I have a rule: no food on a first date. It can only end in disaster, really. Sauces slop down your front a whole lot more eagerly if you're dining opposite somebody you're desperate to impress and vegetable-induced farts are all the more enthusiastic if they know you're sharing crudités with a stranger.
He is taller than I thought he would be, his dirty-blond hair slicked into a side parting, and wearing a white T-shirt with a wide crew neck which grazes his collar bone. He beams as he sees me and walks over to me. I stand and put out my hand for him to shake. Ridiculously, pathetically, I puff out my chest.
The true currency of dating, the one you never really think about, is time. Whether you're buttering up a honey in a noisy bar, doing extra lengths at the swimming pool to impress a buff lifeguard or stumbling through endless online profiles, the amount of time you spend on this initial process can be disheartening if the end result is less than satisfactory.
The dating arena is second only to its Roman gladiatorial cousin when it comes to viciousness. But rather than fleeing knife-wielding savages, daters find themselves fighting off the advances of unwelcome, pot-bellied irritants or, more commonly, trying their best to seem attractive to those who probably wouldn't urinate on them if they were ablaze.