Dating in London – First Dates, not Soulmates


I’m sprawled across my bed on a Sunday, window’s flung open because yet again it’s a city heatwave. There’s nothing to do in a London heatwave except stand still and sweat. Which is exactly what I’m doing in my Tommy Hilfiger underwear with a towel wrapped around my head. Redbone is playing softly on my laptop. I consider getting off the bed and going downstairs for coffee, but even that would be too strenuous in the heat. Instead I prop myself up on my elbow and open Tinder because in this day and age, what’s a better use of your time than mindless small talk with strangers? As I’m doing this, bored within five minutes, I think to myself how strange it is that we seek soulmates on smartphones. Instead of the sexy wink across a bar, we’re resorted to connections over a screen and answering the god-awful ‘where are you from?’ opening line or other comedic gold ones like ‘wanna bang?’

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In high school there was an innocent simplicity to how we partnered up. You would ignore your crush all week at school. Have a heart attack if you passed them in the hallway, breathing in their Lynx Africa. Then you would wind up at the same party on the weekend where you would knock back too many Vodka Cruisers, play truth or dare, kiss your crush and be an official couple come Monday morning.

University didn’t differ too much from that. Boys were boys. They sunk back cheap beer and ate two minute noodles by the bucket load. It began with eyeing an attractive lad in your lecture. That night at three in the morning you would be leaving the campus club holding hands and sharing chicken nuggets. This proceeds to a romance consisting of inebriated sex, some terrible sloppy foreplay, and waking up to fry bacon together in a flat filled with empty cans and people passed out across the beanbags. You would reluctantly traipse to your afternoon lecture, and yawn through it while sending emoji’s detailing last nights antics to your love. This constitutes a relationship. I often think to myself, there’s something magical about losing our inhibitions the way we did. When career, money and social status were nonexistent and you fell in love over fry ups and booze benders.

After university, we find ourselves with too much choice. Why settle for your lecture crush, when you can trawl through the worlds population on your phone, from the safety of your duvet? Our parents weren’t bombarded daily with images of people they could be with. The options are wildly different. Gen baby boomers & X were destined to shack up with someone from their hometown, university or work. Dating was an intimate relaxed experience. For the millennial’s, it’s chaos. The options are endless.
1. Slide in to the DMs of any of the one billion users on Instagram… celebrities included
2. Get swiping on the apps
3. Go out on any night of the week and pick someone up at a bar
4. Travel romances
5. Hit the ex archive (totally guilty of this. On like, one hundred counts)
6. Hometown, work and university hotties.
We have dog-face filters to hide our flaws, and social media to cover any imperfections. Our best selves can be portrayed and we use this to compete against the other fifty million monthly tinder users.
Shifting from the traditional dating scene of Baby Boomers and Gen X leaves us facing so many unanswered questions like… who pays the bill at the end of the first date? How many dates are appropriate before the first kiss? How many days should you text a stranger before suggesting a date?

Dating advice circa 2018. Based on experience…

Don’t shave your head on the day of your first date. When she has swiped for an afro, she’s expecting an afro. It’s a shock. You will terrify her with your shiny bald head.

Don’t ask the girl how old she is, and then refuse to tell her your own age. She will figure it out when you start talking about nightclubs in the 80’s. Again, you will terrify her.

Don’t ask to go on a first date and bring your best friend along. It is a very awkward third wheel.

Don’t arrange a date, get day drunk beforehand and message the girl 150 times about the size of your penis, call at least 20 times requiring her to block you and consider a restraining order before she has even met you.

Do not tip a glass of beer over a girl because you think it will ‘break the ice

Our deep-dive in to the dating world for my friends and I was spurred on by a trip to a psychic. I convinced my girl Shannon it was for a laugh, but secretly I was taking it seriously. I wanted it to be confirmed that Tom Hardy would fall in love with me and take me to Malibu where we would spend the rest of our lives skinny dipping, surfing and drinking Pina Colada’s.
So we go and see Barbara the Tarot Reader at Mysteries, in Convent Garden. It’s a total cliché, a shop dedicated to crystals and tarot cards. It’s a stormy day and we are soaked through to our skin, shivering as we wait for Barbs in our leather jackets. Or equally shivering because we are nervous. There’s something daunting about playing with fate and future.

