Earlier this Summer, when Lockdown had been relaxed and mask etiquette was clearer I was out beveraging with my nearest and dearest friends in Windsor. I outlined my intention to invest in a sphynx cat, which would be my third feline companion (yes, those are the bald ones that look like foreskin but, rumour has it, have a delightful nature). Helen, incredulous at my determination to resign myself to a life of spinsterhood and meowing, blurted out, ‘I’m sorry but if you do that you might as well sew your vagina shut now!’
She made a compelling point. I sat, swigging my umpteenth Prosecco and reminiscing not-so-silently over lovers gone-by and realised I had found myself at a life crossroads. Did I unclench, spread my legs once more and metaphorically open myself up to the risks that come with finding love? Or did I take the safer Plan B, buy that third cat to complete my Pussy Quartet (my own being part of the crew) and forever close my door to penis and everything that comes with it?
I decided to give romance a final go. But this time I swore I would do it properly. No half-arsed attempts, no blind dates secured by friends – I would choose the option I had always been so against. Online dating. I wasn’t desperate enough (yet) to pay for it so I set myself up a little Bumble profile and embraced this technological yet inorganic way to meet like-minded individuals desperate to be fallen in love with. I needed to rebrand the world of online dating in my own mind – most people met through an app these days…perhaps it wasn’t the barren wasteland of desperadoes and liars I had always been convinced it was.
We were off to a pretty good start, I won’t lie. I was relatively successful in eliciting swipes in the right direction and, though it was an alien concept to me to approach men, the rules of Bumble dictated I made the first move and so I found some pretty entertaining ways to spark up a conversation. With some it flowed like the Rivers of Babylon…others trickled like an oozing pustule into the awaiting toilet water of wasteland never to be seen or heard from again.
One such early success story was Welsh Nick.
I swiped Nick because his first picture was one of him standing in a field nestled closely to a woman whom I hoped was his mother. This spoke volumes to me regarding our aligned values; Welsh Nick was a country boy and I dearly love the countryside. And he was a family guy – an attribute which rates amongst the highest on my ‘Must Have’ list of traits in any potential suitor. Swiping through his other photos I thought he was a very nice looking chap, just the right age and he seemed to have aligned interests and hobbies with my own. We struck up conversation about our mutual overuse of emojis and it really went from there. It is thanks to Welsh Nick I was introduced to the moon face emoji and I have come to embrace said emoji as one of my most regularly used – I find that little guy punctuates and reinforces a sarcastic comment better than even the smug side-smile I had shown so much love to in the past.
Nick went in for the proverbial kill early doors and asked me on a date that weekend. I must admit, I’m one to drag my feet ordinarily with the dating scene as I find it all a bit nerve wracking and cringe but I was feeling surprisingly confident and encouraged by my high success rate with online dating so I thought, why not?
Helen, Kat and I spent hours meticulously planning an outfit which said ‘I look casual, low-key good but this is standard for me’ and I think we nailed it. I bought new Converse for the occasion (in hindsight, this was a huge mistake) teamed with a white T and skinny jeans. The weather was a little hit and miss so we decided down but wavy hair would strike the right note and would be safer than a fully straightened coif.
When the date came around I was surprised to feel absolutely zero nervousness at all. Welsh Nick was an intelligent, attractive and interesting man whom I had been speaking to by WhatsApp for four days – I was basically a pro at this online dating thing. I was also reassured by the volume of alternates I had waiting in the wings. Giles, Irish Shane, Nick the Carpenter, Keen Dan, Kidney Sam and South African Stu ranked most highly in my ‘if this one doesn’t work there’s always…’ list and this was the tip of the male iceberg wanting to get to know this little Pocket Rocket better.
So Welsh Nick had mentioned Little Venice as the venue for our date. This meant I would need to catch a train into London. COVID-19 prevalence was everywhere but, working in a hospital in North West London I was unphased and readily agreed. However, red flag number one: Welsh Nick was simply not forthcoming with the name of this venue he had picked. He told me it was a cafe, he told me it was on the river…but you can’t move in Little Venice for places that fit that brief. And I needed to know this information so I could plan my route. However, I wanted to seem chill. So I asked nonchalantly and when he failed to answer that particular question I feigned total relaxation and simply found the train that would get me to Paddington Station on time.
Welsh Nick told me the place was ‘FIVE MINUTES’ from Paddington. I put that in block caps because it is important.
So, hair curled, make up on fleek, smart casual ensemble in place and new Converse on my pieds I embarked on the journey to the train station.
In the rain.
I had my umbrella, of course. But my hair is this very particular consistency where even the slightest moisture on the breeze causes it to puff up like a poppinjay.
So by the time I got to the train station one entire side of my hair had fallen into lank, ratty tendrils that lightly dusted my shoulder. This is not the end of the world, I told myself. The girls told me the same thing when they FaceTimed me to check on my progress. Yes, it was lank – but the other side of my head remained curled to perfection so I just had to make sure I remained on that side of Welsh Nick.
Standing on the platform, FaceTiming my friends, I almost missed the announcement over the busy station which stated the train I had intended to catch was now cancelled. I cannot say this particularly bothered me. I was beginning to feel that sense of doom balling up in my stomach and genuinely considered bailing on the date at this point. I hadn’t even got there yet and so much had already gone awry…I had a sense of foreboding.
The next train did not get into the platform until 15:08…precisely 8 minutes after the time I was meant to be meeting Welsh Nick in Little Venice. He was almost definitely already in the Café now reserving our table and here I was, hair lanky rats tails and still 20 minutes to stand on Slough Station Platform 3 waiting for a train in the drizzle.
No, pull yourself together sister. This could be the love of your life waiting for you in Little Venice! I threw myself out of the funk and sent poor, waiting Welsh Nick a very apologetic message detailing the trials and tribulations of my journey thus far. His reply was brief but he closed with a joke about how people would assume he’d been stood up. I smirked, replied, waited for my train and failed miserably in sorting out my hair.
Bemasked, I spent the journey to Paddington palming my lacklustre hair in an attempt to add some volume and noting with sadness that the other side of my hair was also declining into a state of abject nothingness. This was surprising given my hair could give Screech a run for his money when it has been untamed by straighteners or curling irons but this was the least of my worries as the sands of time blew by.
At last, 15:08 arrived and my Connversed feet touched down in Paddington Station. Welsh Nick had also finally equipped me with the details of the café and I fingered in the name on Google Maps so I could speed-walk to his table.
23 Minutes. 23 FUCKING minutes away. That’s how far Google Maps told me I had to walk. I was uncertain where Welsh Nick had gleaned his information from on the distance between Paddington and Little Venice but I was willing to bet even the BFG wouldn’t be able to walk it in five effing minutes. I could (and should) have got a taxi to save time. But the panicked thoughts rolling through my mind were thus:
- I’m going to get a sweat on if I walk too fast
- I’m so fucking late
- My hair is a stone-cold MESS
I couldn’t think logically and so, like Dorothy and her yellow brick road, I clasped Google Maps in my palm, erected my brolly and power walked down what I can only describe as the longest road I’ve ever had to walk down – it did not occur to me to hail a black cab, more’s the pity.
As if acting out a metaphor for the total waste of time I was currently indulging in, a gentleman walked past me along my journey with a tissue pressed to his ear. I surveyed him as I glided past and noted with horror that his ear was, in fact, bleeding profusely as he muttered something about the Second Coming of Jesus Our Messiah in my direction. You should have cancelled, I fleetingly thought as I buckled down against the driving rain and walked on. This man was a walking message from the universe that things could, and would, only sink lower from here. Bleeding eardrums in the rain are never a good sign.
Somewhere around two thirds of the way to my landmark destination I felt an awareness of a slight rubbing at the backs of both my feet. Oh great, I’m getting blisters now on top of everything else! I parked the pain – I didn’t have time for that shit right now. I moved forward.
