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I can't stand (other people) up for falling down

I had a first date arranged this evening. Quite low key; a quiet early evening drink on the edge of Soho with Olive, a Tinder match. Olive seemed bright, funny, interesting and attractive. A similar age, with children older than mine and a sense of humour all her own. We've been chatting for a week or two, not intensively, but a few times most days.  I know, deep inside, that I’m not entirely over “The One”, who I’ve loved and lost months ago but still ache for at inopportune moments, like most of the time that I'm awake. But she’s never coming back, so if only to prove to myself that I’m not going to become a complete recluse and spend every evening sitting on the sofa in my pants, spooning lard into my mouth from a giant tub while tears course silently down my cheeks, I’ve arranged this and a couple of other dates. You never know. I might meet someone nice. 

It won’t be Olive though. Two hours before the appointed time, I received a text:

Now this isn’t the end of the world. Pulling out is her prerogative. No sniggering at the back, please. I’ve had plenty of cold feet myself, but normally manage to conquer my fears because once you’ve gone through the swiping, matching, chatting and arranging, the date itself is the reward. Unless, obviously, their profile pictures are only headshots. When will I learn?

But it’s a disappointment nevertheless. I’d prepared myself as best I could.  Popped by the venue earlier, to check it was open and still appropriate.  Chosen that rare outfit that's perfect for both work and a date, despite the humidity this week.  Even, just in case but without expectation, underwear from the presentable side of the drawer rather than the "Please god don't let me be hit by a bus in the pelvis today" side.  Happily anticipating a glass or two of wine at the end of the day with somebody who'd made me laugh, at least in text form.   And all for nowt.  She hasn't even read my reply, which I hope was sympathetic and kind.  She's probably out tonight with someone younger and more hench.  Meh.  Shame, though.  A date's a big deal for me, even though it may not sound like it.

I've been cancelled before, of course.  This may not come as a surprise.  A couple of years back; when I was dating in a spirit of earnest and relentless hope; Mary from Tinder and I exchanged a few messages over the weekend and arranged a date for Wednesday evening.  Time, location, even what we'd be drinking.  This was Sunday.  I'd then gone out.  Came back to a surprising message... 

Mary told me it was "odd that I'd been online all night...:

Despite her predilection for txtspk and complete inability to distinguish between a possessive adjective and a contraction of you are, let alone identify the past participle of send, I didn't want to let this go.  I'd been out, and had barely looked at my phone.  

I know this, because I'd spent the evening in Upper Street sinking a couple of bottles of wine with a delightful Irish Yoga 'n' Sailing First Date.  We weren't each other's type at all but had got on famously, enjoyed a lively evening drinking and jabbering, and had kissed goodbye outside the bar, in friendly fashion & mutual understanding of *like but no spark*.  Or marriage, as some call it, except miles away from consummation.  The following morning she texted me about her dream that I'd pushed her into a shop doorway and done something both immensely unspeakable and outrageously pleasurable to her; but that's a whole other story.  Except it's not.  Because dreams don't count, even if they belong to somebody else.

So I lied, and told Mary I'd been having dinner with friends.  That there may have been wifi and I might have been automatically connected to it, but that conversation and consumption had been the order of the day.  That my phone had been in my pocket all evening.  All completely true, except for the dinner bit, and the misuse of the plural of friend.  New friend that I never saw again. Yes it was a date, but nothing happened, either real or implied.  I was single.  Should I have felt guilty?  Perhaps I should.  I wasn't ready to give up all other friendships just yet, Safety wink.

The reply was long.  Published in parts, like a Charles Dickens novel.  But with less frenzied jostling at the quayside for the next instalment.  Do I like Dickens?  Yes, but not on a first date.  Dad joke. 

It was aggressive and accusative in parts.  It may well have been entirely justified in its allusions towards men.  The collective pain of Mary and her friends, associates, and people she'd seen on daytime television was mentioned.  It was full of dark portent.  It rambled, not unlike this paragraph, but with a sharper edge.  That friends were all very well but Tinder matches were here and now.  The fourth part ended with the words:

I'd already started a reply.  To parts one & two.  A careful, dignified reply, I hoped.  Cognisant that we have all been burned, can be wary, may still hurt.  That I was in a good place, and needed to start relationships in the spirit of happiness rather than suspicion.  Choosing words carefully, trying to find a balanced response, all in the space of a whole seven minutes.  When suddenly the next message pinged in, mid-sentence...

Later, much later, I had to reassure myself that the only person who can see if you're typing on WhatsApp is the person you're typing a message to.  It's true, nonbelievers.  Rest assured.  I'd only been replying to Mary, but it did raise the question of what other people see on Whatsapp.  So now you know, or probably already did.

At the time, it freaked me the fuck out.

If you're me, and a bit verbose, finding the correct words is quite important.  Even if those words are suggesting that perhaps we should just leave it there.  Because alarm bells are sounding. Big, needy, bright, red alarm bells.  Maybe it's anxiety, mine or hers.  That's likely.  Maybe I don't type quickly enough. That's probable.  Maybe it's because she has a collection of scary knives and duct tape.  I don't even want to consider the odds.  Because somebody scrutinising my actual movements in real time before I've even met them doesn't leave me in my happy place.  Perhaps not rocket science.

Mary and I never met.  I'll probably never meet Olive either, though I'll send her a Losers' Club™ message tomorrow, because we can all get the jitters, and I'd like to know she's OK.  Unless no blue ticks. In which case, she's definitely gone younger and more hench.  Or dropped her phone in a river.

But I'm glad she was polite enough to tell me beforehand.  Thanks Olive, for your interaction and your manners.  I'd never have got around to writing this otherwise.  Because I'm out tomorrow too.  I don't feel like going out, if I'm honest, but I'm not standing anybody up.  No way.


  1. you've just sent out warning bells to lots of people on the other end of your texts - you might well just be lying.
    Don't do that dammit - don't lie to spare someones feelings - it's so disingenuous.

  2. Great post. For what it's worth, you did absolutely nothing wrong with either of those two dates. It's sort of accepted that, when online dating, it's unlikely that any person is only speaking with only one other. I've seen profiles boasting of maintaining seven, eight or even more conversations at one time (which would be exhausting!).

    It sounds like with Mary you got a pretty lucky escape from someone who was pretty needy and would forever have been suspicious of your actions and motivations. Don't change things!!!


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