Tiger Mask

At the latter end of last year I went to visit a psychic. I’m normally sceptical with these sorts of things but Luke wanted to go and see this White Witch because he had heard fabulous reviews and so I acquiesced and attended as his plus one. I’m on the fence on whether the reading was good or not – at first I waxed lyrical to anyone who would listen about the omens but as time has passed and her signs and admonitions seem to have been disproven the experience has somewhat tarnished for me.
There were, though, a few uncanny items mentioned that hooked me in like a thread on the tapestry of fortune she wove – such as the fact I had an item of clothing at my house that belonged to an ex (which I did) and I needed to return this as soon as I was able and forget about him (which I dutifully and swiftly did). Or the unsavoury detail that the spirit of my step-dad likes to brush my hair from beyond the grave as he was known to do while living; I don’t think she noted the look of utter dismay on my face when she delivered this snippet but she later advised the spirit was giving her a ‘bad taste in [her] mouth.’ That made two of us! She told me I have a penchant for arrogant men and I had an arrogant man around me called ‘Joe’ or ‘Jack’ whom she didn’t dislike but he wasn’t right for me at that moment – that he would be in the future; the first part was probably true but I’m still waiting on part two while casually dusting away the cobwebs from my inner thighs.
One thing the psychic divulged with pure confidence was that in the next six weeks I was going to be asked on a date. My initial reaction would be to say no to this date because I would find him boring but she was insistent, her voice laced with conviction, that I absolutely must go. She said it would be a ‘slow burner’ and I would be gaining a best friend, just one I was sleeping with. It wasn’t clear whether Mr Boring and Mr Joe/Jack Arrogant were one and the same but I didn’t think boredom and arrogance went hand-in-hand.
I relayed the premonitions and other-worldly encounter to my friends and work colleagues who all seemed most excited by the news I would soon be asked on a date. I am the tragic singleton of both groups so they like to live vicariously through me – it’s a wretched wasteland of disappointments and anti-climaxes though which they have sadly learned over time. We all commenced a watchful wait, scrutinising every possible suitor whom I found boring, unattractive or unlikely to rock the world of my fallopian tubes in the slim hope that they may be compelled by the energies of the universe to ask me out. The weeks sailed by and there seemed to be no hint of a penis bearer on the horizon, wanted or otherwise.
…And then came the WhatsApp voice note from Helen (yes, another failed set up by Helen – God loves a trier!)…
‘So I was at lunch with T- and S- and I was telling them how unlucky you are with men! And they looked at each other with pure joy and said “Ralph!” Ralph is the brother of T-‘s sister’s husband and he lives in the annexe at the bottom of T-‘s garden! I’ve done all the background checks and he sounds perfect for you! He’s a little bit older, I’ve said you’re not up for playing games and they said he’s not like that, he’s got his own business and he’s apparently a really nice guy! What do you think?’
I didn’t immediately connect the dots between the psychic’s forewarning and this new offer of a match make because we were precariously close to the ‘Mr Boring’ six week deadline and her premonitions had sunk from the upper echelons of my mind into the oblivion of irrelevant memories waiting to be plucked from obscurity. I was torn over whether to assent to the date because Helen’s cupid-like tendencies have not always been successful, as she freely admits, but I was mindful my ovums were depleting rapidly. I decided there was absolutely no harm in letting Helen pass on my number and seeing what Ralph had to say for himself. I was happy on my own and very busy all the time but, you know, I could always take a little moment to assess Ralph’s witty badinage – if he had any.
Ralph’s first message came through like Miley on a wrecking ball on a Friday night in early November:

This was immediately copied into the girl’s group chat for deep dissection. We deemed the approach ballsy, positive but presumptuous. Firstly, he had neither seen nor spoken with me so it struck us as being a little odd that he would go right for the jugular with a date request. However, it was pointed out that this may indicate a man who was more comfortable cutting out the time wastage implied with a textual relationship which was, surely, a promising thing. Ultimately we thought he came across as a little desperate but potentially sweet because of the follow-up secondary message. I responded allowing myself a week to get to know him and establish whether he was ultimately someone I wanted to spend my valuable, rare free time with.
Ralph appeared to be an absolutely lovely guy…just very, very keen. It’s a strange thing…because when you genuinely like someone, all the texting and speaking in the world never seems like quite enough. But when you’re on the fence about someone, or else teetering over into the garden of ‘The Ick’ family that lives next door, keen beans are off putting. However the words of the psychic were, by now, meandering around in my mind like a slow-draining plughole. She did say I would be asked on a date by someone who I didn’t feel I particularly wanted to go with but pushing through to the meeting phase would be worth it.
‘Remember, the psychic said you had to go on this date!’
This is all everyone kept repeating to me on loop. My friends, the girls at work, the cosmic energies of the ethereal universe – basically everyone from far and wide ordered me to endure the gut reaction that was telling me Ralph was just not the guy for me because there was a very real chance that Ralph was the guy for me.
Ralph was a bit of a picture message kind of texter. Nothing wrong with that; I love a gif of a Doberman trying unsuccessfully to mate with a sausage dog as much as the next gal when the timing is right. But mere days into messaging? It felt jarring and over-familiar. And then it got really weird…
On day two Ralph randomly told me that earlier that day his beloved nieces had been playing games on his phone and somehow accessed his camera roll. He proceeded to send me the image his nieces had opened before explaining the anecdote surrounding it. On aforementioned camera roll was a nude (which he alleged had automatically saved via WhatsApp – we’ve all been there) of a woman, legs akimbo and fake breasts beneath her armpits, sporting the largest splayed labia minora I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t sure why he felt the compunction to send me the image – or, more to the point, why that scenario was relevant to me in any way, shape or form. I brushed off the incident with a half-hearted ‘Haha’ and left it at that. I considered that I was being a bitch feeling this way about someone who had been sold to me as such a great guy, and clearly was a great guy, so I kept the event and the unshakable skirmish-feels in my perineum to myself. He was trying a little too hard but at least that meant he wasn’t arrogant, right?
Later on a message popped up on my lock screen with a teeny-tiny thumbnail indicating Ralph had sent me another image. Scanning my fingerprint, I prayed to God it wasn’t a second pornographic depiction of a vaginally modified blonde. But when my eyes locked on what had been sent I found myself wishing it had been blue waffle that had greeted my peepers. Right there on the message thread was a selfie. Ralph had, during a lull in conversation, taken the ropiest selfie I’ve ever encountered.
For a start, he was in work attire so looked like a dishevelled mess (and I like a grubby workman so for me to be turned-off by the look was really saying something). However, what was most striking about the terrible selfie was the look on Ralph’s face; it reeked of pure reluctance. It was like I had begged him for a photo and he had grudgingly taken one; but I’d actually been longing out my responses to him based on the labia image from hours before. His eyebrows were arched upwards in the middle as if doubting himself and his smile made me think he was conscious of his teeth; he had pulled his chin inwards towards his neck and his thin, pink lips looked as though they were struggling to hide bucked-teeth that needed a bit of a scrub if truth be told. It was such a contradiction; a voluntary selfie from a guy who looked like shit and moreover, looked like he felt like shit about sending the selfie I had never even asked for.
Even more strangely, the images I had originally been sent by Helen of him before agreeing to go on the date were like rocking horse shit to acquire because he had been so guarded and controlling over which pictures I got to access. It was all very odd and the more I looked at the unwanted selfie, the more I wondered what on earth had been going through his mind when he presumably found good lighting and a pose he was happy enough with to hit ‘snap and send’ despite the clear averseness on his face and the scruffy clobber he sported.
The following day, Ralph asked me whether I was ‘afraid to love’. I’m not a sensitive, sentimental person and I certainly don’t like talking about my feelings that openly with a perfect stranger after approximately three days of messaging – it made me cringe. However, I reminded myself that the psychic had told me this was most likely to be my Mr Right (for now, at least) so I pushed through my discomfort and answered his question as honestly as I could while also trying to make the situation lighter and more playful.
I spoke to Helen about my apprehensions and she was in agreement – he was doing himself no favours pummelling my phone morning, noon and night with utter tripe, irrelevant picture messages and cringe-worthy expressions of excitement over meeting me. She said she would speak to S- and T- and see if she could get one of them to encourage him to rein it in just a little, without making me sound like the bad guy. This was all perfectly acceptable in the planning phases…except…with this story being one of mine…you know the cookie just did not crumble that way.
If anything, Ralph’s cringe factor and over-keenness tripled. I can’t even fairly say it simply doubled; it launched like a rocket from the base level of mild over-eagerness to a cacophony of frantic desperation located somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. He was still such a lovely person and evidently dedicated to proving to me he was no game player but in his bursting impatience to woo me he had, in fact, cemented my flute closed. It would be more improbable for him to clamber inside my parted lips at this point than for Matrix trench coats to come back into fashion.
Every morning that week I debriefed with Helen on my drive to work on the smorgasbord of wince-worthy messages from the evening before while squirming as we ploughed through the reassuring knowledge that this must be the guy the psychic was telling me about because I couldn’t imagine anything worse than being subjected to an evening spent in Ralph’s company right now and therefore all would turn out OK – the universe had said so through the supernatural mutterings of the Medium. Helen admitted she too would have pulled the plug on this holy show a long time ago but the words of the psychic rang crystal clear like a death knell in her mind. He could be ‘Mr Boring’ and we needed to see this through to Friday night. I reluctantly agreed with her…until later that day when the tapping of those nails in the coffin of our dwindling dalliance turned to unavoidable thuds sounding out failure with each new clunk.
Fatal Blow 1 – The ‘Bobbies’ Fiasco:

