Here's the deal. I've been single since time immemorial. So, in an attempt to remedy my eternal singledom, and to get over my nauseatingly pathological fear of dates, I've decided to challenge myself. The challenge? To go on one first date a week for a year! So in 52 weeks time, I will have either found my Mr Right, or I'll stay forever Miss Write. This is what happens...

The Rules

Here are the rules to the 52 First Dates challenge...

1. A first date must be had once a week, EVERY week, for a year, that's 52 dates in 52 weeks.

2. Taking someone home after a drunken night on the cider does NOT count.

3. Second and third dates are allowed, I must continue first dates unless there are exceptional mitigating circumstances. For example, God forbid, the start of a relationship.

4. Each date must be blogged.

20 March 2012

Mr #41 - Pocket Prince

The preamble:
Mr #41 and I had been emailing on and off for a couple of weeks, and what I liked about him was even on email he sounded incredibly enthusiastic about everything, and showed great interest in my knitting, which of course is automatically going to endear me to someone as one essential criteria I have in my list of my perfect man is the willingness to model my often errantly-sized knitwear. Soon after we exchanged numbers, and a few equally as enthusiastic texts later, we sorted ourselves a cheeky wee coffee date.

The man:
Age: 28

Profession: Post-grad student and part time shop worker
Random factoid: Once played for the Pakistani national football team

The date:
We'd both ended up leaving our respective locations a little late, so there were mutual warnings of tardiness. When I arrived at Kentish time 10 minutes after our designated rendez vous time, my date was nowhere to be see, so I assumed the position just outside the station and busied myself with my mobile phone until he arrived. 

Twenty minutes later, he still hadn't turned up and to be honest, I'd mentally given him five more minutes before I buggered off. Then he rang.

Mr #41: Hey!
Me: Hey, where are you?
Mr #41: I'm at the station, where are you?
Me: Me too
Mr #41: I can't see you
Me: Well I'm here, right outside Kentish Town tube!
Mr #41: Why are you there?
Me: Because that's where we're meeting aren't we?
Mr #41: No. I said Chalk Farm...
Me: Oh. Shit. I'll get the bus then...
Turns out when I re-read my message back, it was Chalk Farm. And not just any Chalk Farm, CHALK FARM IN CAPITAL LETTERS! Well done CTS you utter organisational muppet. 

I hastily leaped on the bus and within 10 minutes I'd found him at the Roundhouse. So much for him being late! But when I turned up in a bluster of apologies, he was incredibly sweet and gracious and scampered straight off to sort us out with some hot caffeinated beverages. When he sat down again I had a proper chance to look at him and he was absolutely beautiful, like a hand-carved Bollywood hero. Albeit a very little one. He was miniature. Properly ickle. He must have been the same height as me and I estimated about half my weight, with teeny tiny hands and perfectly smooth finger nails that looked like shiny pink beetle shells. This man must've had a manicure. But he was all smiles and wavy black hair, and quite delightful! And boy, could he talk! 

He spent the first 20 minutes giving me a lecture on modern economics before we moved onto house prices, Sainsbury's, his hatred of mobile phones, earthquakes, the Gulf War and charities. He was a fascinating little fellow, and told me at length about how he had harboured aspirations of becoming a pilot for the Pakistani air force, but his dream was scuppered after someone slashed the back of his ankle and severed his achilles tendon in a fight two days before the medical. Having seen Hostel, I very nearly vommed on my own lap at that choice mental image.

The coffee soon evaporated and we both had other places to be, so we pottered off to the station to say our cheerios. Once at the station we shared a little hug goodbye and as I started to walk off he caught me with a 'oi' and held out his hand. A handshake goodbye? How curious! We went our separate ways and that was that. When I got in, he sent me a very sweet message saying he had a lovely time and he was sorry he didn't take flowers. I told him I was sorry I went to the wrong station, and he offered me another coffee another time.

