Category Archives: Bad dates

The Also-Ran

Is there anything less sexy than a date who dumps all his problems on you? Is it really only nice guys who finish last?

Internet dating attracts the loneliest of souls. Behind every profile advertising a “vivacious go-getter”, there’s a self-doubting emotional wreck searching for a friendly face upon which they can offload their problems – and little else. Sadly. Thankfully. Everybody’s got their problems; some of them like to share them on a supposedly romantic evening. It’s a risky seduction technique, but depressingly popular.

Tonight, I’m playing shrink to Christopher, an aspiring novelist with faux-messy hair and a bowtie. Aspiring. Bonjour alarm bells – aspirations are doppelgangers of unrealised, far-fetched fantasies.

His profile promised the romantic equivalent of high-speed broadband. Instead he is, at best, alternately fizzing and flatlining dial-up on the Isle of Skye. He’s telling me about his career thus far. It’s light on comedy.

“I’ve wasted chances, fucked up opportunities, chased stupid dreams that turned into nightmares and missed out on a podium place every single time. I try not to be bitter about it, but it’s hard. I wish things were different. I wish I wasn’t such a, such a…” he begins to stammer.

I eye my beer wearily. “Such a what?” I prompt.

He sighs heavily. Any joy remaining in the room is quickly sucked out of it.
He continues: “Such an also-ran. A bystander. I’ve never been at the centre of anything. Always in orbit. Uranus.”

I do the obligatory schoolboy laugh, but he ploughs on, deadly serious. “I wish I’d been less of a loser.”

I begin to wish he hadn’t ordered that gin and tonic.
“You don’t really feel that way about yourself, do you?” I say.

He looks up from the table, his eyes sad and grey, like the unluckiest pensioner in the bingo hall.

“I’m afraid so. I try and try but nothing seems to work. All my relationships have been a disaster. Men screw me over all the time.”

He’s doing a dreadful PR job on himself. What am I supposed to say? I have never met him before; I only have his side of the story. If he was this scintillating on dates to other men, no wonder all they wanted to do was roll in the hay and run.

Do nice guys all really finish last? Or is there a reason you’re destined to be runner-up? I’m not sure I want to find out, and he doesn’t look like he needs psychoanalysing. Just a hug and that gin taking away from him would do, I reckon.

We haven’t known each other long enough for physical contact, so a verbal ruffling of the hair will have to do.

“I’m sure you’ve just been unlucky,” I offer.

He looks down again, utterly convinced. “Yeah, maybe.”

A huge sigh. His eyes return to mine. “Not much chance of a second date, I suppose?” he says.

My mouth dribbles into a weak smile.  I feel celibacy’s icy fingers grip my balls.

“I think you’ve just had a bad day. Let’s try another, some other time.” It feels about as sincere as a Christmas card with a live grenade attached.

“Thanks,” he says quietly, and we finish our drinks before heading out into the night and away from each other.

Over the next few days, I think about whether to contact him again. Sure, he was a bit of a downer, but maybe he’d had a bad day. And while he’d been screwed over by men before, perhaps I can prove we’re not all the same. Considering those vulnerable eyes, I finally do contact him – a text proposing a drink.

I wait. Nothing comes in return that evening. Busy, maybe. Out of the country. And, then two days later, my phone buzzes.

“Nice of you to get in touch,” comes the reply. “But I kind of got a better offer. LOL. Was nice to meet you. Take care.”

Maybe I should be irked, but I’m not. His curse looks to be finally broken. Second prize now belongs to me.

Stats: 35, 5’8”, brown/grey, Shropshire
Where: Columbia Rd, London
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: 3/10
Date in one sentence: The world’s biggest loser wins the lottery.

Image: Flickr


The Raincheck

“It’s raining” is the first thing out of his mouth.

“I know.”

He hops from one foot to the other as if avoiding drops of lava from the sky. He seems stressed. “Well, what should we do?” he asks. “It’s raining!”

“Let’s go into the gallery,” I reply, wishing I had brought an umbrella – not to keep me dry, but to shove in my date’s mouth. I try to shake the last time I went to a gallery with a date from my mind. This will be different.

