My worst ever date lasted for 27 minutes. I know this because of the call history on my phone; my date with Dan was a 4 minute phone-call followed by 23 minutes in person that truly felt like eternity.
It was October 2014, I had lived in London for four months and was a very naive 22 year-old. My rented apartment with a friend was awesome and I was loving my first ever year as a teacher. I didn’t know all that many people in the city, with most of my university friends having scattered back to their various homes across the country. My social life was practically non-existent – which made me all-too-aware of my lack of love life. And so, like most of my generation, I had turned to the internet. A cursory Google search just now has informed me that Tinder was very much around then, but it had totally skipped me by at the point (which reveals a lot about my then-self). Instead I had turned to Match.Com; which seems a slightly baffling choice now I’m in my late twenties and feeling a sense of protectiveness towards my sweet-cinnamon-roll younger self.
Dan was one of the first people I matched and messaged with. He was neither attractive nor unattractive, he was fine. He had no distinctive features and I am safe in the knowledge I would be totally unable to recognise him if I ever saw him again. I could have passed him at any point in the following years and would have had absolutely no idea. I think I continued to exchange messages with him as he was confident and unafraid to ‘say it how it is’ (which may just be the worst thing any human being can say of themselves). I was lacking in confidence and found some sense of assurance in his matter-of-fact messaging. He was in his early 30s, a banker who worked in the city – somehow, along the way of forming relationship expectations I had decided (or been forced to decide through societal expectation…) that these were good attributes in a partner (Yes. I know.) Which is why I had missed the repeated references in his messages to my legs and his wanting me to wear a short skirt to the date. I just thought that was normal flirting…
We were due to meet at Liverpool Street station at 6pm one Friday night. I’d not been there before and nobody had warned me that it is a station with exactly 1,841,858 exits – hence me texting Dan at 6pm asking where exactly to meet. He called in response and instantly I knew tonight would not go well. He was chewing gum in the manner of a ravenous cow devouring a savoured patch in an otherwise drought-struck field. His words were more like noises, mastication turning his vowels into a form of morse code that needed deciphering. Having gone out of the station’s nearest exit, I’d decided to head towards the biggest building I could see. I told him the name of it, only to be greeted with a groan and what I was near-certain translated as ‘How did you know I worked there? Are you a stalker my crazy girl?’ My mortification levels had never been so high and every part of my body wanted to run away, my brain trying to put on the breaks, but I thought that I should at least try the date. What did I have to lose..?
We (he) carried on talking over the phone until we saw each other. He crossed the road to meet me and I instantly realised he had lied about his height, by about five inches. He’d said he was the same height as me, 5ft11″ which made our height difference pretty significant. Which wouldn’t really be a problem except a)he’d lied and b) he clearly had a profound height fetish. The greeting of ‘What’s the weather like up there chick? Glad to see you wore a skirt for me!’ did not help matters. At all.
We side-hugged as greeting, then he guided me by the small of my back to a bar. It is packed with workers in their packs who have finished for the week, stopping by the watering hole before making the commute home. Dan asks what I want to drink. I’ve recently discovered cocktails and believe them to be the height of sophistication. He leaves me at the only free table, going off to order a mojito for me and a pint for himself. He returns with two mojitos for me as it’s Happy Hour. This wouldn’t be a problem except I’ve quickly realised just how awful Dan is and that I’m now stuck here for two drinks before I can leave. My two drinks are plonked on the table by him with a look of disdain, ‘They’re not very good here – much better next door.’ I think better than to ask why he didn’t say this when he took my drinks request.
After some more height comments geared towards me, he then asks after my job plans. He’s relieved someone as young as me has a job as easy as being a teacher, that it’s good I’m doing something so flexible as I explore the city and the world. You know, take it easy as I discover myself. He’s advised teaching abroad, possibly in Scandinavia where my fellow women would be as tall and pale as I am. I’ve realised they’re no point in fighting with him on just how wrong he is, that as much as I love my job I’ve realised it has a to-do-list that will never end and will most likely consume me completely.
I have always wanted to go to Sweden though.
To keep myself busy, and to speed up my exit, I’m drinking my drinks as speedily as possible. Dan observes this, drawling ‘You’re drinking ’em quick. Yeah, suck that straw. Suck that straw good.’ Reader, yes I know I should have left immediately at that point, ideally throwing the remaining drink in his face in the process, but I was too shocked and too focused on being polite to do so.
Thankfully my exit pass came swiftly after, when he asked after my family. He asked if my mum was ‘like me’. Unsure of what was really being asked here I replied ‘Well, height-wise she’s shorter. She’s also a teacher though!’ Dan replied with the now immortal line, ‘No I meant, is she hot like you? Is your mum single?’ I jokingly apologised, explaining she was happily married to my dad. Dan seemed deeply disappointed by this response, far more at that than the fact I’d now decided to leave.
‘I’m going to go now.’ was all I said, as I got up and left. It was 6.30pm when I walked back through the station, having called my best friend as I was laughing so hysterically I feared I’d look truly crazy without my phone as a prop.
Unsurprisingly, I never heard again from Dan. It would be months before I could drink again from a straw.