Memorable Quotes:
'All these goth shops in Camden scare me'. I decided it probably wasn't prudent to mention my extensive heavy metal music collection and university CV as a goth in the rock society...

Events of note:
Seeing Mr #1 with his big red hooter walking in to the venue just as we were leaving. Awkward! Luckily he didn't see me...

The Verdict:
Well well well, Mr #41 was a little pocket-sized treat wasn't he? He was bright, bubbly, beautiful and was delightful company. But in truth he talked a hell of a lot, and I suspected that deep down we didn't have anything in common. He was also way too small for me, and although I could easily keep him as a little Borrower buddy of mine, that's not really why I'm going on dates. I have plenty of wonderful friends already. There needs to be that something there, and with Mr #41 sadly there wasn't. That said, I may take him up on that offer of a second coffee sometime, if only to see if he could fit on the miniature sofa I'm currently knitting. A fiver says he could...

16 March 2012

Mr #40 - Tweet to Woo?

The preamble:
I first met Mr #40 online on Twitter, he'd been someone who'd periodically pitched up in my timeline, we'd exchanged the odd tweet, and that was pretty much that. Then a month or so ago, for some reason which I can't quite remember, Mr #40 and I became embroiled in some team tweeting which largely involved poor Mr #40 being peer pressured into going on a date with me for the entertainment of a bunch of random women on Twitter who may or may not have known him in real life. 

Mr #40, all credit to him, took up the challenge, and we exchanged a few cursory emails and set the ball in motion for a date. Then Mr #39 happened, and Mr #40, having already read the blog, understandably got cold feet. But when Mr #39 didn't pan out to be my knight in shining armour, Mr #40 gracefully stepped back into the fold again, and the date was cemented.

The man:
Age: 40
Profession: Support worker and blogger
Random factoid: Used to be able to down a bottle of sweet Martini in 2 seconds. Where do you learn shit like that??? And why???

The date:
So, Mr #40 and I planned to meet on a Friday night after whatever the working week had to throw at us, and Mr #40 kindly suggested a venue near enough to my place of work that I'd be able to easily get there, but not so close that we'd be in the same room as a bunch of my co-workers, which is never the best idea for a first date. 

I was also pleased that prior to the date he had asked what sort of activities were 'off limits'. Too many inappropriate suggestions were at the forefront of my mind, but since he was a total stranger, I gently tried to rule out food (we all know my thoughts about eating on dates), ice-skating, zorbing and anything where I feared I might die (aside from the usual fear of meeting murderous strangers from t'internet. I think from the mere fact I'm writing this gives away the end of the story that Mr #40 isn't a murderer. Lucky me). 

Anyroad, along came the day of the date, alongside a clusterfuck of a Friday which nearly put pay to my dating plans a couple of times. After a brief cancellation and rapid rescheduling (you've got to keep them on their toes, right?), and then subsequent relocation to a dubious bar opposite my office thanks to a private party at the chosen venue, I finally met Mr #40. I literally had no idea what to expect of him, because I'd only ever seen his avatar on Twitter, which was of a handsome intellectual type, albeit a cartoon. The reality was similarly cartoony, somewhat more 'grumpy Glaswegian' than I'd expected. He was also older than my usual spattering of dates, and I suddenly felt oddly like I was on a date with a grown up rather than a peer, which was something I'm not sure I'm that comfortable with.

One thing I spotted very rapidly, was Mr #40 had a cracking set of facial expressions about him, almost hypnotically so, and he managed to pull a textbook face of disgust when talking about football. Conversation was a little slow to begin with, probably because the booze had not set in either side. But pretty soon things warmed up and we were chatting about all sorts of bullshit. What started out as talking about work soon evolved into chat about eating cat food, becoming a grandparent under 30, charities, art, school reports, Brits abroad, the use of swear words, carpets, eBay, Gibraltar and what an utterly bizarre choice of venue it was (I'd asked the name of the Mediterranean bar opposite and was directed to somewhere more like an ex pat working men's club on the main road in Vauxhall. Weird). 

