I've been on more than a few dates in the two years or so I've been single. Some have been disastrous, many have been delightful, but they have all had one common denominator. Each of them, without exception, has involved alcohol. Even the dates with the best of intentions, which start with walks in the park or a visit to a gallery, end in the boozer, with first impressions being made quicker than a pint of beer can go flat.
Of course, any situation which makes you nervous can be helped along by a little Dutch courage, but I wonder whether my dating life might be improved if I gave my liver a night off from indecent assault in the name of making me more courageous. And yet, every time I arrange another assignation, I know that before long we'll be making eyes at each other over a large glass of something wet and inebriating.
Alcohol performs many functions on a date. It can be the oil that greases the cogs of conversation, transforming the chat from awkward and stilted to free flowing and raucous. It can also help to speed up the romantic process, be it affording you beer goggles to make your potential suitor more attractive, or giving you that extra nudge you need to lean in and plant that all-important first kiss. How many of us would've missed out on an engrossing snog if we hadn't had that game-changing cucumber martini?
Booze can also be the frenemy you could do without on a first date. I've lost count of how many almost-future husbands' charms have disintegrated before my very eyes the more grog they throw down their neck. Cockiness turns to arrogance, forthrightness to opinionated, hot to horrid - and all in a few quick swigs. That's not to say I'm perfect. I wonder how many of my dates have silently wished they were in root canal surgery while on the receiving end of my wine-fuelled bons mots. I close my eyes and cringe quietly in recollection at the "I can't believe I just said that" horrors that have left my mouth thanks to an unnecessary G&T.
As well as loosening your tongue, liquor can relax your morals too. Would I really think bringing home Mr X, or trotting off to some far-off part of London with Mr Y, was a good idea if it hadn't been for that round of vodka shots?
It's true that I have used booze to my advantage, whether I'm mainlining pints of ale to get through laborious chitchat about petty trifles at my date's office or cajoling a dark-eyed honey into exchanging sweet nothings by keeping them topped up with tequila. Sometimes, I idly wonder what it would be like to go on a first date and not rely on my faithful pint-glass wingman, my instant access to ersatz charm, wit and confidence. Would I be more nervous, or would I experience a fresh fearlessness? Do I really need to keep the pinot grigio flowing if I'm to lock lips by the end of the date? Will be any less fulfilled or, more likely, disappointed with the way it turns out? Surely not. So is it time I left behind the pub as my favourite rendezvous point?
Well, I don't think I'm quite ready to be myself just yet. Anyway, a tongue soaked in wine tastes much nicer than one tingling with toothpaste, right? No? Oh.Suggest a correction