Tag Archives: never again

The Plus One

“I’m going to a friend’s for dinner on Friday. Come.”

I should say “No thank you, Toby; it’s only our second date”. I don’t.

“Is there anything you don’t eat?”

I should tell him about my phobia of celeriac and meringues. I don’t.

When I ask “What shall I bring?” and he replies “Nothing, just yourself!” I should listen, but I don’t.

When Toby spies the prosecco I’m clutching to my chest as we arrive and tells me “You can’t bring that; they’re teetotal and Polly won’t have it in the house” I should hang on to it, but I don’t. I leave it by the doorstep.

Polly answers the door and eyes me with the same suspicion a white carpet would afford a dog with diarrhoea. I should scowl back. I don’t.

When Polly’s boyfriend Max sloshes elderflower cordial into my wine glass, I shouldn’t quip that it’s a waste of a perfectly good glass, but I do. Max shouldn’t laugh and wink conspiratorially. But he does.

As Polly serves up every food I’ve ever hated in my life, with the icy glare of a serial killer, I should politely decline the offer of pudding, despite eating nothing of the main course. But I don’t.

When Polly goes on and on about Toby’s previous boyfriends, all of them beautiful demigods who adored Polly and would probably have turned straight for had she asked, I should defend myself, or step up my patter in an attempt to impress her. But I don’t care what she thinks, so I nod politely and play with my napkin.

As I laugh uproariously at one of Max’s jokes and see, out of the corner of my eye, Toby’s face fall, I should tone it down and pay more attention to the date who’s barely said a word to me all night. But I can’t. Why get out of Max’s sleek limousine of a conversation only to clamber into Toby and Polly’s knackered old Nissan Micra chit-chat?

When Max and I are stacking the dishwasher and he confesses to me he’s bored rigid living with Polly, I should act surprised and encourage them to stay together. But I’m not, so I don’t.

Usually when a man tells you his problems, he’s hoping you’ll solve them, so perhaps I should pretend we’re in a film and put my hand on his leg and stroke my mouth suggestively. But I don’t want to turn a horrendous evening into an apocalyptic one, so my hands stay where they are.

When I walk back into the lounge, it is obvious I have been getting an absolute skewering from Polly, as her and Toby redden immediately. I can see Toby running back to one of those holy exes within a month – Polly wouldn’t have it any other way.

When it’s time to leave and Max says he’s looking forward to seeing Toby and me again really soon, I should tell him that’s extremely unlikely, but I don’t.

When Toby makes it clear he’s going straight home and says he’ll call me, I should feel sorry and protest a little, but I don’t. Instead I proffer my cheek and he pecks it politely, begrudgingly, finally.

Perhaps I should feel sad that I’ll never see Toby again, but I do not – I feel a rush of relief or elation. The regret may come later, but it will be brief and I’ll have probably have somebody else close to hand to take my mind off it.

I shouldn’t pick up that abandoned bottle of prosecco from the doorstep and drink it on the bus on the way home. But I do. And that turns out to be the best part of the evening.

Stats: 32, 5’9″, auburn/blue, Newcastle
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating: 3.5/10 – that score’s for me, really, isn’t it?

A truncated version of this post originally appeared in the monthly dating column I used to do in Gay Times magazine. I now answer GT readers’ dilemmas and dole out relationship advice. Take a look at the Gay Times website to see when the next issue is out.

The Hold-Out

A restaurant. I hate going for food on a first date, but my date suggested it and so here I am.

Leo is a student and 22 – that enchanted age where anything seems possible, but you’re still not old enough to realise none of it will ever happen.

His pictures were, to put it bluntly, deceiving and he is not very good-looking at all, but I’m here now and we can at least have a nice dinner. I can tell he’s not a serial dater, as he’s picked Chinese – nobody wants to spend two hours watching a stranger grapple with chopsticks.

He has been flirting with me outrageously since I got here – he’s all coquettish leans to one side, wry smiles and fluttery eyelashes. I am as responsive as a fridge in a scrapyard.

Halfway through a bowl of noodles that I can’t wait for him and his mouth to finish, he licks his lips and puts down his chopsticks and I know I am in trouble.

“I just want you to know – I never sleep with someone on the first date.”

Here we go. I am nothing if not a sadist, so I ask simply: “Why?”

He goes into a long diatribe about how  relationships can only be brief and meaningless when founded on sex and that he prefers to get to know someone “spiritually rather than carnally”. I wonder which rock of self-help this bizarre statement crawled out from under.

“So how long do you wait?” I ask. “What’s the magic number of dates before you do the deed?”

“About four?”

“Four,” I repeat. “And then what?”

“Whaddya mean?”

“After date five, what happens next?”

There is no response. Just a deep breath. I plough on.

