Saturday, March 31, 2012

C date 3: too "nice"?

Something's gone wrong. My feelings for C have swung from enthusiasm to mild disdain. How has this happened? It was all going so pleasantly. He has no noxious habits (thus far revealed anyway), is kind, affectionate (kisses me frequently, on the head if I'm semi-asleep - I love that!), attentive (sends generally amusing texts), generous (bought me a second dinner out - to my embarrassment - after he'd chosen an expensive wine I didn't have enough cash to pay my half), he's sexy, he's enthusiastic... But still, something is wrong.

I've dug deep, and here it is!

Problem one: "Pleasantly." You see. It's all there. If I'm going to abdicate from my Monaco of singledom it's going to have to be for something more than "pleasant". C is really a very sweet (boy-) gentleman. But there's something lacking. Depth? Is that simply because he is untroubled? In which case, isn't he what everyone is looking for? Well perhaps not. I enjoy the grit and colour and tone in my life.  I need to feel alive. I don't like binaries. I like to explore...  I... OK, I get bored easily.

Problem two: he's an investment banker. Aside from the stereotypes that attach to the role (which he generally does not seem to fulfil), it occurs to me that bankers do not often spend their money wisely, or creatively. Life has more imaginative pleasures, and rewarding ethical opportunities than the typical corporate interests. He works in Holborn - verging on the funky end of town, but lives in a sterile Docklands (surely an inversion of how it should be?). His considered opinion (I am informed) is that resorts make better holidays (having spent most of the last decade living abroad, I do not concur). He dallies with golf. And I don't know if this is connected to being a banker and the ensuing life priorities, but he has NO BOOKS in his house. No books?! The extent to which this is a problem for me means I could quite easily halt the list here. I'm also skirting around the issue of ethics as this is meant to be a lighthearted blog, but: Hello? Ethics?!

Problem three: he has too much money. Or rather, he is too young to adequately appreciate the amount of money he has. A trip to Iceland taking a helicopter over a volcano is not a big deal for him; he's passing on the huskie-sledding, not because he can't afford it (which would be my only reason) but because instead he is going on an ice buggy over a glacier, or maybe it was champagne swilling in an geothermically heated igloo, or something. No, it wasn't as cool as that. That's what I'd do with the money. He wants to do a brewery tour. Maybe he is a secret philanthropist who donates swathes of his time and income to charity. But if so I need to know about it, and fast.

Problem four: I think his aspirations are based on Friends. There's something altogether teenage about his flat set up. Maybe it's the leather covered sofa with lever-activated foot rests (neither beautiful nor useful), the two large wall mounted TVs (one in the bedroom - indicator of instant sex death), or the fact the luxurious bathroom with heated towel rail has a ring of grime around the bath and smears in the toilet. Something really disappoints me about seeing someone with the finances to do it properly still failing to pull it off.

Problem four: we have already sunk into comfortable. His place is verging on a sty (I'll be honest, now that the glazing of interest is dissolving: smint boxes, mountains of receipts, pockets full of coins and various currencies on every surface vying with the dust for total coverage), and he has no compunction about me seeing it that way. And let's just say the third date's routine was more Thomas the Tank Engine than Trans-Siberian Express.  A reasonable enough exposition but no modulation or recapitulation.  Work that out! He's texting from his holiday. I know I'm being old fashioned - but part of the joy of a holiday for me is exactly that feeling of being cut off from phones and emails; there is no way I'd be delivering updates on my itinerary from the Arctic Circle. I'd hope I'd be too busy enjoying myself. Or if I weren't, I'd damn well pretend to be!

Problem five: he doesn't have a degree. I tried to convince myself this wouldn't be an issue (he's definitely not thick), but as I have spent the majority of my life either working or studying in higher education, it's clear we do not share the same ideals.
"I'm mad, me." Remember Colin?

