I was wearing my red jacket and black skinny jeans. I can’t remember what she’s wearing… which she’s going to kill me for.

JESS: I don’t remember what he was wearing at all. I was very distracted by his eyes it has to be said, that’s what I was kind of focussed on that whole date.

LIAM: I thought ‘I don’t want to like, I don’t want to get there too late, I’m already 10 minutes late, so I had to like get a sort of dad run on. But by the time I got there I was like, there was like a bead of sweat rolling down, I was like ‘oh my god no’ but… yeah a bit rushed, but hopefully she didn’t notice that about me when I walked in, because I was already looking around the room when I walked in so… I didn’t want to appear the creepy guy who’s sweating and [laughs] but, hopefully not.

JESS: Erm, I remember I was really early, because I thought I was going to be really late, and I remember being in the down- ‘cause you go downstairs, basement bar, back room. And I remember telling my friend that I was gong and she was like “there’s no signal down there, you can’ go, it’s really unsafe”. And I was like “I don’t think it’s unsafe, there’s plenty of people around”. And then I went in and there was no one there and there was no signal, and I was like “oh no’ [laughs].

Erm, and then I ordered a drink, and I sat down and then I felt really guilty because I hadn’t bought him one,  but then I panicked about buying him one in case I bought him something he didn’t like, and I was like really flustered by the time he got there and I was like apologising straight away, and he was like “stop” [laughs].

LIAM: So, er she was in the very back rom at Gas Lamp, and I walked in and there was a couple of people already in there, and er she has two phones, like one for work and you know, a personal one, and they were sort of resting on top of each other. And erm, I don’t know if it was from nerves on her part, but she kept like checking them, and I thought “oh my god, I’m completely falling apart in this date, I’ve not kept any interest at all” but I think she was still working, or still on the clock, I thinks he was like, checking like Facebook and stuff, you know like to do with her work so, but I didn’t know that at the time, so I was like “oh my god, I’m terrible, she’s checking both phones, why’s she got both phones, is she some sort of dealer, what’s going on?”.

JESS: I have a work phone and a personal phone, I had both of them on the table, which is really bad manners, and something I completely regret doing on a first date, but it probably did give him quite a good insight into who I am. And I had both of them on the table, and I had to answer work emails at the same time, all that kind of thing. So we obviously talked about that, erm both in jobs that we’re quite passionate about, so that always helps, it wasn’t erm, yeah a case of like “what do you do”, “well I live for the weekend” kind of thing, we’re like, both quite committed.

LIAM: I think we were talking about holidays and stuff.

JESS: Where we’d been, where we’d want to go.

LIAM: We, er bonded over the fact that both of us are terrible flyers.

JESS: He was going away for a few days with a friend, a couple of days after, which I thought was really nice, just spontaneous trip away kind of thing, which I think is something you have to look for, like that spontaneity, and willingness to just travel and be with other people as well, you can’t be someone who depends solely on your partner, you have to have an extended reach of people, and an extended community.

Erm, I brought up, ‘cause Simpsons is something we have in common, erm I brought up this exhibition I’d been to.., one of the things they had to do, one of the activities was you had to draw Milhouse from memory. He’s one of the hardest characters to draw. And I brought it up, like because of just rambling, I didn’t know what else to talk about… so he did it on the back of one of Gaslamp’s menus [laughs] and for like every date for about two months after that, every time we met he drew me a Simpsons character on the back of a menu, which I thought was really cute.

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I’d love it if they had it framed, that would be really nice [laughs].

LIAM: I think I walked her home, about… hmm close to midnight, so I was wrecked but I was trying to hide it, erm but she lived in the same, or she lives in the same building that like the guy who sits next me in work lives in, and I was like, that was my first thing, I was like “oh my god, Tim lives here” but I was like ‘shhhh, shut up, be cool man, be cool’ [laughs]. Erm, so erm, but yeah I think once I got home I was like “hope you had a good night”. I think, I think I text that.

JESS: I remember it was the next day. I remember getting it at work. Because I work with two boys as well, so it’s like a very exciting thing to happen and then you can’t really react to it because they won’t care. Well they’ll like care but they won’t really get it at the same level, so you’re like… got the text, and I had to text my friends really subtly being like “oh my god he’s text me, this is really exciting”.