So, let’s take a moment to deconstruct this message sent at 11:39 in the morning. Firstly, this came out of nowhere – we were talking about my tea-and-biscuit breakfast splendour when that little gem dropped into my inbox. Secondly… ‘bobbies’… Fucking BOBBIES!? Obviously I knew he meant ‘boobies’ and my issues with that are threefold:
If you’re going to send an inappropriate message about las tetitas to someone you’ve been texting for four days, make sure you spell it right
Who the fuck calls them ‘boobies’ and expects to be taken seriously as a lover and an adult male?
No, I don’t – they’re a 32A at best so I hope you enjoy disappointment, Ralph
In response I asked if T- had taken his phone and sent that message on his behalf (T- was totally the kind of guy who would send that message but, somehow, he would pull it off. Ralph was not so fortunate) and he advised that is indeed what had happened. This clearly was untrue based on his follow-up messages but I pretended to believe him. I ignored the question entirely and grassed him up to the group chat who absolutely ripped him to shreds with face-palm emojis galore.
Fatal Blow 2 – The Countdown
That evening, still reeling from The Bobbies Fiasco of 11:29am I received my closing message of the night from Ralph. I must admit, I had started to look forward to this final message because it meant I got a break from the mind-numbing energy zap of constant messaging. His message simply said ‘3 more sleeps x.’ Phlegm and bile immediately rose in my throat – I made up my mind that the following morning I was going to terminate proceedings. This wasn’t for me; messages from a penis bearer that make your legs slam shut on receipt is never a good sign, even if a psychic tells you to hang in there. Had we met a few times before and he was counting down the sleeps to see me I would have thought that was sweet – but counting down the sleeps until our first blind date was just too much.
The Death Blow – Tiger Mask
Mulling over how best to break Ralph’s heart and call off our date the next day I was absent mindedly scrolling through my phone when the little black box of joys and horrors rolled down the top of the screen. It revealed Ralph had sent an image to me.
Prepare yourselves, readers, for what I am about to tell you.
The image was a selfie – a selfie I absolutely did not want or ask for, of our guy Ralph posing sheepishly in a North Face coat zipped up to the chin, discoloured pegs of greyish-cream framed by little pink lips and a child’s foam tiger mask across the upper percentile of his face. He looked like an orange, striped Zoro. Worse than that, the caption he had gone with to really coin the mood of his imagery: ‘Your lil tiger.’ I’m not going to rip into his contracting of the adjective ‘little’ because there is just too much to say on why that is completely unacceptable. The submission of his manly being into my possession and then the general ambience of sweet sexual deviancy he was trying to convey sickened me to my very core.
As we are like to do when we have no interest, I waited three hours then responded with three laughing-cry-face emojis. What other choice was there? To have ghosted completely would have been wrong on the match makers who so dedicatedly tried to find me a good guy, but anything more than emojical ambivalence would have set a precedent that I wanted to receive such monstrous fodder. I decided it was best to lay the foundations of ghosting the poor, lost laddie and then let him down with an affirmative cancellation the next day so he could not link it back to the odious tiger visuals he had felt obligated to forward to my unenthusiastic inbox. He must have sensed my apathy and intention to conclude events because later that day I received the following:

I’d like to affirm that those messages were all unanswered – between the 16:18 fraught cloy for my attention and 18:53 when the emotional onslaught commenced I was, of course, mid-ghost procedure. Ralph clearly assumed I was working hard (I was also working hard at this time) and therefore anxiously sent me the barrage of WhatsApps you see before you to claw back (tiger pun intended) some respect when I was at last able to read his messages. I felt like a really terrible human ignoring him when he was clearly fretful, humiliated and uneasy about the whole situation, plus this provided me with the perfect opportunity to let him down gently but in a kindly manner.
In the conversation that followed he sent me a video his brother and sister-in-law had filmed and sent to him, Peggy Lee busting out Fever as the backing tune of a tiger-mask wearing sketch performed by his sister-in-law in ridicule of the ‘Your lil tiger’ debacle mere hours before. This made me laugh and endeared me to him more than anything else he had done in the entirety of the time we had been talking. It was too little, too late obviously but by addressing the shitshow of a choice he had made in taking the predatory snapshot and keenly forwarding it he at least showed he could see his error and was happy to open himself to mockery in good humour.
Safe to say, I let Ralph down gently the following day. It was like shooting a three-legged puppy but it had to be done. He took it well then cried to T- and S- afterwards but I genuinely hope they used that moment as a much needed opportunity to clue him up on what not to do during the initial phases of speaking to a woman. From start to end his behaviour, though really sweet, was massively off-putting and if he was my ‘Mr Boring’ I’m actually OK with missing out on that budding romance that was always destined to perish like the little runt of the tiger litter.
The moral of the story is therefore this: Do not hang in there in the hope a psychic was right when she told you to ignore what your head and vagina were screaming at you. If you find someone boring, unattractive or just a general creep, walk away and save yourself the hassle of having to bat away the attentions of a potential suitor who thinks it is charming to forward a photograph of himself wearing facial appendages. It’s never charming to see a grown man sporting a foam gimp mask.

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