Problem six: he's too young. Five years makes a difference (especially when the man is younger). And he's a bit sheltered. He expected me to be astonished slash horrified by the time he took 2 sleeping pills and didn't wake when his girlfriend pushed him on the floor. However having been knocked out in a 15 car pile up in Java, my idea of a dramatic unconsciousness story is a bit different.
It's not the story itself that's the problem (of course I don't imagine every man should be Indiana Jones, and his could have been funny, had it not been over-hyped); it's the expectation of a grand response I can't conjure. It's the same every time a man expects me to coo over an unspectacular denouement - I can't bring myself to fake it, and am bemused by the embarrassing presumption that I am meant to be virtually peeing myself with excitement whenever a guy "shares." What I like is humility - a man will get far more response from me if I'm not frogmarched to the compliments cupboard with the demand to hand over the key and contents.

Problem seven: his shirts. He wears loud stripy shirts. And they don't coordinate with the slightly ratty but equally loud yellow stripy scarf he loves. Like most men, he looks fantastic in his white, pale blue or grey-striped normal shirts. How about sticking to those, and finding other outlets for your "creative" side?

Problem eight, and this is the real, inescapable, deal-breaker: I'm being mean and I don't like being mean. But once I've lost a sense of admiration or respect for a man, I'm like a missile - seek and destroy. Experience tells me now is the time for both of us to get out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Internet Dating Tips 2

More things I've learnt about the wonderful world of internet dating...

1. Be yourself. On date one there's nothing to lose. No point waiting until date five to relax and find he's interested in someone you haven't got the effort to sustain being (of course I don't mean don't make any effort, that's something different). Also, imagine if you put someone really nice off with a bogus version of yourself? Wouldn't that be annoying! (Yes, been there...) And if someone doesn't like you, why the hell would you want to be with them? This attitude makes first (and in fact all) dates a lot easier.

2. Avoid anyone who writes in txtspk on their profile. This sort of man won't have much truck with foreplay either.

3. Judge a man by his shoes. Pointy toes, no (takes himself too seriously; imagines women believe shoe length to correspond to something else (possibly ego); might be Italian). Crocodile, no (vain, extravagant, and possibly a little twisted). Hefty trainers or anything neon, no (zero effort, probably doesn't trim his fingernails carefully enough). Ankle boots with elasticated sides, no (needs Mummy to dress him). Cuban heels, no (sleazy and chip on shoulder about height and other "ruler-related" hang ups). Baseball shoes, no (unless you want to date a teenager). Monkstraps (I just discovered the word for these on the internet), NO (slithery, slimy, staid men who are convinced they're projecting rich, smart and sexy, but in fact their bums are usually too big for their chinos - shudder). 

4. Listen to an upbeat song immediately before arriving to set the appropriate tone. I favour this (for being cheerful), this (for feeling attractive) or this (for not taking any shit).

5. Paying. I have recently been informed by friends that I am doing this one all wrong. Fuck feminism (after all, everyone else this decade has). Let him take the bill! Say, "How much do I owe you?" and when he says, "Nothing," instead of insisting and causing a mild scene (like I have done over the last one and a half decades) say, "Thank you!" Wow, that was easy! And it didn't even mean we had to have sex.

6. This one came from another friend, and can be applied to life in general, not just dating. If someone makes you feel crap, instead of putting yourself down (and vainly hoping for reassurance) phrase your complaint thus: "You've just made yourself slightly less attractive..." (by bragging about other women, for example). The "slightly" is key in sounding unconcerned, and therefore is more niggling for the recipient. I trialled this on S (thirty minutes later he petulantly burst out, "What do you mean I'm not so attractive?!") - extremely effective!

7. Finally, not this:
Our poor mothers...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Date 2 with C: are younger men the way ahead?

...but with less smile (same hair and chins though)

To recap, C is the hot young banker that I insulted and kissed about a month ago and hadn't seen since, due to his acquisition of various illnesses (or excuses!). In the midst of the week from hell, by 9am on 'date day' I just wanted to be in my bed, alone, so I texted C warning I felt like Grotbags and was happy to reschedule if he would prefer better odds on me being good company. Sweet response: entirely up to me but he hoped he could put a smile on my face or at least offer wine and a friendly face to talk to (I think he meant ‘at’ there). Encouraged, I acquiesced.

