It wasn’t the best start to a date … It’s Friday night, and regular readers of the blog will have realised I try to sneak in a quick yoga class before Friday night dates. I’d learned my lesson and actually dried my hair after class this time (though I did manage to forget to pack shampoo, only to realise shower gel is not an acceptable substitute!) However what I didn’t do, was park particularly sensibly!
So, if I have any major pet peeve, it’s paying to park my car. Cars are expensive enough to run, I don’t agree with them being expensive to stop as well! So whenever I go to yoga, I try to find more ‘economical’ (read FREE) parking options. For the past two years, this has been a local office car park. I smile nicely at the security guard as I park my car, and occasionally I have to push open the gate to get the car back out again after yoga has finished, pushing aside the chain draped casually between the two halves of the gate to make it look as if they’re actually locked.
Except tonight they were actually locked! It’s Reading Festival, and so I guess everyone is a little more security conscious this weekend. Add that to the fact it’s a Bank Holiday weekend … I started Blind Date Number Seventeen realising that my car has been impounded for the entire three day weekend!
And so, when I went to meet The Pupil in the middle of a bridge in the centre of the Oracle Shopping Centre in Reading, I was rather ungracefully carrying my sports bag and yoga mat with me!
Ironically the Pupil was the only person sitting on the bridge alone. The rest of the bench was filled with couples, making him easy to identify, though (in spite of me having told him about the car issues, and that I would approach him carrying a yoga mat) he didn’t seem to realise it was me, until I actively went up to him and asked for him by name.
The Pupil offered to put my sports gear in his car, and so we headed into the shopping centre car park and ran through the ‘date options’. The Pupil had been recommended by one of my younger sister’s closest friends. She originally offered me a ‘bad date’ last week, having read my post ‘The Bad Date Experiment‘. When I told her I wasn’t actively seeking bad dates, more expecting the dates to get worse depending on how I screened for potential dates, she came up with The Pupil as a second option. It’s interesting, because looking back at her message, she had described him as ‘tall’ ‘sporty’, ‘well-educated’ and ‘well-travelled’ … something I shamelessly admit to having read and just interpreted as ‘hot’, even though she had said nothing of the sorts!
The Pupil’s first text message had been very keen. He’d told me he’d seen a picture of me, and knew where I’d gone to school, and in the very first text message praised me for being ‘attractive’ and ‘intelligent’.
It’s interesting how different people use different words in different ways. Early on in the challenge I mentioned an internet date I once went on, where the person I met completely lied about his height, and used the words ‘confident’ and ‘outgoing’ to mean very different things to the impression they conjured in my mind. Likewise, when my sister’s friend described The Pupil as ‘tall’ I forgot she is considerably shorter than me! Now, we’re not talking The Booby Prize tiny (or even shorter … this week on Tinder I had to let a guy down rather honestly when he admitted to me that he was 5’4” (4 inches shorter than me!). But The Pupil wasn’t someone I would describe as ‘tall’ from my perspective!
Anyway, so on the way to his car, The Pupil explained he had three options for the date, and I ought to choose one of the three.
1) Dinner at Cerise at the Forbury Hotel (in the centre of Reading)
2) A restaurant near Henley where you could cook your own steak at the table, and eat exotic meats like kangaroo
3) A trip to a new Reading casino
I vetoed the casino immediately, as I had already been there for a friend’s birthday, and knew the food was awful. However later The Pupil explained he’d had a really cool idea for the date (which at a more glamorous casino would have been really fun, if not rather frivolous!). He’d just received a healthy unexpected bonus from work, and had been planning on handing me £100 which I had to gamble, and then competing against me to see which of us came away with more from our £100!
I opted for option 2, which to me sounded the most exotic, and so, as we went to put my yoga gear in the car, we decided to drive straight to Henley. And now you see why my dates come with references! I essentially jumped straight into a car with a strange man!
As we drove to Henley, a twenty-minute drive from Reading town centre, we chatted about dating. The Pupil was painfully awkward to talk to. On meeting him he’d made the whole ‘do you kiss on one cheek or two’ debacle vocally awkward, and as conversation progressed during the drive, it reminded me of a very long drawn-out speed date. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t surprised when he explained that he worked in IT.
