Welcome to 29 Dates, where we explore the weird, wild and sometimes wonderful world of dating - one date at a time.
"Take me to your best local pubs!" he messaged via the dating site.
He was a craft ale aficionado whose profile alluded to Hackney warehouse parties. I was living in a genteel north London suburb, where a bangin' night out meant two bottles of Pinot Greeg at Slug & Lettuce. I had no good local pubs but somehow I couldn’t tell him that.
Even worse, I was newly teetotal – not by choice but by my body's cruel refusal to recognise that I was 22 and hangovers weren’t supposed to be two-day vomathons. Couldn’t tell him that either.
In a move I hoped might read as ironic, I took him to an O’Neills in an old converted church. "This is…yeah. Different," he grimaced, taking in the pink and blue disco lights illuminating the vaulted ceiling.
He was laconically charming, with a Scottish burr and a habit of using my name in every other sentence – 'r's gently rolled – that made my palms clammy. I drank whisky and ginger when it was his round, worrying about the side effects, and straight ginger ale when it was my round, worrying that he’d somehow be able to tell.
He thought I wasn't feeling it, when in fact I was feeling everything.
I was not charming. I was anxious, overanalysing my every word and move and physiological twinge which, from the outside, looked like total disinterest. He thought I wasn’t feeling it, when in fact I was feeling everything. When we parted at the bus stop with no goodbye kiss, I assumed I'd blown it.
The next day, a noncommittal, oddly staccato text arrived. "Hi. Good to meet you. Might be nice to see you again. If you like. No worries if not. It’s cool." It stopped just short of "have a nice life".
Still, peeling my throbbing head off my desk, I replied. A chance at redemption! Or at least a chance to hear somebody say my name like a young Sean Connery again.
Against all the odds, a second date happened. Then a third, and a fourth. Gradually, we teased each other out. Gradually, my nervous system relaxed.
Now we’re nine years down the line. He still texts like a robot and I still can’t drink – but it turns out he didn’t care anyway. We enjoy telling people about our spectacularly mediocre first date, by way of reassuring them that fireworks at first sight can be overrated. Some relationships you warm up gradually, like soup. These days we go to better pubs. And I tell him everything.