Date 21: The Home-town show

After my last date, I decided to take it easy for a bit, and take my foot off the dating blog gas. I've resisted using the phrase "retreating to lick my wounds", as it would be all too distressingly graphic, but, in essence, that was what I was going to do.

Now 75% of the way through my Internet dating adventure, I'd learned a great deal about exactly how the process works, in a major city, at least. London is a hive of dating activity, catering to every possible need, taste or desire. As tempting as things like heavyweight Date Boxing sounded, my own desire to remain uninjured suggested that what I needed was a change of pace.

As a veteran of London dating, I was starting to wonder what online dating is like outside of the capital. Anecdotally, lots of my friends who live in assorted small towns had told me it wasn't much good; a friend who'd tried it in the fishing village I come from said, in his inimitably earthy style, "it's only bifters or bitter single mums on the web. I date in bigger, cooler places, like Ashford or Maidstone."

Astute observers of British geography may note that ugly Kentish commuter towns like Ashford and Maidstone are neither "big", nor "cool". My own home town is a tiny, quaint village called Hythe. Our main exports are fish, seaside tat, and happy memories of 99 Flake ice cream by the beach.

There's one nice-ish restaurant, one nice coffee shop, a 1000 year old church, a 3ft deep canal that was expected to stop both Napoleon and Hitler, as well as eight dingy, interchangeable pubs. Once, we had a female Dolphin in the bay, that our clueless local paper named Dave, on the basis that all Dolphins are boys. It's not exactly a happening place.

It was famously described as the fourth worst place to live in England in the book "Crap towns", whose authors said of it, "It's the sort of town where Ian Duncan-Smith is regarded as rather too liberal. The sort of town where incest rules to such an extent that men give themselves Father’s Day cards. Perhaps the most spirit-crushingly tedious town in Kent, Hythe is the place that makes nearby Folkestone look like Las Vegas." As a native, I can't say any of that is terribly unfair. Anywhere that makes a dump like Folkestone seem like an exciting metropolis has to be dreadful, right?

It's quite picturesque & quaint though. Which is a polite way of agreeing with the above.

Friends who had tried online dating there told me that even when you logged on to the biggest dating sites you would personally know at least half the matches you were offered. Stories of the intense awkwardness of stumbling across work colleagues or friends with exaggerated or strange profiles proliferated. In one particularly hilarious example of the form, a chap falling foul of a world where you're identified by a user name like "HunkySuperBottom105", and pictured only as an oiled, muscular torso, ended up going on a date with his own brother by accident.

However, seeing as pretty much everyone I know in my home town is happily married, and I'm 99% sure none of my sisters are on Grindr, it was probably pretty safe. Also, dating a local girl would make my mum very, very happy. It's always been her dream that I'll meet a "nice, little girl", move to Hythe, get a secure job with a good pension, and have babies. I have thus far failed on every count.

I decided to use for my hometown date. It's a pretty big site; one of the biggest. It's TV advertised, so I felt I had the best chance of meeting someone back home from it. I felt a little guilty using a free pass I blagged off a tube advert (at to go on a date outside of London, but obviously not *that* guilty. The first thing I noticed was that out in the provinces, the average age of an online dater is considerably older than in London.

I'd set it to find women aged 25 to 40, and the vast bulk of the women were in the 36-40 range. There were a surprising amount of them, though, so it wasn't the barren wasteland I'd imagined. Fortunately - or unfortunately, as you might see it - my narrowing of my search radius to within ten miles of my home town provided only one lady living in Hythe.

I sent her a message and luckily, she replied, and was free the weekend I was down visiting the family. It's the best hit rate I've ever had on a site, but to be fair, in this particular incidence I was literally the last man on earth, so I probably shouldn't pat myself on the back too much.

One slight complication was that when I suggested the one nice restaurant in town for our date, she pointed out she'd rather not go there, as it was where she worked. I offered to drive us to a nice gastro pub in the countryside, and she accepted. It was on.

