So, it’s been a while since the last post, and in the interests of keeping things a bit interesting and not just writing a single/dating blog, I’m skipping ahead in time.
So, after the ‘rescue’ by date number 1, we decided that maybe we should probably give this dating lark a bit of a go. I was keen to point out that this by no means meant we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but I’d give it a try. I guess I should introduce him – Tom.
It didn’t go smoothly – we fought over everything, agreed on nothing, broke up more times than either of us had hot dinners. But, the friends approved (which I couldn’t believe – but was important to me) so it was time to MEET. THE. FAMILY.
My family are all quite close and, in my mind, it wasn’t a big deal and went quite smoothly. It was my brother’s 30th and what better way than to meet them all en masse, at a drunken family BBQ. It all went well. Tom got drunk; my mum danced with him to Elvis and my auntie texted me to say she loved him and that I should marry him. Except, I didn’t have my phone on me at this point. So she shouted out her text across the garden. In front of Tom. Gulp
So, then it was time to Meet. The. Wards. I spent TWO HOURS in Selfridges choosing flowers. I asked Tom the colour of his parents lounge and his mum’s favourite flower. He didn’t know and said the lounge was blue. I tried to choose accordingly. He then went to investigate HMV and left me to it.
I was NERVOUS. I am five years older than Tom. I freelance to his permanent job, I’ve travelled quite extensively, sometimes on my own, to his “I’ve only been to Europe and America”, I dive, he can barely swim – and half of my family are Irish Catholic, to his very British protestant family.
It was in the summer. And the rugby world cup or whatever it is in rugby was on. I asked Tom if his Dad liked rugby. He said “not really” but he liked sport generally. When I met his (very lovely) Dad for the first time at the station, I was keen to make a good impression on the long drive back. So, as soon as we were on the road, I whipped out my phone and checked the score as England were playing. England, in the once every four years, playing in the quarter finals. The game had finished, and I proudly announced that England had lost – in order to give a “yeah, I can be one of the boys, I like sport” impression. There was silence in the car. His Dad had been sky-plus’ing the game and had turned off every form of media which could have told him the score. He was looking forward to kicking back with a beer and watching it when we got back from the station. I had spoilt this now and there was no reason to watch it. Excellent first impression.
His mum was also lovely. She liked the 2 hour choice flowers – although her lounge wasn’t blue. Things seemed to be going well after rugby-gate, everyone had to eat vegetarian (just for me), and I tried my best not to swear and relax. That was, until the next morning.
I woke up, and I asked if I could have a shower. Which of course, I could. I turned the water on, and got in. I thought the shower head was turned in a weird way, so I moved it and got on with my shower. If only I’d known….. I came down stairs, fresh from my nice hot shower, to open the kitchen door and find Tom’s parents, on their knees, furiously wiping the kitchen floor, which had been flooded. By my shower. Which had come through the tiles, and was why the shower head had been in that position. I was mortified.
To help reduce my embarrassment, Tom offered to take me for a walk around the village. I pulled on my new boots and off we went. It had been raining so was a bit muddy as we traipsed around the village green. When we got back, we had only a few minutes before going back out again for the train back to London. So I ran in quickly to get my bag. In the lounge. In the lounge with the white carpet. With my boots still on. I didn’t know it was possible to get more mortified, but apparently, it is. I turned at the front door, realising my mistake and noticed great big, size 7, muddy footprints all over the white carpet….
So, overall I made an excellent first impression.
(PS – I’d like to say the second time I saw them, I improved on it. I didn’t. I booked Opera Tavern for ‘posh tapas’ and as I left his parents in a bar whilst I ran over to the restaurant to say we’d be a bit late, my “parent suitable” heels caught the pavement, I tripped, fell – in front of everyone eating al fresco – ripped my tights and my knee. Once we’d got over that and sat down, I ordered the padron peppers this has mum would “love”. They’d run out. A tapas restaurant which runs out of padron peppers is like a fish & chip shop running out of cod, right? So, anyway, his mum ignored me all night. I was petrified I’d ran out of chances. Turns out, she had an ear infection, and in the uber trendy loud restaurant, she couldn’t hear a thing I’d been saying in her right ear. I lived to see another day. Almost)
Guest post from ‘Actual Date Number One’
Giveloveabadname has graciously allowed me, ‘Actual Date Number One’, to offer a male perspective to the perils of online dating.
Firstly, a little context. My ‘date’ came in the middle of a fairly fertile period of match.com encounters. I say fertile in the loosest sense – very much focussed on quantity rather than, ahem, quality. This approach – I call it the ‘winking randomly at 80% of girls on the site’ approach (full ‘how-to’ guide being published later this year) – had led to various horrific, emotionally-scarring encounters, such as witnessing a girl sob when talking about her ex-boyfriend (she probably, in hindsight, wasn’t quite ready for online dating), to meeting a Russian girl who, despite emailing me in English decently (I too have an exceptionally low threshold to mistakes in syntax and grammar – decent is perhaps a little harsh. Most would say near flawless), I found out she couldn’t actually speak English beyond “hello” and “I will have wine”. To be honest, you could probably get by on match.com knowing only those expressions. Fair play to her. She probably felt she had cracked some secret code for dating Londoners.