After a painfully awkward drive, we arrived in Henley, and I realised the restaurant he had described (which I had assumed was in a neighbouring village) was actually in the centre of the town. As he turned down a road to park, I realised we were literally two minutes away from Henley Boy’s house.
Now this may sound really awful, but I definitely began to panic. I didn’t want to run into Henley Boy like this. I was feeling confident enough about myself – I was wearing a nice dress, and despite forgetting my shampoo, my (actually blow-dried for a change) hair looked reasonable enough. But on a purely superficial scale, the Henley Boy was a 9.5/10 minimum … and I was currently on a blind date with a guy who on looks alone I would have probably rated a 4 or 5. I appreciate that is massively superficial – but this is how spurned girls think! I didn’t want to bump into Henley Boy for the first time in two months, on a date with a guy I normally wouldn’t look twice at! He wouldn’t know it was a blind date – for all he’d know, The Pupil could have been a new boyfriend! If I ever bump into Henley Boy again, I want a film star on my arm!!
Anyway, we walked to the nearby restaurant … only to discover it was no longer a restaurant! Rather than being a cool novel steak house, the place he had considered was now a bog-standard pub, complete with pool table and stool-hopping locals.
So … back to Option 1! Luckily he still had the reservation, and we had half an hour to get back to central Reading and the Forbury Hotel. And so I escaped from Henley without any awkward sightings of the Henley Boy (and without playing Knock Knock Ginger on his front door … thanks for that suggestion on Twitter!)
Realising setting the tone of the conversation was making The Pupil ever more stilted and awkward, I decided to take control a bit, and asked him if he knew what I was doing. He explained that my sister’s friend had simply told him I’d had a ‘bad experience internet dating’ (a.k.a Henley Boy!) and had decided to go on some blind dates to rebel against internet dating. It was close enough to the truth!
I was under careful instruction not to tell him about the blog as (I think rightly) my sister’s friend had assumed he wouldn’t react well to the knowledge, however I told him about Henley Boy and the 30 Dates by 30 Challenge. He seemed to relax a little, though conversation was still very laboured and stilted. He followed my explanation with his own ‘dating tale’.
In the past year he has lost over 3 and a half stone, and returned to the world of dating after a considerable amount of time. He told me that as little as a month ago, he would never have considered going on a blind date before, and that the offer from my sister’s friend couldn’t have come at a better time. In the past few weeks he’s signed up to Match.com, and has arranged three dates on the site. I would be the first of four dates over the next two weeks. His dry run of sorts!
It was interesting, because this revelation changed the entire tone of the date.
Up until that point, I had been very polite, but internally cringing at everything. For example, on the way into Henley he had driven into a deserted supermarket car park to randomly show me a non-descript dark building which meant a lot to him and his family. Perhaps cute when you’re on a third or fourth date, but not when you’ve only been speaking to someone for 15 minutes!
However, when The Pupil told me his very honest dating confession, the date took a very different tone. I’m not a knob – I may not have fancied him, but when I understood why he was so awkward and uncertain, I made it my mission to not only make him feel more at ease, but to also help him out, so that the next three dates are nowhere near as awkward.
He chatted about other date ideas he’d had, and I gave him honest answers about whether they were any good or not, and which date number to try them out on. I told him about my dating challenge – the best and the worst, and gave him ideas for amazing future dates.
The Pupil dwelled so much on manners that he made it awkward. He gave me a running commentary when he went to stand on the road-side of the pavement as we walked (something no one has ostensibly done for me since I was at university!), and berated himself loudly whenever he forgot. He made a big deal of opening the door, and awkwardly kept trying to open my car door, but then realised how impossible the logistics of that was in tight spaces.
I tried to brush over the awkward moments, and chatted constantly – an attempt to put him at ease. Towards the end of the date (when he very awkwardly summarised it all!) he did actually say how much happier he is to just listen to someone, and I think this was something I picked up on automatically.
