I love dating. Who doesn’t? There’s something quite exciting about throwing yourself into the pub with an unknown. A first date could be an unprecedented disaster, or the beginning of a great adventure. The other person could be proper excellent. Or a complete lunatic. They could end up becoming a great mate. You might never see them again, or you could end up seeing them for the rest of your life. The possibilities! The anticipation! Sure, it’s odds on that the friend of a friend or dude you hit it off with on the night bus isn’t the love of your life, but at least it’s somebody new you can recycle all your old jokes on. And if it is total shite, you’ll get a good story out of it. Basically, first dates are a bit like scratch cards; quite exciting, and sometimes you win a tenner and go home feeling pretty pleased with yourself. (And a lot of the time it’s a total dud and you wonder why you bothered in the first place. You could have spent that quid on a Solero or something useful.)
Recently I went on one of the second kind of
scratch cards dates. The man was so boring I can’t even remember his name, so we’ll call him Clam Boy, because he DID NOT talk. At all. I’d met Clam Boy in a bar the previous weekend, which has well and truly confirmed my suspicion than anyone you meet after 2am is – against all logic – boring as fuck, a psychopath, or a twat.
The thing was, this guy should have been very interesting. We’d texted a bit beforehand, and he seemed to have led quite an exciting life. He was 25 and had his own business running a small creative agency on the South Bank. He had spent a year in New York. He had lived in Berlin, producing couture fashion shows. He had a side business growing and distributing matcha tea. (Have you ever tried this? It’s a finely milled, pea green, highly concentrated green tea. It is supposed to be very good for your skin and immune system and so on, but all I know is that it smells of pond and tastes of arse. I wouldn’t recommend it.) Unfortunately, one can only assume he had been so successful because he’d spent zero time whatsoever learning how to be a good conversationalist, because the evening went something like this:
“So, you lived in New York, right? That’s amazing, whereabouts did you live?”
“Oh, cool, isn’t that the really nice bit?”
“Oh. Well, what was your favourite part of living in the States?”
“Yeah, they make great bagels.”
“Oh. Right. Would you ever go to live there again, d’you think?”
“I think I’m going to go to the lavatory, back in a second.”
While taking a piss I had a few minutes to ponder this enigma of a man who had chatted me up at a bar and asked me out, apparently of his own free will. Why was he being such a boring bastard? Maybe, I thought reasonably, he was nervous. Maybe he was actually quite shy but had been more extroverted at the bar because he was totally wankered.
I returned to my seat.
“Soo, Berlin, how long were you there for?”
“Oh right, I went once, before Christmas. I really liked it.”
“I mean, I think it’s not beautiful, but it’s really cool in an underground sort of way, I thought.”
“What were you doing, exactly?” I felt like an interviewer.
“Oh, I was involved in producing fashion shows.”
“Oooh,” I said encouragingly. This sounded promising. “Anyone really famous?”
“Yeah, we did Dior a few times.”
“What was it like?”
“Would you like another drink?”
I leapt to my feet and practically ran to the bar, desperately trying to think of other things to talk about. So far he had asked me two questions: the obligatory “what do you do for a living?” and that excellent ice-breaker, “what are the toilets like then?” (!?)
Other highlights have included a man who spent fifteen minutes telling me about how once he went on a father-son spa day and was told by his masseuse when he sheepishly got off the table with a full-blown erection, “not to worry, your dad was exactly the same.” (Fortunately for him I have a gruesome sense of humour and thought it was hilarious, but I was still pretty shocked he’d cracked out that particular anecdote before I’d even sucked down my first G&T.)