“Well, here you are.” I gesture around the room. “Sitting with me, on date number one. It rather suggests that as magic formulas go, your one for having a long-lasting relationship doesn’t seem to be much good.”

He scratches his head. “Eh?”

I should stop, but I can taste blood and, reader, I like it. “Four dates. Risky strategy.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, you’re giving people an awful lot of opportunities to fall out of love with you.”

He scrunches up his face, puzzled. “What’s wrong with my four-date rule?”

I rest my chin on my hands. “If your formula for starting out on a long relationship is not to have sex with someone until the fourth date, why are you single? Where’s your relationship? Why are you here, now, with me, on a first date, imparting your ‘wisdom’, when in fact it is a load of old pony?”

He laughs nervously. “I don’t know.”

“Well, no. Holding out on sex on a first date is your choice, and totally up to you, but don’t think it makes you any deeper or less superficial to keep your Aussiebums on. It just means you are missing out on a shag. If you’re happy with it, that’s great.”

He puts his hand on my arm and smiles at me in a way I imagine someone once told him was sexy. There is a bit of chive in his teeth. He looks very pleased with himself – like a bank manager cancelling an overdraft. “Are you asking me to make an exception just this once?” he says.

My gaze slides glacially to his hand.

“I do sleep with people on the first date,” I smile. “If I fancy them.” Cue dramatic pause. “You’re safe tonight, Leo.”

He moves his hand back. We spend the rest of the date talking about the weather and ask for the bill as quickly as politeness will allow.

Stats: 22, 5’7″, mousey/blue, Norfolk
Where: London E1
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating: 3/10
Date in one sentence: Bait is not taken.

Image: Zebble on Flickr 

The Reluctant Mean Girl

Midweek. Another bar. Another pint with a stranger. I sit and wonder where I’ll be in five hours. Will I be back in my flat ignoring the ironing or will I be tangled in Egyptian cotton and kisses with tonight’s contestant?  You just never know.

“And you wore pink!”
I nod at his polo shirt, knowingly. “Perfect shirt for tonight!”

My date tonight bristles with efficiency. He was on time, buying drinks and sitting opposite me with a rictus grin on his face, in his pristine baby pink polo, before I knew what was happening.

“It seems weird going on a date on a Wednesday, no?” he says.

“Wednesdays are perfect, I think,” I reply. “And you wore pink!” I nod at his polo shirt, knowingly. “Perfect shirt for tonight!”

He narrows his eyes. “I don’t follow.”

“Oh, errr,” I stumble awkwardly. “It’s from Mean Girls. They say ‘On Wednesdays we wear pink’. Yes?”

His face is blanker than a blank thing on a blank day in a town called Blankton.

I probe further: “Do you know Mean Girls?”

He leans back in his chair and his face changes to a look of bemusement tinged with disgust and a dash of weariness.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he sighs.

“I mean…” he shakes his head dismissively. “I just wouldn’t even want to watch Mean Girls. I’m not into trashy movies.”

I gulp, feeling dumb and shallow.

“It’s a film. Written by Tina Fey. Lindsay Lohan was in it? It’s quite old.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of it. I mean…” he shakes his head dismissively. “I just wouldn’t even want to watch it. I’m not into trashy movies.”

I shrug. “It’s not trashy, really. It’s quite a clever, knowing kind of comedy. Not as good as Heathers, but in the same ballpark.”

“I don’t really like the kind of films that gay men usually like,” he replies.

Oh, I see! BINGO! We have the new gay stereotype – the gay man who refuses to conform to a stereotype! How lucky for me to have snared this rarest of beasts. And barely halfway through our first drink.

I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he’s waving in front of me.

I have two options. I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he’s waving in front of me. Egyptian cotton, or home alone? I imagine the pristine sheets. Lovely. Then I think of him in them, beckoning me to a world where sex means never watching a popular movie again. Decision made.

“I don’t like it because I’m gay, you total snob. I like it because it’s funny.”

“Yeah, right,” he replies, folding his arms. A drawbridge goes up with great speed. “But you think it’s a  funny film because of the bitchy dialogue and the pretty, evil girls being all ‘fabulous’, right? It’s just a bit… obvious.” He unfolds his arms for a brief second and waves them dramatically in the air.

“So you have seen it, then?” I smirk.

“Uh.” A pause so long you could actually use it to nip off to watch Mean Girls. And then: “I might have done actually.”

I’m back in my own kitchen – alone – within the hour.

Stats: 5’10”, 31, mousy brown/brown, Devon
Pre-date rating: 7/10
Post-date rating: 3.5/10
Date in one sentence: Gay guy thinks pretending popular culture isn’t a thing makes him less gay.

A truncated version of this post originally appeared in the monthly dating column I used to do in Gay Times magazine. I now answer GT readers’ dilemmas and dole out relationship advice. Take a look at the Gay Times website to see when the next issue is out.