When I told my mum I was going on a date in Hythe, it was like I was listening to a greatest hits of Willard's mum's dating advice compilation. She started with the classic "You haven't told her you're a journalist, have you? Women want a man with a proper job," followed it with an extended B-side cut of"Why don't you settle down? You are thirty-three you know," and rounded off with a rare acoustic version of the feelgood classic "I'm getting older, I want to have more grandchildren, get a move on."

I also didn't tell my mum where I was going on the date. This is because she is world-class embarrassing, and probably would have thought nothing of just turning up. Once, on meeting a girlfriend, my mother sized her up, looked the poor girl in the eye, and said in a thick Scottish burr, "Oh, you've got fine child-bearing hips!". Which is EXACTLY what every girl wants to hear.

So, on the night of the date, I drove my car to the girl's house, knocked on the door at the appointed time, and her dad came to the door. It was almost exactly like being 17 again. She appeared quickly, and with a very forceful " BYE DAD", we were off. The 15 minute car journey with a complete stranger was a bit weird, especially once we started going down country lanes.

A low point on any date is when the other person turns to you and says, only half-joking, "You're not going to murder me, are you?" Fortunately, my window into what being a serial killer must be like was brief, as within seconds of her asking, the pub was in view.

We parked the car, walked inside, had a lovely evening. She'd gone to the local girls grammar, then University, picked up a boyfriend, a house and a job up North, but all of those had gone sour at the same time. She'd run out of money before finding a new job or a new flat, so she'd returned home. That had been a year before, and after what sounded like a soul-destroying couple of months on the dole, she'd taken a job as a waitress.

She was applying for other jobs, trying to, as she put it, "sort her life out". She asked me about how to get into the BBC and we had a brief careers chat. We had a shared passion for writing fiction, so weirdly ended up having a pretty academic chat about story structure.

What became fairly apparent early on, was we didn't really have a passion for each other. It wasn't in any way unpleasant, just by the time we were getting her third wine and my third coke (driving, see) we'd pretty much established that we weren't romantically interested in each other. It's a relief when that feeling's mutual and everyone is grown up about it. Indeed, by the end of the evening, we were thinking of friends we could set each other up with.

I dropped her back at her house, drove back to mums, and parked the car. I quietly opened the door, and there was mum, waiting up for me. Seeing me home, alone, before midnight, she gave me an acid look, and exclaimed "Och, you blew it, didn't you?"

Hmm, yeah mum, I guess I did.

Normal service resumed next week with Pet Lover dating on Monday, and then a data-driven date from E-Harmony on Friday.

Date 20: The [REDACTED] and the second painful injury

I suppose at this point it's worth warning you that this blog post is the one that contains the most adult content thus far - if you're easily offended by amusing sleazy sex stories, please don't read beyond this point. Just watch this video of a kitten fighting an electric toothbrush and go about your business. 

If you're still here, best get yourself a cup of tea.

Back? Good. So, anyway, where were we? Date 20? 

It seemed inevitable that sooner or later, I was going to end up doing some sort of dating site that was centred around some sort of crazed fetish. I mean, you kept sending me links to things like Fetlife ("For kinksters, by kinksters"),  Splosh dating (for people who like pouring ooze on each other) or Furrymate (for people who are turned on by anthropomorphic animals). On one hand, it did seem they might provide excellent blog material; on the other hand, I was never going to be able to have a lasting relationship with someone who wanted me to pour buckets of chocolate sauce on them while dressed as a leopard.

However, despite my decision not to go on those sites, it seems, if Willard will not go to the perverts, the perverts will come to Willard. On regular dating sites, I get sent some mind meltingly strange requests and emails. One woman on OKCupid, who was married, sent me an email with a  5 point list of things she wanted to do me; normally, at this point I'd gloss over exactly what was on her depravity shopping list, but... (LAST CHANCE TO ESCAPE TO KITTEN VIDEO BEFORE SLEAZE AND HORROR) ...since I've given you enough chances to look away, it can basically be added up to her husband pissing on me while she choked me, while I was locked in a cage in their sex dungeon.

