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I’m aware some people will be very critical of the behaviour about which I am going to tell you. I’m ok with that – I maintain that I was in a situation for which I had no known coping strategy. It was some years ago. I would deal with it better now. But we all have to start somewhere and maybe you’ll be kind on account of my honesty. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, here’s what happened when I decided, as a young divorcee, to try out the world of internet dating.

I should have known it was a non-starter when my date for the night (let’s call him Gordon) bought me a drink, sat me down and said:

let me tell you how my father died

As first dates go, it was unexpected, to say the least. I was inexperienced and I’m not the kind of girl to judge a man on the way in which his father shuffled off this mortal coil, but I’ll admit that I was expecting a little more decorum and, perhaps harshly, a little less crying.

I nodded sympathetically as Gordon recounted his story and I tried – I mean really tried – to feel that this poor chap was suffering and that I should offer a ladylike shoulder upon which he could cry. But all the time, in the corner of my brain where I keep the “he’s got a screw loose” alarm bell, I knew that I needed to get out. Now. Right now. This was not normal behaviour. The thing to do, I realised, was to make up some plausible and pity-inducing excuse about a friend in distress, give him a peck on the cheek and gracefully let him put me in a taxi.

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To be fair, Gordon had by this point moved away from the descriptions of his dad’s death (as it turns out, not a recent occurrence) and succeeded instead in boring me rigid with stories about himself, how he was broke, how he had sold everything he owned to set up a business which had failed spectacularly, how this had caused him to move back into his mum’s house, how women rejected him repeatedly on the basis of his situation, and how much his (very obvious) dental veneers and hair plugs had cost him. He was clearly a lot older than he had claimed. To add to the awkward atmosphere, he addressed his entire monologue towards my bosom. I had consumed my own body-weight in cocktails and yet somehow I still couldn’t dredge up the slightest feeling of warmth towards the guy. He just wasn’t for me.

Call me cold, harsh, a complete bitch, whatever you think appropriate. But this man clearly didn’t want to know anything about me, apart from possibly my bra size.

So, to my shame, I did a bad thing… I legged it. Mid-sentence. I told him I needed the loo, sprinted out of the bar, and tripped across a very busy road in my first-date heels. I almost-but-not-quite caused an innocent driver to plough me through the window of a lap-dancing club (now that would have been a show for the punters). I threw myself into the nearest taxi, demanding to be taken to the house of a friend who keeps wine and pizza in the fridge for those occasions when I rock up unannounced. Even the shame of what I’d done couldn’t dampen the relief I felt at not having to spend another ten minutes in the company of that lascivious, tedious man.

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So my initial foray into the world of online-dating was not encouraging. Several more glasses of wine and half a pizza later, my friend convinced me that she knew plenty of people who had met, fallen in love and married as a result of meeting online. That’s not to say they hadn’t kissed a few frogs along the way, she argued, but the eventual prince-like creature who captured their hearts and produced a beautiful proposal and Tiffany solitaire had made all the pain and bad dates worthwhile. As a pissed romantic, I was happy to hear it. Maybe I’d just been unlucky this time. Perhaps I was too harsh in judging people. Maybe I had just been unfortunate and hasty in picking a perfectly nice guy who simply wasn’t for me. Probably there were plenty of eligible bachelors just waiting to hear from me on whichever dating website I braved next. 

When I woke up the next day in my friend’s spare room, I felt more positive, if a little queasy. I also felt guilty about ditching a date in the city centre with no warning or apology. But perhaps, I told myself, it was more constructive to be short and sweet in ditching a non-starter now, than to drag things on by pretending to be interested and leading on a man who was clearly some years away from having a grown-up relationship with anyone other than his games console. Clearly I could have done it better, with more empathy, and less childish hysteria, but I was new to this.

So I got up, showered, and vowed not to give up. After all, as an attractive, sexy and intelligent woman in my late twenties, I thought there MUST be men out there who also married the wrong person and who wanted a second chance at “forever”. Toast and tea with my long-suffering (and still vaguely amused) friend only served to strengthen my resolve to get back out there and search for Mr Right.

As I was leaving her house, I felt bold, brave and full of confidence that next time would be different.  Just then, I felt my phone vibrating in my bag. I opened a text message to see the words “Thanks for last night. I had a really good time on our date. I felt we had some strong chemistry. Fancy dinner on Tuesday?”.

Nowadays, whenever I walk past the bar of the the ill-fated, abruptly-ended date, I point to the lap dancing bar opposite and say to my buddies

let me tell you about the time I nearly went straight through that plate-glass window into a pile of dazed and confused lap-dancers

Generally-speaking, the story gets a laugh and an exclamation along the lines of “oh my – the crazy stuff you do!!” and I like that they get a giggle out of my disastrous date. We all have Bridget Jones-esque stories like mine, I’m sure. I have no bad feeling towards Gordon, whose dinner invitation I turned down politely. I really hope he found Mrs Right and I have to admit, he taught me some important lessons about dating.

But let me tell you, that was almost a decade ago, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the Gordons of this world are no less prevalent now than they were then. So, dear reader, beware. Or, if you must pursue ever-lasting love and that elusive Tiffany solitaire, make sure you at least wear shoes you can run in, when on first dates. Above all, never ever fail to appreciate a friend who provides wine and wise counsel at the drop of a hat. Because those friends are priceless. I bet Gordon has one.

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