45 minutes late, I sidled up to poor Welsh Nick sitting at that table in Little Venice. Admittedly, it did me the very smallest of favours as I had been concerned about greeting etiquette; did we kiss on the cheek? What if he was one of those elbow-greeting cringers? What about masks? Being 45 minutes late negated the concerns around any of this as I glided into the awaiting chair and apologised for my extreme lateness and the fact my hair looked like I had thrown a hairdryer into the bath – while I was in it.
Welsh Nick was pissed off. I could tell that immediately. His cup of coffee sat long-emptied before him and he removed his airpods with just the hint of a smile. I was suddenly very aware that my hair would now be in the most extreme realms of frizz and I was ashamed by my appearance and my lateness. I was also concerned that the table we were on was in front of a wide open balcony positioned exactly over the Thames. The driving rain was blowing in at me and I was already cold, wearing white and my hair was continuing to betray me by soaking up all that rain like a sponge.
Within two minutes I knew Welsh Nick was not the guy for me. Despite the negative start and the inexplicable fuzzy nature of my hair it would have been salvagable if I had liked the man enough – but I didn’t. I now had to sit through an afternoon with a man I knew would never secure a second date call back – and my time is scarce. What I had mistaken as a dry sense of humour through text was horribly misconstrued and Welsh Nick was, sadly, just boring AF.
With the benefit of resentment now on my side I started to relax and just allow myself to teeter somewhere between annoyance and hatred. This boring guy had summoned me to London in the middle of COVID, been annoyed at my lateness when 50% of that was his own fault and now…to add insult to injury…he had chosen to drink a coffee when I really wanted a wine. What did I do? Order alcohol and get shit faced or follow his lead? Steady on, girl – my internal monologue reigned me back in. Order a coffee, follow his suit…when the second round comes you can push for a warming wine.
No such luck…as Welsh Nick bored me with his talk about his ranking of rugby teams, his gym dedication and his travel experiences he ordered Cappuccino after Latte after Espresso. I sat there, rain prickling my goosebumped skin, hair literally crawling it’s way outward into the next hemisphere and glancing around to find something – anything – to pass the time. My foot bobbed impatiently beneath the table as caffeine energy coursed malevolently through my veins and that is when I saw it.
Those blisters from my new Converse? Oh…it turns out the new, white Converse had in fact skinned the backs of my heels and had not only broken the skin, but actually caused my feet to bleed so badly it had soaked THROUGH the thick canvas and was now staining the entire back of both shoes. Was Welsh Nick still jabbering on about the gym? I could hear him vaguely reeling off weights of kg he could lift but all I could think about was the sudden stinging, searing pain in my Achilles.
‘So, you work in a hospital?’ Welsh Nick’s plucky Cardiff accent infiltrated my gory musings.
‘Yes – in London.’ I could barely bring myself to put any enthusiasm into my answer.
‘So, in your opinion, is Private Healthcare worth the monthly insurance investment?’
Oh my God. Really Welsh Nick? We’re going to debate the merits of BUPA insurance and whether private healthcare detracts from the wonders of the National Health Service over pounded coffee beans in the rain, are we!?
‘Yes, I think it’s always good to have private insurance,’ I glanced down at my haemorrhaging feet – brown crustiness was formulating on the exterior blood stains leaving crimson rosettes of DNA in the middle. Had I wanted to murder Welsh Nick at the end of this date I realised I would be unable to do so without leaving footprints of my own blood all over the crime scene. Such is life.
‘Interesting. Because I need plastic surgery and I was wondering whether to pay privately for it.’
My interest was now piqued. Plastic surgery, you say, Welsh Nick? On what? From my observations he was a very attractive, though mind numbingly dull, man with beautiful blue eyes and a dark beard that met thickly across the entirety of his jaw. His body was muscular and lithe. What could he possibly require surgery on…and, more to the point, why was he telling me? It occurred to me the basis of the whole date was potentially based on this piece of information he had built up to eliciting but I was oddly unbothered by this.