That message ended in the most English way imaginable - the last line was "Do let me know if that sounds like your cup of tea", as though she'd just offered me church raffle tickets or something. 

I politely declined, as, well, frankly, urine soaked homoerotic strangulation is not something I'm really down with, no matter how charming and bijou a cage I'm offered. I mean, I'm sorry, I find degradation a bit, well, degrading. The strangest bit of that whole business was after I politely declined her offer, she added me on Linkedin. The "How do you know Ms.X?" box firmly in the "other" category, there.

Of course, at least that lady was open and upfront about her particular kinks, which is a much better way to be. I'd much rather that came up in the initial email than it suddenly being sprung on you mid-way through any sort of physical act of love. Which, just for the record, secret kinksters, is not cool. Probably worth at least discussing it first. That said, there just seems to be a certain open minded type of online dater who just assumes their date will be cool with anything.

A female friend recently told me about a chap she met online, who she really liked, who on the third date she invited back to her place. They get inside, start having a bit of a pash, and before they've even taken their clothes off entirely, the man produces a huge strap-on cock from his smart leather satchel, and asks our dumbfounded girl to fuck him with it. Yes, he'd brought it with him, "just in case" - obviously a boy scout. Be prepared and all that. Needless to say, our heroine called a halt to proceedings, and bundled him out the door, woggle and all.

Now, before I cut to the chase, and tell you nothing about Date 20, it's important to step back a few years, to provide a bit of context. About eight years ago, as a young, budding freelance journalist, I had one of my first ever assignments - interviewing a slightly shady property developer. 

The editor of the god-awful magazine I was writing for - one of those glossies that gets pushed through your door with two fawning profiles, a recipe for treacle tarts and two hundred adverts for 6 bedroom mansions - mentioned that this developer, as well as carrying a prominent aristocratic title (always a bad sign) was widely rumoured to have murdered his wife by pushing her out of a helicopter into the sea.

Not that anyone could prove anything, but there was a helicopter flight and a remarkably convenient spousal disappearance. So, I was sent to interview this bloke, and the editor mentioned that under no circumstances should I mention the rumours that he was a murderer. Just ask about the new houses, and the miraculous recovery from his 1980s "drug hell". But mostly about the houses. And accept chopper joyrides only at my own risk. 45 minutes tops, then out. Easy. If only I had listened.

So, understandably nervous, I drove to this chap's country pile, and while there, interviewed the developer/murderer, avoided being murdered, and struck up a conversation with his remarkably attractive niece, who was visiting her uncle for the weekend. She and I got to chatting, then went to lunch. Lunch turned into drinks, drinks turned into dinner, dinner ended up as sex in her murderous uncle's house.

So, this girl - a very proper, prim english girl, well brought up and so on - was quite into horse riding. On this occasion, she was on top, and she was riding me remarkably vigorously, giving me a fair idea of what winning the Grand National must be like, if you're a horse. At this point, it may be worth asking you if you know what a frenulum is? No? Also known as a banjo string? No? Well, suffice to say, it's the bit of skin that holds the skin around a man's penis to the rest of the penis.

Suffice to say, it's not a thing you want to rip or tear. 

Incidentally, I can almost literally feel the sympathetic pain of every man wincing as he's reading this. Bet you fuckers wish you'd watched that kitten video now, eh? Well, anyway, the pain you're imagining - it was at least that bad, if not worse. I immediately screamed for the girl to "Get off, Get Off! GET OFFF!!" and plunged my hands down to free my bleeding member. She, unaware of what had happened, looked terrified and said "what's wrong? What's wrong?!" before she caught sight of the gushing fountain of blood and immediately passed out into a dead faint.