He analysed everything, and very vocally analysed me frequently throughout the date. Not in a bad way, it was all positive, but it can be quite awkward, having someone telling you how confident you are (especially when he was clearly drawing contrasts to how uncomfortable he was).
I’m not going to lie, if there’s one thing this challenge has taught me, it’s how much more exciting dating in London can be, as compared to dating in my home town. The options for a date are pretty limited and orthodox in Reading, and to be fair, on the 36 hours notice The Pupil had about Date 17, the three options he came up with were pretty cool … even if Option Two didn’t actually exist!
However as far as Reading restaurants go, Cerise at the Forbury Hotel is pretty cool!
The decor is amazing, and because of Reading Festival, the restaurant was unbelievably quiet. We were given a huge round table, which should have seated at least six. The area was almost like our own private room. The decor was modern, yet chic, and the food was really affordable. We ate and continued to chat about the ins and outs of dating, online dating options, and possible venues.
The date was without question rather odd and awkward, however I did actually have a nice evening. It just didn’t feel like a date. I once jokingly described a particularly painful speed-dating session as ‘community service’ – smiling, nodding, and cajoling guys who don’t normally talk to women, to encourage them that for four minutes they might be able to speak to a girl. And if I’m honest, this date was of a similar tone. I did feel like I was doing him a huge favour – I felt like a Dating Coach. Arguably that’s a role I’ve been playing a lot recently, as the more dates you go on, the more confident you do become about the whole thing, and the less they stress you out. Over the past couple of months I’ve given a lot of dating advice, date suggestions, and encouraged (or dragged!) a number of friends to go to singles dating events. The Pupil was awkward and at times quite jarring, but not in an offensive way. It was impossible not to feel sorry for him, and to want to pat him on the back for clearly trying something really out of his depth. I really genuinely wanted to help him, assuming that perhaps some of the girls he has met on Match.com might actually benefit from me giving him a few pointers.
Now, I’ve said that when I really don’t want to give the wrong impression on a dinner date, I am adamant about paying my half of the bill … however on this occasion, having spent the night feeling like a cross between a counsellor and a life coach, I quite happily accepted the free meal as my fee for the evening!
I did find the date interesting in part. It was odd when The Pupil occasionally stopped to analyse the date as it happened, or psychoanalyse something I said. But some of his first impressions of me were probably quite accurate. As I told him about my travels, and some of the crazier things I’ve done in my life, he began to chuckle and said how he could understand why someone like me might ‘get kicks’ out of a 30 date dating challenge, and meeting a ‘box of chocolate’ like mix of men!
As far as the ‘date’ aspect went … it really didn’t feel like a date. But I did realise something …
As I told The Pupil about my dates, and recommended things for him to do, and places for him to go, I found myself going back over and over one date in particular….
A few weeks ago I talked about the Eclipse Effect … and how the only way you get over someone, is by finding someone else who eclipses them. Someone else who outshines them by being a generally better catch.
Those friends of mine who read my blog, and place bets on how many times I mention the name ‘Henley Boy’ in each blog post may be in for a bit of a shock … because I think one of my 17 dates so far might actually be beginning to eclipse HB …
And I may have a small related confession to make ….
But I’ll leave that for another night! Good night xxx
We met – in the centre of a bridge at the Oracle, Reading. (He had considered lying a treasure hunt for me, but hadn’t had enough time)
I wore – a turquoise t-shirt style linen dress, oversized brown belt, flip-flops
He wore – a pink shirt and chinos
I drank – rose and lemonade, he drank red wine
I ate – haddock tartlet, cod with black squid linguine, pana cotta
We talked about … Dating, a lot!
The date lasted – 3 and a half hours
The date ended – when he drove me home, because my car had been IMPOUNDED!!!
Marks out of ten …. Sorry guys, but this really wasn’t a date! I almost feel like I cheated, though it was technically a blind date, and I’m sure The Pupil will count it as one … 5.5/10
My next date? Tomorrow afternoon … and it’s gonna be a really crazy one!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx