Bad dates

The Culture Vulture

Stats: 5’10”, 27, brown/brown, Southwest England
When: June 2011
Where: Shoreditch, London
Pre-date rating: 7/10

What would the world be like if everything was as good in real life as it was ‘on paper’? All those outrageous claims made by advertisers would be true: detergent really would blitz limescale from your shower in seconds; putting magical cream on your penis could make it gargantuan, and a closing down sale really would be just that. Going on a dating site is a bit like being an advertiser – you’re flogging a product (you) and you have to make yourself sound as attractive as possible. I’ve always been my very own Advertising Standards Authority, and try to keep my profile within the realms of believability. I like to think everyone else is the same.

The Guy mails me late one night, telling me that he is an editor and as such feels a pressure to come up with an amazing message, but is too tired. And there the message ends. Whether he is being arrogant or genuinely wanted to seize the moment and talk to me, I can’t tell, so I have a browse of his profile. First things first: the photos. There are only 3 or 4 of them, and they don’t say much about him. All but his main profile pic are taken from a distance. He looks slim, his dress sense seems fairly run-of-the-mill and he is quite attractive. I read his profile. He’s obviously intelligent and likes to go to the theatre and seems well-read. He does mention his job quite a few times – an instant alarm bell as I don’t like it when people choose to be defined by their jobs rather than their personalities, but I surmise it might be nice to go on a date with another editor. Everything else on his profile points to an interesting potential date. I send back a similarly pithy response assuring him that there’s no pressure on him to write anything too smart – he’s not at work now, after all.

When he writes back, he seems fairly charming, but there’s a distinct lack of humour running through his posts. I crack the odd joke in my emails and he either ignores them or makes a rather weak attempt to replicate them. I start to think that maybe he’s not a good communicator over email, which might sound odd for someone who works in editorial, but he may not like writing about himself – believe it or not, it does happen. He works for a company that I have heard of, reviewing cultural events and nights out. As a result, he has a busy schedule, but he does invite me along to a play. I politely decline, as I’m a) already busy and b) sticking religiously to the rule that the first date should be drinks only. Another invite to a different play follows, which again I decline. We finally manage to schedule in drinks that Saturday night, and meet at a pub I like to take a first date, as it’s fairly buzzy but not too obtrusively loud. It’s a warm evening but looks like rain, so I have a slight crisis over what to wear, coupled with the fact that I don’t to appear *too* trendy – after all, his own dress sense seems pretty low-key.

As I approach the pub I see him a few feet ahead of me on the street, heading in the same direction. I hang back a little so that we don’t arrive at the same time. He has obviously been perusing a fashion magazine or two since he had his profile pictures taken, as he appears to be wearing coloured jeans. When I arrive at the pub he isn’t immediately visible so I begin to wonder if I was mistaken. I order a drink and out of the corner of my eye I spot him further along the bar. I perform my regular ritual of pretending not to see him. Within a trice, he is standing in front of me silently. He smiles and I return the smile and stick my hand out in welcome. We shake, exchange names and grab a table. And thus it begins.

The signs aren’t good early on. My polite question about what he does is answered in an animated monologue with every detail imaginable about his job laid bare. He then talks me through his CV, listing his achievements one-by-one as if he is in a job interview to become ruler of the universe and is desperate to prove himself. He may only be 27, but he’s done a lot. And he loves to talk about all of it. I am beginning to feel very much the underachiever. As he talks and talks and talks, I drink and drink and drink and I become so unused to speaking that when he does finally ask me a question about 30 minutes into the date, I stumble over my words and don’t make much sense. I don’t like talking about my job very much. It’s not particularly glamorous or exciting and people who do think their jobs are glamorous and exciting are usually very, very wrong. The Guy goes on to tell me that he also reviews for a well-known magazine. We have a short, yet quite hotheaded, disagreement about writing reviews and whether you should tailor them to the audience who’s reading them. He claims he doesn’t do that, and that he would write the same review were he to write one for a gay magazine or a national newspaper. This, frankly, is bollocks. I begin to tell him so, but thanks to being wrong-footed in the first place by not being able to speak very much, my point is confused and I start to feel like I’m being patronised. I do later manage to catch him out and feel I win the argument, but what’s the point? It is when he starts talking about his university course – and even the *interview* he had to go through to get on said course (eight whole years ago, for fuck’s sake) – that I realise this man has one favourite subject: himself. It is at this point that he mentions that he used to be an actor and things very suddenly become a whole lot clearer. I then realise that the night is lost – and I have no intention of going to look for it.