So, she's unconscious, I'm bleeding everywhere. Everywhere. Agonised, I crawled up the bed, and looked for something to staunch the flow of blood; the only thing to hand was a box of tissues on the bedside table. Of course, being quite a prim and proper household, it was one of those prim boxes of tissues where you can only pull one dainty tissue out at a time. So, instead of being able to instantly create a makeshift bandage from a wodge of kleenex mansize, it was more of a matter of pull, pull, pull,pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull, pull - bandage.

By this point, she was coming to, and she covered her eyes, not looking at me..."Oh god, what happened, I can't stand the sight of blood, sorry, I just passed right out, sorry sorry sorry Sorry!" I just begged her call an ambulance, as I literally thought I was dying. She grabbed a dressing gown, got up, and opened the door to go downstairs to use the phone, turned back round to say something (probably "Will you be ok?" or "Sorry!"), and caught sight of the blood leeching through the makeshift tissue bandage. I maintain, if they'd had proper tissues in that house, it never would have happened.

She instantly felt woozy again, started to collapse, and, gentleman that I am, I ran to catch her, dropping the bandage as I went. At the point I caught her, her murderous uncle came to the door to investigate the commotion, only to find me naked, covered in blood, holding his semi naked niece. His eyes met mine, and I blurted out "I can explain EVERYTHING."

He actually reacted better than I expected - in that he didn't instantly bundle me into his helicopter to commit another rotary-winged slaying. That's mostly because she came to, explained, we got an ambulance. Needless to say, we didn't have much of a relationship after that, and ever since, my penis, while now healed, has always been quite, well, fragile.

So that's the context of Date 20. I have a fragile penis. There are ladies with unusual tastes in the world. Now, sooner or later I knew I was going to go on a date where something interesting happened, but the lady in question didn't give me permission to write it up in full. So I figure it's probably ok to tell you, dear reader, what happened, without going into any specifics of who the person was, what site she was from, or anything that could possibly link her to this blog.

Suffice to say, after a very pleasant evening, we adjourned to my house. Without warning, this girl liked her foreplay very, very rough indeed, which I not at all comfortable with in the first place, even without factoring in my ahem, Achilles heel, if you'll forgive the term. After having to say, "No, sorry, I don't want to do that" a few times, she started giving me a handjob with the sort of gusto normally reserved for a Ukranian farmhand changing gears on the ancient soviet tractor on his collective farm. A request to be more gentle produced the sort of action normally required to change the gears in an elderly Citroen 2CV while driving it up a Provencal hill.

Needless to say, under this treatment, I'm sorry to say my penis broke. Not in the kind of disastrous fountain of blood of 8 years ago, not in some kind of nightmarish ice-lolly-snapped in the packet scenario, just a lot of pain, a little bit of blood, a bit of spooning and saying it was ok,  "My penis is very fragile, it's not your fault", a discussion about how we probably weren't suited anyway, and then a doctor's visit for me in the morning. Followed by quite a few emails to get this compromise so I can share what happened with you lovely people.

Anyway, so there you go. There was a 20th date, and I ended up getting injured, again. Ouch. It's tough, this dating lark. Now, I'm not sure whether to look on this as "my average is one injury worthy of showing off to the doctor every ten dates", or "I can usually go around eighteen dates between agonising injuries", but with only eight dates left to go, let's hope it's the latter,eh?

Date 19: The New York Millionaire

Now that I'm 2/3rds of the way through this experiment, I've realised something strange has happened to me. Whereas three months ago I was a complete online dating virgin, after 19 dates on 19 dating sites,  I'm now regarded as something of a dating expert. I frequently get requests from friends to review their profiles, help them write messages and so on. 

Leaving aside the ludicrousness of this as a proposition - I mean, if I was an expert at dating surely I'd have a girlfriend by now - it means I do have to sometimes give brutal advice. This has included having to type the phrases "I think women are scared off by the fact you dress like a Miami pimp" and "I'm afraid I think your messages display the sort of charm you'd expect from a Nazi propagandist". 