Afternoon dates are always a risk. Daylight can be unforgiving, of course, and going for a drink in the afternoon always seems a little seedy when you’re with a stranger.

But here I am, in the absence of anything to do on a grey Saturday afternoon other than count the spatters of tea next to the bin (I’m quite athletic when it comes to chucking tea bags away). I didn’t factor in the rain, but here it is, like a gooseberry. A wet, miserable chaperone to match my date’s mood.

I know exactly why he’s upset: he has a ‘hairstyle’.

It’s a huge quiff, which wasn’t in his photos, so either it’s a new thing he’s trying out (with limited success today), or his dating profile pictures are aeons old. I watch the rain trickle down the lines by his eyes. The quiff, like his profile photo, is not new.

We duck into the National Portrait Gallery, usually one of my favourites. Obviously, lots of other people have had the same idea – the lobby is filled with pissed-off looking people who wouldn’t normally be in here, shaking off sodden cuffs and looking bewildered. The air is heavy and humid. It smells of wet hair and halitosis and museum and doom.

“Do you want to start at the top and work our way down, or look around the bottom floor?” I ask, cursing myself as I do, and praying he won’t come back with a double-entendre.

“Well,” he whispers, narrowing his eyes in a way I imagine he thinks is sexy. Oh dear. “I was hoping to get to know you a bit better first, but I always like to start at the top.”

There is no God.

I laugh a laugh so fake I should either be arrested or given an Oscar, and we make our way up the long escalator to the top floor.

We talk, mainly about the pictures of various Tudors in front of us. I’m not particularly highbrow, but his exclamations about how difficult it must’ve been to have sex in the outfits they wore and musing whether Henry VIII was well-endowed make me feel like a schoolteacher taking a wang-obsessed pupil on a day out. I have to get him away from these paintings.

Down a floor, then. He finally stops ruminating on the sex lives of all the subjects in the portraits and casts his dirty little mind to me instead.

“I hope you don’t mind my wee joke about tops earlier,” he says.

Ah, so he’s kind of read me already. That’s good, I suppose. I’m not a prude or anything, but it was a bit awkward. But, really, I should lighten up. It was just a joke. Anyone else would’ve answered similarly, I’m sure.

“No, of course not.” I smile. Too widely.

“Good,” he says, and our eyes exchange a look that means something and it feels nice. “But out of interest,” he carries on. “Which are you? Give or take? I’ll do you either way; I’m not that fussy.”

I am back out in the rain ten minutes later and it has never felt so good to be wet and alone.

Stats: 38, 5’10”, brown/brown, Inverness
Where: Central London
Pre-date rating: 7/10

Post-date rating: 1/10
Date in one word: Versatile.

Image: Flickr

The Late Great Letdown

Searching for Mr Right, it’s a sad fact that I’m equally Mr Wrong for plenty of others. Could tonight be different? It is, after all, our second outing. Our first date seemed to be a meeting of minds, if not bodies. While we both definitely fancied each other, we didn’t so much as kiss. It felt liberating, refreshing, to end things on a high note but stay out of the bedroom. Not that every good date has ended in a roll in the hay, but there’s nothing wrong with a wander round the field if you fancy it.

After a few texts, we agree to meet again. It does take a good fortnight before any plans are in place, and while usually alarm bells would be ringing – if you really want things to get going, you see each other pretty sharpish – he does sound genuinely regretful that he’s been so busy. I have half-forgotten what he looks like, but I do remember liking what I saw, so am looking forward to round two – a Sunday evening.

Oddly, he says he wants to go back to the same pub we met in first time around. This has never happened before – usually a date will want to try something different for a second date, or leave the choosing up to me, but my date is adamant. One concession to changing things up is “Maybe we can eat this time?”

When he arrives, I see he is still good-looking, although not as smiley. Plus, he’s 15 minutes late. He was also late on our first date, but this time there are no apologetic texts or jokey drink requests, he just turns up, panting like a poodle. It does, at least, look to have run the last few steps to the pub. His eyes flick over me, but his expression is unreadable. He gets himself a drink. He didn’t offer me one, but perhaps he saw I already had one. It is, of course half-empty. I was on time.

He finally sits, looking me and up and down again, keenly, I think. He’s sexy, stylish and smells like a corner of heaven. We’ve both browsed the aisles and been enchanted by the packaging – let’s see what’s inside.

At first it is almost like the last date. He’s funny, and talkative, saying all the right things when I ask, but I’m not sure he’s quite as enamoured. He says he has come straight from a barbecue with friends and that he’d been having a great afternoon. I start to feel sorry I dragged him away. He’s distracted, and can’t get comfortable on the large couch we’re sitting on, turning that way and this until he finds the perfect spot – with every limb facing away from me. OK, then.

I rapidly become nervous as I see a sure thing slip away from me. The first date went so well, I hadn’t really felt like I was trying; now I’m flailing and babbling. And when I’m not firing off questions, there is silence. I watch him fidget like a constipated toddler on a tricycle trying to let out a fart. He fiddles with his laces, runs his hands through his hair, undoes and refastens the top couple of buttons on his shirt and taps his tanned throat edgily. He’s about as excited to be here as you would be your own cremation. It is all going to shit, but I don’t think it’s anything I have done. I have played it exactly like last time. He said he wanted to do it again. We’re even in the same pub, a perfect spot for an exact rerun. What’s changed in two weeks? Apart from absolutely everything?

A waiter approaches the table with menus.
“Will you be eating?” he drawls, running a stained cloth over one far corner of the table.
I look at my date for confirmation. “Are we?”
He stares back blankly. “Errrr.”
The waiter lingers, silently. I gaze up at him. “We’ll have a look at the menus.”
The waiter shrugs and slides the menu across the table, now even stickier thanks to his half-arsed wiping, and walks off. My date and I both stare at them, but do not pick them up.

Finally, a question from my date. “Do you watch any boxsets?” he asks, his eyes trained about three kilometres to the left of my head.
Great. I shouldn’t waste the opportunity, though, so start to tell him about what I’ve been watching.

Suddenly, as I’m three sentences in, he jumps up, announcing he’s off to the loo. I sit meekly, awaiting his return. I’m sure I heard the distinctive hum of a vibrating phone just before he leapt up. No. Surely not. I’m probably being paranoid. A barmaid comes over, asking whether we need more drinks. I consider this. Best to wait.

And wait I do, a good five or six minutes. It doesn’t sound like very long, but when you’re on a date it is an eternity. Eventually, he returns, sits and turns toward me (finally!) with a pathetic little cough.

“I’m starting to feel a bit ill,” he says, patting his stomach.
“Oh dear,” I reply, with a hint of genuine concern. “Are you OK? Do you need to, erm, go?”

I am, naturally, expecting him to say no. He didn’t say he was dying and he looks, well, fine. I am about to be disappointed.

“Yeah, I wanna go,” comes the heart-stopping reply. As soon as he says it, he visibly brightens and picks up his drink. Realising an ‘ill’ person probably wouldn’t want to finish the dregs of a pint, he quickly puts the glass back down and turns to me once more.

“Thanks for being so understanding,” he whimpers.
I look back at my glass, by now long empty, and feel sorry this handsome man isn’t likely to be buying me a drink any time soon. He could really be unwell, of course. But I know he isn’t. Call it cold feet, a change of heart or a better offer coming his way, but he regretted making the date before he’d even set off. He’s used his Get Out Of Jail card; I’ve been there.

We leave together. I check my reflection briefly in the mirror as we walk out of the door, wondering whether I have grown an extra head since our last date or aged twenty years. “I’m really sorry,” he says, with the smallest allusion of sincerity. “Let’s rearrange for next week when I’m better.”

Last time we met I offered to wait with him for his bus, but tonight I just nod dumbly and turn away. I look back just once to see him bounding up the road, checking his phone. I hop on my bus and slump into the seat farthest away from everyone else, guessing (correctly) that I’ll never hear from him again.

Home time, Mr Wrong.

Date rating: 3/10
Date in one line: Time’s up.

This post is a follow-up to the Late Great. It went pretty well, surprisingly. Give it a read.

A truncated version of this post first appeared in GT magazine, where I write a monthly column about my dating experiences. Find out when the next issue is due on the GT website.

