‘Please let me get this,’ I said as we queued. ‘As way of apology for my tardiness.’
‘No, no,’ he replied, by which I thought he meant he’d pay for the coffee. Then he stepped back as if to say, you go on ahead, and I was thrown that apparently I’d pay my £1.90, and he’d pay his.
‘Honestly- I’ve got it,’ I said, grumpily now. ‘Please.’
I don’t expect a man to pay on a date- I’ve got my own cash- but what I do expect is that if I offer to pay then my date is gracious about it, and ultimately if they refuse it means that they’ll pick up the check. Not for a lobster dinner, not for box seats, but for a hot water I wasn’t even going to dip my tea bag into? Come the fuck on.
Also, we’re supposed to be making a good impression.
The lady behind the counter popped two cardboard cups on a tray in front of us, and I waited for him to pick up the tray, all gentleman like. He didn’t. That was how I knew: no.
Maybe he was just nervous, my post-date debriefer said. You’re pretty intimidating. Bossy.
I reasoned that intimidation has nothing to do with good manners.
True. That’s the test, really, isn’t it? Who’s gonna put up with your shit, and who is gonna be bullied by you?
I’m not a bully, I countered. Then I reflected some. Okay, I said. I’m a bit of a bully.
Find a fella who will tell you so, I was advised. Isn’t that how Madonna ended up with Guy Richie? That he was the first man to successfully dominate her, instead of being dominated?
And that’s the story of how I compared myself to the pop icon of our time.
I hadn’t meant to take a day off work to meet him. I’d been invited to an all-morning meeting to help out the literacy charity I volunteer with, and figured that between that finishing and a theatre date later that evening, I’d take a nice walk around a part of town I didn’t know very well and do that thing that in my imagination I refer to as refilling the creative well but out loud declare as being “me time”. Both are wanky. J’know. I mean, I *did* just say the Madge thing, you know? Can we just move past my pretentiousness? Don’t trip over my self-righteousness on your way.
The meeting at the charity got cancelled, but I’d already agreed to meet this guy. So I had the day off work anyway. Slept in, ate a good breakfast, stretched. I’ve been doing a lot of stretching lately.
I suppose by definition of the fact that I was excited, and had apparently dedicated a whole day to this excitement, was signpost enough that it wasn’t ever going to be as brilliant as what I had in my imagination, because those are the rules.
Example Conversation 1:
‘I’m going to see Once: The Musical tonight,’ I excitedly told him.
‘Didn’t like the film,’ he replied.
‘Do you not have a heart?’ I said.
‘Can’t stand Glen Hansard,’ he said.
‘Oh,’ I said.
Example Conversation 2:
‘Well, tomorrow I’m finally catching Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at the Apollo,’ I said.
‘Didn’t like the book,’ he replied.
‘Do you not have an imagination?’ I said.
‘Couldn’t get on with the style,’ he said.
‘Oh,’ I said.
Example Conversation 3:
‘Because I mean, you’ve seen The Bodyguard,’ I said.
‘Totally not my thing,’ he said.
‘But… is it not everyone’s thing?’ I said.
‘Bit girly for me,’ he said.
‘Oh,’ I said.
The last man I fell for sang Barbara Streisand to me at full lilt as I cycled up a mountain (hill). He was the one who told me to go see Once and talked about all the plays and understood that live performance makes us better humans so would recite his favourite lines in funny accents to complement mine as I did the same. We passed hours that way.
That’s the benchmark.
On Saturday night I went to see The Killers at Wembley. On the train home, the man opposite my friend and I overheard me say I was going to a screening of Much Ado About Nothing, and as his colleague hit on my mate he told me about an Eagles documentary he’d seen, and complimented my glasses.
They’re my Atticus Finch glasses, I said, and he knew what I meant.
I think that’s how you meet somebody, isn’t it? At a gig you weren’t even supposed to be at, talking about the things you love to the friend you adore, totally unaware of your audience until BOOM. Common ground.
Not this Internet dating malarkey.
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