My name is Catherine and I’m an internet dater.
I’m one half of the pair of intrepid singles who will be regaling you with tales of our Match.com exploits. The other is Amy, she will introduce herself soon enough…
To be fair, I’ve only been on one internet date thus far, but it was a date and it was with someone I met off the internet, so I don’t think I can be done for perjury.
It was with no small amount of trepidation that I embarked on Internet Date #1. My head was filled with cautionary tales (I’m sure Amy will elaborate on these in due course…) and memories of bad dates gone by. My previous first-date highlights include (but are not limited to):
- The guy who insisted on balancing his full beer bottle atop the box-shaped napkin holder on the edge of our table (this box was about the height of your average toaster). He refuted my claims that this might be less than sensible, then proceeded to knock said bottle off its precarious perch and into the handbag of the lady dining at the next table.
- The one who came back to mine for a coffee and asked if he could smoke. Upon being told he could smoke out the window, and confirming the window opened outwards, he shoved said window without opening the catch. Cue: blood everywhere; mild panic; sneaking suspicion that this might actually warrant an A&E visit; dawning realisation that this was actually going to end in tears and at a hospital; refusal by all taxi drivers to let us blood-spattered, slightly hysterical drunkards aboard; eventual arrival at A&E; interrogation by receptionist relating to whether or not I’d stabbed him…
- The charmer who got really cross with me because I’d had the audacity to arrive early (apparently the man was ‘meant to arrive first’…) Weeks later he dumped me using that immortal phrase ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, but that’s a whole other story.
I’ve not actually been on that many first dates. Most highlights of my romantic history begin with variations of the ‘well, I bumped into him in the pub and we got kinda drunk and yeah, now we’re seeing each other’ opening act. But oh how times are a-changing… The pubs I frequent these days aren’t exactly well known for entertaining a plethora of eligible bachelors. So having taken advice from the incorrigible Amy, I decided to venture out into the realms of The Online …. Enter Match.com! At a later date, I’ll fill you in on why I settled on Match (as opposed to any of the many other dating websites out there), but you’ll have to wait. Instead, I’m going to give you a summary of Date #1
A solid 6/10. There were a few clichés in there. Under ‘likes’ he’d cited “hanging out with nieces and nephews” (translation: “pick me, pick me, I’m fun yet ready to settle down”), “wood fires” (cringe) and “the start of spring” (double cringe), but on the whole, nothing screamed freak at me. He could differentiate between ‘there’ and ‘their’, he wasn’t 47 yet looking for a very attractive female between the ages of 18 and 26, and we appeared to have a fair few interests in common.
2. The Photos
Three in number, all different (surprising just how many men have multiple identical photos on their profiles), none featuring fish / wild animals / bathroom mirrors.
One was the obligatory ‘holding small child with small child’s small head cropped out of picture’ shot (a prerequisite when one has banged on about one’s love of hanging out with one’s siblings’ spawn in one’s dating profile). The second pic was a rather awkward pose of him leaning over an older lady who was sporting a very fetching bright blue satin shirt. Mum? Older sister? Boss? Ex-wife? Who knows?! The third picture was side on, and looked like a completely different guy. In it he was pointing and laughing at something. Standard Catalogue Pose ™.
3. The research
By trade I am a researcher. It’s what I do. Of course I’m going to apply the tools of my trade to potential dates. Please don’t judge me (and if you want any tips, feel free to get in touch…)
On this occasion, research resulted in a Twitter account (private), verification that yes, he was in fact a teacher in the town he claimed to live and teach in, and an utterly hideous, cringesome feature in a national newspaper. The premise of this column is that each week, a reader waxes lyrical about why they lurrrrve this particular paper. The column featured Date #1. My date used the line ‘I regard the paper as my “natural home”’. I did a little bit of sick in my mouth as I typed that. I know it was my date and not someone with the same name / similar appearance, because he used the mystery-older- lady-resplendent-in-blue-satin photo (but cropped, so that it just showed his face).
The article was published in 2015 – my super-sleuth credentials enabled me to deduce that this meant his photo was at least 2 years old… I didn’t do my research until after arranging lunch – rookie error – and set off for my hot date with the words of Ammi ringing in my ears: “Don’t mention the newspaper thing!”
4. The date itself
- No neck tattoos. This is relevant. I am currently being bombarded with messages from a man with very nice eyes and a very not-nice neck tattoo that says (no word of a lie) ‘tattoo’ in cursive script…*
- Reading a paper (therefore can read) – he folded it up and put it on the floor before I could see if he was visiting his ‘spiritual home’…
- No awkward silences (apart from when I said I didn’t really think cricket counted as a sport, and instead should be relegated to the ranks of non-sports like snooker and darts. In my defence, he claimed to be ‘devastated’ every time the cricket season ended…) Oh and there was another awkward silence after I told him in no uncertain terms that the Stereophonics definitely could not be classed as a Scottish band.
