The other week I got an email telling me that I was a runner-up in Elle magazine’s Talent Contest. I may have jumped up and down, resulting in some damage to my office chair, and definitely on hearing I will be mentored by one of the judges next year.
Elle’s topic was My Rebellion. It didn’t specify fiction or non-fiction, so I loosely fictionalised my one internet date this summer. It was not a success.
My ‘rebellion’ was both a total breakdown of manners – I lied and said I had to do grocery shopping. Small children have been more convincing – and the decision that, rather than stick at it until I had someone to go to weddings with, I would rather never go out with anyone ever again. I realise writing about online dating is as old as the hills (sample hills born c 2005) but I’ve never been this politely rude to anyone.
I deleted my account on the way home.
Two days later, I went out for dinner with an old friend and, marvellously, we are still going out to dinner.
by Kat Brown
If two people have failed to mesh more spectacularly than Jim (32, creative designer from Highbury, same smile in four photographs) and I (31, solicitor from Tooting, breezy holiday snaps) there should be a prize. A prize, and then perhaps a party with a lot of consolatory booze.
We had met after two weeks of lukewarm internet chat and I was a sip into my first drink before I realised I was entirely out of synch with what was going on. There’s some sort of spark when you meet people, right? Anyone. Builders. Bosses. Jim and I had not brought the spark.
“What do you think of – ” “Does this all – sorry!” We talked over each other like incompetent builders laying tiles.
Jim spoke so quietly. And – oh, oh God, about vegans. He wasn’t a vegan, was he? No, we were on to pigs now. I started trying to ‘engage’, gesticulating like a deranged weather presenter and laughing in a forced trill I didn’t recognise.
“So, exactly – ” Whispering Jim’s voice went again, squashed by a blare of music from the bar as he mumbled about spinning, or possibly spoons. God this was terrible. I was a terrible date. It wasn’t his fault that I had no idea how to behave in the absence of chemistry. I sneaked a look at the clock above the bar. Seven thirty. Far too early to leave politely. I smiled and leaned forward, trying to do better.
“Ha ha ha!” (I hate myself.)
I had a vision of the next month, trying to do better for an endless parade of perfectly decent whisperers met on unappealing dating websites. Oh God. For what end, exactly? The Me on this date, and the one who usually plodded the Earth having quite a nice time could not co-exist. That was the worst sort of out of body experience.
Jim had paused mid-sip and was watching me nervously. To my surprise I realised I wasn’t out of body so much as out of chair, and reaching for my coat. Was I leaving? I couldn’t. Manners. My reputation on the internet.
A revelatory thought: screw the internet. I slid a tenner on the table, and nodded. “Jim, it was lovely to meet you, but I’m awful at this so I’m going to run. Cheerio.” I swept up my coat and bag, and walked out of the bar before I could scream an apology.
Running down the street, past commuters – so early still – and pairs on successful dates, I felt the wind snagging my hair, ruffling away my carefully-brushed fringe.
I felt a wave of shame at my manners, and then shrugged it off. If I’m going to be the worst date in London, then I may as well embrace it like a giant, magical cape.
Pulling out my phone, I deleted my dating profile, and then texted my flatmate. “Tonight’s was pigs and vegans. I’m going to die alone, prob of rudeness. Don’t care. It’s going to be brilliant.”