Stats: 37, 5'8", light brown/green, Hertfordshire
Where: Soho, W1
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Just like objects in the rear view mirror can appear closer than they are, photos on an internet dating profile can look much more flattering than their real-world counterpart. The latest guy comes into my life during a late-night browsing session. Having been an old hand on the site for some time, the faces become so familiar than you can quite happily - or not, as the case may be - speed-scroll through over 100 faces before seeing anybody new.
But there he is, smiling widely in a checked shirt with clean, shiny hair and sparkling eyes. Reminding myself that I'm shopping for a date not a Labrador, I send him a quick message with the usual introductory guff: I like your profile, you seem fun, hope you had a nice weekend and if you like my profile too, get in touch. So far, so blah. I don't normally do this. So finely-tuned is my inferiority complex that I've only ever made the first move - or click - a handful of times.
What follows surpasses all my expectations. Long, descriptive emails dripping with wit and flirtation are exchanged over a period of a few weeks. We both go on holiday at the same time and share our 'hilarious' experiences. I'm blown away. He sounds perfect. To avoid this turning into a correspondence-only affair, I take the plunge and ask him if he'd like to meet for a drink. To my amazement, this erudite, charming catch says yes and the date is set for the following Sunday; we're to have fairly low-key drinks at a pub in Soho.
D-Day arrives. I am first to turn up, so I order a drink and sit down, purposefully not looking directly at the door. Within seconds, he enters the pub. He looks different from his photos. Not hideously ugly kind of different or anything, but not quite how he looked. He spots me, comes over and we shake hands in greeting, like two awkward businessmen. His handshake is watery, his fingers slithering from mine after barely a millisecond of skin-on-skin contact.
He gets a drink and we start talking. I'm puzzled by his teeth. On one of his photos he was smiling broadly and had good, straight, reasonably white teeth. In real life, they have been replaced by browned, 20-a-day smoker's gravestones. Damn you, Photoshop. At first, he generally seems quite pleasant. He has clearly had a drink before meeting me, to calm nerves perhaps, as his voice is quite loud and has the faint trace of a slur. Or maybe he's having a stroke. He tells me he is a celebrity journalist on a fairly well-known (for all the wrong reasons) magazine. He regales me for a full 15 minutes on the murky sex lives of former Big Brother contestants and quiz show hosts, before getting up mid-sentence to go to the bar for another pint. I am not even halfway through mine.
This pattern continues. The first couple of times he gets up for a fresh drink, he buys me a half-pint. Eventually, he gives up the pretence of us ever being equally inebriated and just slams his way through pint after pint. Clearly I'm so boring that I'm driving this poor man to drink. I point this out to him, jokingly. He attempts a gimlet-eyed stare but is ultimately let down by being too drunk to focus. Finally, he speaks.
"You look a bit like a pre-op transsexual."
"What?!" I reply. "In which way?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, which kind of pre-op transsexual?" I gasp. "Man-to-woman or, er, woman-to-man?"
He considers this a while. "Oh woman to man, obviously."
Yes, obviously. I ask him to clarify.
"Well, you're very slight, aren't you? Slim and whatnot."
"I have stubble!" I choke.
"Yeah," he drawls. "But they take pills to make, um, the hormones grow."
I attempt point out that a pre-op female-to-male transsexual would still have breasts and a vulva - both of which I lack - but this seems to confuse him and I see he is regretting his candour.
He asks if I'd like to go somewhere else. Yes, I would. Home. Alone. How can someone who seemed so perfect on paper be such a dreadful disappointment in real life? I begin to wish I had merely printed out his wickedly funny emails and taken them for a drink instead. Their human representative certainly isn't up to much.
He says he wants to take me to a gay bar. I politely decline, blaming an early start at work in the morning, despite admitting earlier in the conversation that I have a week off ahead of me. Luckily, his 800 pints have done their job and he forgets this.
We head out of the pub and begin our goodbyes. Inexplicably, he lunges at me and sticks his tongue down my throat. I try to push him off but eventually only get him away from me by tweaking his nipple very, very hard.
"Ouch," he exclaims, then, with a pathetic smile, continues "Like to play rough do ya?"
Enough is enough.
"Oh piss off," I spit, and walk quickly away from him without looking back once.
Post-date rating: 3/10
Date in once sentence: Charming man of my dreams sends his slightly uglier, offensive and crass identical twin brother to meet me as a practical joke.