Image: Flickr

The Time Thief

Clocks. All they do is tick and make people fret. I’ve been waiting at the bar for about 15 minutes now, for the latest contestant in the endless gameshow that is my dating life to turn up. I don’t believe in fashionably late – stylish punctuality is much more my kind of thing – and tardiness should always be explained with a conciliatory text or even a phonecall. So far, nothing.

Everywhere I turn there is a clock reminding me how late my date is. Late, late, late. I can’t look at my wrist any more, above the bar is off limits, and outside, a clock tower looms in my eyeline. And just to serve as one more reminder, even the barman’s wonky eyes are positioned at ten to two. I roll my own baby-blues and go back to studying my rapidly draining pint glass.

I have a bad feeling about this one, I have to say, and his delayed arrival isn’t helping to soothe my worries. He almost seemed too perfect, too good-looking, too eager. His one profile photo, of him and a pudgy mate on a beach in Ibiza, was tempting. ‘All this could be yours’ it seemed to say. I didn’t even bother exchanging much more than the usual pleasantries with this one. I purposefully cut the email chat dead before he managed to woo me with the written word, only to disappoint ‘live’, as happens only too often.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to go for it, throw caution to the wind. At least that’s what every idiot who ever took a stupid risk says. But he looks so good. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is, of course. So where is he now?

Finally, my phone vibrates with that hallowed text. His arrival is imminent, he says, as if he is an emperor or an aeroplane. I stand up from the bar stool and quickly survey myself from top to bottom in a mirrored pillar nearby. Looking up and seeing clocks no longer holds any fear for me, not now I know he’s on his way.

I look OK; I may even have gone to a little more effort than usual. I smooth out the creases in my corduroys – sadly the ones in my face are immovable – and straighten my collar.

Just then, a sound at my right ear. My name. He’s here. I spin round, my face a picture of expectant elation. The joy is shortlived. My mind races back to the profile picture. My shallowness has got the punishment it truly deserves. The pudgy friend is not a friend; he is my date.

Tip: always ask for another photo.

Stats: 37, height unknown, blond/blue
Central London
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating:

Date in one sentence: To assume is to make an ass of you and me, but mainly, disastrously, me.

More like this: 
The Parent Trap
The Plus One
The Selfie
The Wrong Peter

Image: Flickr

– A truncated version of this post originally appeared in my monthly column in Gay Times.

The Lollipop

“Go on, just suck it. You might like it.”

I roll my eyes. Yet another date who confuses sleaze and innuendo with flirtation. For an old prude like me, they’re uneasy bedfellows.

I’m sitting in the park on an unseasonably warm day for the time of year. Before me is a mini banquet of all manner of romantic foods: chocolates; adorable cupcakes; dinky little sandwiches with the corners cut off; fizz. And yet there is no spark whatsoever between me and my date, who now sits next to me proffering a red lollipop, eager for me to wrap my lips around it. No doubt he’s anticipating a preview of the ‘technique’ that I am now absolutely certain he is never going to experience in real life.

You should try to avoid going on dates if you’re not that keen on the person. While it can be nice to ‘get out of the house’, toying with someone’s affections merely because you don’t have anything else in the diary is unfair.

My glass house is, of course, filled to the rafters with advice I never take and standards I set but refuse to live by, so, through lack of other options, I’m here with Graham, an accountant from what he calls “the West Country”, getting grass stains on my favourite shorts. I’m a bad person, I know; I don’t need telling twice.

This is our second date – our first was a run-of-the-mill ‘four drinks and home’ on a Thursday night. There was a distinct lack of something on our first meeting, but he has a nice face and has made the fatal mistake of acting as if he is very ‘into me’ – the ultimate aphrodisiac. I am nothing if not vain and stupid, so rather than politely decline his invitation to poke over finger food in the middle of Regents Park, I accept.

For one brief, idiotic moment I imagined an afternoon basking in the undivided attention of a pretty boy would be a good way to spend the weekend and a relatively wholesome one at that. Instead, he’s trying to get me to fellate sugary treats in an effort to move the date on from being two vague acquaintances nodding at each other across a picnic blanket, to a pair of lusty bodies writhing around in the herbaceous borders.

