One dreary December day, when I was inevitably hiding from all of the Christmas furor, an idea popped into my head. I don’t know how or why exactly, but I remembered a blog post by Hannah Witton where she revealed a scrapped book idea in which she wanted to go on 25 dates before she turned 25.
Hannah’s book idea didn’t come to fruition as she ended up meeting a lovely man who she’s now been with for a couple of years. However, this idea was always quite intriguing to me, and on this December day I found myself thinking, “Hey, in January it’ll be 6 months until my 26th birthday… what if I went on 26 dates in the lead up to it?!”
I matched with H after he liked one of my pictures that was essentially a family portrait I took of myself and the cats when we first got them as tiny kittens. I looked through his profile where he had a picture of himself with daisies laced through his beard and I commented back: “Daisy beard is a strong look!”
He replied that my ‘smile game’ was strong, which is the first compliment of it’s kind that I had ever heard. I noticed early on that his way of messaging was… irritating. Lots of short messages one after another, and too many ellipses where they weren’t necessary. But, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and gave him my number when he asked for it.
I could tell from his profile that he was a comedian – one of his profile pictures was, after all, of him against a brick wall with a microphone in hand. If that wasn’t telling enough, there was another photo where he was wearing a sign that said ‘don’t feed the comedian’. I asked him about it.
“Only at nighttime,” he said, “during the day I’m in meetings that take up most of my Tuesday.”
We set a date in the diary to meet on a Saturday night. H said he had a gig in North London earlier that evening, but was happy to meet me at nine. That’s right – 9pm. Even if I didn’t live in the arse end of Surrey, I still think that’s a weird time to meet a first date – even on a Saturday night.
I suggested, if he wasn’t busy, that we meet up before the gig, as not being a London native, travelling late at night for me was quite restrictive. “And maybe I can watch your set, if you’re not precious about your dates watching you perform.” He obliged, saying, “the place I’m performing at is quite renowned for their pizzas, so maybe we can grab some beforehand.” Never one to turn down an opportunity for pizza, I agreed.
Reader, we didn’t get a pizza. Because he was nearly 40 minutes late.
That’s right. Forty. Minutes. Late.
We were meant to meet an hour before the gig so we could have drinks and pizza. I ended up arriving a little early, because I had overestimated how long it would take me to get to NW London. A couple of minutes after I arrived at the pub, H sent me a message that simply read ‘yeowww’. Not knowing exactly what ‘yeowww’ meant – maybe that was an indicator that he had arrived? – I asked him if he was here.
“No, making my way over… why, are you???” He had apparently underestimated how long it would take him from wherever he was coming from.
I’m usually against buying a drink before my date arrives, as you’ll all know from my date with D. But it was evident that I would be waiting a while, so I got myself a G&T to pass the time. Taking into account that I was early, I probably spent around 50 minutes waiting around. I don’t really like arriving somewhere before my date – I’ll always opt to be fashionably late – because everyone is late and who wants to wait around?
So, it’s fair to say that H wasn’t setting up a good impression, and when I saw him walk through the door, it went down even less so. He looked, to be polite, scruffy as fuck. But. Despite being unimpressed, I kept up my charming, upbeat facade and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Again.
After a little while of chit chat, it was time to head up to the event room for the show. H divulged to me that he hadn’t been guaranteed a spot that night. It was a potluck – you put your name in a hat and hope that you get picked to perform. If your name doesn’t get picked, you double your chances of getting picked the following week. So there was a good chance he wasn’t even going to perform that evening.
This is something I haven’t spoken about on the blog yet, but if you’ve been following me on social media, you’ll know that I’ve been dabbling in stand-up comedy since the latter half of last year. I thought about bringing this up to H before we had even arranged our date, since his profile made it very clear he was a comedian, but I wanted to avoid ‘talking shop.’ Instead, I waited until I was in this darkened room to reveal my stepping my toe in the comedy waters.
“You should put your name in!” H said enthusiastically, “They have a separate pot for guys and girls to have a balanced line up. So many more guys than girls come to these things, you’ll be guaranteed a spot.”
So I did. Because what did I have to lose?
I was a little rattled because I hadn’t anticipated performing that night. Though I had my ‘tight five’ typed up on my phone, I hadn’t rehearsed it in a while, so spent the couple of minutes before the show started going through my notes and trying to remember my markers in my head. I won’t tell you how it went, because you can watch it right here! H kindly offered to film my set, and I thought I may as well take the opportunity to have one of them on film.
After the gig, we chatted to some other fellow comedians, where I was asked how long I had been doing stand up.
“Not long at all, only a few months,” I admitted, “This is probably only the third time I’ve performed.”
Everyone made very complimentary remarks, and H very charmingly said, “I kind of hate you right now.”
