I Just Called, To Say…

I mentioned to someone on Twitter that I had joined an online dating site but that in 7 months I had only sent 3 or 4 emails and they were responses to emails I had received.

I’ve always disliked online dating sites. I guess I just don’t like the fact that very few of the choices of answers you have are how I would answer the question and then there’s all those free text areas where you can write whatever you want, mental torture! I could complete the same questions every day and every day my answers would more or less be different depending on how my mood was when I answered them. A girl could read my profile today, think I am the worst match on planet earth then she might return in 2 months, read something else and think I am the one.

It’s all so clinical and cold. What most sites call a profile I’d call a CV/sales brochure which needs to be fine tuned to appeal to the market you want to attract, in most cases this will simply be members of the opposite/same sex who you think you could happily wake up with every morning for the next 30 or 40 years;  in other cases you might be a bit more selective and only be interested in 27 year old  blue eyed, red-headed vegans with cropped hair, tattoos on their neck with a penchant for Mozart’s operettas, Homer’s writings and 15 year old Islay malt. Online dating was meant for such selective people.

Once you have your online profile/CV/sales brochure done, you then just have to worry about that bloody initial email, 7 months later I’m still responding to my daily email of matches by logging on, adding a few people to my favourites section and then logging off as I tell myself that I’ll email someone tomorrow!

I’m always reminded of my first blind date, it was 1989. I had only been in London for a few months and The Evening Standard had only recently introduced a personals section. You placed an ad, got a premium rate number on which you left a voice message, people left messages and you dialled in and listened. I remember thinking I’d be happy if I got 1 reply and waited 2 days before dialling in for the first time as I was afraid of finding I had none.

I can still remember the giddy feeling I had when I dialled in and the robotic voice told me I had 17 messages. 17 fucking messages I thought, SEVENTEEN! That excitement was short lived, by the time I had listened to all 17 messages I also realised that only 3 people had actually replied to my ad. Yes, 1 girl had left me 15 messages over 2 days however I was too scared to contact her to see if she was as keen in person.

I called both the others, we chatted for a while and I arranged dates with both of them, it was quite exciting. The first one I remember, the second one I don’t, partly because the first date was so memorable. We met in a pub on Kensington High Street, I remember it was raining as I had an umbrella with me. She was American and a few years older than me. She worked as a costume designer in some theatre, was vegan, liked cats, the Counting Crows, Scarface, Scotland and poetry.

Everything seemed to be going well but as time went on, and drinks were drunk, things started going weird. Initially she’d said she didn’t smoke, then kept telling me she wanted a cigarette. When I asked her if she wanted me to buy her some she said no as she only wanted one; if she had a packet she’d smoke them all. Then she got up, to go to the toilet I thought but when she returned she told me that there was a couple sitting at the other side of the pub who were smoking Benson & Hedges. She asked me if I’d go and ask them for a cigarette as that was the brand she liked and they were only ones smoking it. Reluctantly I did not once but twice but when she asked me a 3rd time to ask them I went outside and bought a packet of 10 from a newsagents which resulted in an argument as she insisted she wasn’t a smoker so didn’t want a packet.

The more she drank the more erratic she became and at one point I almost did a runner while she was in the toilet. However I couldn’t bear to bring myself to doing such a thing and so we stayed in the pub till closing time. When we left she said she had had a great time and wanted to know when we could meet again. I remember thinking to myself, Never, I never want to see you again! but I had no way of saying something like that so in my drunken stupor I thought I had managed to come up with a nice way to say it, I told her that I was quite busy with work and wouldn’t be free for about 6 or 7 weeks but that once I was free I’d get in touch.

I admit it, I figured she’d think 6 or 7 weeks? He’s not that keen so I guess I won’t hear from him again. With that thought I pretty much forgot about her until about 7 or 8 weeks after that night. I was woken from a deep sleep at 3am by the phone ringing (pre-mobile phone days) I remember blearily saying hello and then getting a torrent of abuse in response that started with, “You fucking bastard! If you had no intention of calling me why didn’t you just say so instead of making me wait 7 weeks?” The few seconds it took to wake up and place the words and the American accent together and realise it was the Evening Standard girl felt like hours, let me tell you!

I apologised to her, admitted I had been cowardly and blamed it on inexperience. By this time I was wide awake so I found myself chatting to her but when the conversation dried up I asked her how her cat was. Now, on our date in the pub we’d had a bit of a disagreement over cats because while in Scotland I had grown up with a house cat who very seldom went outside. This girl however insisted that as cats were essentially lions, who were wild animals, it was cruel to keep them indoors and made a point of shouting at me that they were BORN FREE TO ROAM FREE!!

She told me she was concerned about the cat as it wasn’t eating properly and so I asked if she had tried switching brands of food as I knew my old cat wouldn’t eat anything other than Whiskas (I’m sure they put cat crack in it as he would rather starve than eat anything else) When I said this she started ranting about she didn’t feed meat to her cat as she was a vegan and wouldn’t have meat in the house, not even for the cat. Fair enough, I said but what about the dried food, don’t they contain meat too? This is when she replied with the line that finally got to me. I don’t feed her that either, it’s too expensive, she said I feed her beans and pulses instead.

Well, that was it. It wasn’t big of me but I remember telling her she was fucking crazy and that lions were born free to roam free to eat meat and not fucking lentils and baked beans and that was why the cat wasn’t eating and that it was because she was so crazy that I had never called her back and I never would and with that I hung up the phone, went back to sleep and never heard from her again.

It was an interesting first blind date but certainly a date from hell and possibly the explanation as to why online dating ultimately freaks me out. I look back and think that perhaps I should have done a runner from the pub when I had the chance but if I had done so I’d probably have a more boring first blind date story to tell!

In actual fact I remember the Standard ad was an interesting experience as I met quite a few people from it; one of the women who replied actually worked in the same office as I did, she went for lunch every day with my supervisor. We flirted at most work functions but nothing ever happened, my supervisor pretty much assured me she’d have me fired if I got involved with her friend but the reality was I was more scared of the husband finding out if something had happened.

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