Mr J is Jamaican. Works in IT. In his photo he’s grinning like a Cheshire cat. No, seriously. A grin so wide it takes up half his face. It’s a little off-putting and, honestly, a bit deranged looking, but his profile is cool, literate, witty and jumps off the screen at me. I email him. There’s a small round button right next to each profile picture and when it lights up the person you’re checking out is online. His glows green like a traffic light on ‘go’ and I get an email right back. We exchange a few emails and it’s clear he knows what he wants. I’m not ready for a relationship, he writes. I don’t want to be mothered or a mother for my kids. That’s good, I think, because I ain’t your mum.
We meet after work the next day at London Bridge station. It’s cold and when I arrive (on time) he looks frozen. And short. Shorter than me in my 3in heels, and shorter than I remember from the stats on his profile. He looks different. But, then, he’s not grinning.
‘Hey,’ I say.
‘Hi. I got here early,’ he says, looking up at me, as if I’m somehow to blame. That’s when he does it for the first time. He sniggers. A nervous, ‘I don’t know what else to do but snigger’ kind of snigger.
I’m nervous too, which means I talk non-stop. It’s like verbal diahorrea. I can feel I’m doing it but I can’t stop. I’m beginning to think this date was a bad idea.
We decide to walk along the Southbank to find somewhere to have a drink. As we walk he sniggers and I chatter. It’s not the best combination. We find a pub away from the river and he buys me a drink. I stay off the alcohol, worried that my rambling will change up a gear.
First date no-no
We sit at a table near the bar. Before long the conversation turns to past relationships. A big first date no-no according to all the rules. But my date either doesn’t know the rules or he doesn’t care. Instead he stamps around the no man’s land like he’s gunning for the enemy. ‘She was selfish… she was always out with her mates… she was untidy… she… she… she…’
I tune out.
I’m feeling hungry now so when he eventually pauses – to snigger – I suggest we go somewhere we can eat. While we walk I explain that I’m not ready for a relationship just now and am happy being single and dating.
He agrees and then says. ‘But it would be great if this were a slow burner.’ In a kind of I’m going to send you mixed messages kind of way…
Tom and Nicole we ain’t!
We end up in Wagamama’s. While we’re standing in the queue he stares at me and smiles. I ask him what’s wrong. ‘Nothing,’ he says, ‘I’m just looking at the height thing.’
Lord knows why, I think. We’re hardly Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in happier days so there is no ‘height thing’.
Now Wagamama’s is great, don’t get me wrong. But as a first date location it kinda sucks. Let’s face it. The food is banging, but you’re generally wedged between two sets of strangers (unless you’re lucky enough to be stuck on the end of a table) and it’s blatantly obvious to the couples either side of us that this is a first date, especially when one guy leans across and blatantly winks at Mr J.
Then I forget (or maybe it’s a subconscious decision) where I am and what I’m doing and order noodles. Bloody noodles. The messiest, most embarrassing thing a woman can eat on a first date. You try getting a forkful into your mouth without spraying sauce everywhere.
As I slurp my noodles he starts to slag off his past dates. ‘She was fat, she was depressed, she was too full on… she… she… she…
I get a strange feeling of déjà vu.
He really isn’t selling himself that well. But then – when I imagine myself sitting where he is watching me tackle the tangled mess on my plate – neither am I.
So, it’s a surprise when he suddenly says, ‘Well, just the first kiss to tackle now.’
I almost choke. But after a split second vision of him performing the Heimlich manoeuvre on me the rogue noodle slips happily down my throat.
‘First kiss?’ I say.
He sniggers. I ask for the bill.
When I offer to pay half he doesn’t argue with me.
Strangely enough on the way back to the station he’s full of the joys of a successful first date. At the top of the escalator he leans in for a kiss. I shake his hand instead.
‘It was great meeting you,’ I say. But quite honestly, I’m lying.
A to Z lesson
No. No. No. Guys, come on. Don’t run down the sisters in the presence of one. If you’re still feeling bitter, lay off the dating for a while. After all, the one simple thing your date’s gonna think is ‘what the hell is he going to say about me?’ And find a damn tape measure will you. At least get the height thing vaguely accurate. Short man syndrome is all in the mind. Well, ok, maybe not… But don’t start what could end up being a beautiful relationship with a lie. And ladies never, NEVER, N-E-V-E-R order noodles on a first date!