It was during this particularly dark period that I met giveloveabadname (she did). And it’s all true. I turned up way, way too early. I normally like a 20 minute contingency so I can get to the bar first, remove coat, order a drink, and appear relaxed and poised. Turning up to a bar over an hour early meant that I progressed beyond relaxed and poised (I was fantastic after 20 minutes) and turned into a ranting drunk. I knew she liked diving and travelling. I have never dived and never travelled. A typical conversation went thus:
Me – “Wow you dive – that’s so cool. How many times have you dived?”
Her – “I dunno, about 50 times”
Me – “Wow that’s so cool. What’s the deepest you’ve ever dived?” (gulp of wine)
Her – “Probably about 20 meters. Why?”
Me – “wow that’s so cool. What’s the deepest anyone can dive? Have you seen a shark?” (huge gulp of wine)
Her – “I don’t know. Yes I’ve seen a shark. Wasn’t that scary”
Me – “Wow. That’s so cool……hey, what’s the deepest you’ve ever dived?”
It went on like this for an hour or so. To be honest, the passage of time didn’t really register. My mind had entered a strange reality where I assumed women would find my repetitiveness and general asinine questions alluring. The spell was broken by calling the date ‘fierce’. Fierce. This means:
I was referring to the second point. I swear. A heartfelt intensity. Hey, that’s OK. I’ve said much worse.
Unfortunately, my date didn’t think the same. After a few more gulps of wine (from me, not her), she made her excuses and left. I stayed in the bar for a while afterwards thinking she was a nice girl (albeit a bit fierce) and being pleased she could speak English. But assumed I would never see her again and that she would never ever reply to my “thanks for a lovely evening. Sorry I was so sh!tfaced” text. She replied the next morning – my heart skipped a beat – “how is your head?”. Had I found my match?
And so my online quest for ‘love’ continued. A week or so later, after the ‘fierce’ one, and a week after the worse day in the single girl’s calendar – Valentine’s day (although I actually had a great night – Flatmate Julia and I got slaughtered at home) I met with…
Date number 2
He was Greek. Younger than me and fit in his photos (as in exercise fit). And loved judo and nutrition. Now, call me naive and I guess a bit snobby, but I didn’t realise grown men in London went to judo and took it so seriously – I thought it was mainly kids and Olympic hopefuls. Again, I decided this was a fresh outtake on life, and continued chatting. We finally decided on a date (not Mondays or Fridays as these were judo days) and he arranged the coffee house to meet in, at 7pm one evening. Sorry? Cafe? In the evening? Are they open in the evening? Do they sell alcohol? I soon found out the reason for this venue choice was because he didn’t drink. I should have just called it quits there. When I asked him where he lived and he said Kensal Rise – my immediate response was “Oh, near the Paradise or the William IV pubs?” at the same time that he says “It’s near the fitness centre and Bikram yoga…..” But he seemed quite positive – if not a bit keen (he told me he was going on a 10 day meditation holiday, when I joked that it was all a bit Eat, Pray, Love – he told me I was where the ‘Love’ bit came in.*gulp*)
I persevered, and we met at a coffee place (yes, you can get coffee after work). Quite a nice posh one it turned out. Above a book store. As soon as I met him I knew he wasn’t my type. He was quite short, and clearly looked after this body (the short bit I am fine with, it was how dedicated he clearly was to his physique). I clearly wasn’t his type from the look of horror on his face. As we queued, he asked how often I go to the gym, whilst critically looking at my figure. I don’t think he believed me when I offered a very generous “three to four days a week….” As I put my order in for an espresso, he ordered a green tea. It turned out, he didn’t drink caffeine either. In fact, he didn’t drink “any kind of stimulants” because they’re so bad for you. I yawned and knocked back my coffee, as he gave me a disapproving look as if to say “just look what they’re doing for you”. Just as I thought it couldn’t get much worse, no alcohol, no coffee and started racking my brains for excuses to leave, he pulled out a 100 page nutrition journal, which, he told me, he was copying out into his own notepad and then re-reading. As I started to ask him ‘why?’ he decided to read it to me, chapter by chapter, whilst sipping his cats piss cup of tea. Unfortunately for me, I then got a text from Marianna (who was on match.com date standby) to tell me my er “Nan’s dog died”, so I had to finish my stimulant coffee and leave….
