Love Island. The six-days-a-week guilty pleasure that 80% of your friends are talking about. The ITV2 dating show is ruining my social life and making me dread Saturdays (the sole day deprived of a fresh episode). But one thing it shouldn't be doing is providing me with a foolproof dating manifesto. Yet it is.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; in a year when Brexit happened, Trump moved into the White House and Binky from Made in Chelsea had a baby, there are no surprises left to be had. That said, if you had told me at the start of this summer that a trashy ITV2 programme would become my dating bible, I would have cackled like a hyena on laughing gas.
To get things straight, I don't have a lot in common with the women on Love Island. I don’t have fake boobs, I resent wearing makeup, I feel anxious in a bikini, I let my hair dry naturally and I won’t go near a man who looks like he has ever done self-improvement to his eyebrows. But most of all, they understand men, and I do not.
I have no clue how to behave around men; I frequently blur boundaries, screw with friendships, confuse people, baffle my friends and get myself in a pickle, without even a kiss for my troubles.
In the spirit of self-discovery through the medium of reality TV, here are the lessons in love and lust I’ve taken from this year’s Love Island. Do with them what you will.
Men change their mind and say stuff they don’t mean
Ok I’m not naïve. Yes, I know people change their mind and yes, of course, people are liberal with the truth – that’s dating 101, even for hopeless romantics like myself. But Love Island has made me realise how quickly that can happen. I was aghast when hunky lad Dom seemingly dumped Montana for new sexy glamour model Jess after a glass of chardonnay and a couple of tealights (his best ever date). He made his promises. He kissed her. He said she was special.
My eyes have been opened. Thanks to two weeks of watching, this kind of behaviour no longer shocks me. I now take everything with a proverbial pinch of Himalayan pink salt. It is just as easy for a man to say you are beautiful as to never text you again. A month before my Love Island obsession began, I was sucked in by a man who told me he couldn’t wait to tell our grandkids how we met. I have now realised it was just an elaborate way to get a snog. I am not trying to give you trust issues and build Trump’s dream wall around your heart, but just take your time, suss people out and don’t melt for every compliment.
Be bold, be clear and compliment
“You are a bit of me”, “You are good-looking” and “Am I fit? You’re fit. Let’s go” are just a few lines thrown out by our bikini army in Mallorca over the last couple of weeks.
These girls may not know what a hung parliament is, but they do know men. It all came to fruition for me at a party on Saturday night. A boy caught my eye. He was attractive. As Olivia would say, “He’s 100% a bit of me”.
Old me, pre-Love Island me, would stare at him, much like a seen-but-not-heard Victorian character, wondering if I could accidentally bump into him, ultimately not speak to him, and go home wondering what could have been. I feel bad for old me. I think they call it the breakthrough moment in therapy.
New me, with Olivia’s ‘craic’ on one shoulder and Montana’s ‘forthrightness’ on the other, walked on over (I may have even strutted). After a quick, flirty smile, I told him: "You are really fit, and what is even fitter about you, is that you don’t know you are fit." Poetry, no, and yes a repetitive sentence structure that my university lecturer would have cringed at, but sassy nonetheless.
The interaction was crystal clear, there was no friend-zone haziness, no potential girlfriend, no one having to create a faux work/hobby-related reason for us to follow each other on Instagram. Just clear-cut, straight-to-the-point chat. If he wasn’t interested, he could walk right away. Admittedly that would have felt like rejection, but I’d rather that than spend the night talking to someone who wasn’t interested.
In the end he asked for my number, saying he’d like to take me to an Arsenal match. Premier League, yeah, cool.
Following our interaction, I asked him how he felt to be approached in that upfront manner. “Guys that claim to like the chase aren’t always telling the truth,” he said. “It was refreshing”.
Don’t feel depressed about dating
As your mum always tells you: there are plenty of fish in the sea. But the truth is sometimes it feels like there are a lot more dead trout floating around than sashimi-grade tuna. However, Love Island has taught me there really is always someone round the corner.
One second there's no one in the villa who's 'a piece of me’ for Marcel, our Blazing Squad Z-list celeb, the next he's re-living Makosi from Big Brother’s infamous sexy jacuzzi moment, and talking about kids with twerking specialist Gabriella Allen. Never give up: there are a lot of people in the world to sext with.
I’m not the kind of girl who normally takes life advice from wannabe celebrities, but we can all change. I’m wearing my Love Island passion with pride. You know where to find me at 9pm for the rest of the summer.