Three years ago, Annie Lord’s five-year relationship suddenly came to an end. Now, in her debut book Notes on Heartbreak, the popular dating columnist has revisited the past, from the moment she fell in love to the breakdown of her romance.
And while charting her experience of heartbreak and healing, Annie, 27, has come to a conclusion that may well resonate with many of us – we are currently living in the midst of a ‘sex recession’. Not only is she experiencing this, but her friends are also sharing similar stories about promising fledgling relationships that just never make it beyond a couple of dates.
Here, she talks to OK! about this modern dating phenomena and what’s really behind it…
“I remember speaking to a guy during the first lockdown, a year or so after my ex and I broke up, and I immediately imagined that he was going to be my next boyfriend. I wondered why people made it out to be so hard because it was really easy to get to know him. Soon enough, I realised what everyone was talking about. We never actually met up and whatever we had simply fizzled out.
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And offline, this scenario plays out too. I went to a party the other week and I was moaning to my friend about a guy I’d met there. He wasn’t really my type – he was a bit too Central Saint Martins art college vibe for my liking – but he was really funny and we exchanged numbers.
When we texted each other the next day, he said something like ‘Can you get me a job at Vogue?’ (who I also write for) and I was like ‘haha, no!’… He replied telling me that ‘it was just a joke’ and that he was flirting with me, or something like that. We shared a few more messages but then he just stopped replying.
I’ve had this happen so many times. My friend jokingly told me I could start printing these short-lived conversations on t-shirts to document the occasions when I’ve met someone, we’ve spoken over the course of a day and then the conversation has abruptly stopped.
There’s this concept floating around that states that younger generations are experiencing a ‘sex recession’ – and I think it’s true. Given that we speak more openly about sex – both in the media and everyday life – you’d think that we’re having more of it than our parents. In reality, we’re having a lot less, according to some statistics.
While my mum’s generation had this idea that men would use women for sex, now there’s this idea that when men think that they could have sex with you, they’ll leave. It’s like they’ve registered your interest and then decided that that’s enough.
It’s almost as if dating apps have made people lazy and have turned dating into a game. It’s as though the whole idea of meeting someone and connecting with them isn’t really the point anymore. The point is more about matching with as many people as possible.
It’s like looking for a film on Netflix and saying ‘no’ to the first two options and spending the whole night finding another one. I have friends who have gone on two or three dates with the same person, only for that person to find someone else to talk to. People think there’s something better to be had but you can’t really know how you feel about something until you let it develop.
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My mum always tells me a story about how things aren’t as different as we might think. She says that we might be sitting at home for a text, but at least we can move around with the phone. In her day, she’d spend all evenings sitting next to the telephone in case her crush rang.
But in that case, I think there was a lot more accountability. When people didn’t have mobiles, you couldn’t let them know at the last minute that you didn’t want to go out with them. The idea of someone being at a restaurant waiting for you would be too much to stop you from flaking, so you’d go on the date, see more people and find more connections.
Now, an online match has no connection to your world whatsoever. If a person flakes on a date, there’s no consequences to it. But if you went on a date with a person that a friend had set you up with and they’d stood you up, your friend can ask them why they behaved in that way.
Annoyingly, things I’ve had that are unresolved have bugged me for longer than actual relationships coming to an end.
I went on a date with a guy a couple of years ago and I still think about it. I wonder if I should send out a WhatsApp that says I’ve lost all my numbers, just so I could have a reason to pop him a message. These ‘situationships’ and question marks are difficult because you’re left picking at it in your brain.
Luckily, I’m still at the point where things like this haven’t worn me down. If I meet someone and we’re having a chat, my brain will be like ‘this is cool. We’re going to go on a date and something will develop’. I’m really optimism about those things.
As my friend said to me, you just have to try things even if it feels like time wasting, so you can see how you respond. You can’t sit back and make a decision about something without having experienced it.”
Notes on Heartbreak by Annie Lord (Trapeze, £14.99) is out on 23 June.
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