He’s giving up his Saturday for what he thinks is a sure thing, so I do feel a little disingenuous having agreed to meet him. Lewd lollipops aside, he’s gone all out to charm me – and his picnic is impressive – but, like I say, I didn’t have anything better to do anyway. Sometimes that’s the only reason guys say yes to a date – an empty horizon. I have jumped upon the wrong ship out of sheer desperation.

I take the lollipop, despite myself, and wrap my mouth around it. He watches, transfixed, like a businessman watching an exotic dancer take off her sparkly bra. To make up for my guilt at wasting his time, I make more of an effort to be entertaining and chatty. I know this isn’t going anywhere, but I don’t have to act like an arsehole. I at least owe him some conversation.

I ask him lots of questions and he answers them eagerly. I quickly realise my renewed interest in him is making him like me even more. I’m not really sure how to extricate myself from this, so I turn on to my front and prop myself up with my elbows, noseying at everybody else in the park. He reaches out and strokes the back of my knee with his hand.

I turn to look at him; he’s staring straight ahead. His facial expression displays nonchalance, but the tremble of his touch betrays him. Soon, the sun starts to slink off behind the trees. I sit up and nervously fidget with the lolly wrapper. He fixes his doe eyes upon me and asks: “What are you doing tonight?”

I lie back on the grass and close my eyes tightly. I hear the splash of prosecco as he refills my glass. “Nothing,” I say. “I’m free tonight.”

I open my eyes and he is looking back at me. I guess he’s maybe thinking that ‘sure thing’ is going to work out for him after all. He’s pleased, hopeful – whereas I just wish I’d never laid eyes on that bloody lollipop.

Stats: 28, 5’11”, brown/blue, Taunton
Where: Regents Park, London
Pre-date rating: 6/10
Post-date rating: 6/10
Date in one sentence: Don’t suck anything unless you’re prepared to face the consequences.

The Quizmaster

Stats: 37, 5’8″, brown/green, London
Where: South bank, London
Pre-date rating: 6/10

No. It’s a simple enough word to say. Just the solitary syllable, after all, and one I always delighted in spitting out as a child when asked to do something. And it’s the word I’m focusing on as I sit opposite Alistair, a good-natured, OK-looking civil servant who’s been sitting bolt upright in front of me for the last two hours.

However did we get here, to this date which has very quickly turned into a hugely unsexy business meeting? He is nice enough – inoffensive, polite, clean. But there is no charm, no flirtation. I thrive on flirtation on dates; it’s the plutonium I need to get me to the end of the night. From him, however, there is none. Usually I’d put this down to nervousness or shyness, but that’s not the case here. He exudes a kind of bland confidence; he’s not brash or assertive, just, well, a bit boring.

The chemistry between us borders on nonexistent, but it doesn’t seem to bother him at all. He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak it’s in an even, emotionless voice. I feel compelled to get up from my seat and look at the back of his neck to see if there’s a flap where batteries would go.

Alistair is a man with a formula. He asks a question, gets his answer and before I can ask one back, he asks another, and another and another, pausing only to talk about something else unrelated to him, or indeed anything. Every question I answer is met with “Yes, yes. Of course. Yes” but no further detail or exploration. He jumps straight on to the next question, like he has a list of checkboxes in his head. I feel like I’m being assessed for a mortgage.

What is he hiding? Is there a big secret? Either he lives a double life and is scared of revealing the truth or, much more likely, he’s a dullard and is scared his answers will give him away. At each lull in conversation, he springs up and offers to go to the bar, bringing back a different drink every time, claiming they didn’t have what I asked for and I should try this much more potent, brightly coloured cocktail instead. The Long John Silver of insipid is trying to distract me with his garish parrot. I should say no before he makes his way to the bar, I know, but don’t.

He talks about his life and his job as if reading out instructions on how to plumb in a washing machine, the monotone almost sending me to sleep. Add to that my wooziness from the cocktail, and I start to feel like I’ve been the subject of a chemical-free spiking.