Barbs was as nutty as I expected, although she nailed a few things in my life. I left the appointment with an eerie feeling.
When I see Shannon waiting upstairs, I laugh because she looks shell shocked.
Absolutely traumatised. Her mascara is running a little.
“Opium? You look like you need a drink” I say, laughing still and slinging my arm around her.
Opium is an oriental themed Dim Sum parlour and cocktail bar in the heart of Chinatown. It’s hidden well, but alluring when you walk in to find yourself in 1920’s Shanghai. We go to Peony, the hidden den behind a curtain, and hike ourselves on to a bar stool to mull over our readings.
Shannon orders a Guiyang, with ginger, grilled pineapple, chestnut and custard. If you want a cocktail from the gods, I suggest you make your way to Opium. I go for a Macau because anything with coconut turns me on.
“So Barbs was a bit wild wasn’t she. Take it you got bad news?” I shake off my leather jacket. It’s so dimly lit I can barely see in front of me.
“You go first Chels, I can’t bear it”
“Okay, okay. Barbs tells me that this year Italy will be important to me, Gemini’s will play havoc with me, and my future husband is an wealthy African rocket scientist who I will meet in December.” I pause for a minute, imagining my life with a wealthy African rocket scientist. I’m not convinced. I continue.
“But she hit the nail on the head with other things. Supposedly I want commitment but fear commitment… so I want to lock men down but when I do I get scared and screw it up, or run away. Then she reckoned if I’m going to fix my commitment issues I need start casually playing the field and learn how to have a Monday man, Wednesday man, and a Friday man”
“So Barbs wants you to date more?”
“I guess, yeah. She wants me to stop putting all my eggs in one basket. But my poor eggs will crack from stress, I can’t juggle three men a week!”
Our drinks arrive. Shannon digests my psychic story, sitting in silence for a bit.
“Does Barbs want you to date more too?” I probe her, but she shakes her head.
“Barbs said….”
She leans in, face ashen and horrified.
A small whisper comes out.
“Barbs said I need to stop having one night stands…or i’ll die.

Oh for fucks sake’s Barbs. Shannon’s eyes are like dinner saucers. I know what she is thinking. She’s deciding it would be safer to become a purist. I’m not sold on the fact that Mysteries shop in Convent Garden can predict an impending ‘death by sex’. But even so, we talk it over, and decide two conclusions have come from Barbs questionable psychic powers.
Firstly, Shannon must always secure a second date. To avoid death, obviously. As long as she sees them twice she will survive.
The second conclusion, is that I need to date more. I need to embrace the sport of swiping. I’ve got to be wined and dined by blind dates, rather than digging in to my past for passion (I basically return to exes on a monthly basis).

That night, I cosy up on the couch. I flick on a film, and wait for a slow scene for me to start swiping. Immediately, I realise I am unquestionably picky on Bumble.
Why is he wearing sunglasses in every picture? What’s wrong with his eyes? I think. No.
He doesn’t drink…okay, this isn’t gonna work. No.
Ooh he’s kind of cute… but 6,9. 6,9! I wouldn’t be able to hear him from down here. No.
Here for a week, won’t contact you after that… what? Who the fuck?? No.
Anyway the premise of dating apps is awful. It’s superficial, the chat is boring, and it’s a generally terrible way to meet people especially when you’re confident enough to meet love interests in real life. But Barbs was in the back of my mind, floating there like a dating guru.
The first semi-intriguing catch appears on my screen. Rhys is a twenty-seven y/o television director. He has a cheeky smile. The profile held no red-flags and was relatively normal. A healthy combination of selfies, group pictures and activity snaps.
In his first image he’s wearing a white Rag n Bone tee, a beanie, jeans and Timberland’s. In the second he is among friends wearing a tux. I appreciate that he can pull off two conflicting looks because I want to know I can have a Champagne Bellini at The Ned with my man all dressed up, but can also throw back a burger in sweatpants on a hangover Sunday. We banter over message, and the back and forth is flowing. The conversation is successful enough that I am actually regularly checking my notifications – a rarity where dating apps are concerned. It’s not long before he progresses to asking about a date. Drinks and dinner, he says. Friday.

What women are thinking when you ask for a first date on….

Monday =
Mondays are for face-masks, baths, going to yoga, and detoxifying from the weekend. Don’t fuck with my week like that. 

Tuesday =
Not the sexiest day, but it’ll do. 

Wednesday =
Dating gold

Thursday =
Dating nirvana

Friday =
Don’t you have anything better to do on a Friday?

Saturday =
Okay REALLY don’t you have anything better to do? Where are your friends? This is prime real-estate?

Sunday =
Could be perfect, but also I could be in the fetal position on the couch crying due to severe hangover. This one is a total lottery.

A first date is like a game of Roulette. It’s a total gamble. I arrive to meet Rhys, I’m nervous. But he looks exactly like his pictures and exceeds expectations. He is a complete gentleman, surprises me with intelligent conversion, compliments my outfit, and at the end he pays for the meal before taking my hand and whisking me to a secret garden where we jump the fence and passionately kiss and…

Is your bullshit radar going off? If it is, well done. This is not a scene in Notting Hill. I am not Julia Roberts. Also, I wouldn’t have any blog content if my dates were a dream like that. Rhys books us a table at ‘somewhere special’ he says. When he gives me the address, it’s Duck and Waffle. D&W is a serious hot spot. It combines traditional British cuisine, with a sexy skyline view. It’s on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate in London. Going up in the lift and the sunset glows on my face. I’m nervous but hide it with a fierce outfit, wearing a black satin jumpsuit from SilkFred and nude heels, a clutch purse and my hair in a tight bun. Going for city chic.