By now, I was a bit over this online dating. It was living up to all the awful expectations. Whilst I kept in touch with date number 1, and the Greek texted now and again, I really thought about jacking it in and resorting back to unsuitable, random guys in bars. One more date, and that would be it….
Date Number 3
He lived outside of London, his photos looked fine, his grammar was bearable, worked for a posh car company and was happy to come to London one Saturday to watch my beloved Arsenal versus Man United in the pub. He earned a point already from me. Something I should mention here is that in addition to bad grammar, another reason a guy didn’t make it past the ‘wink’ stages on match.com with me was if he didn’t like football. I realise many will disagree with me, but a man who doesn’t like football is just not a man to me. Not in a football yob/lout kind of way, but someone who knows exactly where they were in 1998 when X scored the X goal against X to win the X (clearly, if I was THAT much of a fan, I’d be able to fill these XX in here)
I left for the date, having texted date number one about my plans that night (we’d since decided to become friends after fierce-gate), with heels on, a short skirt, and a bit excited about the day ahead (stupidly, I had hope for arsenal too). That feeling quickly went. Strike 1. He texted me to ask where the bar was, what was the nearest tube and how could he get there? I know I sound harsh, as I come from and live in London, but use your initiative. Please. A guy who didn’t know how to use Google maps, or even think to have a map print out (as long as I didn’t see it) was on the way out. It showed a lack of independence and initiative.
Then I walked towards the bar, and I knew I this was a no-goer. Firstly, he was standing outside the bar. I have a thing about guys who are too scared to go into the bar and go ahead and order a drink for me. He’d even texted to say the bar was quite full, so would I mind if he waited for me outside as didn’t want to face it alone.
Strike 2. He had obviously put up VERY good photos. I realise I sound like a complete bitch, but – well, the photos were just very good and nothing like him in the flesh. Not that he was BAD, bad. He just – wasn’t what I was expecting. And don’t get me started on the clothes. Let’s just say that my Dad wears a better ‘casual’ jacket. I had that awful sinking feeling you do on a blind date, followed by “Christ, I have to put up with this for the next couple of hours”. And then, strike 3 – within the first 15 mins, he commented that he didn’t live in London and had nowhere to stay that night, followed by a wishful silence. I asked him to start looking through his phone book to find somewhere.
Arsenal lost, the chat was a bit dull, and I really wished I could be somewhere else. So, I did the one thing I knew I could do well. I got drunk. Really drunk. And I got him really drunk too. And then I did a really grown up, mature thing. As we moved on from pub to pub, and he started to get a little too touchy feeling for my liking, I replied to date number one, who had asked me how it was going, and asked him to come and meet me. Pretend he was an old friend of mine, and rescue me from the evening. He did…
So, my online dating continued and a couple of weeks in I had a couple of guys who I was emailing regularly and discussing meeting up with. There was also a man called Colin, who I think was in his 50s and winked at me every day. He was at least a back up.
Potential date number one:
Apparently, he was a guitar teacher. He seemed OK, grammar wasn’t amazing, but as this was the first person to wink/email and then text me, I decided to give the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I could quite see myself with the arty, muso type. Then I got a text at 6am to say he was thinking of me whilst at work. A) we hadn’t even met yet and B) I couldn’t work out what kind of person would have guitar lessons that early in the morning. How super keen or bad at the guitar must this student be?! When I asked him this (on text, natch), he replied that he only did the guitar lessons actually at weekends, and during the week he “helped make things happen” at a school, “kind of like maintenance”. So, he in fact, he was a school caretaker and did guitar lessons on the side. OK. Fine, a bit annoyed that he hadn’t been quite straightforward, but I kept going. We decided on a ‘date’ – mid week. I suggested somewhere equidistant, he suggested Kingston, near where he lived, at 6pm. 6pm? Who on earth could get to Kingston for 6pm?! My “compromise” was Wimbledon at 7.30pm. According to him, 7.30 was quite late for a mid-week date and he asked if I could come up with some bar suggestions as he didn’t know Wimbledon. I really wanted ‘the man’ to organise something, so I suggested Time Out guides, Evening Standard….. he just whinged and wouldn’t take control of the situation. He finally suggested we meet in Wimbledon station, and then we go to the nearest bar…..the Wetherspoons. And only for 1 or 2 as he had to get up early for work. This was going to go well…. On the day of the date, he then decided to change it to a weekend because apparently I “seemed like someone who would like go to the Tate or on the Milennium wheel (yes, the Millenium wheel, NOT the London Eye) and he would be able to dedicate more time to me. Just as I was about to send the “thanks but no thanks” text, he then sent me, via text, a guitar recording, which he’d written just for me, singing about the virtures of my name and how wonderful I was. After sharing this with my work colleagues (mean, but I had to), I deleted his texts, number and, surprisingly, didn’t go on the date.