There was another guy I dated for awhile who was very sweet but with whom there was no spark. I was living in Milton Keynes at the time and missed the last train home, so I stayed over at his place because he lived literally five minutes from my office and, well, it was either that or bunk down under my desk. Nothing happened, but the next morning I woke up to two neatly folded towels, a new toothbrush and a little sample bottle of Molton Brown shower gel. The guy was nowhere to be seen. Unnerved, I had a shower (bizarrely, there was already an identical, full-sized bottle of shower gel open) and came out to find he’d been out to get the paper, the paper he knew I read, smoothed and open at the crossword page. There was a fresh cup of filter coffee, just how I like it. The air was perfumed with the expensive aroma of a Jo Malone scented candle. In the background, my favourite band’s greatest hits were playing on Spotify.
It should have been nice. It should have been romantic. But it was just weird. Perhaps it would have been if there had been any chemistry; then I could have appreciated the epic attention to detail of a man who, after three dates, knew I liked black coffee, cryptic crosswords and the melodious warbling of Brian Molko. But I wasn’t. I was just a bit freaked out.
Fortunately, soon after that he went on a six month sabbatical to Fiji and everything fizzled out, but sometimes ending things that have barely started can get a bit ugly. The first date I went on as a Londoner was with a bloke who turned out to be a latent sociopath. He was a friend of a friend and we initially got chatting over a big email thread before emailing one-to-one, so I guess it counts as meeting someone online. I’d seen a few pictures of a blondish, good-looking guy with a smiley face and dimples. Fine. Unfortunately, when I eventually met this guy, I was aghast to discover that I had been misled and he was actually just the Most Photogenic Man of All Time.
Now, I don’t want to come off as a massive, shallow, bitchface wanker here, but it doesn’t matter how well you get on with somebody over the phone if when you meet them in person they physically repulse you. The Most Photogenic Man of All Time turned out to look exactly as my Year 8 history teacher had described ‘Mad’ King George III, i.e. overweight, clammy and bug-eyed. At 5’ 9” he was only an inch taller than me, and he had the wobblesome jowls of someone who breaks a sweat when they think about cheeseburgers.
I could still have a nice conversation with him though, I thought, even though I don’t fancy him. I mean, we had got on so well. The problem was that Photogenic was also supremely sure of himself. He thought the thing was a done deal, confident that his winning personality would see him through. Except in person he didn’t have a winning personality. He was a creepy fuck. Despite purposefully sitting on the opposite side of the table with my arms folded so tightly across my chest I was in danger of breaking a rib, Photogenic would NOT STOP TOUCHING ME. (Side note: why do people do this? I blame those bullshit pop psychology books that tell you to ‘subtly’ touch people to get them to like you.) At one point he announced he wanted to ‘analyse’ my handwriting and asked me to write a sentence on a napkin. He looked at it and gave me some guff about my spider scrawl hinting at some secret yearning for overzealous chin-farmers or some shit like that, then told me it was his turn and wrote, ‘I’m been thinking about kissing you all evening.’
Well, that was pretty much it. I was so distressed by Photogenic’s sick-making attempts to latch his face on to mine that I stood up very quickly and said ‘Ireallymustgohaveatraintocatchbyeeee’ in a high-pitched voice before attempting to sprint out of the pub like a buttered bullet. Unfortunately Photogenic’s awesome bulk was standing between me and sweet, unmolested freedom so I was forced to let him walk me to the train station, where I knew I was going to have to do some spectacular diplomacy to avoid near-terminal awkwardness when he inevitably went in for the goodnight kiss and I was sick down his shirt. Fortunately, the train pulled up just as we arrived so I was able to able to dodge his slavering jaws when he lunged towards me and ran – RAN, with my legs – at top speed on to the carriage.
Photogenic then spent the next week incessantly texting me and calling me. I was actually on holiday without a working phone, so when I touched down in London I found over thirty texts getting progressively more aggressive, and eleven missed calls. Even if I wasn’t off the grid, how many unanswered messages does the average person need before they get the hint? Eventually I got back to him politely asking him to fuck off, which seemed to work as he immediately replied with something vaguely abusive but then seemed to give up, thank Christ.
On reflection, I’ve been quite unlucky, but to be fair there have been quite a lot of really quite decent dates in between the disasters. What’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?
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