Mon Dieu! What a nightmare!
Before I went to the convent for my little vacation from internet dating I made an appointment. The whole exchange was super easy. OK - the guy was a little too old for me perhaps (have we been here before?), but not as old as Lettuce Man. It boiled down to ‘Your profile and pics sound and look nice’ from him, and a not quite so effusive response from me, but I was intrigued by the laconic three sentence description of himself. And then ‘Shall we meet?’ from him. 'Not immediately possible,' I said. He said ‘No problem. Let’s meet as soon as you get back.’ How easy was that? Date sorted with none of the usual same-old, same-old preamble.
Upon my return from the convent, I emailed in the morning to check it was still on – two weeks is plenty of time to forget or change your mind after all. No response. By the time I got home from work there was still no reply. So, since I was un peu fatiguee, I dropped on the sofa, switched on the telly and had forty winks, but something possessed me to check my emails half an hour before the time of the date; he’d finally answered. Of course, he was going to be there! He was really looking forward to it! He had been thinking of nothing else for the past two weeks! And here was his mobile number! By this time, I was not in date mood. Let's face it - how often am I? Still, blergh, uh, the over-abundance of Tigger-like exuberant exclamation marks made me feel I shouldn't ruin his day; if he was going to make the effort to be there – his journey was far longer than mine – and since noblesse oblige, I’d better make an appearance. So I texted him I’d be there a little late, smeared on some alluring lippy and added the customary spray of Soir de Paris.
The venue was a coffee/shop/wine bar/eaterie place. He was instantly recognisable as I walked in, not because he looked anything like his photo, but because he was the only solitary middle-aged bloke there. Sister Therese, who was my old English teacher, frequently lamented my lack of descriptive ability, and I'm afraid nothing has changed over the years. I’m stumped as to how to describe his face. But I’ll give it my best shot; superimpose a giant red spider’s web on a lard-covered sack of potatoes and you’ve kind of got the picture. In front of him were the remains of a pint of Guinness.
He offered me a drink (mine was a coffee) and bought himself another Guinness. And then, dear followers, began the long, slow torture. I swear I have never worked so hard. There was a reason for his laconic profile; he had next to nothing to say and, even when pushed, cajoled, encouraged, had only one topic - his local hostelry and inmates thereof and even that was all monosyllabic. Now, you may have noticed I’m not someone who struggles with talking bollocks and networking, so I carried on valiantly doing the decent thing by trying to bring him out of himself. After all, I’ve done psychotherapy courses! I am Anna Freud, see me roar. Lord! The effort! The labour! I could feel every sinew, cartilage, vein and artery start to calcify which all culminated in some kind of weird flashback or maybe a flashforward, I don't know – a vision of all my teeth cascading into my cappuccino.
I was desperate, desperate I tell you, to leave, but years of etiquette training made me offer to buy him the quid pro quo beverage. He went for another Guinness. And he would shortly be driving back to his house a good hour away. Ping! PING! PING! PING! As I sat down again, I realised what had made my teeth fall out. The answer was as plain as the W.C. Fields nose on his face.
He was the carbon copy of my ex husband - in looks, personality and drinking habits. Why hadn’t I seen it immediately? I struggled on for another fifteen minutes, and then I really, really couldn’t do it anymore – I thought I might have to fish out the empty Grab Bag of Walker’s crisps I had in my coat pocket and start panting into it. I made up a crap excuse about not wanting to be wandering around alone in the city centre at night and said I had to go.
He came outside with me and said he would really like to see me again because... we seemed to have so much in common! Erm, WHAT? Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Don't laugh. Don't shriek. Don't be cruel. Deep breaths.
And then I just couldn’t be arsed for a second longer; I told him I couldn’t possibly meet him again because he reminded me too much of my ex husband. Yes, I did. ‘There’s no need for that to be a barrier,’ he said amiably, taking my hand in his. ‘After all, you fell in love with him once.’
I was on the point of gagging by now. Yes, once I did. When he was a fun, interesting, nice-looking, go-getting, adventurous young man, which was before he too discovered the local pub on a nightly basis and became somebody I no longer recognised.
Lock up the drinks cabinet, Kate.