First date horror

17 Sep

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The biggest hurdle for fledgling relationships is the dreaded first date. If only you could start out at the third or fourth or even fifth, when you’re more relaxed and confident and can maybe even contemplate laughing rather than crying when you get home and discover you had parsley between your front teeth the entire time.

I had terrible first dates prior to meeting my husband. Even we didn’t get off lightly, I managed to spill expensive whisky all over his jeans (and no, I’m not going to tell you whether I helped him out of them afterwards).

There was the debonair European journalist who drove me around his city in a red convertible but arrived for our date in London looking like a teenage foreign exchange student, complete with rucksack, and told me he always filled condoms with water before sex to check for holes. I never dated another fellow hack after that.

The adorable geek who I ended up in A&E with because he’d had his contact lenses in for too long and they had moulded themselves to his eyeballs.

Then there was my online dating phase, beautifully summed up by my friend Anna. “The odds are good, but the goods are odd”, she said. Men who were infeasibly tall or short, nervous or arrogant, twitchy or monotonous and more often than not, staggeringly drunk.

Today all those memories came flooding back when someone’s toe-curlingly awkward first date took place on the next table to ours in the only wine bar in our small seaside town (it says it all that my husband and I were there for the garlic ciabatta).

Why they chose to sit near us is a mystery to me. My single self would have avoided us like the plague, and not just because of the strong smell of garlic. We had our three month old son with us. He’s loud, he has a tendency to be sick in the presence of women and he is by definition the potential end result of just such beginnings.

“Look at us!” he seems to scream (yeah he does that a lot too). “These two managed to not screw up for long enough to HAVE A BABY!”

We are not first date material. But, they found us. In a half empty restaurant at lunchtime this pair picked the next table.

Their entire date lasted 14 minutes, including a cigarette break which I’m fairly sure the woman had intended to take alone and use to make an emergency phone call, except her beau followed her out like the proverbial lost puppy.

She gamely tried to fill the painful silence that pervaded. They discussed the deceptive size of the wine bar three times (She: “bigger inside than it looks, isn’t it?” He: “yes”).

She asked whether he’d been to the last festival to be held in the town (we average one a week throughout the summer). He: “no”.

Did he drink wine, she wondered? He: “yes”. And what might his favourite be? “red”. She then heroically listed every time she’d drunk wine in the last week. There seemed to be quite a few, thankfully, because it took long enough for their food to arrive. Over lunch they again discussed the size of the venue which frankly was starting to feel unbearably small. I contemplated buying her a glass of wine myself.

About half way through their first course they asked the bill. Then sat looking at it until she buckled and went to pay. He barely audibly offered to contribute a tenner as she ran to the bar.

And here’s the bit I really don’t get. As they were leaving she suggested they go on for a few drinks at the Conservative Club.

Before we even start on who in the history of the world has EVER deliberately conducted a first date in a conservative club, she had already established that her date was, at best, taciturn. Some might say mute. So why the hell was she persevering? And why didn’t he put her out of her misery and decline? I’ve had to drink two glasses of Rose just to summon the strength to write all this down. If she is still out there living it she must be seriously wasted by now. Which I suppose solves the problem of conversation.

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