It was one of the first dates as well that I’d been on that actually felt it could go forward. Like, I’d been on a couple, and they were really nice guys, but it just didn’t really feel like it was going to go anywhere, so it’s like ‘yeah, fair enough’ like it’s been an experience, but with him I was like “oh my god this could go somewhere”. I don’t really know how to behave, I don’t really know what the next step is...so yeah, I definitely text my friends and was like, I think it’s like “what is my next step, what’s the next move, who texts who first”, all of that really lame stuff, but yeah it was fun. It’s a fun moment, that first time you like have that experience with someone, or have that spark and start seeing it moving forward.

Because he was going away for a few days afterwards as well, we had to have that time where we couldn’t see each other, which I think was quite good… it meant we were still chatting erm everyday, by text, but you couldn’t have that like, constant face to face interaction, we didn’t like fall into spending all our time together, which I think again is important that you’re not committing to someone that you’ve only known for, you know a few hours on a date kind of thing.

LIAM: She was late for the second date.

JESS: I made him go to erm [laughs, I asked him to go to Salut, which is the wine bar in Manchester, and he doesn’t really drink wine, but I was like “oh I’ll show you, it’s really exciting”.

LIAM: So I was waiting there, and she was like 20 minutes late and I thought “oh my god I’m being stood up… what’s going on?”

JESS: I was really nervous when I first saw him, because I didn’t think he recognised me! [laughs] It was really embarrassing!

LIAM: And she turned up and she was like “I’m sorry, I was looking after a dog”, and I was like “right, you’ve won me over, it’s fine, all forgotten”.

JESS: And that was really nice because obviously he’d been away as well so, he had lots of stories from that which made it a lot easier than just talking about work again, yeah it was like a whole new raft of things to discuss. Yeah, and then we went just like bar hopping across Manchester basically [laughs].

LIAM: She was like “I always felt really bad, you know like I’m really sorry that I was late” and I’m like “I was fine, but I really thought you’d stood me up!”.

JESS: After the second date, he like didn’t text me until 7pm, and I had to text him first. I remember that, because he left me hanging, for ages [laughs] and I’ve told him off quite a lot about it. And yeah, turns out he was just trying to play it cool.

LIAM: The year before, I’d gotten out of a, like, a relationship. So for the like, following few months that I was just like you know keeping it casual. When I met, as much as we really connected I didn’t want to like, rush into it or anything.

JESS: We had a conversation about erm… not going on other dates. We had a conversation about that, about a month, 4-6 weeks after we first started seeing each other. And then about a month after that we were ‘official’.

LIAM: You know we had the conversation of whether we should be ‘Facebook Official’ or not, and er, yeah I think that we put it up, and we had a bet on how many likes we’d get on Facebook, and I think er, I think she won that one actually… I think she won that bet.

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I know there’s always sort of like a perceived stigma, about like Tinder and stuff like that, especially with an older generation. So if like my mum says like “oh how did you meet” it would be like that sort of cautious, should I be honest, should I sort of said, but I think I just sort of said it… except to my Nan.

Me Nan’s always got this thing where like, because like my Nan’s like a 1000% more Scouse than I am, erm she does this thing she’s like “how’s your Judy?”, and I’m like “her name’s Jess”, and she’s like “no, I know her name’s Jess but that’s the term - Judy” and I’m like “hmmmm alright”, so erm when I like tell her, she’s like “how did you meet again?” so I just have to be like “oh yeah, we met in the pub”, that’s literally just like that’s it, there’s no more questions. If I brought up like phones and all sorts you know I’d be spending like another 25 minutes explaining stuff so, it’s just easier to be like “yeah, pub”.

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Equal Parts is produced by me, Maria Passingham. Thanks to Audio Network for the music, and to Jess and Liam.

As you must know by now, each episode of Equal Parts has an accompanying piece of original artwork. Graphic designer Daniel Brown created the piece for Jess & Liam’s story, and you can see it and find links to more of his work at equalpartspodcast.co.uk

Next week, small coincidences and grand gestures.   

KRISTINA: That guy looks cool, because he was taking pictures and in the meantime, he was head-banging.

ILYA: I have to do something really really crazy to catch her.

MARIA: Now, I want to ask a little favour of you. Remember Davide & Nick from a few weeks’ ago? A condensed version of their story is up for a competition, and I’d love your support. Please search MyRodeCast, that’s R-O-D-E, MyRodeCast, and vote for Equal Parts, thank you.