As this Challenge gathers momentum (22,000 hits! Thanks so much everyone for your support – please keep sharing the blog if you’re enjoying it!), I’ve noticed two key changes.
The first thing is that certain aspects of my normal life are falling by the wayside on account of this crazy challenge!
Thirty Dates in three months is doable, but only just, if you have a full-time job, live a normal sociable life, and want to see your friends and people you care about during those three months too!
On Saturday, I literally slept until 4pm. I haven’t slept in that late since I was at university! And the reason definitely wasn’t because I stayed up all night thinking about Mr Twenty40!
Since this Challenge started, I’ve probably averaged about five hours sleep a night. I’ll get back from dates at 1am, after five hours commuting in and out of London after work, and then stay up for two hours blogging about the date. I’m not gonna lie, it’s completely addictive, and sometimes writing about the date is actually more fun than going on it!
But because I’m spending so much time dating, travelling to dates, arranging dates, canvassing for more dates, and blogging about dates, it means my flat is a mess, and my normal 5 day-a-week gym routine is nothing more than a distant memory! It’s a good thing I’m only going on first dates with these guys, as there’s no way I could invite people home to my flat in its present state!
The second change I’ve noticed as the Challenge has progressed is how much harder it is to confirm dates, and keep them … as evidenced by Would-have-been 14!
When I first began this challenge, it was a random idea on Facebook, and I guess that’s why guys so easily bought in. But as the blog started, and then grew in popularity, it’s obviously added a different side to the challenge. One which guys like The Challenger and The Fake Pimpernel have revelled in. The Fake Pimpernel has literally used our date like personal PR for his love life! Posting it on his Facebook within minutes, and sharing it with all his family!
But not every guy is the Challenger or F-Pimp, and not every guy revels in the idea of online competition, and sees the blog as his opportunity to shine. Whilst my sole intention is for it to be a bit of anonymous, harmless fun, obviously some guys would be really put off about someone writing up their date, even if the write-up couldn’t be linked back to them in any way.
So I’ve had at least three dates cancel so far, and a number of guys suggest an interest, but then never actually get around to securing a date.
Which brings me to Date Eleven – Stitch. Named as such, partially because I really like the dating movie Hitch, but mainly because he was essentially stitched up by our mutual friend ‘My Upside-Down Twin’. My Upside-Down Twin, or Twinnie, is named such for a number of reasons. First of all, she lives in Australia, hence the upside-downness of it all. But also, because we’ve kind of lived the same lives in jumbled-up ways. I went to uni to study broadcasting while Twinnie was working in Canada, and then Twinnie came back home, and had planned to study the same course, whilst organising for me to go to Canada to do the same job she did! Add to that the fact our (very weird) Canadian boss was adamant we looked alike (we’re both tall and brunette), and you get her blog nickname!
So anyway, knowing Stitch would never agree to take part in the Challenge normally, Twinnie basically stitched him up!
She texted him, simply to ask if he fancied a date with a friend of hers. She’d previously helped him set up a profile on the website My Single Friend, and so, after asking a couple of questions about me, he agreed. He texted me, telling me he was in Bristol, and realising this would be a pretty similar commute to London, I agreed to travel there, arranging to drive to meet him after work yesterday evening.
I knew she hadn’t told him everything, and so planned to tell him when I arrived on the date. Because he didn’t know I was going on 29 other dates, it was interesting trying not to come across as super-demanding, as I asked him over texts if we could do something other than a bog-standard drink or dinner!
We arranged to meet in central Bristol (after he a little oddly suggested I meet him at his house. Whilst I realised the sentiment was genuine enough – apparently the parking is free there – I felt a bit weird meeting a blind date at their house, even if they were recommended by a friend.) It was one of the weirdest date meetings so far, as he rang me, watched me answer my phone, and then told me he was walking down the other side of the street. We did the official ‘hug/kiss on the cheek greet’ literally standing in the middle of a quiet road, and then immediately set off on a walk to venue number one …
He joked that he was taken me to a complete dive of a bar that we had to walk past en route, but actually our destination was a pub on a boat, called ‘Grain Barge’.
As we walked to the boat (past a host of Gromit the dogs!), I asked exactly how much Twinnie had told him, and when he replied ‘very little’, I asked more carefully if he knew about the Challenge, which he obviously didn’t. I told him about the 30 Dates, and his body language definitely jarred a bit. He admitted he wouldn’t normally get involved in something like this, and we carried on talking about the challenge. I explained that was probably why I may have come across quite demanding in my texts before the date, and that I just didn’t want to go on 30 pub dates (especially when I was driving halfway across the country to go on a date!)
We entered the Grain Barge – a relaxed pub/restaurant, where a free pint of ale is served with every meal, and ordered pub dinners. As I ate fish pie and Stitch ate steak, we carried on chatting about different things. He took some time to warm up, and was quite argumentative about strange things. His comments at times were a little odd and made me feel awkward, even when I was trying to describe some of my hobbies.
We talked about the fiction books I wrote when I was travelling, and then the conversation went back to my Challenge. At which point Stitch asked if I’d considered writing a book about my 30 Dates by 30 Challenge.
I’ve always figured the best thing to do is to make sure all my Dates (with the exception of my first trial date with Normal Fish) are fully aware of my Challenge and the blog … but last night I actually probably made a mistake. Because when Stitch suggested I write about the challenge, I very honestly told him about the blog. And he kicked off!
Not in a violent or aggressive way. But in a very shocked, and rather sulky way. He’d been quite awkward anyway, but at that point it got about ten times worse! He started firing questions about the blog at me, and no matter how much I explained that it was anonymous, no one he knew could link him to it, and that my focus is blogging about the date, rather than the guy, it was clear he was not impressed.
