However, alarm bells sounded before we even got that far. I foolishly accepted his request to Skype, and almost immediately received a link to The Human Centipede (there was life before knowing this existed, and life after).
It immediately became clear he was too pushy. His online conversation was essentially a monologue, albeit a generally amusing one. If I interrupted the flow by asking a question that deviated from his script he tended to just ignore it. He corrected me for typing Hollywood without a capital H: "Pronoun. Capital 'H'." I wish I'd replied - "Proper noun. F*cking. Idiot." Or offered him one of these:
|E obviously had a previous career in marketing.|
Then he got too demanding. You know how on Skype you can choose to be "invisible", but how if someone's invisible and you message them, it'll give them away with a telltale "pop"? Well E started sending me messages every day, and so every time I logged in and he was there (which was every time I logged in) he would oblige me to converse with him. For example, I received the following one evening:
Hey - are you online? My Skype just pinged.
Hello! You around...?
Followed the next day by:
Morning! Let me know if you fancy chatting today. I should generally be home until the evening, as I'm doing housework and other 'gripping' domestic bits and pieces. I'll leave Skype logged on.
|"I seem to be very full of something. Is it myself?"|
I felt there was no escape - I'd agreed to meet him and tried to ease myself out of it, but I figured face to face, maybe he'd be ok (no such optimism or generosity one year on). The (execution) date was set.
First surprise, he'd clearly put on 3 stone (and 7 years) since his photo was taken. He had a black velvet jacket that was straining at the buttons over the paunch. He was also not 5'8''. I am 5'8", I wasn't wearing heels and I was looking down at him. I started feeling immense relief that I had told him I was "kind of" seeing someone (we'd agreed to meet as "friends").
Surprise number two: he'd told me he was a human rights lawyer, something I'd naively found rather appealing. I discovered that night that pensions come under the remit of human rights.
|"I just want this date to end."|
What did we do on this semi-date? Well, I drank an awful lot (my irritation reflex needed anaesthetising). I also listened through gritted teeth while he corrected me about the plot of a book I'd read - that HE HAD NOT! To make it worse, I'd also seen the film adaptation of the same book. AND HE HAD NOT!
Intermittently I tried to lessen the burden of what for E was essentially hours of soliloquising, by sharing a little anecdote. I.e. do that thing people often like to do when meeting socially: "converse." Even though my stories were very short and cannot have been too taxing on his patience, his eyes wandered while I was speaking, his face set with a look of forced forbearance as he waited impatiently for his "turn" (I can imagine he was a troublesome child in the playground). As soon as I'd finished, rather than acknowledge or follow up on anything I'd said, he'd resume delivery of a further lengthy monologue, with the chastisingly delivered, "Anyway..." I believe I was Anyway-ed upwards of ten times that evening.
|Is this "Yes please"? Really?|
The night was finally over (note to self: do not schedule a Friday night date unless you're more than sure - it's much harder to call off early). He walked me to the tube in what was now only interpretable as a gesture of pompous mock-courtesy. He made to kiss me on the cheek, I thought, but at the last minute turned his head to catch me on the mouth. I recoiled, horrified, and virtually vaulted the ticket gates.
It was baffling: at what point had he thought the evening was going sufficiently well to attempt the lunge (he'd intimated that intuition was just one of his fortes)? Was I unique in actually sticking out such a terrible evening, making it for him, a successful date?
A few days later I logged onto Skype and received:
Hey - you still awake?
Hey - how're things?
Hello! How's it going?
These all in a row (one sent each day since we'd met). I declined to answer (having accepted early into online dating that this is the most courteous and most unequivocal mode of rejection).
|I can't possibly be boring you, I'm a law graduate (oh, and PM).|
However, a lack of response was clearly too subtle for this gentleman. His messages continued (albeit with slowly diminishing frequency) for months. They are still continuing now, March 2012. I last answered in February... 2011! Since then I have received emails inviting me to obscure musical events in Dulwich, to fourth rate comedy in Croydon, comments on my updated dating site profile (hey, we're not on Facebook here!) and texts such as this (nine months after meeting): Hey, what happened? I've had friends go quiet on me before, but not for so long and for no reason. Whilst wanting to reply that one evening spent trying to extricate myself from the musings of a prolix, pompous podge did not, in my view, equate friendship, experience has taught me that if you don't wish to receive ten more similar messages in the next 24 hours, it's sadly best to stay quiet.
The last time I heard from him was last week, thirteen months after I met him. He'd already tried to "lure 'n' bore" me with the tale of how a famous comedienne had almost agreed to go on a date with him (at least she'd have got some material). Now he wanted to know did I fancy catching up to discuss his "inarguably interesting" year? No! No! A thousand times no!
What have I learnt about lawyers? Well, if E is anything to go by, to have a career in law you have to be persistent, you have to believe in yourself even when you know you're talking utter rot, and, it seems, you must never take "no" for an answer.
*Addendum: if there are any lawyers out there who would like a chance to redeem the face of the profession by taking me on a more bearable date, please make yourselves known!