Dinner was at a tapas bar in Canary Wharf. I had never been out in the area as I was harbouring the suspicion that it was a bit sterile and - well - full of bankers. The restaurant looked out over the river, and I sincerely tried to unseat the misgiving that I was an extra in a sanitised Disney banker-campus. The food was fantastic: cheese board, smoked beans, patatas bravas, artichoke stew, breads, chilli jam, aubergine and goats cheese crackers, pimentos, wine... C was attentive and kindly, summoning more interest in my week than he can possibly have felt (it was certainly more interest than I felt).

He had over-ordered, and we couldn't eat it all. C intimated that it had taken him a while, but he had learnt that it was ok to not eat everything on your plate. I nodded sagely, but really, is it ok to be over-indulgent, extravagant and wasteful as a policy, just because you have the money? Isn't it right to feel at least a small pang of guilt about sending a plate's worth of good food to the rubbish bin? Had I been alone I'd have eaten every last bit (without pleasure, of course!), asked to take it away (the sort of places I eat wouldn't mind) or would simply (and more probably) have ordered less.

We went outside and deliberated between going to another bar, or, he proposed, going back to his. Lured by the prospect of the boat ride, romantic and exotic, I agreed to the latter, but then - massive disappointment - he surreptitiously called a taxi. I'd have preferred to have taken the night bus, if not the boat (if I'm sans suitcases, I just don't like taxis), and besides, this invalidated the decision to go back to his at all. Not that I could tell him my decision was based on such a Lolita-esque motive! I suppose he'd seen me wavering and decided to mobilise me before I changed my mind.
Did I want to get off? Unsure.

His house was modern, nice, but rather a mess. Half a foot of receipts and chocolate wrappers covered most surfaces. Dust the others. He needs a clean up. Or - as he said - a cleaner. Considering he's so successful it had more than a whiff of a student flat (not in the literal sense of whiff though, thankfully). Hairgrips from a "friend" he is going on holiday with this week were on the table. For some reason I didn't mind though. He's too straightforward to seem at all shifty, like S. Too innocent to be manipulative. It all seemed simple, easy and extremely pleasant. The one thing it didn't seem though, was entirely natural. The evening was proceeding in a rather clunky manner, as if we were doing a first read-through on a script. He was doing/saying all the right things, but on reflection (and maybe only because he's not entirely slick, which is surely a good thing?) the whole evening seemed a little soulless.
Stolen from Ken Dodd

But that was an analysis for later in the week. At the time I was more concerned by the leather sofa (squeaky not comfy, why do people buy them?), and the rather too many loud stripy shirts in his wardrobe (presumably selected to clash with his loud stripy scarf). But of course, you can always get a man out of his clothes... And C had a very acceptable physique!

And here, dear reader, I shall draw a veil over proceedings. Except to say I woke up on his shoulder, having dreamt about icebergs on the Thames and running across London in only a towel (??), and had a large weeping blister on my foot...

In the morning, he warmed me a towel on his heated towel rail and lent me some clean clothes to wear home (thus sparing me the sweaty evening dress walk of shame, and indicating, I suppose, that he intended to see me again). Then he held my hand on the bus. Which was nice.

So how does C compare to S?  Well, the fact his biological clock isn't ticking means he is much more laid back, and he doesn't have an immature yet panic-ridden turbo-drive to find The One. Which frees up more energy for simply being pleasant, uncomplicated, affectionate company. And compared to P? I know he isn't going to make maudlin clutches at my feet if I don't reply to his texts quickly enough. This is also a bonus. At this rate I will need to seriously revise my policy about younger men. I think this is what my neighbour meant when she advocated getting a "Boy Toy". More enthusiasm + less baggage = happy date.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A cynic's guide to internet dating profiles

“The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results,” Einstein famously proclaimed. But thanks to this entry you won't even need to do it once: just follow this handy phrasebook-cum-dictionary which translates online profiles into plain English for all your dating needs...
"I've made the mistakes so you don't have to!"