We move onto talking about the theatre, given that he is a self-confessed ‘culture junkie’ who goes to the theatre as much as he can. I don’t go to see plays very often, but I did happen to a few days previously, and I tell him about this in a last-ditch attempt to find some common ground, or at least to get him to shut up waffling on about himself. He tells me that he used to work at the very theatre I’d just been to – The Old Vic – and, rather dramatically, that he could never go and see a play there. I ask him why. Is it because he knows the stage too well, so it would feel weird to him to be front-of-house? Perhaps at The Old Vic someone told him what a crushing, self-engrossed bore he is? Well, no. He replies that the productions he saw when he worked there were always terrible. He then rests his hands on the table and looks at me, as if the case is closed and no further explanation is necessary. But I shan’t let it go.

“What was terrible about them?” I ask
“What? What was bad about all of them?” he replies. “I could be a long time.”
I bet he could. Nevertheless I press on: “Well, was it bad scripts, bad casting, not a good stage – what? If all of them were so bad, they must have had a common problem.”
He considers. “Well, to be honest, they just didn’t have any theatricality about them.”
Obviously I have no idea what he’s talking about, so he explains that they’re just like watching a film rather than a live action play. I try to explain about the wonderful sets and the enthusiastic, talented cast of the production I have just seen, but he spits back before I can finish:
“It is a populist theatre – they do shows for people who don’t go to the theatre very often or come to London for the day or from Essex and want to see someone famous in a play. It’s not real. And I would never go and see anything there.”
“So the plays weren’t terrible,” I venture, “you just didn’t like them. It’s not the same thing.”
And silence descends for a delicious moment.

I go to the toilet and when I return – half expecting/hoping he won’t be there – I suggest we move on, meaning to leave and part company. He misunderstands and suggests going somewhere else and because I was brought up to be polite, I agree, my stomach leaden. I’m puzzled as to why he hasn’t called time on the evening; he’s clearly not enjoying it either.

Going to the second pub is a huge mistake, as conversation between us has dropped to a low murmur. I go to the toilet again – to text a friend, if I’m honest – and ask him to watch my drink, which I have placed on a nearby table full of bright young things. A look of amusement crosses his eminently punchable face.
“Why? Whatever do you think is going to happen to it?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I reply, wearily. “It’s just a figure of speech.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t think anyone’s going to spike you.” Wanker.

When I return, he is engrossed in conversation with the people whose table has been housing my drink while I sent an expletive-filled text to my friend. I can hear that they’re laughing at the stupidity of being asked to watch someone’s drink. Wow, who knew this would be such a bone of contention? I stand next to him and he pretends he hasn’t seen me. Instead, he makes a really dramatic and staged flinch when I reach into the throng for the drink, even going to the trouble of exclaiming a mock-surprised “Oh, it’s you!” like he’s on a soap opera and has just opened his front door to a potential mass-murderer. I think he is wise to pursue an alternative to acting – he’s crap at it.

The Guy has an opinion on everything, but he doesn’t present them as opinions, more lectures – as if based on solid facts. He makes me feel dumb and uncultured, ramming down my throat all the stuff he has achieved and starred in. I toy with the idea that I may be jealous. Does his packed portfolio cast light on my more empty one? Do I want to be like this person? Do I want his CV? Do I want to play a themed ‘Come Dine With Me’ evening with friends like his, who sound just as shallow and self-aggrandising as him? Well, no, I don’t. I’m not jealous; I’m just irritated that someone so odious can be considered a success. I don’t measure my success in how much I’ve done; it’s all about how well I’ve done it. Maybe nice guys do finish last after all. I think I’d settle for mid-table

Finally, the hell is over, and he wants to head off. I shake his hand and, appallingly, he kisses me on the cheek. I say I am going a different way than him (although I’m not) and turn away from him, having successfully suppressed the urge to say that this is one of the worst dates I have ever been on and that he is the most supercilious creep I have ever met. And for once, I regret my manners and good upbringing. That’s one lecture he deserved and should have experienced. Onward.

Post-date rating: 1/10 (1 because I quite enjoyed the argument)
Date in one sentence: Dreary drinks with a CV come to life

Leave a Response

%d bloggers like this: