The Chips Are Down

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CC Image courtesy of Riebart on Flickr‘Do you do chips?’

‘I’m afraid not.’ The barmaid shows me a menu. ‘We do pizza, and bruschetta…’

I’m slightly regretting choosing the Islington venue. The walk from the tube – all twenty minutes of it – might have taken me down some of London’s prettiest streets but the pub at the end of it thinks bruschetta is an acceptable substitute for chips. Clutching my gin and tonic I make my way upstairs.

The event is due to start any minute and the participants are all standing around talking to each other, which puzzles me. What I like about the speed dating concept is that you have a finite amount of time with each person. If you don’t click, it’s four minutes of small talk, and if you do, you match via the Original Dating app and… who knows? (Who indeed?) But the point is I don’t want to meet these men beforehand, run out of things to say and then be faced with the prospect of a four-minute ‘date’.

We take our seats, the women that is. (As is traditional in speed dating, if a phenomenon less than twenty years old can be said to have traditions, it is the men who rotate.) Lee sits down opposite me, introduces himself. We’ve already exhausted small talk when the host announces that our first four minutes is about to begin. This, I think to myself, is going to be a long night.

But it isn’t. In the break, I chat to one of the other girls in the loo. She’s also pleasantly surprised. No thunderbolts, we agree, but everyone is really nice. It’s the kind of event that reassures you there are nice people out there; it’s just a question of meeting someone you click with. Which is an argument in favour of going to more than one event. Several of my ‘dates’ have done just that. Rob tells me about his experience of Literary Speed Dating, where you bring a book and have to talk about it. I’d worry that it would attract pretentious types and intellectual snobs but Rob just likes books. And I quite like Rob.

CC Image courtesy of Boston Public Library on Flickr

The girl in the loo makes another good point: that it can be hard to tell after just four minutes. We’ve all been given sheets to complete with peoples’ names, speed dating numbers and a verdict (‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘friend’). Some of the guys aren’t bothering to fill it out and I can kinda see why. You remember the names of people you like without an aide memoire.

Or do you? I dry my hands, pick up my bag. I could leave through the bar or go upstairs and say goodbye, perhaps swap numbers. That might be a bit weird though.

Everyone’s now downstairs, which does away with the need to make a decision.

‘I’m gonna head, but it was really nice to meet you!’ I say, tapping her on the shoulder.

‘Anna! It was! Here, let me give you my number – we should do something sometime!’

I grin and fish for pen and paper. She looks puzzled and pulls out her phone. ‘Or… give me yours.’

I recite the digits.

‘This is terrible,’ I say, ‘but… I’m so sorry, was it… Rachel?’

She laughs. ‘Steph. I’ll text you.’

‘Great.’

I pass Rob on the way out, exchange farewells. I’m still not sure, which the cynic in me says is probably a no.

CC Image courtesy of Family O'Abe on Flickr

Find out more about Original Dating speed dating events in Islington and places that serve chips here.

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Numbers Game

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CC Image courtesy of ansik on FlickrI number off:

‘I, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 – hello!’

We embrace like old friends, the way you do in this kind of crowd though we’ve only met once before. I don’t think of him again until the last dance.

‘I like the colour of your t-shirt!’

‘Thank you!’ he says, turning me. ‘I like…’

I don’t catch what it is that he likes.

 

Later, in the pub, I’m part-way through a bucket of sauvignon blanc. You’d have to be in order to say to the immediate company, ‘I just need to go and speak to that person’, point, and then walk in the direction you’re pointing.

 

The taxi comes to a stop.

‘Tell me your number,’ he says. ‘I’ll remember it.’

I recite the digits, then reach for my purse. ‘Are you sure I can’t–?’

‘No no, we’ll go for drinks sometime.’

‘OK. Can you remember the number?!’

 

‘And he repeated it back to me,’ I tell Gus the next day. ‘That’s weird, right?’

‘That is weird.’ He chuckles. ‘That’s pretty cool.’

‘Yeah. I was, like, a lost woman. But, well, I don’t know if he’ll remember it. And,’ I shrug, ‘if he does, he might not use it.’

‘Yeah… but he might.’

CC Image courtesy of John.Karakatsanis on Flickr

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Precious Little

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CC Image courtesy of Roberto Trm on FlickrWe get drinks.  I know what’s coming.  Karl always takes the same line of questioning.  Twice I try to put him off, but it’s no good.

‘So, are you seeing any boys?’

I scratch my head.  ‘Sort of – one.’

‘Who is he?’

‘You don’t know him.  He’s kind of… random,’ I say, smiling.  I love the fact no one knows him.  It makes him seem exciting and exotic, as if he weren’t already those things.

‘OK.  So it’s a guy I don’t know, and you’re, what, seeing him?’

‘Yes, sort of…’

‘O-K…?’

‘I’m not quite sure what we’re doing. There are – er – logistical issues.  He doesn’t live in London.

‘Where does he live?’

‘Not in London.’

‘You’re being very evasive.’

‘Mmm.’

‘Are you lovers?’

This might be why.

‘No.  How are we defining lovers?  I think I know how we’re defining lovers, and no, I don’t think we are.  We’re… dating.  Is that OK?’

‘No.  How many times have you seen him?’

‘Four times.’

‘Over how long?’

I look at my watch. ‘A… month and a half.’

‘OK.  Are you sleeping together?’

‘I’m not answering that!’

‘OK so there’s this guy, who doesn’t live in London, and over the past month and a half, you’ve been on a few dates.’

‘Yes.’

Put like that, it seems like precious little.