Actual date number one:
At first, I wasn’t going to go through with a date with this one. The main reason, he was 28 to my (then) 33. A little too young for me. But BFFs Gina and Marianna, upon critiquing my shortlist, both focussed on his VERY young looking, doe eyed innocent picture, complimented his amazing grammar and laughed at his self-deprecating tone and told me to go for it. I still wasn’t too sure and had a bad case of tonsillitis (so bad, a colleague was like “are you SURE you should go out tonight, i can see them from here) but me and my golfball tonsils went off to a little wine bar. It didn’t start off too well. I was a little PR late, and he was ‘finance’ early. I was in jeans. He was in a suit. I wasn’t really drinking due to the tonsils and he…er.. was. Suffice to say, he got absolutely hammered within about 1 hour whilst I took my time sipping a glass of red. I, still unsure of this dating lark, played it cool. So cool in fact that he shortly reverted to calling me “fierce” – just what every girl wants to hear on a first date. The red wine continued to flow (into his glass, not mine), and I was asked every 5 minutes if I wanted to go, did I want to go, I could go if I wanted. I resorted to telling him to not be so insecure and if he said this to every girl, no wonder he was still on a dating site…this got a bit heated, and we were actually told to quieten down by the bar staff. In a bar. Told down to quieten down. At 8.00pm on a Tuesday. After another hour of this, I did decide to leave. My tonsils were painful, I couldn’t drink, and I didn’t think date number one would really notice. I got home, and my also-on-match.com flatmate asked me to look at her laptop. “Is this the guy you went out with tonight?” Me, “yes, why?” Flatmate “He winked at me this evening” – whilst I was sat with him in the bar. Excellent. Fierce.
Dates 2 and 3 to follow…..
Two years ago, as a very single, but quite happy 33 year old, my wonderful then-flatmate, Julia, convinced me to join an online dating site. “It would be fun” she promised. My New York friend Madonna told me “it was an excellent way to try out new restaurants without having to pay”. What did I have to lose?
Well, quite a bit – mostly my self-esteem. At the time, I wasn’t lonely per se – there was a <very small> stream of inappropriate guys that I hooked up with once in a while which kept the insecure side of me happy. This was a whole new level. This was about finding a b..b…b..oyfriend. Something I hadn’t had since I was very young. Did I actually want to seriously find one? Couldn’t I do that by bar-hopping my way across London?
I always thought of dating sites in the ‘old school’ way – something that desperate, socially inept people used. Men with halitosis, grey clothes, who spoke in a John Major voice about their love of stamps or trains; dodgy old men who wore long brown overcoats and men with unpronounceable names who brought up the words ‘marriage’ and ‘visa’ on the second email. Weren’t there loads of young men on there who just wanted to get laid? Who on earth would I meet on there?
Of course, my biggest concern was what if I met one of these desperate, socially inept people and EVEN they didn’t want me? What if they were like “thanks but no thanks love” at the end of the night – or worse, in response to my follow up email post date? If someone online didn’t want to date me, who on earth would? What if I’d unwittingly conned them with my photo, and was one of those people who turned out to “much larger/older/uglier” in the flesh, and not quite as smart/well travelled/fit/brunette enough as my profile led to believe.
Putting these worries aside, and armed with a huge glass of wine, Julia and I took about three hours to upload select photos of myself. Photos which I hoped made me look ‘fun, adventurous, carefree, with a love of travelling’, with the obligatory scuba diving shot and one that made me look much slimmer than I was. These were set to a profile which I hoped managed expectations; my love of football was true (ish), figure shape was set to ‘curvy’ and my fitness levels to pretty crap. I then sat back and waited for the promised ‘hundreds of winks and emails’. That didn’t happen. Instead I got ‘winked at’ once by a guy young enough to be in school, and a few “hey baby” instant messages. This was going to be a long project….
Over the week, I started to get into my flow and get some responses (of course, I never cold winked, messaged or emailed – being a girl, it wasn;t the done thing). I realised I was super fussy and it was quite easy to weed out those I wouldn’t be dating from the very small amount of guys who did contact me; bad grammar and spelling, and a reliance on text speak.
I couldn’t believe the amount of guys, who I’d never met, who felt the need to use a smiley face, a LOL, LMAO and/or a winky face throughout their INTRODUCTORY email. U and R and confusing there/their and your/you’re – anyone who didn’t have a basic grasp of grammar (I realise mine isn’t perfect, but I can think of no better word here than whatevs) and littered their emails with smiley icons were struck off.”Hi U look GR8, your looking to meet up”
The same went for people who put many kisses on an email. Now, I work in PR – where the PR kiss XXX is the norm on an email to your team, even your boss – yet I was put out when it finished off an over familiar email. If that was what they were like on email before meeting, did I really want to take this any further? Well, I did. And those dates are a whole different story