So we’re on another summer of “yes”, it would seem. My iPhone calendar heaves with dates and I’m looking as ravaged as only one can when one has been necking beers in a variety of pubs with a slew of strangers.
As a result of my packed schedule, which I pore over with all the enthusiasm of a dead cat, it is a few weeks between arranging a date with The Guy and actually going on it. He first contacts me during a busy period at work. He says the usual intro stuff: he likes my profile, I seem interesting, would like to know more – truly the “Do you come here often?” of the internet dating world. I peruse his profile and he seems nice, intelligent, friendly. He doesn’t look anything special on his pictures but my recent experience has shown that pictures are so ridiculously unrepresentative of the men who post them that he may well be an adonis in the flesh. Yeah, I know. I live in hope, at least
Anyway, we exchange a few pleasantries over email and then he goes in with the whammy of asking me out on a date. I think about this. If I’m honest with myself, which is always important but devastatingly rare, I don’t really want to go. He’s a little older than I am looking for, and beyond the niceties we’ve exchanged, I’m struggling to see what we’ll have in common. I do, however, feel that I have led him on slightly by keeping up the dialogue. By now we have taken it to email, as his subscription on the dating site was about to expire. He mails me again and suggests meeting for dinner in Pimlico. Shit. For some reason it is beyond my capability to refuse him outright. So, turning gradually more yellow by the second, I avoid the email for a couple of days. He sends the exact same email again.
I can’t ignore him a second time, so I reply, saying that I’d rather go for a more informal drink and that I’m unavailable for the next couple of weeks, in the hope that this will discourage him or he will meet Mr Right in the intervening weeks. We make vague plans for a couple of Thursdays away, he goes in the diary, and then I get on with being alive. Two days before the designated time, he mails and texts me to confirm the date. Resignedly, and generally feeling like a shit for being so reluctant, I agree and we arrange to meet outside a theatre in Victoria, where a well-known musical is playing. I fervently hope that he hasn’t bought “surprise!” tickets to see said musical, as I have absolutely no desire to see it ever.
D-Day arrives and I plonk myself on the train and resolve to be positive about the date. It’s got me out of the house and let’s face it, the telephone hasn’t rung in a while. I am a little early so wander round the shops for a bit, and then head off to the theatre, which is over-run with enthusiastic tourists waiting to go into the show. I have forgotten to wear my glasses, so squint unattractively as I try to find my date among the swathes of babbling theatregoers. Only two men look as if they’re waiting for someone. One is wearing a football shirt, tracksuit bottoms and is scratching his balls with a vigour I can barely believe let alone describe, so I discount him immediately. The other looks like John Prescott. Shit and double shit. I walk by him, expecting a flicker of recognition from him, but there is none. I sigh deeply. I wait a little longer and then check my emails to see if I’ve got the right time. I’m 30 minutes early. Balls. Annoyed at my stupidity and slackness, yet relieved I won’t have to endure John Prescott making cow eyes at me for the next couple of hours, I head back to the shops for another whirlwind window shopping extravaganza.
Take two, then. At the right time, I make my way out of the station concourse and toward the theatre. There is a lone man there who doesn’t resemble my date, but, as I have just realised, I cannot remember what my date looks like. At all. The man I’m walking toward looks decidedly middle-aged. He is rather squat, and has a considerable gut and the beginnings of man boobs. My mind is working overtime as I calmly approach him, preparing to do the walk-by in case it is yet another stranger. He lets me get quite a way past him before he looks at me quizzically and says my name. I turn, and in my spectacle-free state think I’ve been approached by TV critic Charlie Brooker. I haven’t, though. It’s my date. I smile brightly and we shake hands. For me, it’s over, but I’m damned if I’m going to let it ruin my evening.
He says he knows a pub round the corner so we walk there, chatting about the kind of stuff you can only really talk about if you have met someone online. It’s not awkward, particularly, but at times we talk over each other and then pause, laughing, waiting for the other to continue. We get the job stuff out of the way fairly quickly. He’s an investment banker, and has been all his working life, save for a couple of sabbaticals. He lives locally to where we’re going for a drink, which raises my eyebrow slightly as I know all the tricks, having played most of them myself. Going for a drink near where you live usually means you’re hoping for something extracurricular. Well, this time, kid, you’re out of luck.
We arrive at the pub which is packed with drinkers outside and in. It’s a lovely pub, but roasting hot, and my attractiveness fades by the second as the perspiration collects on my forehead. He tells me to take a seat while he gets drinks. He returns with my pint and for himself what looks like cola. I worry inwardly. If he’s going to sit there sober while I disintegrate into drunkenness, he might not be in for a scintillating night. The chat flows freely but never develops beyond a superficial level. The News International phone-hacking scandal is still a hot topic and so once we’ve done careers, family, childhoods, driving, cycling, the horrors of Canary Wharf (although he confesses he likes it), we talk about the Murdochs, before moving on to the hair salon staple that is holiday talk. He’s clearly well travelled and his wallet is well-oiled too. He goes to New York every year and is going on 3 holidays in the space of 8 weeks in the coming months. I can tell that he has probably used these subtle hints at a bulging wallet on dates before; it’s the kind of thing that appeals to some gay men, but all the money in the world can’t buy you a personality or innate sexiness, so it’s never impressed me. To give The Guy his due, he seems a lovely fella – yeah, I’d say he was a fella – who is looking for someone to share his time and money with. Sadly, I want neither.
It’s my round and I am relieved that his ‘cola’ actually also has a double helping of Jack Daniel’s in it. I am momentarily distracted by work-related texts and emails but he very kindly tells me to go ahead, so I type furiously and make a ridiculous amount of errors as I don’t want to keep him waiting. It is after the third drink that I realise I am having a nice time. While I wouldn’t say he was particularly interesting, he’s clever and well-read and is capable of a decent discussion. I do not, however, fancy him at all, which is pretty much a key thing, right?
Drink 4 comes and goes and it’s at this time that I realise my enthusiasm for another drink may suggest to him that this is going anywhere but home separately. But that is not going to happen; I’m not that drunk. I say I have to get going and he looks straight into my eyes and seems to understand. As we walk out of the pub, he remarks that his flat isn’t far, but in the opposite direction to the station. I turn to him, smile and say “OK, well, I guess this is where we say goodnight.”
“Sure, goodnight. It was really nice to meet you.”
“And you,” I say. And I mean it. And then I go home.
Post-date rating: 6.5/10 Date in once sentence: Mr Nice Guy manages to charm everything but the pants off me.