He actually asked if I was recording the date. And when I laughed in surprise, he repeated the question, deadly serious! I genuinely had to offer to let him search my handbag!
For at least twenty minutes, things were really awkward, as he muttered under his breath about Twinnie setting him up, and how he would have never done this if he’d known. At one point I genuinely thought he was going to leave!
And then he seemed to change his mind, I suppose for a start he still had all of my pint of ale to drink and half his meal left. Conversation turned to other things, and he started talking about the second part of the date.
We stayed for a second drink, and then set off on what he described as ‘about a mile walk’. By the time we left the boat, it was getting dark, and as we turned down a dark side street, I couldn’t help laughing out loud about the fact I was on a blind date with a guy who had invited me to his house, and was taking me down dark alleyways!
The atmosphere seemed to lighten, and we trekked through the streets of Bristol, with Stitch showing me the town tour guide-style. By the time we headed up The Downs, to sit on a picnic blanket by the Clifton Observatory, and look out over Brunel’s Clifton Suspension bridge (which I embarrassingly suggested went to Wales …. geography was never a strong point!), it was pitch black. Cue lots of jokes about dogging in bushes, and being murdered in the woods! But it was actually really sweet – we sat on a blanket (which he’d been carrying around all evening in a rucksack) and chatted comfortably. He also produced a bottle of non-alcoholic stuff (because he knew I was driving) and it was the best part of the evening. He had relaxed a lot, and we were getting on far better, and making jokes about things which had seemed far more awkward earlier in the evening. I talked about the Search for a Christian on Threads, and showed him that article, and the recent article about my challenge in a local newspaper.
At quarter to midnight, we realised how late it was, and that I had an hour and a half’s drive home, so headed back down the hill and in search of a taxi.
During the date, Stitch suggested that I should only have told him at the end of the date, as then I would have got a more ‘honest’ view of the date.
It’s an interesting debacle.
If the blog is going to put off potential dates and mean I can’t actually find another nineteen dates to complete the challenge, do I need my referees to not tell them anything? And then, if they don’t know about the Challenge, do I then tell them when I’m on the date.
By only going on dates with boys who know about the challenge, arguably you don’t get as honest a picture of blind dating in Britain, as the likes of the Fake Pimpernel will pull out all the stops. (But then obviously the dates are a lot more fun!)
I had thought it was deceitful NOT to tell the guys about the Challenge (or the blog) … but after the Stitch’s reaction (both during the challenge, and even after – he had a massive go at Twinnie over text, and then only replied to my polite thank you text almost 24 hours later … and possibly just because he was worried what I’d say in the blog), I’m not so sure.
A friend of mine online dated regularly when she was single, and she’d tell us all about it via Facebook statuses. All the guys had nicknames, and it did make me wonder when she started dating (and obviously Facebook-friended) one of the guys she’d talked about on her feed!
If I’m genuinely treating this as a challenge where I might meet a guy, then surely I should be honest and tell the guys the truth and the whole truth? But then is Stitch right? Does telling them manipulate their behaviour, and mean I’m not getting a true Blind Date? (it clearly didn’t with Mr Twenty40, who knew all about the challenge and blog, and was still rude to total strangers in front of me on the Tube!). Or do I only tell guys who I think could be potential second dates?
I like to think that any guy I would date, would be comfortable and confident enough to take part in a challenge like this … though I don’t necessarily need someone who needs to be a centre of attention, and then broadcast the post about them to the world. I guess I’d be most attracted to someone who was up for a laugh, and made an evening of it, but wasn’t worried about the PR aspect that comes with it …
What do you all think? Should I continue being honest? And should I make sure all dates know EVERYTHING before I meet up with them? Or will that mean I don’t make my 30 dates by 30? Should I tell everyone? At the start of the date? Or at the end?
I genuinely don’t know! What I do know, is I felt really bad last night with Stitch, and that something that was meant to be light-hearted and fun had really upset him. He did eventually text me today, and said he’d had a really fun date, and whilst he wouldn’t have met up with me if he’d known about the Challenge, he was glad we met up …. but he followed it with ‘Weird situation as realising thousands of people are going to hear what happens definitely affects your actions’ …. so I don’t know if that was a veiled comment to mean he didn’t actually mean what he’d just said? Or is that reading into it a bit too much ….?!
We met – in the middle of a back street in Bristol (in the middle of the road! slightly awkward!)
I wore – a black dress with white polkadots, black cardigan, and flip flops (at this point, my work colleague suggested I point out that I own 5 different polkadot dresses, and lots of flat shoes, so am not always wearing the same outfit!!)
He wore – a check shirt, dark trousers and boat shoes
I drank – one glass of rose and lemonade, diet coke. He drank – ale
We talked about – anthropology, China, roller derby, Kiwi bus, parties on the Kiwi tour, sky diving, bungy jumping, religion, weird social customs, bridges
The date lasted – 4 hours
The date ended … as midnight approached and I needed to get home. A taxi dropped him home, then me back at my car.
Marks out of ten? Well despite being made to feel really awful for grading the date (though towards the end of the date, he actually suggested I introduce breakdown categories, like ‘humour’ and ‘banter’, and also gave me suggestions for his blog nickname??) …. I am going to grade it still! I think a 7.5. It would have been an 8, because it was a really nicely planned date (and he had wanted to include the balloon festival, but that was the following night) but I felt so awkward, for so much of the date, and he took so long to warm up, that that definitely affected my enjoyment of the date. The last hour or so, sitting in the dark, staring out at the prettily lit bridge, was really fun, and the reason I happily stayed in Bristol til way past my bedtime … Maybe he was just someone who needed a few drinks (and not to know about the blog!) to relax?
Next date – Friday night in London
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx