Dates gone bad

Here’s yesterdays Sunday Times column, hope you enjoy. Sorry, normal length week this week, I thought it’s best we all deal with the reality of it sooner rather than later.


I thought practice was supposed to make perfect? Isn’t that what the famous ‘they’ always say? But I’ve been dating for years, almost decades and I don’t seem to be getting much better at it, at all. In fact I may be on a sliding scale going in the opposite direction.

There was the guy who lied about his age, the guy who lied about his wife, the guy who forgot his wallet. Twice. And the guy who I suspect may not have actually been a guy.

And a bad date isn’t always the guy’s fault, let’s be honest here. I’ve been the pip in the middle of the date a few times myself.

There was the time I cooked for a guy, which should have been the first indicator that it wasn’t going to go well. When we sat down to eat I opened up the foil of a newly shop-bought garlic bread, and only discovered after taking a big bite that it was dotted with spots of mould. We were dining by candlelight, you see, which while certainly romantic, has its drawbacks when it comes to visibility. How charming and lovely she is, he must have thought as he tore out of the house like his hair was on fire.

And let’s not forget the time I somehow managed to call a guy by the wrong name for the duration of our date. He was too embarrassed to correct me the first time I made the mistake, and I guess the longer it went on, the more awkward and impossible it became for him to set me straight. He filled me in on my error via SMS after that first (and last) date.

Feeling complete loser’s guilt, I did a bit of crowd sourcing on Twitter and was grateful to discover that I’m not the only plonker in the village (misery loves company). The bad dates out there are rife. A friend of a friend was set up on a blind date shortly after her divorce came through. Half way through dinner she had to race him to the emergency room because he suddenly got ill. She thought it was a major stomach bug, but it later turned out he was actually overdosing on heroin. Now there’s a keeper! And I thought I had bad taste in men. Later he invited her out for a milkshake, I didn’t ask, but I assume she declined.

According to author, Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10 000 hours to get really good at something. That equates to doing it for 20 hours a week for 10 years, straight. And while I feel like I’ve dated a lot in my time, I certainly haven’t done it for 20 hours a week for the last 10 years. So perhaps I’m being too hard on myself, and maybe I just need a little more practice. Groan. Really? Do I have to?

The problem is that dates are mostly hard and nerve-wracking. They’re the social equivalent of a job interview, where you’re going for the position of Sex Associate, or Joint Domestic CEO. So you put on your nicest clothes, and try to present your very best-behaved self. You check you don’t have spinach stuck in your teeth, answer all the questions carefully, and try not to fidget. Then afterwards you wait for the call to find out if you got a second interview or not. All the while wondering whether it’s actually the kind of company you really want to work for in the long term.

I suspect my dating report would read much like my school reports always did: ‘Paige really needs to try harder and must be careful not to make so many careless mistakes. I am sure with more effort and concentration, she will see some improvement.’

6 responses to “Dates gone bad”

  1. My worst date in the last year got postponed twice and then never happened as he got arrested for alleged wife beating. Which he told me via sms a week after not showing up. I was actually quite worried, thought he had gotten abducted by aliens…

  2. I can easily and very successfully join the plonkers crowd 🙂 … I find people painfully complex, or is that painful and complex? Did I just say that or did I think that? 😉
    I’ve decided unless the bloke came wondering down the 10km dirt rd to my gate, through some quirk of Divine inspiration, I’m not stepping out my little self-created rose-tinted bubble 🙂

  3. Yeah I have to agree with you there! I’m rather terrible at it all. So I just go with the flow. Whatever. As long as I’m happy and you can fall in line with that, cool. You do that.

    Am I hopeless? Haha!

  4. Nicole, if some guy comes wondering 10km down your dirt path to your gate, please ask him if he has a brother for me. 🙂

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