***

‘Hi, I’m Jason.’

‘James?’

‘Jason.’

‘Sorry – hi Jason.  Anna.’  We shake hands.

Karl and Jason resume their conversation.  I don’t understand most of it and my expression probably says as much.  As far as I can make out, they’re talking about some form of orgasmic meditation which Jason is into.  I’m trying really hard to keep an open mind.

‘I just need to say hi to…’

It’s a masterclass in extricating yourself from a conversation.  Karl wanders off, leaving me alone with Orgasmic Meditation.

I rack my brains.  ‘So… what do you do?’ I say.  ‘For work.’

We know what he does for play.

I’m expecting holistic therapist, poet, or something in that ball park.

‘I’m an IT consultant.’

I fight to keep a straight face.  I can’t for the life of me think of something to say.  He’d been talking earlier about the applications of meditation in everyday life, so I mumble something about how it must be useful at work.

‘Tell me about you,’ he says.

I cringe but tell him what I do.

‘Do you enjoy it?’

I don’t know why but I find myself answering honestly.  Next thing I know he’s telling me how it’s all about attitude, how anything is possible, how language constructs reality and barriers will only keep me from living the life I want.

And I’m nodding, because I know all this.

‘I have to go,’ he says, taking out his phone, ‘but I’d really like to continue this conversation.’

I try not to stare.  I mean, I know they say men are the more visual sex, but the stuff I’ve come out with in the last ten minutes – I can’t remember the last time I sounded like such a gimp!

‘Err…’

‘We should exchange numbers.’

‘Err…’ I can’t remember my ‘politely decline to give a guy my number’ rap, perhaps because I don’t have one.  So instead I say with a shrug, ‘You can have mine.’

Or not.  A thought occurs to me.

‘I – I’m sort of seeing someone.’

‘Sort of seeing someone. That doesn’t count.’

I laugh.  ‘Err..’

‘Do you feel happy and fulfilled by what you have with this guy?’

For the second time this evening, I’m being forced to confront the realities of my relationship with VP.

I can’t help laughing.  ‘I’m not talking about that!’

He smiles, but doesn’t say anything.

‘No.’

I hadn’t meant to say it.  Next thing I know, I’m reciting my number.  It feels like a small betrayal.

CC Image courtesy of HckySo on Flickr

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Perfect Strangers

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CC Image courtesy of ketrin1407 on FlickrMatthew’s reply is, of course, perfect.  He would have loved to have come, but can’t because of a clash (family commitments, aw).  He would however love to meet up.

Of all the men I contact, he’s the only one to say this.  Nice Guy and Swiss National are non-committal in a ‘thanks and have a nice life’ kind of a way.  Benedict being Benedict is effusive in his regrets…

He begins by suggesting I drop by where he works for a drink on the way home, then tells me he’s just moved to my neighbourhood so we must meet up soon, and sends me his mobile number for ease of contact. Coming from any other man, this medley of attentions would have had me dancing naked down Oxford Street.  But Benedict, like I said, is Benedict, and in Narnia they do things differently.

 

I don’t reply to Matthew’s message until my birthday a.k.a. The Apocalypse has been and gone.  The balance of my mind has been restored, and I’m probably a little bit more cynical about love stuff than I was twenty-four hours before.

 

There’s a scene in Sex & The City, where Carrie is running to a first date.  She bumps into her ex on the sidewalk.

‘I had a baby!’ he says.

‘I have a date!’

Awkward.

Small talk ensues.

‘Good to see you,’ she says, looking up at him.

‘You too.  We should get together and have coffee sometime, and catch up.’

‘Yeah, great!  OK we’ll do that.’

As Carrie walks away, the voiceover comes in: there is the type of date you can’t wait to keep, and the type of date you both know you’ll never keep.

 

Part of me – the cynical, pessimistic part that’s big on self-preservation – reckons that ‘meeting up’ with Matthew is like Aidan and Carrie’s coffee: it will never happen.  And with that in mind, I reply, saying it would be great to catch up, perhaps one night after work, and to let me know when would be good for him.

CC Image courtesy of Daremoshiranai on Flickr

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How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days

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CC Image courtesy of Claremont Colleges Digital Library on Flickr

All I catch is his name and ‘asked for your number’.  I do my utmost not to let my emotions show in my face.  She doesn’t know me very well; it wouldn’t do to scare her.

‘Woah woah woah,’ I say, putting a hand on her arm.  ‘What did you say?’

She laughs and looks a bit embarrassed.  ‘The day after the dinner party, he texted me saying how it was really nice to meet everyone, especially Anna…

I’m Anna.

‘… and could he have your number.’

I’m slightly lost for words.  Ten days have elapsed since said dinner party and it’s the first I’ve heard of this.  As for the guy, he must have got fed up of waiting for my number because, just the other day, he’d sent me a Facebook message.

I laugh and do fish out of water for a bit.  ‘I’m…’

Surprised?  Confused?  Baffled?  It obviously hasn’t occurred to her that I might have been hoping to hear from the guy.

She looks perplexed.

‘I’m just….’ I laugh again.  ‘It’s just that most of my female friends would have probably let me know, like, straightaway…?!!’

‘Well, I wanted to check that you were OK with me giving him your number first.’

Has she not heard of texting, ringing, or Facebook?  Or letter, or messenger or fucking carrier pigeon?!!!

‘What, tonight?’

‘Yes.’

‘Ah, OK.’ I strive for casual.  ‘Well, yes, I am.’

CC Image courtesy of Karl Watson on Flickr

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