‘…You see…and I’m ashamed to admit this…’ he pressed on. ‘I have lumps on my nipples.’
I broke eye contact immediately. The awkwardness of the revelation meant I could no longer look him in his sweet baby blues. Lumpy nipples…? Not a problem, per sé – we all have our body flaws. But I was confused as to why he would admit this to me, on date one, approximately 50 minutes after meeting me. I kind of went into a trance like state where I could picture those little perky, erect nipples – lovely and brown and round, framed by rock hard pectorals, but besmirched by little boils across the circumference of each areola.
Unperturbed by my silence, Welsh Nick divulged further. ‘I did steroids a few years back. Gave me back acne, shrank my balls down and gave me horrible tempers but worst of it all were these lumps on my nipples I can’t get rid of.’
‘Oh…right…’ What else could I say? That was a significant amount of truly offputting information to receive in one sentence – and that criticism comes from a comfortable oversharer. From that point on I was in work mode, giving him advice on insurance policies he might want to look into and the type of surgeon best placed to sort out his pockmarked nips.
The date came to an abrupt end not so long after this – I can only assume Welsh Nick picked up the scent of my total ambivalence to him or else he was as underwhelmed with me as I was with him. Painfully (physically and metaphorically) we walked back to Paddington Station together. Welsh Nick climbed the stairs out of the café behind me and I was concerned my red shoes would be in his eyeline so I felt compelled to make my bloody admission.
‘My shoes have rubbed my feet and they’re really bleeding,’ I confessed.
Did Nick offer to hail a taxi? Did he pick me up like a cringe-worthy gentleman and carry me to the train station through the sleet? Nope, of course he didn’t. He shrugged and embarked on a ten minute sermon about how he could never understand why women chose to wear shoes that were cripplingly uncomfortable. I wouldn’t have minded if he’d had a point, but these were fucking flat, trainer-like Converse and very firmly fit in the ‘sensible attire’ category.
We walked for miles down that long, straight, unending road to Paddington station. I could think of nothing but the pain and the humiliation that everyone walking behind me would see the blood trail seeping from my rotting pumps with every step I took. I was walking like a clown – totally flat footed to ensure the backs of the shoe remained in the same place on my foot, not rubbing any further flesh from the exposed bones of my heel.
I kind of relied on Welsh Nick to steer us right, so it did not occur to me that we had been walking for a significant amount of time. Partially due to each agonising step I took and partially because Welsh Nick was so goddamn boring, I assumed time had simply stood still. But no. With a sudden intake of breath Welsh Nick announced that we had somehow made it to Hyde Park.
He told me he had assumed I was directing us back to Paddington and I, too, had assumed the same in reverse. I could no longer even pretend I was OK with this. I told him to catch the bus from where he was and I would walk myself to Paddington alone.
We briefly embraced and I winced internally as he offered a reluctant, ‘We should do this again sometime.’
Obviously fucking not, Welsh Nick.
I politely responded ‘Yeah sure, maybe you could come to Windsor.’ It was an empty offering with no intention to follow through but I was incredulous when Nick immediately replied with a panicked:
‘Oh, not yet!’
Not yet? Sorry – what on earth was this guy on? Had I asked him to bring his top hat and gold band to meet me at The Guild Hall? No – in fact he could have clearly detected in my tone that my response was as empty as the airpockets puckering his nipples.
With that I turned on my bleeding heels and walked away. I sent him a message in the days that followed to say I had not felt there had been anything there for me to which he responded with a ‘Fair enough’ and a thumbs up emoji. I, of course, sent the moon face emoji in response and moved on to my next shitshow of a Bumble date.
So the moral of the story is this: It’s all good remaining positive through the online dating experience but if a number of things go wrong before you’ve even met the guy, cut loose and bail. Failure to heed this warning may lead to an afternoon of your life spent with terrible company, in the rain. Your feet may require amputation and do you really want that with someone who has steroid induced nipple ripples? There are plenty more bees in the hive – literally!!