25% of the way through the adventure. I'd had a couple of scrapes, but I was starting to find my feet, starting to think I knew what I was doing. In classic zombie apocalypse style, after surviving the first few encounters in the new world, I was starting to get a little cocky. Unfortunately, I was about to make a big mistake. I'd say my first big mistake, but hey, if you've read the blog this far you'd know that's a lie.
I think one of the reasons I was getting cocky was because the blog has been so well received. I was starting to get friends asking me for advice about what online dating site to go on; how to write their profiles; all that sort of thing. Of course, why you'd want dating advice from a bloke who managed to almost get his finger gnawed off on his first online date is beyond me. What can I say, some of my friends are even bigger losers than I am.
As well as people asking for advice, I'd started to get my first few people asking me out via the blog. Now, when I put the invitation on the about page, I never thought anyone would actually click it, but there I was, six dates in, and I had a message out of the blue. It read:
"You will probably be inundated with emails saying either I am the love of your life or I will show you the weirdest date in the world. So I'm chancing it because I haven't laughed as much in ages. Let's go on a date."
Me and the lady in question exchanged a couple of emails, and I was fairly convinced she wasn't an axe murderer or, alternatively, the enraged husband of a previous date. With an axe. And hey, even if he/she was an axe murderer, it would be a good blog, right? So, I arranged to meet her on a wet rainy Sunday evening at my local pub. It must be said, if anyone is doing well out of this odyssey, it's the landlords of that place.
Now, most online dates, you don't know much about the other person. The whole reason you're going on the date is to get to know them. But in this case, I knew absolutely nothing about her. Not her name. Not her age. Not what she looked like. None of her interests and hobbies. None of her convictions for manslaughter. Especially after my experience with the Lizard girl, I was worried about who I might be going on a date with.
So, I sat at a table in the pub, in that weird limbo of smiling politely at every single woman who walked in - even the toothless hags, of whom there are a surprising amount swarming around Belgravia of a Sunday evening. Of course, making eye contact with woman after woman, you start to feel a bit self-conscious after a while. Anyway, after about ten minutes of waiting, flipping through my copy of the Economist, an absolutely stunning, drop dead gorgeous blonde woman walked in. She looked around the bar, caught my eye, walked over and said "Hello, are you Willard? I'm your date".
I was absolutely, probably visibly, stunned. She was literally one of the most attractive women I've ever been in the same room with. So, we ordered some drinks, and started to chat. Depressingly enough, she was one of those people who simultaneously looks fabulous, but was also incredibly smart, witty, charming & amusing. It's fair to say I was pretty smitten from the off.
She was a journalist; we chatted about working in the media, writing for a living, the horrors of working in local news. She was a huge fan of Tolkein & Pink; both things I'll admit a strong liking for. Moving on into personal stuff, we both laughed sharing stories about friends going on catastrophic drug binges - mine involving a lighting technician taking a huge amount of 2CB during a shoot, running around shrieking "I AM THE GUY! I! AM! THE! GUY!" until he was restrained by security, hers about abandoning a friend in a creche for people in the midst of hallucinations on a Thai beach.
We were getting on along famously. So, what was this big mistake I made? Well, about three drinks in, she asked me, "So, why are you writing the blog? What made you want to do it?".
I replied, "Well, I can give you the glib, funny one line answer, and we can move on, or I can tell you the real dark, sad truth." She, assuming I was joking, opted for "dark sad truth". I was enjoying her company enough I felt I could be completely honest.
So, I told her about the two women who had broken my heart over the last five years. I told her dark, sad stories of heartbreak and betrayal and tragedy. I told her about what it feels like to slide an unused engagement ring out of the desk drawer it sits in, alone and gathering dust, looking at it, then slowly closing the drawer with tears in my eyes and thinking "I won't sell it today". I tell her about what it feels like to be at a friend's wedding in San Francisco where you're introduced to everyone as "This is Willard, he's sort of in the wedding party - he's the guy who the Bridesmaid stood up".
Once I started talking about the exes - the girls who had been "the one", once upon a time, it was like a hole in a dam. I couldn't stop talking about how emotionally broken I was. All the pain just poured out, in an unstoppable tide. They say you shouldn't talk about an ex on your first date. "They", in this case, are absolutely right. I walked her towards the tube home, and as soon as she gave me a very chaste peck on the cheek goodnight, I got the sense she wasn't feeling it.
I got a polite & pleasant email from the Fan the day after the date; I'd asked her out a second time, and she politely declined, but we agreed to stay in touch as friends. One advantage of this online dating lark is you learn to take yourself not being the other person's cup of tea much better. Now, I'm not saying it was all the exes chat that put her off - she was exceptionally tall (over 6ft I'd guess) so, with me at 5'10", I think there may also have been an element of the old fairground "you must be at least this tall to ride" as well - but it felt to me like it was a factor.
So, the big thing I learned was not to mention the exes; not to load too much on a person you've just met. I find it mildly amusing that in a blog about bad dates, for the first (and hopefully last!) time, I was the bad date. Like I said at the beginning, a big mistake, but one I came through in one piece, at least.