If there’s one thing I’ve learned after going on first dates with a large number of men, it’s to expect the unexpected. I’m currently taking a break from the dating scene, the hapless loners and plump-chested braggers holding less appeal as the year wears on. And then, I am asked, via Twitter, if I would like to meet by The Male Nanny, my very favourite blogger (sorry to that blogging lady who posts pictures of her sodding cat all day – you’re a very close second, honestly).
The twists here come thick and fast: he is straight, for one – not even remotely curious; and he has no idea what I look like. Our flirtation has been purely intellectual and refreshingly free of any carnal desire. Despite our difference in age, we seem a good match in personalities, yet I’m hesitant. My general rule is never to meet anyone from Twitter, but, like me, he’s an anonymous blogger, albeit with considerably more to lose should his identity be revealed. And so, after mulling it over, I agree. We set a time and date over email, his communiqués making me laugh out loud (an occurrence all too rare) and then it is done. It is happening. My next date, then, may be the oddest proposition of them all.
His anonymity wrong-foots me instantly. Blog and Twitter comments aside, I know zero about him. That I will not have to impress him enough to sufficiently fancy me is quite liberating, yet confusing. I consider this. Will it be easier or harder to come across well to someone who isn’t interested in me sexually? Should I care? I realise I am thinking too much and let the brief insecurities fall away. I make my way to the pub. I am four minutes late. Tsk.
We are to meet in a pub on the fringes of Carnaby Street. It’s busy, filled with a post-work crowd of the usual people too intimidated by God-knows-what to go into Soho proper, and a few older drinkers taking advantage of the cheaper beer. It occurs to me that I have made my first mistake – I have no clue who I’m looking out for. Cursing my idiocy and uncharacteristic disorganisation, I peek into the three different bars of the pub, seeing nobody who fits his descri— oh what fucking description? OK, what would a male nanny look like? I go to the bar and check messages. I see a tweet from him and look up. Going up to strange young men asking them their name is not encouraged when you’re a middle-aged homosexual, but I’m out of options, so I approach the nearest possibility and ask if he’s the male nanny. He is. We shake hands. I know you’re all waiting for the description but anonymity is as anonymity does – all I’ll say is he has the most wonderfully sparkling blue eyes.
We grab a table and the chat comes easily. We talk freely and openly about most things. Well, ourselves mainly. Perfect. We talk about dating and I take him through my various tactics, revealing most of my dating secrets. He’s made it clear he wants to write about our meeting. I’m not sure if I like the taste of my own medicine. We consider whether any of my dates would’ve gone differently had they known I’d blog about them. I have to admit they almost all would have. Later, he’s surprised when I confess that I have made some almighty fuck-ups on dates. “You give the impression that you’re perfect, above it all,” he says.
I warm to him almost immediately. He’s young but far from foolish. He is very good-looking, trim and looks clean as a whistle. He has a friendly face, a clear, bright youthful complexion and – look, I have to check – nice teeth. He’s articulate, very funny and perfectly composed – controlled yet thoroughly relaxed. I’m conscious of talking too much and my habit of putting my hands on the table when making a point. “Like you’re on Question Time,” he quips.
I drone on rather too much about my opinions on the gay ‘community’. He seems genuinely surprised that gays would bother being obsessed with youth or manliness, but, surprise aside, he’s interested in what I have to say. He looks away quite a lot while I’m talking to him. I realise those eyes are probably wandering every time a young lady appears at the top of the stairs he is facing. I can’t call him out for it; I’d do the same.
I do occasionally see a fleeting chink in his confident, determined demeanour – I peer quickly into it, espying his vulnerable side, and find it heart-warmingly sincere. I’m struck by how levelheaded he is, how ambitious and realistic. I’m also astonished at how quickly I slip into being myself. There are no pretensions at all. Neither of us is trying too hard. But of course we’re not, it isn’t a ‘real’ date.
The time flies – I realise I have not looked at my watch once – and all too soon we are ushered to the downstairs bar to finish our drinks. We sit beside each other and survey the rest of the clientele, each picking someone out for the other. I select for him a pretty girl with a pseudo-Amy Winehouse hairdo who’s talking to a ridiculously tall guy I’d been eyeing up earlier. For me, he chooses a porcelain-white, peroxide-bonced, mealy-mouthed gay with a dreadful fringe who looks like he has a nervous breakdown every time he gets to the end of his Lady Gaga CD. I turn to him in mock horror and we laugh conspiratorially, his eyes shining with mischief.
We leave and head to the tube station. I say I have to put money on my Oyster card, expecting him to dash off for his train, but he dutifully waits for me. We descend to the platforms and finally it’s time to part. I half wish it weren’t so late, so we could carry on guzzling pints and talking, but it’s good to quit while ahead. We shake hands and say our goodbyes. I squeeze onto the tube, ruefully noting if every date could be as much fun as that one, even if totally platonic, I’d probably go on them every night of the week. He’ll be a hard act to follow.
Post-date rating: 10/10 – a full house, and he didn’t even need to shag me to get it Date in one sentence: It’s not always true that you shouldn’t meet your heroes; this clever, confident guy didn’t disappoint.