- He was the height he claimed to be. Well, I think he was – I’m not all that good with heights, but he was taller than me (grasping at straws much?)
- He bore only a passing resemblance to his (presumably decade-old / highly flattering) photos. Hey, I’m not one to judge. My own photos aren’t exactly representative of what I look like all of the time… But I think you’d recognise me if you were looking for me in a pub (especially if I was wearing – as I awkwardly realised to be the case – the same outfit I was wearing in my profile picture… Like I planned it that way specially). As it was, I walked round, couldn’t see him, so retired to the bar and ordered a soft drink. Meanwhile, I texted him to say where I was perched, and then waited. And waited. And waited some more. I then felt obliged to set off looking for him again. I eventually recognised him. It was his dreamy expression as he lovingly caressed his paper than gave it away…
- He wouldn’t go up to the bar. I think he thought I might steal his coat or something. Or maybe going to the bar was my punishment for being late. I had to go up to order food and then drinks. He counted out the exact change for his…
- He ate his meal in about 90 seconds. It was a roast dinner, so no mean feat. Maybe I was talking more than him, or maybe he eats unusually quickly. Maybe he was desperate to escape. Who knows? What I do know is that as I ate my own food, he fired really thought-provoking questions at me (“So, what team sports do you play?” “So, what route does the train take from here to London? Does it, perhaps go through Richmond?”) This thrilling line of questioning was interspersed with some acute observations (“It’s quite unusual these days to find a nice pub on a main road… Especially one with a carpark.” “There are various routes out of this town.)
Thank the lord for Yorkshire puddings.
- He subtly corrected my Scottish pronunciation. I say subtly, but it wasn’t really all that subtle at all. His modus operandi was to repeat a word I’d used recently and emphasise the ‘correct’ way to say it… So I would say: “I bought this top out of Pree-mark”, he would say: “I like it. Bright blue is my favourite colour… I haven’t been into Pryyyyyy-mark for ages because I’ve been too busy watching cricket.”**The first time he did it, thought I’d imagined it. The third time had some bearing on the fact that I headed to the bar (also for the third time) and on this occasion, for a well-needed glass of wine. He was probably just practising his classroom-leadership skills on me.
Oh, and on the subject of teaching, when I returned with my vino (and a third pint of lemonade for him), we had a particularly great conversation that went something like this:
Me: “It must be more time consuming marking essays in a posh school, I bet they use big words that you have to look up.” (Yep, I was on fire with my opening gambits!)
TeacherMan: (frowning) “Actually, I think you’ll find I know more words than my students.”
Me: (not exactly gunning for an argument, but willing to embark on one, should the opportunity arise) “I meant what with online thesauruses, they must stick big words in.”
TM: (pertinaciously**) “I know ALL the words.”
There are no words.
- My pissed-offedness increased exponentially when he a) expressed disbelief that I’d attended Edinburgh University (“But isn’t that a really good university?”), b) stated rather pompously that “sometimes one has to forsake one’s beliefs if one wishes to get ahead in life”, and c) suggested that Coldplay were actually quite good.
Eff. Right. Off.
- He asked if I usually ‘double drink’… I’d like to point out that when he asked this question, I was drinking a small medium glass of wine (might as well face it; nobody who knows me would believe it was a small) and a pint of soda water. A. Pint. Of. Soda. Water. Maybe he thought I was drinking a pint of vodka alongside my Malbec… I guess he wouldn’t know, not having been to the bar! I resisted the urge to order myself a large whisky – a triple-drink-chaser as it were, and quietly seethed.
What I learned
Never, ever meet a first date for a meal. Go for a coffee. Thinking about it, don’t ever order tea. Order coffee as coffee tastes okay if you drown it in milk to cool it down (well, okay-er than tea does). Screw that. Order a cold drink. A small, cold drink. Swiftly-consumed beverages make for a sharp getaway.
Over to you, Amy….
* As unlikely as this sounds (especially given my undying love of searching online for bad tattoos), I promise this is true. I messaged him asking him if his tattoo said ‘tattoo’ (it clearly did but I needed confirmation). He replied saying “yes I have a tattoo”. So I said “What does it say?” and he replied “Butterfly”…
**Example conversation, the chat wasn’t quite that bad…
*** Love an online thesaurus, me.