My London flat is just opposite the Mecca of my life – the library. As a data analyst, you’d think I’d want to work for NASA someday, but not true...oh no... my dream is to work at a library, read books all day, and occasionally make tea and coffee for my fellow librarians. I don’t care how little money is involved, I just love books. So, since moving in next to one I’ve lived a very content and happy little life – wearing sundresses on the weekends, visiting coffee shops with my rented books, exploring Highgate Cemetery (from the outside – I’m too scared to go in alone). It’s been... well... magical – for lack of a better word.
When I moved here I somehow imagined that I’d live next door to one of the Osbournes or possibly a little old lady (who looked alarmingly like the Queen) who would help me perfect my stitching. What I discovered is that I live next to a gay actor with a midnight DIY fetish, a chubby Irish/American social worker, and a man named Mr. Onions who has exceptionally large hands (or so they say) but doesn’t do any gardening.
The funny thing is that even though I live on my own in a small studio, it doesn’t feel lonely. At times I can hear the gay actor -Steve is his name – belting out Adele and I imagine he’s cooking Bolognese for one. Or sometimes I can hear Mr. Onions pacing across the floor above me and I imagine he’s writing a novel and has a bit of writer’s block. Of course, since I haven’t seen him, I imagine he is dashing and a bit scruffy from putting his hands through his hair a lot.
I spent most of the Winter evenings I was at home creating little stories for my neighbours even though I hardly knew them. It seemed to pass the time better than watching TV, but after March, my interest in them started wearing off.
As soon as Spring weather hit I started checking out the back garden to see how much work needed done. The place was in need of some TLC after all the snow and frost we got over winter. The dirt needed tilled, the lawn planted, and the flower and vegetable beds needed attention. Plus, there was a gigantic pile of bricks that I had no idea what to do with. So one Saturday afternoon I rolled up my sleeves, threw on my scrubby jeans and started digging away at the earth.
I was surprised to see I’d been working for four hours without stopping and now my back was killing me. I turned dirt over the last row of carrots and sat back on my knees, stretched my aching back and wiped sweat off my face with my dirty glove.
Behind me I could hear the next door neighbour’s back garden door open so I called a friendly hello over my shoulder.
“G’day,” bellowed out a deep Australian male voice.
“AH,” I screamed and jumped a bit. I turned around quickly – still on all fours and covered in dirt.
My jaw literally dropped.
Standing just five feet from me towered a blond, tanned, ripped, blue-eyed gift to women across England. He was wearing a pair of silky jogging shorts and football boots. I couldn’t help myself and gave him the complete elevator eye, then shut my mouth, laughed a little embarrassingly, then said, “I’m sorry, I was expecting Christina, my neighbour.?”
“No, my bad, I didn’t mean to scare you. Hi, I’m Daniel, you must be Josie. Nice to meet you.” He took a step closer and offered his hand.
I staggered to my feet and tried to fix my hair a bit before throwing off my dirty gardening glove and shaking his hand. “Yes, Josie. To my friends, I’m Jo” I smiled. This must be the pacing Mr. Onions... sooo... not the writer I imagined. “I live just next door. There,” I pointed to my flat even though it was obvious since it was the only other flat that had access. “It’s very nice to meet you too. So you have back garden access as well? Maybe I should have asked everyone before deciding to completely revamp the landscape.”
It was hard to listen to him whilst he was nearly naked, but he had amazing eye contact and I could see his lips moving so I just nodded my head and tried to get the last clump of dirt off my jeans.
“...it’s fine. The garden has been in need of an able hand for years. We’re glad you moved in and have gotten it started. Let us know if you want a helping hand.”
Hmm, ‘us’ he says.
“Oh, I will,” I said still smiling. “So, you live in flat three? upstairs?”
“Oh, no. No, haha. I live with Christina. I’m her boyfriend. I’ve not been around much because I’ve been modelling in South Africa.”
My jaw dropped again, but I caught it before I looked ridiculous. The chubby social worker is dating a model?! My life sucks.
Gutted. Well that figures. I guess there’s always the elusive Mr. Onion to fantasize about.
I decided to try my hand at Internet dating again... it’s never ideal but after meeting loser after loser in bars and other drunken social situations, I thought it best to be a bit more selective and ‘filter-out’ potential fuck-wits.
As you know with my incident with Dominic, I have the tendency to just bailout at the last minute. I was determined this time not to do the same. I was also determined to be incredibly picky but very nice to people. (‘treat others as you want to be treated’ style). I figured the karma alone would work in my favour.
So I filled in my profile with the standard ‘I hate writing about myself’ lie, attached a colourful photo of myself smiling at the camera and looking thin and tanned and supplemented this small snapshot of myself with a quirky summary and the promise of being ‘a good catch’. There. done. Let them come to me.