  • I don't really know what to write here, but here goes... = I have no personality, discernible interests, or the wit to realise I should try to hide this.
  • I asked my best friend and she says... = a girl I've been stalking has agreed to massively oversell me on here in a bid to palm me off on someone else.
  • I asked my best friend and he says... = no, I doubt it. This functions as a disclaimer for filling the profile with lies. Unless his best friend is gay.
  • I prefer not to send hundreds of emails and would like to get to know you in person... = I'm inarticulate and can't keep up the facade for long. Let's meet up and get drunk quickly before you realise you can do better. C'mon, I just really need a shag.

And the quickfire rounds:

I just don't think you get how lucky you are to be on a date with me.
  • laid back = lazy, and possibly have hygiene issues
  • chilled out = boring, and expect you to arrange everything
  • popular = with the local takeaway owners, perhaps
  • honest = rude
  • quirky = trying too hard
  • witty = setting myself up for a fall
  • complex = a pseudo-intellectual pain in the backside
  • enthusiastic = fickle
  • I don't take myself too seriously = highly unsuccessful and resigned to it
  • down to earth = bad mannered
  • confident = opinionated, stubborn
  • good looking = conceited (why write this? We can see your photo!)
  • spontaneous = disorganised
  • driven, career-focused = no feelings, just sex please.
  • romantic = wet
  • sensual = creepy/sloppy kisser
  • tender = even creepier/not over my ex
  • loving = I like to stroke things
  • passionate = extremely sexually frustrated, possible stalker

I like:
If only his fingers were always so dextrous...
  • travel = I want you to think I'm rich and open-minded
  • travel (with number of countries listed) = as above, but I've also counted the number of times I've had sex and measure my penis monthly to see if it's grown
  • socialising = talking about myself
  • cooking  = microwave meals for one
  • nothing more than a bottle of wine/DVD on the sofa = slob with no creativity, originality or spark. I'll be wearing a tracksuit by date 2.
  • massage = parlours
  • salsa = frottage
  • films = original!
  • extreme sports = wanking, South Park and yards of ale
  • writing = indulging my misguided sense of self-importance and uniqueness
  • music = sticking headphones in and going "la la la" when anything gets tough
  • computer games = computer games (enough said). Oh, and wanking.

I'm looking for a girl who is...

I saaaid, "Give. Me. Half. Your. Dessert."
  • chilled out = willing to take my crap
  • cute = half my age plus four
  • sexy = horny
  • a good listener = a good flatterer
  • down to earth = won't expect romance
  • willing to commit = desperate
  • intelligent = but still willing to pretend that I'm smarter
  • fun = dirty
  • a challenge = owns a whip
  • who knows her own mind = wants to urinate on me
  • equally at home up a mountain as in a cocktail dress and a pair of heels = I don't know what I want, so I'll steal someone else's cliche and will never be satisfied. 
  • happy =  see fun
  • generous = with oral
  • confident = on top
  • kind = tolerant of idiots/gives pity shags
  • open-minded = into anal
  • doesn't take herself too seriously = won't mind giving me a bj in the loos on the first date.

Friday, March 16, 2012

So you want to date a lawyer...? (The endless attentions of E)

Last year I went on a date with E. He had a great profile: a human rights lawyer (read: smart, informed, noble), witty, cheeky sparkle in the eye, so we agreed to meet.

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...?
Hellooooooooooo? Helloooo?

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?"
(No, please don't.)

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!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday morning with Big Boss

Big Boss: Oh I see you've washed your hair!

Me: Pardon?!

Big Boss: I said, you seem to have cut your hair.

Me: (taking notes for the employment tribunal)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

M: a blast from the past

At dinner last week, S asked me if I'd met anyone online in the last couple of years that I could have truly fallen for. Yes, there was one man: M. M was uber-smart, had degrees/doctorates from top world universities, and taught a third subject at Oxbridge. He was strong, sure, charismatic, had a powerful animated face, an appreciation of arts, sciences, philosophy, a wry sense of humour, and was skilled in the art of conversation. He thought he was too old for me, but he was younger than my oldest ex, and is significantly younger than S. My main challenge was just to act like an adult and keep my head, as he seemed pleased enough with everything else.