A couple of drinks later, the post-work fatigue and the prospect of an early morning were setting in, and I gracefully declined the offer of a third beverage. I was all set to say our cheerios outside the bar whilst he hopped on the tube and I headed buswards, but at the last minute Mr #40 decided to get the bus with me which threw me somewhat. I had another half hour of unanticipated small talk out of my sleeve.

After I rather embarrassingly expressed my admiration for TFLs live bus updates, we got onto talking about books, especially the works of Roald Dahl. Mr #40, I know you're reading this now, it was Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts you should be buying on Amazon at midnight once you've finished that bottle of Martini, they're awesome. A couple of childhood anthologies later, it was finally time to head our separate ways, and I rather ungracefully had to sprint for my rapidly approaching bus so I wasn't at risk of being asked to have another drink somewhere closer to home.

Memorable Quotes:
I''ve been blogging since 2000 - I discovered the internet and drugs at the same time' 
'I've eaten cat food before'
'I always buy things I can't afford off eBay when I'm drunk. I once bought a book from the Folio Society for £700.'

Events of note:
Mr #40 trying to explain the 'menegerie' of different voices he has in his head, all of different nationalities, who tend to make themselves known when he cooks cuisines from different countries. One 'voice' of note was that of 'Luigi', Mr #40's Italian alter ego, who seems to knock up a ravioli in spectacularly zealous fashion. Is that normal???

The Verdict:
Now then, the verdict. On the face of it, I had a very entertaining albeit slightly short evening with Mr #40. He was entertaining, funny, and once he'd warmed up he was a good conversationalist. But I was very aware of our 9 year age gap throughout, and sadly for me there wasn't anything there one the attraction front, nothing at all. And I hate myself as I type that because he has since messaged me saying he found me 'utterly enchanting', which can only lead me to believe he is not only incredibly sweet, was trying to win me over into writing a positive review (well done there), but that he must've had that bottle of Martini before coming to meet me. And I hate myself even more by writing this as I've since seen that before our date he'd tweeted to say how nervous he was about going on a date, which is a feeling I don't tend to get these days, but reading that has taken me right back to my not-so-halcyon days of pre-date nervous-pukes. 

I'll probably come under fire for saying this, but I don't think I'll see Mr #40 again. And it is essentially because I think once the dating small talk was done, I genuinely don't think there's much common ground as a foundation, and I think to agree to meet him again would give the wrong impression. But Mr #40 thank you for being lovely company this evening, and although I'm not Miss Right for you, there will definitely be one out there for you, one who you can show your 'etchings' to. You know what I mean...

11 March 2012

Update on Mr #39

Howdy folks. Well, I think we all know how great I thought Mr #39 from last week was, and how much I was looking forward to meeting him again this weekend. So, rather than include this in a future post affecting another future date, I thought I'd let you all know how it went, as so many of you were kindly rooting for me.


I didn't meet him.

Why I hear you ask, since it went so well?

Beats me.

Since the date, there had been a couple of text messages, but all of my own instigation. He clearly wasn't a boy to banter, which is fair enough, as at least we'd have this Saturday to re-banter. But earlier in the week, I got a funny feeling that perhaps I had maybe got my hopes up a little too much too soon, which were further confirmed when I casually enquired if we were still on for Saturday, and I was met with radio silence. That old chestnut...

From past experience, I have learnt that when men don't want to reply to a message, ie to let you down or whatever, they opt to ignore you instead and hope that you just disappear. Why do they do that? It's not only hideously obvious, it's childish and rude. I wasn't going to disappear that easily. We had a lovely evening on the date, got on really well, and heck, I'd given up a whole Saturday day and night for this date #2, so I needed to know what was going on. That's only polite isn't it?