“That’s not a comment you want to be making on a first date,” another comedian remarked, before I could get the chance to. H made comments like that throughout the night, very weird comments that were thinly veiled in contempt. I don’t want to say that I’m a ‘naturally talented’ comedian, but I think I’ve done alright so far. Even if I did have a natural way with comedy, I think it’s not nice to make overly sarcastic comments like that, especially on a date when you generally want to be impressing somebody.
H suggested that, if I liked jazz, we go to another place that was ‘only 15 minutes away’ and ordered an Uber. As anticipated, we chatted shop in the Uber – all about our favourite comedians, the cut-throat world of comedy… and how H has been banned from several open mics for mouthing off at the organiser. Yikes.
Reader, we were in the Uber for AGES. Way longer that 15 minute. Because we were going to GREENWICH. If you’re not familiar with London geography – North London to Greenwich is FAR. Even by car and no traffic to speak of.
Anyway. After an Uber ride that felt like forever, we got to the jazz club, where apparently H was a regular because all the staff greeted him like he was a friend. In my head, I planned how I would get home, knowing that my last train was looming.
“Sorry, am I boring you?” He asked me. I’ve never been good at masking my feelings, I have a very involuntarily expressive face.
“No, it’s not that,” I said, “I’m just thinking about getting back soon.”
I explained to him the joys of living in Surrey and how getting home at night was a pain, and how I didn’t want to incur an expensive Uber ride home. I was, after all, still only working part time at this point.
“It’s fine, I’ll get your cab for you,” he said.
“No, you don’t understand,” I said, “it’s really expensive.”
“I don’t want to sound egotistical, but don’t worry about the cost.” He said this with such an air of confidence, and only slight arrogance, that I relented. He went to the bar and got me another drink.
Despite the slightly rocky impression he gave me to start, I was actually having a good time. We chatted in a small alcove about astrology, tattoos, nightmare flat mates. We went into the second room to watch the jazz band perform, and it was after a few minutes I realised that wow, I was really drunk because I hadn’t eaten anything in ages and should probably think about heading home.
H lived up to his promise and ordered me a cab home. A journey which felt like the longest one of my life, because wow i was super drunk, and had to keep from throwing up the whole time.
He texted me the next day asking how I was and if got back alright. And after more polite chit chat, asked me if I wanted to go out again sometime. I declined – even though I ended up having a good time in the end, I couldn’t ignore the red flags I saw popping up through the night. I told him that he seemed like a nice guy, but I didn’t feel any romantic chemistry. He didn’t reply.
The first song that popped into my head for this date was That Don’t Impress Me Much by Shania Twain. Simple but straight-talking. An upbeat bop with an underlying message of, “dude, do better.”
As an additional plug: if you’re in the South Yorkshire area this Saturday 6th April, I will be performing at a ticketed stand-up event at The Holt for Butter Side Up Theatre Company. So, if you’re in Sheffield and fancy a night of laughter – come say hi!
A second date! How exciting – it’s always nice when someone wants to see you again. After our first date, E suggested that if I would like to see him again, we go to the cinema. I happily obliged, I had a good time on our first date (Hugh Grant Hugh Grant Hugh Grant) and I was looking forward to seeing him again.
He suggested we go out on a Monday evening, which I had some reservations about. It’s not a bad idea in principle, but a midweek second date at the cinema was not a great way to continue to get to know someone. However, I did really want to see Mary Queen of Scots.
A little disclaimer: between you and me, I’m not going on these dates and posting about them in ‘real time’, ie. soon after they happen. Because I scheduled my first few days so close together, and I’m posting on a weekly(ish!) schedule, it means that these dates happened weeks before I actually write about them
Why are you telling me this, Ella? I hear you ask. Well. As hard as I try to make notes about my dates soon after I go on them, sometimes I forget, so my memory becomes hazy. That’s why I rely heavily conversations that occur with my dates in-app (or WhatsApp and iMessage etc.) to jog my memory at certain points.
On his Hinge profile, F wrote: ‘I’m convinced that Chicken Katsu Curry is the reason I will never be a vegetarian.” I wrote back, with the ever predictable, “The vegan and vegetarian katsus at Wagamama are pretty good though!” You know, like the typical (almost) vegan I am, pushing my vegan propaganda at people (but seriously, I’ve had all versions of the katsu and the vegan one tastes pretty much exactly the same as the chicken one).
“Thanks for the info! You may have just saved the lives of literally hundreds of chickens,” he replied.
“I live to serve my chicken people,” I said.
(Look, I like flirting but I never said I was good at it, alright?)
After a while of not finding anyone vaguely interesting on Tinder, I matched with E. He messaged me complimenting on my choice of anthem on my profile, Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae, and asked me what I thought about the rest of the album. We continued gushing about Janelle Monae and Prince and other such similar artists, and after reading his profile where he stated he was a bookworm, I asked him what he had read recently.