I gave my best friend from the States my login details so she could scope out a few candidates for me and weed out any potential horrors that I usually get myself into. The one real specification she had – no band guys. Under any circumstance, I must not date a guy in a band.
I never usually let my best friend dictate my dating life... or anything in my real life for that matter, but after she found true love and is happily married with two dogs, a house, a car, and a job (and we all thought she’d be the last) I decided to start listening to her. Plus, I’ve dated a lead guitarist, a back-up guitarist, a bassist, a lead vocalist and a drummer and so far none of these have worked out. Unless my perfect kazoo-playing soulmate is out there, I think it best to take her advice.
About a week went by and every now and then I’d log on to see who’d winked at me or sent me an email. I kept getting some weird ones, but the common theme was to compliment me and then ask me something about what they’d read in my profile. Sometimes I think the downfall of being an analyst is that we analyse everything and from a million different angles. So when I read this, all I ever read was ‘I looked at your profile, now I want to find a way to feign interest and sleep with you’. Especially because most of the profiles said they’d be willing to have a ‘fling’. (I’m not cool with that). If you’re on match.com, I’d hope that you were actually trying to find something worth-while. If you are looking to get laid, hopefully you will have enough success in the outside world if not in a bar, then in a seedy nightclub. It baffles me why there are some schmoozers on dating websites... and I’ve gotten emails from my fair share of them. I guess it’s so they can line up sex for every night of the week and they know the poor desperate females on dating websites will be too blinded by their black&white/at-the-perfect-angle-photographs to even bother googling their name, checking their facebook for discriminating photos, and checking their tweets for recent possible dating activity (like I said, I’m an analyst). I’m in the know, so I’ve decided to do my research before accepting a date and also- being a bit of a brain science geek - read between the lines of what most people ask me. Bottom line: all men are horny bastards, and the fact they are on the internet means they are desperate horny bastards. (I realise this is a huge hypocritical overstatement but we’ll get to that later – there’s always exceptions, this was just my way of not falling for the typical loser I usually do).
So Mr. Hayden1374, no, I would not like to ‘cum for a drink with you’. And Mr. OneEye, thank you for thinking I’m ‘pretty’, no, the guys aren’t lining up out my door (so I think), and no, I’m not going to show you my ‘strategically placed tattoo’... you skeez.
Things weren’t looking good. Most people who wanted to take me on a date weren’t even from England. My self-esteem was hitting the usual low so my friend and I decided we needed a more pro-active response. I was to actively ‘search’ for people who matched my criteria and then arrange a date accordingly.
Looking back, this is the last thing a control freak needs to be doing, but ho-hum, at the time it was the best idea. That’s how I met Derek.
Username Derek31, age 31, eyes blue, 5 ft 10 inches tall. His profile was non-descript. He had one photo and it was decent. He got to the point without trying to be faux-witty and explained he was new to London and wouldn’t mind seeing it with someone else. He didn’t seem overly interested in travelling or talking about his travels – which I find horrendously annoying and it’s massive among online daters – so I decided he was a good match. Plus match.com said we were 85% compatible so I gave give him my mobile number and waited to see what happened from there.
It only took him a day to get over the ‘not-to-keen’ phase and he texted me to ask if I’d like to get together that following Thursday for a drink.
What’s that thing everyone says? About first dates... “don’t arrange dinner, just go for drinks, and if you like them and they like you, go for dinner.” Something like that, right? Yea, I didn’t follow those rules. I was intrigued that he even took the initiative to arrange the place and time. Most of the men I’ve been on dates with have just said things like, ‘I dunno, what do you want to do?” but Derek had a card up his sleeve. I liked this. We arranged to meet at 7:30pm at Old Street station. At 7:32pm I stood waiting in the underground in the spot we were supposed to meet, looked at my watch and tapped my foot.
Why am I the one standing here waiting?! I didn’t even want to do this! Bail! BAIL!!
Fighting the urge to flee, I decided to walk a few steps around the corner and peak at the spot where I was supposed to meet him to see him before he sees me. As I moved away, some young looking, not unattractive guy in hideously loud red velvet trousers came sauntering into my spot reading a book. Is that him? I called my friend Ashley (the one who helped my pick him out) on the verge of a freak-out.
“Ashley, help. I think my blind internet date is here and he’s wearing ugly pants. What would you do? Can I runaway now?”
“Whoa, whoa, hold up. Is he ugly?”
“He’s bearable, no, it’s his pants. They are red velvet/corduroy. It’s still January, but seriously? Unless you’re going to a Santa party and it’s December, I’d never advise wearing those outdoors... even then, I’d suggest crimson. Oh, who gives a shit. Can I run?”