So late on Friday, I casually asked again as to whether we were meeting up, because if not, I would quite like to make alternative plans. Pretty swiftly he replied to apologise for the delay, but he'd been waiting to see if his dad was coming to London. As he was, he decided to cancel our date. It seems I'd inadvertently given him a get out clause, and there was no mention of rescheduling.

Game over.

I have no idea if his father was a genuine reason or not, I suspect that actually he's been going on other dates and found some younger, thinner, hotter models in place of yours truly, and you know what, I'm actually fine with that. Internet dating is ruthless. He could've dealt with things more tactfully, and I blame the Y chromosome for that. But I suppose what I'm not fine with is the fact that I had such a lovely evening with someone who couldn't have been more keen in person, and I foolishly let myself get my hopes up. And that is absolutely my fault rather than his. Perhaps it's because for the first time since starting 52 First Dates that I genuinely met someone that I felt a funny little spark with, and with that glimmering away in my sub-conscious, I let myself see beyond that one date and the chance that I might be able to quit 52 First Dates while I was ahead.

The world of internet dating really is a cut-throat one, and although I've known that for a while, I've not really experienced the wrong end of it yet. And bitter disappointment stings. Since I've been on 39 dates, I think I've been pretty bloody lucky. Everyone gets crushed romantically every now and again, some more than others, and of course it was always going to be on the cards for me sooner or later in going on so many dates. Hell, I'm surprised it hasn't happened more often! 

I won't lie, it didn't feel very nice, and of course I dealt with it in phenomenally mature style by getting embarrassingly wrecked. Funny how a skinful of Sauvignon Blanc takes the edge off, although I wouldn't recommend it, my hangover was brutal. But you know what? I'm a big girl, and I just need to suck it up, slap a grin on it and get back in the game. It was just one date, albeit a really good one. But there'll be more. Not everyone will want to see me again, just as I don't always want to see them again, so I just need to deal with it.

So the moral of the story is just to keep calm, and carry on dating.

...and I don't care what anyone else says, drowning one's sorrows does help.

06 March 2012

Catfish Strikes Back

Hello dear cherished readers of 52 First Dates. How are you all? Good? Lovely. So I’m writing this entry as means of an apology, as I have decided not to go on a date this week. The reason? Because I’m meant to be going on a second date with Mr 39 this Saturday. I know what I started out this dating challenge I proposed in a somewhat ruthless way that I would carry on with the first dates regardless of second and third dates. As it turns out, I don’t really like that idea at all, especially since Mr #39 was such a thoroughly lovely guy, and in the event that I should eventually come clean about my dating undertakings, I wouldn’t want to spoil things by having felt obliged to carry on my serial dating just because of some silly rule I made up myself to make the challenge more interesting. I know this feels like I’m being a bit of a party pooper, and maybe I am. But how would I feel if I knew he was carrying on dating in between our dates? Pretty shitty I guess, especially since things went so well on our first date, and I’d hate to do the same in return. And even if he does carry on dating, presumably I won’t know about it, so that’s fine, unlike here where it’s all terribly public. But fear not folks, if our second date doesn’t turn out well, I’ll go on two dates next week to make it up to y’all, can’t say fairer than that, no? But secretly (actually not so secretly) I hope I won’t have to.

But, in other news, remember the Catfish debacle of 2011? Well if you missed out on the weirdest experience of my dating life, perhaps you should catch up here. Or, if you can’t be arsed to read all that, here’s a potted version. In the third person, for some utterly irrelevant reason...

CTS meets Mr #2 online, and they embark on multitudinous chats and text exchanges.

CTS arranges many dates with Mr #2, but Mr #2 keeps cancelling slash standing her up.

Mr #2 arouses CTS’ suspicion, and through a bizarre chain of events involving sinister texts and a reflective perfume bottle, it turned out Mr #2 didn’t exist. Mr #2 is told under no uncertain circumstances to fuck off.

CTS posts vitriolic post and pictures on blog to expose the aforementioned Mr #2, aka Sebastian Pritchard-Jones

Detective friends identify the photos of the alleged Mr #2 as belonging to a Mr CT on Facebook.

