Good dates

The Keen Bean

The fag-end of summer approaches over the horizon and I have fair torn through the dates in the last 4 or 5 weeks. To say I’m weary by this point is an understatement, and when this guy gets in touch and starts whispering virtual sweet nothings, I’m fairly indifferent.

He doesn’t have a lot to say for himself, and when he does his grasp of grammar isn’t a huge selling point, but he seems a  decent guy and in the absence of any other stimulating suitors, I think I might as well. When I accept his invitation to meet him for a drink, he seems genuinely pleased – excited even – rather than playing it cool and being non-committal, which is kind of a plus after being on the receiving end of so many dreary attempts at ‘mind games’. How refreshing to meet somebody who isn’t going to a date with a gun at his head – myself included. So we agree to meet after work for a couple of pints on a late summer’s eve.

The day arrives and by the time I am heading to the date, it is pissing it down. Summer is having its last laugh. It’s warm, yes, but the rain is torrential and east London looks very sorry for itself as its entire population’s denim cut-offs and flip-flops are drenched in the bucketing rain. If there’s one thing guaranteed to put me in a shitty mood it’s arriving somewhere wet, if you know what I mean, but I try to push these natural urges of fury to one side and paint myself all sunny and smiley in my mind so I don’t give the date the wrong impression – or should that be the right one?

And there he is, waiting for me. He’s fairly attractive, his profile pictures being a true representation of what he looks like, so another point in his favour. (It’s really rare.) He’s dressed in a contemporary style that doesn’t scream fashionable and looks like he knows his way around a bar of soap.

He’s also Australian, a detail I can’t remember coming up in conversation over email. I realise I didn’t read his profile at all properly, as everything he tells me comes as a huge surprise. That he’s Antipodean doesn’t bother me particularly; I try to work out in my head whether he’s the first Aussie I’ve been on a date with (he is). Despite the rain, we manage to find a pub that isn’t too packed – a rough shithole much beloved by Shoreditch hipsters but almost entirely patronised tonight by the kind of people you’d cross a busy motorway to avoid.

Once it gets going, the chat isn’t too bad, but I’m starting to trot out the familiar phrases from every date – repetition is inevitable when you’ve been in this game for longer than a few months – and I’m becoming annoyed with myself at doing it.

It doesn’t seem to bother my date; he hangs on every word I’m saying like I’m the most interesting person he has ever met. Is he for real?  He seems very sweet. He talks very fast and I often have to ask him to repeat himself, which I’m loath to do but I can’t just nod and smile and pretend I’ve heard everything. Unable to stand the stench of misery, regret and supermarket-brand toiletries any longer, I suggest we find somewhere else, and we hotfoot it in the monsoon to another bar, a more contemporary venue.

This being Shoreditch, the music is booming and as a result we have to sit quite closely to each other on the couch we’re sharing. His Speedy Gonzales chatter technique combined with the blaring beats are a recipe for disaster when it comes to me having a clue what he’s saying so I practically have to sit on his lap to hear him. He seems to regard this as a come-on, as he is being flirtatious, touching my leg and staring deeply into my eyes.

In fact, he can’t seem to take his eyes off me, which is very flattering and all too rare an occurrence. I don’t offer him any encouragement, however, and act amiably distant, interested in his conversation but pretending to be totally oblivious to his advances. This can either go one of two ways: he’ll get offended and the date will grind to a halt, or he will find it a huge turn-on and be even more attracted to me. I chuckle to myself – half in fear – as I realise we’re dealing with the second option here.

Finally, I can take no more of the booming bassline and his inaudible mouse whispering, so I suggest we go to another pub. The rain is still clattering down so we hail a cab. No sooner have I given the driver our destination than my date jumps on me and sticks his tongue down my throat. I absolutely do not do displays of affection in taxi cabs, so I respond just enough to be polite.

Once we break apart, I smile placidly, like a disgraced MP’s wife standing by her man at the gate to the farm. At the next pub – a gay venue – he becomes amorous again and is pretty much stuck to my hip. I weigh things up. I don’t have any better offers at this time on a wet Wednesday evening. He’s cute, he really likes me and it’s a long bus ride home.

When the inevitable question comes and he asks me to accompany him home, inwardly I sigh wearily and curse the dull predictability of it all. I could do worse. I could do better. I look around the room and feign indifference, but eventually nod, which makes him beam from ear to ear. Little does he know that he may have won the first battle, but my pants will be staying firmly on. I finish my drink with a gulp, gather up my coat and stand up. He proffers his hand, but I don’t take it. And then we go.

Stats: 5′ 8″, 29, brown/brown, Australia
Where: Brick Lane, London
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: 6/10
Date in one sentence: One man’s keenness is another man’s aphrodisiac, however temporary

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