I last saw M last summer when we went to a concert: music and dance, in an intimate venue. I found it hard to watch the show and not him - he was magnetic. 
What happened? I blew it. I told him my life plan was set and (didn't quite grasp that) it didn't fit in with his. Only a week later did I realise the implications of this.

Let's just deal with that forthcoming joke now.

OK, that's not all.

I also got uncharacteristically nervous, and made a ridiculously juvenile, unfunny, immature joke at a point where he might possibly have been leaning over to kiss me. And then I got out of his car, watched him drive off and looked for a wall to head butt, hard.

I didn't hear from him again, and gathered up my last scraps of dignity by not hounding him.

Why am I telling you this? After speaking about him with S I started thinking about him again. Actually, that isn't true - I was already thinking about him, when I considered sending him a Valentine's message, but didn't (see previous paragraph).

But after mulling it over, on Saturday night I sent him a message apologising for being a moron and letting him know I'd be in his city the next day, and although it was horribly late notice... coffee? I expected no answer (as that was what my last email, sent in the autumn, received).

A couple of hours later - a reply! It commenced: "Always a pleasure to hear from you, you ought to be told." And continued: "Behaved like an idiot? Surely not." Unfortunately he wasn't free for coffee, but did suggest catching up in a couple of weeks (once his house move is out of the way).

Thanks S!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

C hospitalised to avoid second date?!

You (like me) might be wondering what happened to C after that first enthusiastic and highly successful date.

Well, after he cancelled dinner, we were meant to be going to a comedy club, and I was starting to seriously look forward to it as he seems uncomplicated, affectionate, easy company, oh yes - and mega hot. And indeed has not put a foot wrong since nipple-gate. However the day before we're due to meet, I get a text saying he was going to have to cancel as he's been hospitalised!

Tumescent, & she's not even blowing it!
I'm starting to wonder whether he is writing a blog entitled "How long till she gets the message?"

But he follows it up with a long explanation of his trip to A & E (he collapsed at work - clearly from the anticipated excitement of meeting me) and asks if it would be possible to meet the following week. I tell him any day except Thursday. He chooses Friday (good sign) and offers me the money for the tickets as he feels terrible cancelling at such short notice (not necessary - re-recruited!).

As the comedy night has now been and gone I can inform you that he has subsequently sent just the right number of texts, containing just the right amount of humour, mixed with just the right amount of enthusiasm.

Dix points!

Monday, March 5, 2012

My students give S a lesson about love!

In class today we analysed an extract from How to be an Other Woman (from Lorrie Moore's superb short story collection). 

What followed was a discussion about love, affairs etc and I asked my students if they believed in The One. They told me that this was just a teenage fantasy. 

Encouraged, I asked them what they thought about my "friend" S, who was still holding out for The One.
Not the students' letter, but still enjoyable!

Yuna (aged 20): He's 55 and he's still waiting for The One? He's stuuuuuupid!

Yuki (also 20): And he's never been married? Really?

Yi Wen (25): So sad.... It's really sad.

Yuna: Yes, stupid and sad. I think he needs counselling for the head. Hahaha! He's a psychiatrist and he needs counselling!

Yi Wen: He is never going to get married. He will always be alone.

Yuki: I believe in The One. Maybe he can be my The One! Hahahaha!

Yi Wen: We will write him a letter. What's his name? 

Yuna: (gets pen) "Dear Dr. S..."

Below is one of the letters. Now the only question is, do I forward it? 

(P.S. That was a rhetorical question, for those who have to ask)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lavish dinner with S and his repellent table manners!

I was very close to cancelling this after the text/conversation debacle. No point spending an evening with a man who makes you feel 100th on his list and who didn't even have the courtesy to text with the venue until the day itself.  I didn't reply while I deliberated. However, perversely the question "are you having second thoughts?? x" made me resolve to show: at least he had realised I was no longer excessively keen!

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 "his avaricious manner of collecting all the eatables about him and devouring some with his eyes while devouring others with his jaws in the same manner".  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.

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?!"

S's ideal wife?
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.

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!

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.