He is waiting in the bar area as I step out of the elevator. I spot him immediately, nursing a cocktail. He has his hair slicked back, loose chinos and a black bomber jacket with a fresh white tee. We kiss on both cheeks. He looks like his pictures, but slightly more disheveled with black bags under his eyes. I was expecting a suave musty Tom Ford scent but he smells like stale beer.
“You’re so fit babe” He says in a thick London accent.
We get to the table, and Rhys is hyperactive. Conversation is tough because he switches topics every minute. He is tapping the table with his fingers, and beads of sweat are appearing on his forehead. We haven’t even ordered the drinks.
“What do you want to drink? I want to treat you tonight” He says.
“Bottle of wine?”
“Alright sweetheart. What kind?”
“I don’t know, red wine? Pinot Noir?” I suggest. He clicks at the waitress (hate that).
“Hey you, I don’t have all day here” He says, and tells her to bring over a bottle of red, sharpish, and then winks at her when she scowls.
Alright, he’s rude, i’m on to a winner here.
The conversation leaves a lot to be desired. He questions me about my work with BBC and where I’m from, but he appears distracted. It’s obvious whats going on here.
We haven’t even had a starter yet, let alone a drink, and the kid is definitely leaning towards wasted.
“Oi geezer, why are you looking over here?” He says to the man watching him nervously at the table next to us. His hyperactivity and rudeness is obvious to the tables around us. Oh god. I know I said I’m drawn to jerks, but seriously, WHY ME. WHY me.
He tries to semi-redeem himself.
“Look, I’m sorry, i’m on edge I know. I was really looking forward to this date but I’ve had a rough week at work, things aren’t going so well, you feel me? It’s my first day off, just need a stress relief.” He swigs his Pinot Noir and sighs. I want to give him a chance but he’s definitely high on something. I shouldn’t have suggested wine because i’ll have to stay for the whole bottle.
I have a date rule i picked up from a podcast I listened to. You can always judge how well a date is going by the speed the wine is going down. Use a bottle of wine like an egg timer. It’s a bad date if you realise you have a whole bottle to go and your stomach drops, you think oh god how will I get to the end of this. If you blink and you’ve finished it, you’re having fun; it’s a good date.
Our food arrives, the crispy leg confit duck, oven baked cod and side of bacon wrapped dates. He barely touches his food, leg tapping on the floor. He excuses himself and goes to the bathroom. I pull out my phone.
SOS – i’m on a date and it’s fucking awful. Call me in ten. I text my friend Chloe, who lives nearby and can save face if need be.
He returns to the table with remnants of white powder across his face like fresh snow.

I sigh. I didn’t spend two hours on elaborate makeup to sit here and compete with cocaine.  I don’t want to give him a piece of my mind, i’d rather disappear without confrontation and emotional displays in true Aquarius fashion. I eat my cod as if I’m an American professional hot dog eating contestant, eating so fast I almost choke. I wash it down with red wine, and flick a quick message to Chloe.
C – Meet me at the Alchemist in half an hour. It’s your shout because you failed at saving me from this NIGHTMARE”
Chloe – Scale of one to ten, how bad?
Chloe – Fine. My shout.
“I need an early night. I should head off home now.” I say, fake yawning as if my life depended on it.
“What, why? The party’s just started?” He looks genuinely shocked.
“No, I really need an early night”
“Alright love” He shrugs and reaches for his wallet. I gather my things.
When the date was organised, he insisted he would take me out for dinner, so at least I’ve got a free meal out of this. I give him a kiss on the cheek, and turn to leave.
“Shall we split it? It’s quite an expensive place” He says.
I laugh. Because literally, fuck you. I turn to leave, and…
“Oh wait…!”
Shit, what now…
“I’ve forgotten my wallet”

The entire date, including the Negori he had while waiting, cost me £113.50.

I walked in to the Alchemist half an hour later and I am fuming. Anger is boiling inside me. I’m now broke, I’ve wasted my evening and I feel violated. It’s like Rhys had split personality. Intellectual, sensual banter over the phone but in person be arrogant and rude with a bad blow habit. I certainly don’t turn up to dates, slap the male waiter on the ass, pop a Molly and behave like a lunatic. Be yourself, for sure. But save the rowdy behavior for Saturday with your crew.

He did message me multiple times, suggesting he make it up to me and had been in bad shape that day. But you know the saying. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’d rather stick needles in my eyes than date you again hon.

Red Flags that actually happened, on real live dates, with my friends and I

  • He scratched his back with a fork, because it was itchy
  • He asks if I have ‘abs’. When I say no he asks if I can ‘get some’
  • He asks for £10 to top up his phone cause he’s been robbed.
  • He says he’s ‘missed his last train home and better stay with you’
  • He forgets his wallet. Seriously.
  • He gets a call during the date from ‘Sarah’, ‘Annalise’ and ‘Jennifer’
  • He orders a Margarita and asks for no sugar, no syrup (sociopath?)
  • He puts tomato ketchup on his salad
  • He tells you your hair is so dry, it might catch fire on his cigarette (WTF)
  • He tells you he has taken a pill, and it might be meth, but don’t worry about it
  • He says ‘good things come in small packages’ and points to his groin
  • He suggests the first date be in a park. At 11pm. 



One Comment Add yours

  1. Shreyas Isaac says:

    The last bit made me laugh so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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