I soon realise I should call time when he expresses interest in the fact I live alone. It’s the one time his voice ever changes pitch from its air-raid siren drone and gets slightly more excitable. I’m slightly incredulous; all we’ve done is sit at the same table for an evening, with absolutely no sign of mutual enthusiasm whatsoever. Suddenly, now the night is drawing in and the bus stop is calling, he’s pulling an attraction out of the air. I don’t believe for one minute he’s remotely interested in me. I make noises about having to go, and hope I’m making it clear I’ll be doing that alone. His voice quickly returns to its natural, flatlining state. If he’s disappointed, his poker face doesn’t show it.

Yet he hasn’t been a totally awful date. He hasn’t been an arsehole, or upset me, or been dismissive. I won’t be walking away from the date thinking I’ve had a lucky escape. I feel uncharitable for thinking him dull; what’s wrong with someone just being a nice guy?

So when the date is finally over – just as I finish counting the freckles on his face and arms for the twentieth time – and he asks me whether I’d like to do it again, I don’t say no. I don’t make up excuses about being busy with work or having to go away a lot. I don’t smile weakly, shake his hand and say that while he’s a sterling guy, we’ve nothing in common and our time together made me feel like I was drowning in a litre of magnolia paint. Instead, I grin widely, give him an enthusiastic hug and ignore “no” in favour of its destructive evil twin. “Yes,” I say. “That’d be brilliant. Yes!”

Post-date rating: 6/10
Date in one sentence: Mr Cellophane just won’t stick.

A truncated version of this post first appeared in GT magazine, where I write a monthly column about my dating experiences. Find out when the next issue is due on the GT website.

The Aspidistra

Stats: 34, 5’9”, mousey brown/blue, hometown unknown
When: Summer 2011
Where: South London
Pre-date rating: 6/10

I’m not really a fan of slogans. They belong to cheesy adverts and the kind of T-shirts I used to wear in the early 2000s. If I’ve something to say, I prefer to say it directly; mottos, maxims and proverbs are not my thing. One slogan I do have a fondness for, however, is ‘shop local’. It’s nice to keep things in the neighbourhood, to contribute to the good of the community, and so it is that I find myself in a bar not a 20-minute walk from my house, waiting for the next Guy. I’ve spread the Guyliner magic – or should that be tragic – far and wide, but I don’t want the boys next door to miss out. They deserve to see why I’m so utterly ineligible for themselves.

Local boys are usually sourced via Grindr; GPS doing all the hard work and the instant messenger-style chat ensuring you dispense with the formalities early on and cut straight to the chase – not that anybody is running particularly fast.

Tonight’s Guy, however, has been found the new old-fashioned way, from the dating site. We’ve paid to meet each other, which has to be a good sign, right? Well, let’s hope so. While the chat between us, over email, has been light and polite, when it comes to arranging somewhere to go, we meet our first hitch. He really doesn’t want to decide where to go on the date. I understand his trepidation to a degree; the venue you select can say much more about you than any amount of electronic chitchat can do. A poor choice of location can speedily reveal the personality flaws you are so eager to conceal. I don’t press the issue, and, as he lives quite near me, choose a delightful pub equidistant from our homes, with ample space and a good drinks menu. Our date is midweek, so it’s important not to meet somewhere too dead. An essential part of a date is people watching. If the endless chat about your families and pastimes starts to dry up like reheated shepherd’s pie, you can easily move on to a running commentary on the crowds around you – as long as there’s a crowd to talk about.

He agrees the pub is a good choice and I look forward to the date. Within an hour or two, however, he’s back in touch. He’s decided he doesn’t like the venue after all, as he won’t be able to get a direct bus there. I see. Am I wrong to feel a little irked? The pub is practically walkable from where he lives, and if he really likes me surely he would save his nitpicking for another date – not to mention that he couldn’t be bothered choosing somewhere more convenient himself in the first place.  Finally, he suggests somewhere else, and I acquiesce, as it’s a slightly handier place to get to for me. But why didn’t he just propose it earlier?

So here I am. I have never been particularly fond of this pub. The menu is fish-heavy and the scent of it hangs in the air. Its clientele are making the awkward journey over broken glass between hipsterville and settling down; they swig guest beers and share platters of dough sticks and potted haddock and try not to think about their biological clocks. I, on the other hand, have a regular old pint in front of me, much-dwindled thanks to my date being 20 minutes late. There have been no texts or calls to explain why, but if he’s in a hurry to get here – and he’d better be – he won’t be stopping to text pleasantries.