That said, I have also seen some people with messages, pictures and profiles which seem perfectly attractive to me, where the person in question doesn't seem to be having much luck. One of these people - a very successful lady in New York - rather depressingly told me "My girlfriends looking at my profile think I come across as  too strong and too smart." Too strong and too smart? Neither of those seem like negatives to me.

Indeed, my ideal woman would be strong and smart. My sort of idealised life in my mid forties would include me at home, writing brilliantly incisive columns in the morning, then cooking something from Observer Food Monthly in the afternoon for when the kids get home from school, before my high powered, strong smart wife gets home from her incredibly responsible, well paid job. Then, of course, we'd have a row about why I hadn't done the hoovering or something, but hopefully my excuse of "But I had to tell the nation how bad the Labour party are!" would placate her. 

As a writer who's a good cook, I've sort of unconsciously been building myself towards being the ideal stay at home dad for some time. The problem is finding the sort of woman who's in the market for a creative househusband. And that's where comes in.

I'd always assumed that millionaire dating sites were either places for sexually inadequate JP Morgan Partners to meet gold-digging bimbos (step forward Sugar Daddy datingMiss Travel and Meet Wealthy Men) or are transparent fakes, trying to leech bank details out of wealthy men in the guise of a "wealth verification process". All of these sites encourage UGLY RICH MEN to register to find BEAUTIFUL POOR WOMEN. 

It's got a pretty seedy feel to it; especially Miss Travel feels like a site where you swap sex for airline tickets. The site specifically bans escorts - because swapping money for sex is sordid, but selling your body for a flight to New York is A-Ok. Unfortunately, being neither a rich man, nor a beautiful woman (not, lets face it, a beautiful man) I don't think any of these sites were for me.

That said, I had been intrigued by millionairematch - mostly because a friend, a barrister, had met her fiance on it. In her words, she was "sick of being taken out in Birmingham, and fancied being taken out in Barbados". She'd heard it was a good place for successful women to meet successful men, had registered on the site, and within a year was engaged to a lovely, handsome vice-president at a private bank. So, armed with the knowledge that it was real, I registered on the site & got to work.

One of the strangest things about this website is that the rich person has to verify their income, and you pick your income from a drop-down menu, before it gets verified. There's a screenshot of the menu below - my favourite option being the "Yes, I am the heir to a large fortune". 

I imagine the verification process for that involves sending in pictures of your skin tight chinos and telling the site the name of your polo pony.

If you get verified as rich, you get a diamond next to your name, and you are allowed to upload pictures of your fabulous wealth. This is the most horribly gauche end of the site, with people uploading huge amounts of pictures of their shiny trucks, massive yachts big villas, and t̶i̶n̶y̶ ̶c̶o̶c̶k̶s̶ mountains of shoes. It's not a website I'd recommend to anyone who is easily outraged by a copy of FT How to Spend It or an issue of Tatler. 

Men with massive trucks.

It's surprising how readily women on there respond to messages; although I do think I stood out by not being posed on the roof of my truck, pouring Cristal on myself. Indeed, my biggest problem was less finding a date, and more finding a date in London whose diary matched up with mine. 

Eventually, after around a month of messaging one lady, she told me she was going to be transiting through Heathrow, and we arranged to meet for dinner in the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Terminal 5. That's past security, so I bought myself a £10 one way ticket to Frankfurt so I could get into the restaurant. Sad long experience of missing flights for work (and occasionally pounding on the pressure door of aircraft, begging the crews to let me in) told me that missing the plane, even after missing the last call, wouldn't cause a security crisis.

So, anyway, I sat down on the ugly leather chairs, and waited for my date. I was proper excited - she was very charming by message, and, I'm not going to lie, I was excited by how minted she was. She arrived, bang on time, and was stunning. She was beautifully turned out, despite a full day at work, and was wearing an assortment of tasteful - yet doubtless incredibly valuable - jewellery. I suppose I wouldn't have sat trying to guess the value of my date's clothes had it not been a date off millionairematch, but there you go. I am, a shameless gold-digger.

