I set off in a foul mood, trying to negotiate the dress code of "effortlessly irresistible" and the mental code of "fun yet sceptical" whilst having a bad back, period pain and ladders in all my tights. A prescription codeine later and I was a lot more in the mood! Dinner was at a reputed vegetarian restaurant in Hammersmith, and I was (unintentionally but not regretfully) late.
|I hear you've been dating my daughter, Comrade Stalin.|
First topic of conversation: my new haircut ("quite nice, 20s-ish"). Second topic: Collaborators. I adored this play (seen 3 days earlier) - I love the era, the set, the casting, the resonance with another play I'd seen about Anna Akhmatova, the way it starts off so amusingly and ends so chillingly... I was completely gripped. Someone in the play reminded me of S, could he guess who? I had to stifle a laugh when he asked "the dashing young Jewish intellectual who plays the violin?" No. It was the genial, crafty, stumpy Stalin who was immensely likeable (in the play at least), prior to the revelation of his macabre side. I said I'd tell him at the end of the night if he remembered to ask. Thankfully he didn't.
During this discussion, it became obvious that S hadn't eaten all day. Or perhaps all week. In his (wholly legitimate) eagerness to remedy this evident starvation, he sucked his starter from both his fork and his knife, whilst spattering the table with oil and vinegar from his vigorously dipped bread. There was something unsavoury, Dickensian, about this; perhaps it was . But the conversation and wine were good... and at least his napkin wasn't tucked into his chin and resting on his pot belly (in the interests of fair reportage - he doesn't have a pot belly). Could I overlook these "minor" infractions?
Of course we had to talk about the phone call. He had the cheek to genially suggest he'd feared I might become a stalker (the conceit!), but "could see now that it was unlikely". Then he asked about my other dates. "Depends whether you want to consider me a friend, someone you won't see again, or someone with future romantic potential," I said. "Either of the first two and I'm happy to tell you; the latter, no, I think it's a bit crass." He looked aghast. I continued that I'd make it easy and tell him anyway - "The one exactly half your age," I started, "is taking me to a comedy club on Thursday". Apparently the table next to ours were all ears. Perhaps this was also why he'd ordered the second most expensive wine.
|I think I'd prefer to have sat opposite this...|
The main course was almost over. He spent a good five minutes picking his teeth in the most gaping-jawed uncouth manner imaginable. I was almost dumbstruck. Even my usual bazooka-style shootdowns (normally only enhanced by wine) were deactivated. I only managed a limp "Do you always do this on a date?" when what was actually required was the googling of a video of a komodo dragon (toxic saliva strung between teeth, gorging on live goat entrails, covered in gore) and the subsequent thrusting of said video into the offender's face, whilst simultaneously making finger-throat vomit gestures. Anyway, this sealed it - he could never, ever, be my boyfriend, and once that was out of the way the evening significantly perked up.
|Two pictures are required to adequately convey my disgust.|
I pointed out that despite having table manners which would offend a beast, we had great chemistry (just like you, dear reader, I am subsequently demanding 'How can this be so?!') and should he stop being such a plonker, I might concede to have a short but torrid affair with him. He took my hand, whilst telling me 50 reasons why it wouldn't work: I was too smart; I didn't watch enough TV; I would find his friends boring; he hadn't heard of Anna Akhmatova before; I would want babies soon (the number of times he has brought this up... I cut it off with "yes, and I don't want them all to be deformed")...
The best and surely most noble of these reasons however, was that he couldn't stop internet dating, even temporarily (my precondition for anything physical between us), as he might miss out on meeting The One.
"The One?!" I spluttered! "She could have run rings round you five times by now and you wouldn't have noticed! If you carry on like a headless chicken imagining a woman wearing big badge declaring 'woman of S's dreams' on it is about to tap you on the shoulder, you're going to miss - and have already irreparably missed - anything approaching Genuine Love. If you don't grow up and realise that all relationships need work, and that a partner can't be slotted into your existing life like a new piece of furniture, you are going to wake up on your deathbed horribly alone..."
"And besides, (no, my rant was not yet done) even if you did meet someone who so perfectly fit in to your daily routine that not a smidgen of it changed, what on earth would you have to talk about, and how could you have any respect for her?!"
Warming to my theme of indignation, I pointed out that there are four men who have taken international flights to see me in the last year hoping for a similar offer (and not all received it, despite the airfare) and that it was quite indicative that the one English resident I'd liked in that time couldn't even be bothered to make it 30 mins down the District Line - and now, here was another such moron!
He whined, but accepted I was right. He's evidently an internet dating addict who is yet to check into a Priory for a necessary spell of abstinence.
|S's ideal wife?|
|I apologise for under-dressing.|
"But you turned up in non-date clothes!"
I was wearing an almost backless green silk dress.
I asked what I was supposed to have worn... Let's just say it was not second date attire.
You may think this sounds like I was having a bad evening. I wasn't! There was something extremely refreshing about sitting opposite a man to whom I could say whatsoever I wanted, in the knowledge that he would listen, consider it as being probably true and not jump to taking offence, or argue back with the sole aim of protecting his ego and winning points.
Case in point: when he leant over to kiss me I made a joke to the waiter about 'the old man thinking he was my boyfriend', and all three of us laughed. In normal circumstances I could easily have been the recipient of a slap. I like a man who has the self-assurance not to batter me (or at least sulk) for my errant tongue.
He ordered more wine, negotiated a made-to-order dessert plate (being a practiced glutton does then have some benefits), and, feeling I was on a roll (though not quite sure where I was rolling to), I upped the temperature by discussing al fresco sex (Mary Shelley losing her virginity to Percy on her mother's tomb).
|About as probable (but as enjoyable)|
Over three hours after we'd arrived (we also had post-dinner peppermint tea), he kindly picked up the bill saying he didn't want to bankrupt me, and we ambled contentedly back to the station (me contented from the sense I'd won an argument, him seemingly contented because he'd lost one, but was still having fun).
S wanted to get me a taxi home. I suggested instead that he get my tube and take a circuitous route back. I laid on his shoulder and he had his arm round me, all surprisingly fond. He then made the journey even more circuitous by refusing get off at the first Northern Line junction, so I got off at the next one with him and we giggled our way to the end of the platform for a passionate kiss... Something I have subsequently been informed may well appear on Harry Hill's "Tube Snogs". (is this real, or is someone having mean fun with me?!).
Two trains went by. It was hotting up, and - although he may deny it if asked now - he told me I was very "loveable". Then he asked if he could come back to mine (Reader - quick! Do you see what he did there?!). In light of his earlier refusal to even temporarily halt searching for The One, the fact that he kept getting the place I lived in wrong (obviously confusing it with someone else's he'd been back to recently), and perhaps the subconscious realisation that I'd have to transcribe the result for this blog, I said "Sorry, no!" and jumped on the train currently sitting in the station. The doors pipped ("You're not seriously leaving on that train?!"). I was.
I waved goodbye to the astonished man on the platform.