Just as I’m wondering whether I should get another drink in so it looks like I just arrived, he comes through the door, wearing a crumpled T-shirt, faded jeans and a frown. He walks over to me, looking neither disappointed nor particularly thrilled. He just is. I eagerly await his first words.

“You’re here,” he says plainly.
I ignore the obviousness of his statement and thrust out my hand, offering up my name and a “how are you?” to show that his lateness hasn’t bothered me, although he doesn’t seem particularly concerned by it himself. He slumps down on his bar stool so, as I’m still standing, I offer to get him a drink and he tells me what he wants. I slope over to the bar, disheartened that he doesn’t even bother turning round to watch my arse as I walk away from him.

It’s clear from the get-go that this Guy isn’t accustomed to dating, at least not the normal kind. Sure, he asks questions, but they’re all a bit weird, like he’s reading them out from a sex quiz or is on his seventh round at a speed-dating evening. What kind of car would I be? What kind of meal would I cook for the Prime Minister? The dreaded question about my wish list of dinner party guests alive or dead and, weirdest of all, what kind of potplant I would be.

These questions would be more charming toward the end of the evening, if we were a little drunk perhaps, but it’s 7 on a Wednesday, this is my second drink and he hasn’t even asked where I’m from and what I do yet. I never realised I’d miss those bog-standard, drivelling questions until they didn’t show up.

I’m still ruminating over the potplant question. What should I say? Venus fly trap? Cheese plant? Deadly nightshade? Maybe the questions would work better if he threw in some jokey suggestions or kept talking while I chewed them over, but for each one he stares in silence until I come up with my responses. Finally, having mentally taken a trip round every garden centre I can ever remember visiting, I come up with my answer: a spider plant. I’m fairly adaptable, don’t take too much looking after and even when you cut a bit off, I can thrive.

The last part is a joke, obviously, but the look on his face makes me think he is now imagining I have lost my penis in a horrible accident.

“And what about you?” I say, desperate to somehow get off this whole topic and, if I’m honest, away from this date, which is going nowhere at a rate of knots.
“I’d be an aspidistra,” he quips immediately. He answers all these questions far too quickly. He’s been practising. I try to visualise an aspidistra. I can’t think of a remarkable feature about them. I then look back at my date. OK, it fits.
“Why an aspidistra?”
“Well, I’m thoroughly middle-class,” he says proudly, “and every living room should have one.” Perfectly rehearsed.
I laugh. “Great answer!”

I decide to move things back into normal mode. I know that he’d make beef Wellington for the Prime Minister and that he’d have Che Guevara and Lauren Bacall at his ideal dinner party but I know nothing about his job, his life, anything.

“So what do you do?” I ask brightly. This proves to by my fatal error. He works on a classical music magazine and is a music teacher. You’d think that music must be his passion, but neither metier seems to fill him with inspiration. He hates his colleagues, his students, classical music, playing music, musical instruments, music fans, and people who don’t like music. He loathes publishers, journalists, awards, the charts, singers, failed musicians, venues… the list goes on. The one thing he will admit to liking is Whitney Houston. Once he’s done with serving up his bile, he sits back in his chair, with a poker face welded to the front of his head. He folds his arms and nods his head. “So that’s me,” he says finally.

At that moment, the barman comes to collect our empties. “Another drink, gents?” he says amiably, oblivious to the iceberg slowly forming across the table. My date shrugs. I look from him to the barman, and back to my empty glass.

I begin to shake my head, but stop myself. My date has just unloaded all his woes and dislikes onto me like a dumper truck at a landfill, and all I had to say was that I’d be a fucking spider plant? Nuh-huh, I don’t think so. It’s been a long hour. Now it’s my turn to spout.

“Yes, thanks,” I say, “beer for me.” I gesture my head toward my impassive date. “And this smiler’s buying.”

Post-date rating: 4/10
Date in one sentence: A local potplant learns his lines wordperfect but fails to photosynthesise his way into my affections