We got to talking, and she had a wonderfully blunt way of talking. It's not uncommon in people who work in the fund industry, but it was still hilarious to hear that manner of speaking transposed into dating chat. For example, she explained the failure of her first marriage by nodding gently, fixing me with a steely blue gaze and saying "Vegas Hooker orgy", with no further explanation. We had a few acquaintances in New York (take your pick, it's a small world, finance, or it's a small world, Jews), got to talking about work stuff relatively quickly. We talked a lot about business and politics; unusually for someone in finance, she was a Democrat, and so being left-wing in the US made her politically about the same as me.

We talked about the states, she told me about some terrible dates in New York ("He took me to his parents on the second date. He hadn't told them I wasn't orthodox. Cue lecture.") I told her a few hair-raising tales of travelling around the deep south, which she found hilarious. Before the date had really started, her flight was called, and it was over. She insisted on picking up the cheque (*smile* "I'm the millionaire, remember?"), and has since invited me to a dinner party in New York. 

Of course, I'm paying my own way...

Date 18: The London Cosplay Otaku

So, for Date 18, I was back in the realm of normal dating sites, and for this one, I decided to use It's a trendy , hip, young dating site for beautiful, stylish  urban professionals, or so the adverts on the tube seem to suggest. And no-one would lie in an advert on the tube, right?

The site is unashamedly London-centric, and a huge part of its appeal comes from the raft of events they organise. Lovestruck is very much the whole package dating business, rather than just a website. It's very slick Groupon-meets-dating type affair, and as much as the faux-cheery post-modern copywriting occasionally rubbed me up the wrong way, I was pretty impressed with the breadth of activities on offer.

They offered dating comedy nights, dating quiz nights, dating museum visits, a dating film festival, even a dating holiday to somewhere near the North Pole to watch the Northern Lights, if you thought dropping a grand on the world's coldest speed dating night, risking being devoured by Polar bears, was a good idea. 

Maybe that would be good if you had a thing for being cuddled by men in bobble hats & wooly jumpers, or were unaccountably aroused by women wrapped up in scarves. That said, giving the seemingly endless winter we're currently having, the knitwear fetishist is probably well served enough in London already.

So, yes, not just lots of people, but also lots to do. I don't know how good a dating site it would be in say, Hull, but for a Londoner, it's excellent. And let's face it, if you live in Hull, you probably don't want to date someone else in Hull anyway. That's how catastrophes like raising a family in Hull happen.

Anyway, so after a bit of tooling around on the site, before I could book a ticket to the North Pole, or indeed even send a message of my own, a lovely lady from West London got in touch. She described herself as a "bit of a nerd", liked my profile, and wondered if I fancied going for a drink. As a bloke, I must say, I do find being asked out very flattering indeed, so I said yes, and pottered along to a mutually convenient bar for a drink.

So, we walked in, got talking, and I soon realised I was out of my nerd-depth. Yes, despite the late night screenings of Robot Jox, despite the legion of model soldiers, despite the Warcraft account, despite the general love of sci-fi & fantasy. Normally, in the "date between two London stylish urban professionals" context,  I'm comfortably the nerdier one of the two of us. Not today.

There's a wonderful bit in Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch - a novel all about loving someone despite their all-consuming obsession - where the main character explains how people justify their lives revolving around football. The man who goes to every game at the pub knows a guy who goes to every game at the ground; that guy knows a guy who goes to every away game; the guy who goes to every away game knows a guy who goes to every youth team gain, and so on. You know people deeper down the rabbit hole than yourself, so you reassure yourself you must be the normal one.

It's fair to say this lady was deeper down than I was. There's a Japanese word - Otaku - which describes someone who is devoted to a particular interest. Now, I like science fiction & fantasy; she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the entire genre, especially in terms of anime. I'd been to comic conventions; she regularly cosplayed at them. I like J-pop & K-pop, had seen wacky bands shouting Korean lyrics & throwing bananas into the crowd at Glasto way before Gangnam style was a thing, but she'd been to Japan to see her favourite band. She'd actually met the band's mum, at one point. I think describing me as a mere nerd, and her as Otaku is fair.

