Tragic Blind Date #462

Tragic Blind Date #462

I’ve never been good at dating, boyfriend-hunting, whatever you want to call it. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – I find the concept pretty grim, and as far as I can tell, the only people who are good at it are gold-diggers, socialites and the otherwise terminally boring. Besides, my life is basically good – it’s not like I lie awake at night crying and wondering why me.

Nevertheless, it has occurred to me that I can’t really moan about no dates, no sex, etc. unless I’m actually trying to do something about it. But when I’m out, I’m with friends and therefore have better things to do than scan the crowd for the next likely target – and no matter what Hollywood says, I don’t know anyone who’s met the love of their life at the Tate or in Victoria Park. Or in the greengrocers. You see where I’m going with this. Hell, maybe I need to rethink my standards, too: if I limit my dating pool to those of the calibre of my close friends, I’ll only go out on one date every year or so. All of which has led me back (previous experience notwithstanding) into the dubious world of internet dating. I knew this would be potentially discouraging, but sweet Jesus.

I’d vowed not to give in to my knee-jerk misgivings. But comparison error got the best of me. You know how it is when one candidate is so god-awful, the next one seems much better than they are? Yeah. When Peter (not his real name) sent me a note using both punctuation and capitalisation, it was so much better than the others I’d had that I wrote him back. A few exchanges later (with polysyllabic words! and a mild sense of humour! such bounty!), we agreed to meet. This despite the fact that he is an American expat lawyer doing an MBA in London. Yes, a student. But surely not a starving student, I tell myself. A former lawyer? Pushing 30? He can’t be doing the tinned beans in the bedsit lifestyle, can he? Benefit of the doubt, I told myself. New leaf and all that.

On the day of the date, every time I thought about it I had a little surge of dread. I began to look upon my reasoning as rationalisation. It was Friday the 13th. What if he showed up in a goalie mask? But I told myself I was just being defeatist and, fortified by a pint after work, I went.

It was a mixed start: he had positioned himself with a view of the pub’s door so he could spot me straight away, saving me from standing in the door scanning the crowd. Unfortunately his manners didn’t extend to offering me a drink or procuring a table. So I got one of each. And away we went…

First, the look: I may be shallow, but I am inherently put off by men wearing the standard Preppy Republican Uniform: pleated tapered chinos, open-check shirt, you know the routine… and in his case, boat shoes. Boat shoes. Good god.

Next, the conversation: recaps of the holidays were brief and uninspiring, so after a few awkward pauses I went with the tried and true tell-me-about-yourself gambit. Only he didn’t seem to have anything to tell. Why was he in London? Dunno, seemed like a good idea at the time. What did he want to do with his MBA? Dunno, anything but law. How did he like London? OK, he guessed, for now. Eventually, the capper:

Me: … it’s good to work with people who genuinely care about what they do, you know?
He: Yeah, that’s cool. I guess somebody’s got to care about stuff – I don’t, really.

I laughed. This is a joke, right? Then I caught the look on his face. He looked bewildered. This was not a joke. I began to wonder if he’s a pod person.

5 minutes later, I’m in the toilet texting a friend of mine: ‘OH GOD HELP ME’. Should I have just bolted for the door, shouting TAXI? Maybe, but somehow that seemed unnecessarily harsh. He didn’t seem like a bad person – just… well, just boring. And I couldn’t really think of anything to say by way of an excuse that wasn’t either obviously a lie or “Sorry, but I have to go. I’m losing the will to live.”

Another 5 minutes later, mercifully, a text back: ‘I’ve locked myself out, can you come straight away with my spare keys?’ A stroke of genius, this – just specific enough to be believable, serious enough to make it difficult to argue. Still, guiltily (and because Peter looked a bit suspicious), I concocted a detailed story about how my friend is notorious for losing things – phone, keys, iPods – and how the last time he locked himself out he’d wound up on my sofa because the locksmith charged double on bank holidays. I think in my panicked state I might even have done an impression of the snoring.

Thus was I rescued. I made a beeline for the local, where I met up with the gang and was consoled over many pints. Total date time: just under an hour.

The first word that comes to mind when I think about the whole ordeal is ‘mortifying’. Reading this now, it doesn’t capture the trapped and panicky feel of the moment. It could have been so much worse – one of the first blind dates I ever went on, years ago, turned out to be a heroin addict who did his own tattoos. But see, that’s exactly the problem. This one wasn’t freakish or bizarre. It wasn’t even horrible enough to be hilarious. The thing that’s so depressing is how absolutely banal it was, how perfectly and utterly dull. The thought of doing it again makes me cringe.

But on the other hand, maybe I’d better keep going. Surely the next one will be better – or at least worse. Right?