Things I have pretended to like in order to get sex

Football
I remember a very miserable afternoon – a rainy Saturday – spent in a pub that smelled of cauliflower and dog, staring with great concentration at a TV up on the wall. I didn’t really dare look away in case I looked like I was bored and I couldn’t have given two bronze fucks about what was happening on the screen so I fixed my gaze on a spider at the corner of the TV. The spider span a web and then fell onto a table and crawled into a crisp packet. Spider, 1. Man eating crisps, 0.

Opera
Luckily, he didn’t take me to the opera, just played me one on his speakers that were bigger than Kensington and made the floor throb. I recognised a bit in the middle from an advert. He told me what it was but I was too busy wondering when I was going to get to play a concerto of my very own all over his alabaster rack. It turned out to be a very staccato experience.

Radio comedies
When asked whether you’ve heard of something, you should be honest lest you embarrass yourself and get a fact wrong. When my date asked me if I had heard of a particular comedy on Radio 4, I lied through my shiny white teeth and said “Why, yeeeess, it’s brilliant”. He used to play it to me before and after sex – never during, because “that would be weird” apparently – and when we got to the end of the first series I decided I would not be recommissioning him for another go.

A terrible food blog
Never have I pretended to like Instagrammed croissants and love hearts drawn in lattes so fiercely in my entire life.

Aaron
Aaron had very, very pert nipples and I was absolutely dying to see what they were like in the ‘flesh’, so I ignored his boring politics chat, the way he looked at every waiter’s arse as they walked by our table and his penchant for telling me how tired I looked and, when it came down to it, bit those tiny pink beauties very, very hard.

What have you faked so you could get more bang for your buck? Tell me on Twitter.

Image: Flickr

The Attachment

I’ve been chatting online to Graham – a 35-year-old ‘scientist’ – for a day or two and still can’t quite work him out. And I’m not sure I want to. It’s like there is something he isn’t saying; the unwritten words hanging in the air like hours-old fag smoke.

He talks me through the minutiae of his day like he’s writing a report for his parole officer. There is no humour, no flirtation – just fact after fact after fact. Wikipedia has become sentient and decided to explore the niche of being a very boring man in his thirties. At first I try to reply more spiritedly in the hope it will inspire him to jazz things up a little.

I am a one-man crash team trying to revive a fillet steak. His replies come back, still monotonous, but now longer. More information. How has this happened?

Desperate for a diversion from all this typing he’s sending me, I look again at his photos. His hair, receding, is an uneventful brown. His eyes, a dull blue and too close together, seem troubled. In all his photos, he’s staring straight into the camera wearing all manner of polo shirts, each one buttoned right up to the very top. Fashion bloggers would call it an ‘air tie’. Graham doesn’t look like he’s ever read a fashion blog. His mouth is a dull pink smear across his face – he doesn’t smile, or frown.

I am a one-man crash team trying to revive a fillet steak.

I scroll through mugshot after mugshot. I don’t know where any of the pictures have been taken. Sometimes I get a tantalising sliver of brick wall at the corner of the pic or perhaps… is that…? Is it the sky? Or a blue curtain? No idea. Every picture is cropped into the face as much as possible. He’s certainly got plenty of spare pics should he lose his travelcard.

He badgers me about a date but I decide I’m not going to meet him. I’m not attracted to him, after all, and I don’t see any point in leading him on. I’ve had a busy week and am not that desperate for a night out. I don’t want to just stop replying – somehow my warped sense of propriety prevents me from telling him to bore off. I resolve to wind things down by making my gap between replies longer, and my emails shorter and impersonal. The ultimate diss – being phased out before you’ve even met.

Incredibly, Graham is undeterred. In fact, my lack of interest seems to excite him and enrage him in equal measure. Finally, the tone of his missives changes. It’s not an upgrade, however.

“Off out later, are you?” he says when I tell him I’m busy. “Meeting somebody off Grindr for a SHAG?”
I don’t know what to say, so I decide to say nothing

The next day: “I bet you chase after all the boys, don’t you? I know what guys like you get up to.”
I get the feeling that he’s typing one-handed, so decide now’s as good a time as any to go into silent mode.
He gives it one final go.
“I shaved today,” he says.

I see the email has an attachment: a photo, which I open. Yes, he’s shaved all right. Everywhere. Instead of a smooth chin or chest, I see gleaming genitalia – Spam-pink with sensitivity and not a hair to be seen.
I somehow manage to retain my lunch and delete the photo, closing the email and marking it as – what else? – spam, to match his angry little pecker.

A truncated version of this post originally appeared in the monthly dating column I used to do in Gay Times magazine. I now answer GT readers’ dilemmas and dole out relationship advice. Take a look at the Gay Times website to see when the next issue is out.

Image: Flickr

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