Oh, by the way, Cosplay is sort of like competitive fancy dress, often with an anime theme, where you dress as your favourite science fiction, fantasy or anime character. It's big in Japan, and occasionally when Westerners do it, it's incredibly embarrassing.

Not the worst I've seen

I filmed a pilot for a doc on it once, which memorably led to a moment in an edit suite where a highly respected TV Exec stared closely at the rushes and said "Is that...some kind of paedophile Catwoman?!"

However, it's incredibly impressive at its best, and she was clearly very gifted at it. There were pictures of her in costume, on her phone, which were firmly in the category of "my goodness that's amazing" rather than "my goodness that's embarrassing". That skill I suspect partly stemmed from her interesting day job, which partly involved far east related academia; she spoke what sounded like impressive Japanese, and told me the difference between katakana and hiragana; and partly involved adapting racing swimsuits for paralympians.
Yes, this is a costume
So yeah, she was more nerdy than me; or maybe just nerdy in different ways to me; or maybe she was just bold enough to wear her fandom on her sleeve and not care what society thought.  She wasn't in any way terrifying, or odd as a date - there was no devil-possession, no biting, no obsession with Lizards. She was very easy to talk to, and we did share plenty of interests, even if I was to all intents and purposes worse at doing them than she was. 

As well as covering vital topics like favourite Dr.Who episodes (her: Stuff with creaky sets from the 1970s, me: the more modern David Tennant/Matt Smith era), and our favourite Manga (hers something she pronounced exquisitely in Japanese, mine a Giant Robot Film Noir called Big O), we chatted about growing up with unusual hobbies. For me, doing nerdy things had always been a social thing - it was a way to get people together & talk, to bring socially awkward friends out of their shells. For her, it had been more like a solitary refuge, growing up in a small rural town with a devoutly religious family.  

I suppose it gave me a window into the world of what it's like for a perfectly normal girl going on a date with me; meeting someone who is fun, charming, but a bit on the edges of your experience. It's a little nerve wracking, but fascinating - exploring, pushing your limits, finding out what you can or can't tolerate. Or, at least, what the other person can say without you laughing at them and saying "Yes, but you're an adult now, surely". All in all, it was a fun evening. We went our separate ways, and I was looking forward to seeing her again, but a couple of days after our date, I got the following email:

I have to let you know that I have since met up again with the other Lovestrucker that I told you about and we've had a Serious Talk, the upshot of which is that we are now properly dating. So unfortunately I'm off the market for now. That said, I really did have a lovely time with you and I'd love to stay in contact as friends - I swear there was so much more stuff we could and should have chatted about if only time hadn't run away with us. Best of luck with the rest of your dating adventures - I hope you do find someone amazing, you're a great guy and you deserve someone equally great! I look forward to reading about it all :)

Curses. Just as I was about to tighten my grip, she'd slipped through my fingers. If only I'd been a few days earlier. Still, we're meeting up as friends, and she has a wonderful handle on where to find Japanese food and rare manga comics, so it's not all bad.

Thus, a friend gained, a lesson learned, and back to the wasteland...

Date 17: The Devout Christian & the Sex-Devils

Now, back when I was starting the blog, I was sent a huge amount of very strange dating sites by friends. Some of the most alarming ones came from from devoutly religious chums. They all thought it would be hilarious to hear an atheist's reaction to things like this -

...and came with stories about how their crazy cousin Edward had found his wife through them, and now the happy couple lived in a cult compound in the mountains of Nigeria. So, obviously, this was a rich mine of strangeness, and could prove hilarious to my readers, but I had kind of resolved not to do a religious one.

 Why? Well, apart from the fact I can't really afford a plane ticket to Abujah, I'm an atheist, and in my opinion, the sort of person who was using a site like muslim&single (Tagline: "Find Allah's match for you") or christianmingle (tagline: "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. - Psalms 37:4") was probably on there specifically because they wanted to avoid dating someone like me.