“No. You can’t bail. He’s there waiting for you. Go say hello to him. Are you sure that’s him?”
“No... [moans and peaks around the corner]. I’m not doing it. Look at those pants! No. I refuse.”
I listened to her calming voice as I peered worryingly around the corner looking at my date. I could only see a profile and he wasn’t that bad. Maybe I could do it.
“Josie, you’re over-reacting. I know internet dating is scary and this is your first one, but just do it. Get it over with and if it doesn’t work then at least you got to spend some time with an interesting person and an even more interesting pair of pants.”
“That’s true, maybe his pants and I will have a lot in common. Velvet? Really?! And what is he reading... Oh god, it’s a Terry Prachet novel. That’s it, I’m out of here.”
I hung up the phone, turned on my heal, and started to make my way to the exit. About midway through my 3rd extremely long stride my eyes widened. There he was - and behold, he’s wearing jeans. Blue jeans. He waved at me. Oh, I had the wrong guy. That’s definitely him. I waved back in a bit of confused surprise, let out a big sigh and said, “oh thank god you weren’t that guy.’ He looked to wear I was pointing, gave a little laugh and said, “thank god, I decided to save the red trousers for the second date.” With a nervous giggle (mostly nervous because it was possibly true) we left the London transport system on our way to the restaurant.
He’s witty, I thought. That’s good. That’s good. We’re off to a good start. We strolled through the depths of Shoreditch talking awkwardly about our weekends past and our weekends coming until we reached some place that started with a H.
This H place (and for the life of me I can’t remember what it’s called) is amazing. It’s so American it nearly brought a tear to my eye. Most wouldn’t know this without having been there, but it looked like an English replica of the Iron Hill Brewery in West Chester, PA, which is right around where I grew up. And... they have the best macaroni and cheese in all of England. The reason I know this: Derek is a vegetarian. This isn’t a big issue. I really have no problem with veggies. In fact, I was a vegetarian for two years so you’d think I’d have a little more tolerance. But when we scanned the menu and I said the beef burger sounded fantastic, he squinched up his nose and said, “you know I’m vegetarian, right?”
“Oh,” I said a bit timidly... was that on his profile? “What are you having then?”
“The macaroni and cheese.”
“Holy shit! They have mac&cheese!? Yes,please,thankyou.”
So we ordered two mac&cheese’s, one house red (for me) and one... Guinness (for him). Does he know Guinness isn’t vegetarian? I didn’t bring it up.
First date conversation is always awkward. I find the best way to get through it is having copious amounts of alcohol while you discuss the standard ‘where do you work’ type stuff and then as soon as you feel the weight of your own eyelashes, start the flirting if interested.
This brings us to about 9:30pm, where I’ve experienced poor service, eaten half my dinner in order to keep the buzz, and I’m listening to him talk about his flat in London Bridge. I discreetly check my watch. Is it snore o’clock already? Not even a red wine buzz could make this conversation even remotely interesting. We’ve so far covered most of his history, his sister’s interesting but failing musical career, and why he just loves animals.
“Have you ever been to London Bridge,” he asked.
“I’m an American, so yes, I’ve been to Tower Bridge,” I responded sarcastically. He thought this was wildly hilarious and threw his head back and gave a hearty ‘har har har’ over it. He even touched my arm a bit as if to say, that was so funny, I had to touch you to make you stop.
Oh geezus, he’s actually interested. Could I be interested? I reckoned so, he’s boring and all I can think about is how much I just want a piece of steak. It was as if everything reminded me of meat once he mentioned he was a vegetarian. I’m sure this was some kind of euphemism that I wasn’t computing at the time – but after dinner we decided to part ways and when I mentioned I’d be taking the Victoria line Northwards, and he said he was going South, I couldn’t have been more relieved. We hugged, he gave me a peck on the cheek and promised to call, and I got the first train and sat the entire 30 minute journey in silence with a furrowed brow.
He must have touched me on the arm at least 5 times and still didn’t go in for the big kiss. Was I that offputting? Not that I wanted one anyway, or maybe I did. Maybe boring isn’t so bad, maybe it was just nerves. He’s really nice, and lord knows with that fancy flat in London Bridge who could likely be a very good boyfriend to have. There was something missing though. At least something that needed further investigation.
Date Time: a very long 3.5 hours – we should have done the ‘drinks-first’ thing.
Overall Appeal: looks – 5.2, conversation – 3 (but it had the potential to be a 5 or 6 had we actually delved into our interests a little further)
Would I date him again: well... yes... yes, I think I would if he asked.