This was always going to be a strange one. Date No. 4 wrote to me on MySingleFriend.com two weeks ago.
‘hey’ she said, which I thought was remarkably thoughtful for a first contact message. What bugged me, though, was the fact that there was no punctuation. No capital H. No full stop. Just hey
She’d filled her profile with ten very similar images showing a slim, smiley black girl with curly hair and a wide, toothy smile. In two of them she wore a Burberry peaked cap. She really wasn’t my type, but despite my editorial fury at her capital letter failure, I wrote back, keen to employ a similar amount of detail in my message:
Dave - Hi! You seem very nice.
No. 4 - I am a very nice person. I like your profile…
For some reason I started to get the impression that this was going to take a while…
Dave - I like yours… So what are you looking for on this site?
No. 4 - a man with all or close enough qualities/personality/looks as l desire…..my dream guy…does that answer your question?……l honestly like your pic….it makes you look so….so….aaahh…so musculine…you have very strong facial features…l like that in a man
And that’s how it started. Eventually we agreed to meet. Last night, a text bleeped through:
No. 4 - Wat tym do u wanna meet 2morrow?
Dave - What what do I want to meet tomorrow?
No. 4 - tym
Dave – Ah, right. How does 7 sound?
No. 4 - Wel da ting is I aight feelin so good, can we reschedule?
Dave - How is ‘I aight’ shorter than ‘I’m not’? And why did you ask me what tym you wanted to meet if you’re ready to be sick on me?
I have two options now; either try and persuade her that she really aight feeling so bad that she can’t come out, or surrender to the grammatical monster in me that just can’t stand the text mess. I realise, with most of my frontal lobe still thinking about Date No. 3, that I don’t have the energy for this one.
Dave - Ok…hope you get better soon.
By noon today she changed her mind…
No. 4 - Hi Dave I suppose we can meet up for a few drinks if u stilup4it…
Oh, bloody hell. But she used a capital letter once so I thought I’d give her a chance. So there I am, perched on a bench outside a pub in East Dulwich. It’s half past eight. She texted an hour ago to ask if I could delay from 7pm to 8pm, which was no problem, but as the minutes ticked by I started to laugh. What am I doing? This girl clearly isn’t going to turn up. Another cancellation. Another date to make up. Passers-by look at me curiously as I swing my legs and laugh now and then for no reason, I really am on a silly mission, waiting in a strange part of London for a strange girl who can’t spell and is twenty minutes late and possibly not going to turn up at all.
And then she calls and minutes later she walks around the corner, a tiny girl with a wide smile, incredibly pretty and well presented. I wasn’t expecting this.
‘I feel over-dressed,’ she says, and I have a pang of guilt for not making much of an effort and try to tell her that she looks great and that it’s all my fault. She pretends to take it to heart and we go inside and settle down shoulder-to-shoulder, chatting away but with an occasional forced silence that suggests we don’t have a huge amount in common, which, frankly, we don’t. At the same time there’s a strange spark, it’s all a bit touchy-feely and flirtatious, arm strokes, a brief hand hold. It’s all very strange and I drift off, thinking about Date No. 3 and how different this date is from that one. I’m brought back to reality when No. 4 pats my chest. ‘Are you feeling me up?’ I joke, but she doesn’t quite get it and withdraws, which makes things a little uncomfortable.
‘Would you like another drink?’ she asks eventually. I nod, and No. 4 just sits there, waiting for me to go to the bar. I laugh and mutter ‘Cheeky thing, aren’t you,’ under my breath, but there’s some conflict now. This girl is twenty-one and I’m sure means nothing rude by expecting me to buy all the drinks – maybe that’s the way they do it in Lewisham - but it ticked me off, just a little bit. There’s a contradictory naiveté about her, she’s talks the talk and tells me about her studies and her passion to be a dentist, which seems an incredibly well thought out plan. But then, almost in the same breath, she’ll spurt out something ridiculous, like how she hates dogs, is terrified of flying, and bicycles, aeroplanes, boats. And yet I still quite like her, her youthfulness, her looks, her attitude. What a shame she can’t bloody spell.
I got the drinks anyway, because I’m a boy and had been staring at her lips for a while. They’re coated in that glittered lip balm which makes them sparkle and shine, and despite all of the bad signs something had come over me, I just wanted to kiss her – not because we were compatible, but because I wanted to feel what it was like to kiss those lips. This girl and I were so far from a match made in heaven but sexual energy was zipping to and fro between us, and I was caught between wanting to lean over and kiss her neck and a need to leave, because I had to clear my head. I’m not one of those letchy men who sit by themselves in pub corners leering at pretty young girls, but all of a sudden I’ve become a single man with a high sex drive who has consciously put himself in a position where any kind of physical contact transforms an innocent date between two like-minded people into an almighty complication. I can’t go kissing girls all over the place. I don’t even want to think about sleeping with them, this whole project would just fall apart if my penis was writing the book. But it’s not, and I’m in control, it’s just that every girl that sits across from me has something attractive about her and that feeds temptation, especially when it’s not in a state of satisfaction.
I need to take my mind off sex, at least for six seconds, so I start asking her random questions and when she answers I stare into my gin and tonic, at the paintings on the wall, at my palms, anywhere but at her lips which by now she keeps licking seductively for some totally inconsiderate reason. Maybe that lip-gloss has a nice flavour, but all that licking isn’t fooling me, she’s testing my resolve because she’s twenty-one years old and is just discovering what certain things do to certain men. Then, in a curious act of karma, the enormous pub dog decides to come and lie down under our table and No. 4’s allure abates as she begins to tremble. ‘I need to crap,’ she says, four words guaranteed to dissolve a man’s scrotum, ‘but with that thing there I’m not going anywhere, I’m going to scream.’ And with that she covers her mouth with both hands and begins to hyperventilate, whimpering through the holes in her fingers. Tears build up and pool on her mascara’d lashes. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, and watch No. 4 as she edges off her seat and dashes to the toilet, causing a few people to look over in my direction to see what I’d done to elicit such a departure. I shrugged at them, pointing at the dog, which in hindsight wasn’t a good thing to do because the dog was under the table and I just looked like I was pointing at my crotch. I am never coming back to this pub again.
I wait with No. 4 at the bus stop and even then, even after all of the palaver with the bad spelling and the phobias of everything and the dog situation and her cobwebby purse, I still wonder whether we’re going to kiss, because after all it’s not her lips’ fault that their owner is a bit weird. But there’s no kiss, there’s barely a peck on the cheek, and the 187 takes No. 4 back to Lewisham, where I’m quite sure she’s going to stay for the rest of her life because the big wide world world is far too terrifying.