Having had the good fortune to meet Boyfriend on a trampoline at a house party when we were seventeen and fall immediately in like at first sight, I have never been on a first date. Boyfriend looked quite bemused when I mentioned this to him a few days ago, and reminded me a little huffily that he bought me pizza from our local greasy take-away when we started seeing each other, as well as several packets of salt and vinegar crisps. (I love him.) But in terms of the traditional ‘first date’ routine of awkwardness, alcohol, and small talk which normally involves a restaurant and a couple of over-analysed outfits, I have been spared the misfortune.
Before I launch the offensive against men-who-do-not-deserve-my-female-friends, it is worth noting that I think most men are delightful creatures and that had I not found vodka and subsequently Boyfriend at an age where a good night out involved underage drinking in a tent, then I would probably be on some sort of dating blacklist. I’m a vegetarian with a horribly expressive face. It is painfully obvious what I’m thinking at all times. Thoughts such as: I’m not keen on your shoes… I would definitely have preferred Italian to a live-food restaurant… If you order that still-breathing octopus I will attack you with my spoon… and even: The octopus has more of a chance with me now than you do… are written across my face with the subtlety of an angry polar bear with opposable thumbs and a sledgehammer. You can’t take me anywhere.
Ahem. Back to the men-who-do-not-deserve-my-female-friends. One friend in particular inspired this blog entry. She has a power of transformation akin to The Fairy Godmother: except upon finding a seemingly nice, normal man she turns them not into pumpkins but nutcases. Her sweet nature attracts weirdoes from near and far who, without fail, mistake her kind smile for flirting, ditch the pretence of normality and show their true weirdo colours. An especially memorable example is the man who proposed after only knowing her for a day. I’m all for individuality and self-expression but honestly it’s like Beauty and the Beast in reverse with 3D and high definition included. Her most recent social pariah arrived almost an hour late for their coffee date, hung over, without enthusiasm or his wallet, and then took her to – wait for it – a roundabout. That’s right: a standard method of maintaining traffic flow. (Swoon.)
I began to investigate how common a basic lack of human understanding is in the first date business. As ever, the internet proved terrifying. In the space of ten minutes I had an array of Facebook chat windows filled with stories that were a nice mix of harrowing and hilarious and a Google search for ‘first date tips’ that made me fear to ever leave the house again, seeing as how people can apparently tell if you’re not a ‘good person’ simply from how you order your food. (That’s right; I can use both Facebook AND Google. I am quite the investigative journalist.)
My favourite story courtesy of my friends involves a little girl growing up, becoming a beautiful and politically aware feminist with a sharp tongue and awesome wardrobe, and going on a first date with a man who – seemingly not realising she was foreign, or indeed a woman – turned out to be rude, racist and sexist. This in itself is sort of funny in a tragic, black-humoured kind of way. But it gets worse. Mr. Enlightened responded to her cutting the date short not by re-evaluating his attitude but by ‘jokingly’ hitting her over the head with his car keys. (Pause here for proper horror.) Now, I recently witnessed the friend in question successfully take on a man twice her size in our local Marks & Spencer for attempting to push past us in the queue, so I wish I could have seen the look on Mr. Englightened’s face after he realised she didn’t find the playful abuse especially funny. I imagine he put those car keys to better use and made an extremely quick exit.
Finally, to fall head first down the rabbit hole of the ‘blame Hollywood’ cliché, it seems you can be on what looks, even smells like your dream date with Prince Charming and still end up messaging your wanna-be-writer friend with a nightmarish tale of hired out restaurants, private barmen, expensive wine, salsa dancing, sushi – and a truly terrible sexual encounter plus the feeling that Prince Charming had possibly attempted to buy your affections. Sage advice: rich men can be just as clueless about What Women Want as the racist who hits you over the head with his car keys. God damn it, Disney, why didn’t you ever make a film about that?
(P.S. If you don’t want to hit women over the head with your car keys then have a read of The Vagenda’s blog. Actually, if you do want to hit women over the head with your car keys then you more than anyone should definitely have a read.)