The Recce, The Date and The...

Reading about myself in a magazine was a bit of a novelty. Sure unless you’re Kim Kardashian, or some overegged minor celeb, of flimsy entertainment TV fame; it’d be novelty for anyone. Oh wait; I kind of said the same thing twice, didn’t I?

But I write about other people all the time. Sure they’re not usually named, but often, usually, they know who they are when reading back my internal judgements, and inner ‘what I really think of yous’.

For the most part I enjoyed my Blind Date being printed in Time Out last week. Mostly because it had gone so well:

“I was relieved, she was very attractive,” said The Blind Date, which is the kind of review dreams are made of for an insecure ego-oxymoron like myself.

“We had instant chemistry.” He said, and as I read, I nodded. We had.

Friends of mine begun to joke:

“If you get married you’ll have to get it framed!”

They said, cutting out the article to slip into their own purses, to show as many friends and work colleagues as possible in a bid for ultimate embarrassment. It was sickening of course and I laughed it off. But, the side of my brain more taken up with rom-coms and women’s magazines, had to wonder.

So I was enjoying my 15 minutes and the dates, which followed had been made all the sweeter knowing that he’d given me such a glowing review, after the first. We’d admitted to each other that there was nothing to worry about come the following Tuesday morning hand out of the magazine.

By the time I’d read the article we were actually heading on our third date. We’d beaten Time Out to the tube stops with our second. He’d taken me for dinner in Little Venice and then to a comedy show.

It was kind of perfect. He’d ticked off my ‘Big Three’: Food, Laughter and Initiative. Oh and **Ding Ding**, he’d made the bonus round with wine!

The last of my ‘Big Three’ being especially important, he’d taken the lead, made the effort, booked the table and paid for the tickets. Moves like that show a girl, nay, they show a person, that you’re wanted: Worth making the effort for.

To quote him, again; “we had instant chemistry”. The night was long; there was a lot to talk about, a lot to drink and eventually there followed less than gentlemanly kisses. We both wanted to see each other again.

Then he told me the next day that it was my turn to plan a date. So plan I did.

I’m not sure if it’s come off before now. I’m not sure if anyone’s picked up on it, so just in case, I’m going to let you in on a little thing I try to keep a secret: I am a complete Dork!

I am hopelessly uncool and the early phases of dating do nothing to change that status.

So when I planned the third date I did everything I could to fool The Blind Date into thinking I was someone with a little more street cred than little old me. (Although I realise I’m doomed as I just used the term Street Cred…)

On that note, I like to think that I know London’s Soho kind of well. Three years of living in the city and two of working in and around the TV industry and I’ve managed to pick up on the back streets, the bars, the good coffee shops, the great Thai food, the clubs to avoid, the sex shops to giggle at, the short cuts, tourist spots to steer clear of and some great restaurants almost hidden from the naked eye by their bland and discreet exterior.

He, The Blind Date, on the other hand was not so au fait. So I figured this was my card.

Mulling this over with a bottle of wine, the flat mate (my ‘boyfriend’) and her boyfriend, a plan was quickly formed. Steak and cocktails being the basis, which was decided unanimously as; the root to any guy’s heart. Simple.

I sent a casual text that night to ‘lock him in’ for the Friday:

“Steak Friday?”

Ever so articulate I know and dripping with cool, right?

Wrong. Next an outfit needed to be scouted, tables had to be booked and I decided a recce was probably wise.

Yeah I know. I’m not proud and I could barely water down the decision by claiming to be mildly in the area that day. But I decided to map out a route from my chosen steak house, Flat Iron on Denmark St, to BYOC on the edge of Covent Garden.

I even dropped in to say, ‘Hi’ to the bartender at the cocktail club, since on the face of it BYOC is just a juice bar. A juice bar with a secret basement serving cocktails, which surely, only the coolest Londoners are privy to.

As he appeared on Denmark Street amongst the music shops, record stores and bars gradually crowding out onto the pavement with suits, eager for the weekend, my phone buzzed to alert me that our table was ready. Everything was going perfectly. My hair was still full, my makeup fresh and the new dress from Topshop, which I couldn’t afford, was clinging perfectly to my hips.

As we sat, cosy lighting, quirky cutlery and double gins eased us back into easy conversation. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. I’d missed him, perhaps, and I couldn’t wait for the night ahead.

I hadn’t let on to where we were heading next, so all through dinner he played the guessing game, but never sussing me out.

Leaving the restaurant, full of gorgeous steak and a little giddy from gin and flirtation, I told him we had to make a pit stop before our final destination. The guessing game recommenced: Shows, Exhibitions, Gin Tasting, Cocktail Making…

“…Fetish Bar?” He asked gingerly as I paused to get my bearings, and resist the lure of Google Maps, right outside a sex shop in the middle of Soho. I grinned at him just long enough for him to blush.

“No” I said, finally, and we marched on and straight into a Tesco’s metro.

“This is where we’re going!” I announced.

He burst out laughing; exactly the reaction I hoped for.

“Are we getting a microwave meal for two?” He joked.

I just kept quiet and lead him round to the spirits isle.

“Pick something.” I said and we grinned at each other. He’d guessed it and was suitably excited.

With a LARGE bottle of Bombay Sapphire in hand, I guided him to BYOC, the juice bar with a secret.

 

I felt like the coolest kid in class, the recce had paid off. We sat and proceeded to let the room tilt a little more with each passing glass. Somehow our bartender turned gin into an entirely new delicious flavour six or seven times over. With each new glass put in front of us, the closer we sat, and of course, the more we relaxed.

As I stumbled back from the bathroom, realising it’s true; you really have no idea how drunk you are until you have to do regular and unsupervised activities, like taking yourself to the toilet, I saw my Blind Date beaming at me.

“What’s up?” I asked.

He’d gotten talking to one of the women on the next table.

“I just explained how we met and this lady” He gestured clumsily. “This lady thought that we were already an established couple!”

For some reason this was far more amusing to us than it actually is in reality and as I reviewed the sort of… pride on his face I couldn’t help but think; “if you get married you’ll have to get it framed!”

We stayed long after our two-hour reservation allowed and drank our way through far more than our 4 to 5 cocktails of which our time slot suggested. We befriended the bartender, the owner and his girlfriend and there was even the talk of sharing a cab with our new friends south of the river.

But the alcohol got the better of me and it seemed I had to be escorted home and persuaded to stop drinking.

“I can’t let you go home alone” he said. And in my lopsided spinny state I agreed. Gin grins all round.

We fell asleep on the bus and on each other, but luckily, woke before my stop. We crept in like teenagers before falling quickly and heavily back to sleep.

In the morning everything hurt. I felt terrible and suspected I looked much the same. I hid my face as he stirred beside me. The classic awkward good mornings followed: Tea, painkillers, water and offers of my shower.

“Do you fancy breakfast I asked?”

But he told me he had to get back and soon after I was showing him to the door. A brief kiss and he was gone.

There was a strange feeling in my stomach and this thought, which I pushed behind my ears, along with my un-brushed hair, as I watched him walk down my road and away.

The day that followed was filled with texts and in jokes, but something was nagging at me. Before he’d insisted that I plan the next date that we find room in our diaries to see each other again, but this time there was nothing. Mild flirtation, sure and a steady stream of communication. I was over thinking.

But then:

It’s funny. After all this time of dating and reviewing singles events and occasionally handing out tentative advice on the matters of love and relationships it seems that I know nothing.

“I don’t see it going further.”

 

…The Break Up

 

“I don’t see it going further.”

He wrote preceding this with how much fun he’d had spending time with me, something I thought I already knew, but now he wanted to quit.

“Good luck” he’d offered as a consolation, at the end of the straight, to the point text message.

I felt the same strangeness in my stomach and thought that thought for the second time.

‘I’m never going to see him again’

It was a real thought. Before, I’d written it off; a silly over reaction to the half-hearted brief kiss he’d left me with.

I was floored.

I walked home telling myself it was only three dates. Yelling at my inner daydreamer for getting overly excited and carried away. Cursing myself for believing I was anything but naïve.

There was only one person I wanted to talk to and I knew she was waiting for me back at our apartment, but I also knew I wouldn’t make it.

I called her (my boyfriend) and spilled everything. We’d not yet caught up on the third and final date and with each new detail she said in wonder, “I can’t believe him”.

As I got closer to our flat she revealed that she was in the bath and before my shoulders had a chance to sag at the thought of being on my own she answered them with;

“But I’ve just put a bikini on so that you can come in.”

I couldn’t keep the belly laugh from rolling out and as I marched down our road I thought how ridiculous I must look with a tear stained face and this manic, wide, gapping smile. Thank God for her.

For a third date break up it sure was serial.

As I sat on our toilet, with my best friend in the tub, we constructed a reply. I asked him simply what had happened.

Not the blog or the six-year age gap, but just a ‘feeling’.

Possibly the same one I had held in my stomach as I watched him leave.

 

The worst part of a break up is those few days when you know, if he asked, you would take him back. The second worst part is those few days later when you see the relationship for what it really was. The Blind Date and I had shared just three dates. Three dates does not a relationship make, but yet, I was sad.

The third worst part is when you realise you’re getting over him. I’ve had almost a week to get used to the idea that I won’t be framing that Time Out article, and I’m ok with it. I’m not sure why, perhaps we can just call it a ‘feeling’.