The Backpacker

Stats: 26, 6’3″, blond/blue, Home Counties
When: August 2010
Where: South bank, London
Pre-date rating: 8/10

It’s always surprising when someone gets in touch who you may, at one point, have considered to be out of your league. In an utterly pointless act of ‘playing hard to get’, I have resolved not to add any new men as ‘favourites’ and instead see if they come to me. After all, the first law of internet dating appears to be “The ones you like, don’t like you”, so I figure it’s time to see who likes me. It hasn’t yet occurred to me that I could be faced with months and months of silence, the email inbox where I receive the dating site notifications acquiring a fine layer of dust, with a lone spider building a cobweb just above the last message received: a junk email telling me that the O2 is having a line-dancing extravaganza.

Happily, I never get to find out as my first bite on the line is The Guy, an impossibly tall handsome young man who travels a lot. He sends me the usual email and I am baffled as to why on Earth he would be remotely interested in me. Maybe he likes older, shorter men with lines so deep their faces look like a carving of the London Underground map. We each express an interest in meeting up and then the conversation stops dead – he doesn’t reply and I don’t prod or chase. I’m playing hard to get, remember. I am just about to file him away under “Looks like someone better came along” when he gets in touch. He’s been away travelling as he is writing a book. His time has been taken up with that and he hasn’t had a chance to answer emails but now he has, and would I like to meet up this time? I would, so I say so.  The date is set for a Wednesday evening and, thanks to it being a scorching week, he settles on the south bank, at the bar in the British Film Institute. I groan inwardly. The south bank is always too busy on a sunny evening and has been the scene for some truly terrible dates. He’s not to know that of course, so I say how GREAT that will be and that I’ll see him then. I read through his profile once again, to refamiliarise myself with his stats and all that. He seems to be very much an outdoorsy type – a fact I must have glossed over when he first got in touch. But this is OK. I go outside quite a lot: to the shop, to the pub, you know – the great outdoors.

So the great day comes and I am decidedly nervous, as I always am before a date with a considerably younger man. I shrug it off and a few moments before I arrive at our destination, he texts to say he’ll be slightly late. I make my way into the bar, which is crowded and warm and smells of spilled beer and order a drink, taking the only available seat I can find. I have a pretty good vantage point of both doors and am sitting in front of the bar, so I shan’t miss him. I text him to let him know I’ve arrived. Any worries that I may not see him approach are quickly dispelled as I notice a remarkably tall, slight blond walking toward me. I don’t have my glasses on, but I really don’t need them; it has to be him. In what seems like only two strides to cross the room he is in front of me with hand outstretched by way of hello. This is the 18th guy I have been out with in a few short months, and I know chemistry when I see it, and I think it’s fair to say that The Guy is a tad disappointed. His face may not fall and his smile may remain bright, but the enthusiasm you feel – the warm, excited feeling you get – when you know somebody fancies you is missing. This oven has not been pre-heated.

Once he gets himself a drink, he suggests we move outside and I agree. We don’t look too odd walking beside each other, at least not in height terms.  We find a seat and once settled, the conversation flows easily. He’s handsome, well, cute at least, and not the kind of guy I would normally have gone for, but that doesn’t mean anything. He has really clear, beautiful blue eyes, the whites of which are so white I think he must have had some kind of groundbreaking eye-white surgery. I then remember he is young and probably goes easy on the late nights.  He is a travel writer, and is waiting to get his book published, which is expected to happen very soon. He has been editing and re-drafting, so is kind of sick of the project. In the meantime, he writes about backpacking holidays for a fairly well-known travel site. He regales me with tales of grubby youth hostels and the kind of thing which happens in them, and even at one point says he can get me some work if I need it, but ultimately there is little below the surface I can really work out about him. We don’t chat about our families or where we grew up; everything is kept very much at a superficial level. I can’t seem to work out why. Does he not like getting too deep on a first date (with which I tend to agree) or is he only too aware that we shan’t be meeting again and is thus unwilling to share too many of his secrets?

We are just talking about a journalist who is a mutual acquaintance when we are interrupted by someone saying a fairly inebriated “hello” at me. I turn to find an ex-colleague sitting with some people I don’t know. He comes over for a chat which lasts all of 30 seconds, as he soon realises I’m on a date and thus backs off. The timing couldn’t be worse; I wish I’d bumped into him days ago so I could try arrange some freelance work but now is not the time. Also, the brief interruption has changed the energy of the date and it’s getting late too, so we agree it’s time to go. As we walk to the train station together, he starts to make noises that he’d like to do this again, and I guess I agree. He is, after all, clever, funny, handsome and HELLA tall. There was no instant spark or chemistry, no, but I remember in chemistry lessons at school it could take quite some time and patient potion-mixing before things went “BOOM”. Maybe this will be a slow-burner. As we part company at the tube entrance, there is a kiss on the cheek and a shoulder pat and I walk off to get my bus without turning my head back. I’m still in two minds whether to leave it or pursue things, and resolve to put it out of my head for a few days, which I do.

Around a week or so later, I text The Guy to ask how his weekend went and to let me know if he fancies a follow-up drink. He does not reply. Riiiight. And so on to the next…

Post-date rating: 6.5/10
Date in one sentence: A tall man successfully hides disappointment for 4 hours.

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