CTS contacts CT about his stolen identity and freaks him the hell out.

CTS is then contacted by Miss D, who was on the verge of going away with Seb having embarked on a relationship with him, but after her mother’s suspicions were aroused that she’d never met him, stumbled across my blog. Miss D is understandably devastated, and invariably tells Seb to fuck off.

I think this is as far as you all know, yes? Okay.

Well whilst the latter part was going on, there were ongoing police investigations into Seb, but because the case was still active, I wasn’t able to write about it. As it turns out, stealing someone else’s photos and posing as someone else online isn’t actually a crime unless they defraud the victim out of money or murder them, essentially. But the one thing they could investigate were the mysterious threatening texts I had that one night, which could count as harassment. 

After months and months of investigation, the police were not able to pin anything on to Seb, but they were able to caution the owner of the phone that sent the texts...a lady whose name I had heard through Seb and other victims many times before, who was based in Wales. So that’s where it suspicions confirmed that Seb was responsible in some way for the nasty messages, but still none the wiser as to Seb was. Case closed. Or so I thought...

Last week I had an anonymous comment on my blog from someone claiming to be another victim of Seb. I was surprised that after 9 months that this had cropped up again, and initially I was suspicious it might be Seb trying to play games. I have no doubt that he knows I’ve been writing about him and has long since changed his name, but there will be other women out there familiar with his name, and I still hope to find more. I encouraged the commenter to email me, and sure enough, she did. So I was introduced to Miss M.

Miss M got in touch with me after watching a programme on teachers, and randomly Googling Seb’s full name. And lo and behold, she came across my blog. It turns out Miss M was Seb’s victim immediately before me. And her experience with this mythical beast was considerably worse than mine. She had been going through a terrible time personally, and when Seb popped into her life, he appeared to be her knight in shining armour, making himself totally available when she needed him, albeit only over the phone. Like he did with me, they’d speak for hours on the phone, he knew everything about what she was going through at that time and she thought she knew the same about him.

Miss M’s suspicions were first aroused by cancelled dates, and when she’d try and arrange spur-of-the-moment meets in London, he could never make them. She started to doubt he even lived in London, as he’d been claiming. But the rest of his life had been told to Miss M in the same frightening detail that both Miss D and I knew all too well, the dead ex, the niece, the job; a sickeningly well-rehearsed routine.

Despite many attempts to meet, Miss M was always stood up or had Seb cancel.. But Seb, the charmer he was, even sent a massive bouquet to the place she worked at at the time by way of apology, a seemingly sweet but sickeningly OTT gesture. All the while, he was trying to suck her in and mess with her head at a time he knew she was most vulnerable. He even tried to book a cab to pick her up and take her to meet him, as he tried with me, but of course she wasn’t having any of it. It seems Miss M was made of much tougher stuff than that.

Miss M eventually caught Seb out by setting up a fake profile on the same website, and giving him her flatmate’s mobile number. But the messages she received were seedy, sordid and explicit, nothing like the cheeky Welsh guy that all three of us had got to know. He also started to get aggressive and nasty, which isn’t a side we’d never seen to him. 

In the end, after a final attempt to see once and for all who the hell he was, Miss M arranged to meet him in London, but he never showed up. She never spoke or messaged him again.
The frightening thing is when Miss M and I compared dates, it seemed Seb had been lining me up as the next one even before things had ended with Miss M. And likewise, Seb had moved straight onto Miss D the day after I told him to leave me alone. There will have been more women before and after us. So if you or anyone you know has been duped by someone on online dating sites seemingly posing as someone else, male OR female, then please let me know. Seb’s used a woman’s name and photos before, and has no doubt changed his fictional name now, but there are only so many intricate lies you can weave, and he must still be using some of them. If these stories ring any bells for you then please get in touch. I thought this was over, but it’s not. And I am determined to find out more...