It's no secret that gay men and women grow up with a sense of separation from their heterosexual peers, and that this anticipates their exclusion from mainstream culture, especially that of mainstream dating. And fittingly enough the emotionally sterile climate encouraged by Grindr is to the gay man what a crack den is to the heroin addict...
When Polly goes on and on about Toby's previous boyfriends, all of them beautiful demigods who adored Polly and would probably have turned straight for had she asked, I should defend myself, or step up my patter in an attempt to impress her. But I don't care what she thinks, so I nod politely and play with my napkin.
Let's get one thing clear: following people around supermarkets checking out their arse is a bad idea, and you know this. But just this once won't hurt, you tell yourself. I'll keep a safe distance this time, you reason. It's only really stalking if they see you, you decide. You are wrong on all counts, but there's no stopping you now is there?
BINGO! We have the new gay stereotype - the gay man who refuses to conform to a stereotype! How lucky for me to have snared this rarest of beasts. And barely halfway through our first drink. I have two options. I could just let this go, or I could take a tin-opener to that can of worms he's waving in front of me.
What do you look for in a man? Nice eyes? Bright smile? Good taste in footwear? Ability to make you laugh? We all have tick-boxes and black markers at the ready when it comes to finding a mate. I can't tell you who you should date - that is simply none of my business - but I can certainly advise you give this quarter-century of drips a wide berth.
Every stage of Christmas is an event in itself, a milestone to be marked, a perfect Instagram moment. Christmas doesn't just happen to him, it's a series of experiences he feels he has to have, otherwise he's failed. At first this will seem romantic and exciting, before your brain slowly starts to dribble right out of your head. And when it does, it's got tinsel running through it.
There'll be rumblings of Christmas being "too commercialised", that the town centre is "hell on Earth" throughout December and, when you slink in feeling warm and merry after your work Christmas drinks, he will look with scorn upon your flashing Rudolph nose and antlers, brush the crumpled mistletoe out of your hand and will refuse you drunken Christmas sex. What a joyless, heartless b*****d.
Afternoon dates are always a risk. Daylight can be unforgiving, of course, and going for a drink in the afternoon always seems a little seedy when you're with a stranger. But here I am... I didn't factor in the rain, but here it is, like a gooseberry. A wet, miserable chaperone to match my date's mood.
Being literate and enjoying full sentences can be something of a barrier on Grindr. While all those little avatars of six-packs claim to be erudite grammarians, it seems nobody is safe from that dreary "hows u??" or "heyyy mister". So when I hear that magic ping and see a headless torso wishing me "a very good afternoon, handsome" I am intrigued, interested.
The first date went so well, I hadn't really felt like I was trying; now I'm flailing and babbling. And when I'm not firing off questions, there is silence. I watch him fidget like a constipated toddler on a tricycle trying to let out a fart. He fiddles with his laces, runs his hands through his hair...
When you're online dating, a lot of dates happen when they really shouldn't... Because you are so adorable, desirable and amazing, lots of people will want to date you, but you can't be into all of them. So you should be clear from the off about what you do and don't want in your online dating profile.
Everywhere I turn there is a clock reminding me how late my date is. Late, late, late. I can't look at my wrist any more, above the bar is off limits, and outside, a clock tower looms in my eyeline. And just to serve as one more reminder, even the barman's wonky eyes are positioned at ten to two. I roll my own baby-blues and go back to studying my rapidly draining pint glass.
As I always say, your dating profile is your storefront, your big shiny window display that you use to get the punters in. But in just a few short sentences, you can turn your gleaming emporium of you into a rundown old convenience store, with dirty canopies, smeared windows, and nothing of interest inside.
I've done things I haven't liked, been to places I haven't wanted to go and pretended to enjoy some really bad theatre all in the name of trying to get a new relationship off the ground. I have peeled off awful underwear and accepted clumsy kisses. These are the things you do in the early days; it isn't sustainable for any kind of long-term liaison.