Then again, at the same time, that sort of Thirty Years War attitude of "You are of one belief, I am of another, therefore we must be separate" (and fight with pikestaffs) never really sat right with me. Could I date with a religious person? My track record seemed to indicate "probably".

The last two serious relationships I had were with devout catholics; I had become quite adept at finding a nice coffee shop near the churches of their choice, and sitting reading a book while they made their observance. There are a lot of things that religious people like - things like tradition, the Chronicles of Narnia and close harmony singing - that I'm also a big fan of.

I was mulling it over, when a Christian friend recommended a "really good" christian singles speed dating night. On a boat. What can I say, I'm a sucker for hanging around on boats, so, I went along. I realise this wasn't online dating in the classic sense, but hey, it's quite modern, and I had to send some emails to get the tickets and things, SO IT TOTALLY COUNTS.

So, anyway, speed dating. For those of you who aren't familiar with the process, you sit and chat with a person for three minutes, then a bell rings, and you rotate around the room. At the end of the evening, you mark people you'd like to see again, and the organisers pass out the emails/phone numbers of people who both said they were up for meeting again.

That's the normal chain of events. This one however, started with a sermon from a Minister from "Kingdom of God International", which seemed to have more than a touch of the televangelist about it. The man had that sort of silver helmet of hair normally found only on Republican senators in the USA, and the sermon was very, ummm, enthusiastic. It was odd hearing a sermon like this delivered in a broad cockney accent. There was also a Powerpoint about "Dating for Jesus".

I felt I was not only going to be saved, but that I might get be offered a teasmaid at a bargain price, too. At the end of the pitch, they handed out a flyer for his next dating event. It all seems pretty normal, until you get down to point five.

Yup, had I been "visited in the night by sex devils?!" The answer, of course, was not nearly enough.

Anyway, the speed dating proceeded relatively normally, and most of the ladies I met seemed lovely. There was no demonic attack, that I could see. At the end of the evening, I walked away with a couple of phone numbers, and later arranged to meet the girl I liked the most for a couple of drinks. We met at a pub near her work. She's an accountant for a very big firm, seemed perfectly normal - smart, funny, interesting.

So, anyway, we go to a bar near her work in Farringdon, and sit there in modern, urban London. After about five minutes, I broached the sex demons point, hoping she would say "Yeah, that IS odd! Crazy Yanks, eh?" and we'd carry on chatting about 21st century stuff.

Oh no. She went on to tell me about how she had personally witnessed a child she was babysitting be possessed by the Devil himself while she was a teenager. I asked her how she could be sure it was actually the Prince of Lies himself, rather than some minor cacodemon, and she replied "If you had heard the sounds he made, you would know".

It was so bizarre, I asked her if it was an elaborate joke. But no, deadly serious. By the third drink, she was telling me about how 9/11 was an inside job and about her recent suicide attempt. She was very keen on "Missionary dating" - converting a non-believer to date, which was part of the reason she was dating me. There had, to be fair, been a slide about it in the Cockney preacher's Powerpoint.

Needless to say, I walked away a little shell shocked. I mean, I'd known she was religious, but I'd thought she was more "Fun" than "Fundamentalist". Indeed, she was, it must be said, quite heavy on the "mentalist". It wasn't the date I'd been expecting, and I think most of my religious friends would have been as incredulous as I was. I made a call to my Christian friend, explaining that what he'd delivered me to. He responded that he'd had no idea about the sex-devils thing, and he'd been recommended the speed dating event by several people. 

I assume there were plenty of less, errm, "devout" folk at the event, and I know she's not representative of religious people in general - she's much more representative of my own supernatural ability to be put in a room with any number of women, and unerringly home in on the strangest one. Sometimes that's a blessing, sometimes it's a curse.

I still think I could date a religious person; just probably not someone so fundamentalist. So, anyway, needless to say, still a cold and blameless bed. Here's hoping for a visitation by the sex devils soon:)