Stats:5’9″, 34, brown/blue, Bristol When: May 2011 Where: East Dulwich, London Pre-date rating: 4/10
There are good days and there are bad days in the dating world. What constitutes a good day varies greatly. Sometimes it will be a day where you have myriad emails from suitors to reply to: all of them handsome and witty and wise, with porcelain teeth, bright eyes and shiny hair. Sometimes a good day is a day when you don’t have anyone to respond to, as you have despatched your oh-so-clever, multi-layered communiqués with ease, as if second nature. And sometimes a good day is when you manage to go on a date with the right person. Today, then, might not be a good day.
As well as using the internet dating site which has served up the majority of my ‘guys’, I’m also using an iPhone app which hooks me up with other men looking for dates. I’ll be brutally honest here: a lot of them are just looking to put their John Thomas in you or on you. Many of them, however, are, like me, just looking to meet new people. It’s fairly easy to weed out the ones who just want a bang – they send you a picture of their penis within the first minute and/or have a headless, gym-tortured torso as their profile pic. To counter this, there is a very handy and, in my case, oft-used ‘block’ button, and the decapitated pec monsters are consigned to the slop bucket of the internet. It is through this medium that we arrive at This Guy.
The Guy first contacts me on a very dull Sunday evening. I have spent the evening working and am bored to the point of suicide, so fire up the iPhone app to see who is online. The Guy ‘pings’ me an instant message, opening with the devastatingly original ‘Hello’. I know I shouldn’t criticise, as most conversations have to begin with hello, but fucking hell.We exchange a few messages and he seems perfectly pleasant and polite. He is new to London and doesn’t live far from me. His profile picture is a bit blurry. but I’m not backing away from him with my hand over my eyes so he’s not too bad-looking. After around 15 minutes of inane instant messaging, I say I have to go and he asks if I’d like to go for a drink sometime. Do I? Hmm. Well, it would be nice to meet a neighbour and I don’t actually have to arrange something now, right? I say OK and he provides his mobile number, which I do not bother noting down. He asks for mine in return and STUPIDLY I give it to him. This, dear reader, proves to be my ultimate undoing. As a parting shot, and rather oddly, he gives me his full name and says I should Google him if I want to know more. I do; he’s a bigwig at a university and, in the photos I see, not for me. Call me shallow, but hey, I like what I like.
I put this guy to the back of my mind and carry on chatting to other people. One guy I am chatting to is extremely handsome, clever, funny and works in TV. He sounds like he would be a brilliant laugh. His name is Peter (it isn’t, but it is for the purposes of this blog) and he suggests meeting up for a coffee sometime. I agree and we leave it there, work seeming to get in the way of arranging something definite. A few days pass by and I am at work when my phone buzzes. I have a text. The text is from Peter. He reminds me that we have chatted before on the iPhone app and that I said we could go for a coffee. Do I remember and would I like to go? I leave it an hour or so, as is my wont, and then reply in the affirmative, and that we should go for an after-work drink. I suggest a pub which is halfway between where we live, and that will be on his route home from work. He replies that he doesn’t know the pub, but will find it. I am puzzled. He can’t not know the pub if he lives where he says he lives. It’s just not possible. Everyone knows it. I reply, offering to meet somewhere else, and also expressing surprise that he doesn’t know the pub if he lives in East Dulwich. And then comes the reply.
“I don’t live in East Dulwich; I live in Peckham”
Now I am even more confused. Peter definitely said he lived in East Dulwich. Has he moved? Already?! Another text arrives saying that he will find it anyway and puts forward a time, saying he will see me there. And then my blood runs cold. I realise who I have been talking to. There are two Peters. I only like one of them. This isn’t that Peter. This is the other Peter, the wrong one. Fuck. And we are meeting the very next night. Double fuck with a fucking cherry on fucking top. I agonise all day and all the next day what to do. I have never called off a date in my life, unless I have been ill, and it seems really unfair of me to arrange it and then cancel. It is at this point I realise that I have a conscience and am thus a very good boy, and as a penance for taking my eye off the ball and not concentrating on my Peters, I resolve to go, and make the best of it.
I do some shopping on the way home from work and decide to go straight to the date without going home. If I arrive ‘fresh’ from work, it gives the impression that I am very busy and have lots to do, and so will need to leave the date early to finish this afore-mentioned work. This is actually partially true: I do have some work to do tonight, but the world isn’t going to shatter in a million pieces if I don’t do it, but he doesn’t have to know that. I plod toward the pub with all the enthusiasm of Marie Antoinette going to the gallows. He is there already. I pretend I don’t see him which is fairly easy because my attention has been attracted to the fact that the pub appears to be closed for a refurb. The Guy is standing outside it looking as if he is desperately hoping not to have been stood up. He is wearing a rugby-style top and some very clean jeans and a pair of shiny shoes. Having come straight from work, I look like I’ve been dragged through an H&M backwards by the hair.
I catch his eye and we exchange that good old hello before acting puzzled at the pub’s closure and then deciding to decamp to another round the corner. I have never been in this pub before, but I hate it immediately. The kitchen is in the pub itself, and is spewing out all manner of unsavoury smells. I can’t see a menu but I imagine it’s a scampi and shit burger fest. There is a rough, tattooed woman at the bar with a suitcase next to her. If she has been on holiday, I can only assume it was somewhere with no bathroom facilities. The Guy asks what I’d like to drink and when I tell him, he orders the same. I am vaguely aware of the smell of aftershave, and it is getting stronger and stronger the more time I spend in close proximity to him. Match this with the cacophony of odours from the kitchen and the tattooed soap-dodger at the bar, and I’m in olfactory meltdown. We choose a table and are seated. Conversations are awkward enough to get going, let alone without the added ingredient of ‘I don’t want to be here’, so I ask lots of questions to appear interested. He doesn’t ask many back, but to be honest I am so bored by talking about myself after 35 other dates that I am glad of the respite. I have to say that it’s a bit hard to be interested as I find what he does a little boring. We talk a lot about politics and while that can be an interesting subject, it’s one of the worst topics for a first date ever. It’s right up there with confessing to your date that you dress up as one of the Spice Girls to get an erection – simply not done. Also, his aftershave is now choking me to the point where I can feel myself turning blue. I can’t do this much longer. It’s so strong I feel like saying something. My nose is going to wither and fall off. He seems genuine and is perfectly pleasant, but he is categorically not for me. Not now, not ever.
Politeness says that I should buy him a drink back, which I do, but I begin to wind things up by mentioning the work I have to do and bemoaning the life of a freelancer. I think he gets it. We drain our drinks and leave the pub. I could go the way he’s walking, but I decide to euthanise the evening here and now, and separate from him outside the pub. We exchange the nice to meet you bollocks, shake hands – he wisely does not move in for a kiss on the cheek – and we part company. When I have turned the corner, I look at my watch. I lasted 55 minutes. That’s not bad considering I should never have been there in the first place. I arrive home and get out my phone. There is a message on the iPhone app from Peter, this time the right one. I exhale.
Post-date rating: 4/10 If the date were a cartoon: The Wrong Trousers