She has seen the size of the slices up at the counter, and loudly announced it: “Monstrous. No wonder there’s an obesity problem in England.” While my mother is concerned about the café’s portion sizes, I am concerned about its acoustics. It is a tiny, quiet space up here, and my mother is not a whisperer.
I quickly scan the other tables for obesity problems. Fortunately none materialise: everyone’s body mass index looks normal. But the acoustics remain a concern; now that she’s finished ordering, my mother is free to return to the topic she was discussing beforehand: the hook-up culture.
All I can say is, as far as topics go, I felt on safer ground with obesity. “I think you might have read the same article as me,” I say, “was it in last week’s paper — about the results of a survey on young single men and their mental health?”
“I’m not sure,” she says, “the one I read was more about what’s going on in their pants. Apparently, they’ve all got this online dating app on their phones. Where you just click on a photo and the next thing you know, you’re having it off. All the time apparently. And all these young men are now sick to death of having to have it off all the time, without even chatting. I mean who’d blame them? Imagine having to have it off without so much as a “hello and how are you?”
“I’m sure they say “hello and how are you?” I say, lowering my voice in the hope that she might too, “anyway, I think we’re talking about the same article. The term is “swipe.” You swipe right on your phone if you like the look of someone and left if you don’t. The app is called ‘Tinder’.
“TINDER!” she exclaims loudly, “that’s it! I knew it began with a “T.”
“That’s the one where you go on it and a second later, you have to have it off.”
“The sex is consensual, mum,” I say, “people don’t have to have it off.” “Ok then,” she says, “a second later, you’re sexually incontinent.”
I scan the cafe but obesity is easier to spot than sexual incontinence. “I mean did you read the part where they interviewed the man who called it his ‘toilet app’?” she says, her voice rising to meet the level of her incredulity, “because he said he seemed to always find himself flicking through the photographs when he was on the loo?” “Yes,” I say, whispering now. “I mean a bathroom would have been bad enough but the loo,” she says, “of all places.”
“We definitely read the same article,” I say, “that image stuck in my mind too. It was about how the online dating culture has made young single men more depressed about their lives than everyone else — more than married men or divorcees. And they’re more depressed than anyone else about their futures too. More than widowers, even.” The young waitress approaches our table with my mother’s carrot cake on a plate. She puts it on the table in front of my mother. “Well I don’t doubt it,” my mother says, “wouldn’t you be depressed if you had to resort to looking for love while you were doing a poo?”
The waitress leaves the table.
My mother continues: “From what I read, all anyone seems to want is stability and all they get instead is sex-and-go.”
The waitress returns with my sandwich and cutlery. “Is there anything else I can get you?” she says. “I mean if I had to have sex like that every five minutes, with no chat,” my mother says, “I’d be tempted to charge for it. At least you’d come away with a few bob in your pocket.”
My mother eventually answers the waitress. “No thank you, sweetheart,” she says, “my carrot cake looks absolutely delicious, even if it is the size of a bus.”
All anyone seems to want is stability and all they get instead is sex-and-go