Punctuality is the politeness of kings, my grandmother always used to say, and while I'm not particularly regal, I do believe the least you can do on a date is get there on time. 'Fashionably late' is a flawed, dangerous concept. One man's height of style is another's fashion faux-pas. You mustn't leave anything to chance.
I have just arrived at the bar for tonight's date with the latest inked entry in my increasingly pathetic social diary. All I know is that he works in construction, has a saint's name, is a whopping 10 years younger than me and looks like he'd attract the sharpest of stares in the thickest of fogs. The rest I'm yet to discover.
I am scanning the cavernous room for potential candidates when my phone beeps. "Sorry to do this, but I'm running late."
I sigh. Late dates tend to put me in something of a funk. Often, the night struggles to recover. So I have arrived first, which I hate doing. I don't know why, but there's something reassuring and romantic about having someone waiting for you, eagerly peering at the door in anticipation of your arrival. And then, when you do finally walk through the door, you can pretend you haven't seen them, and they have to come up to you. Warm handshakes are exchanged - occasionally, excitingly, a kiss! - and the tone for the date is usually set. Tonight, however, I am to be denied this tiniest of pleasures.
He's stuck on a bus in heavy traffic and to give him his due, keeps in contact throughout. After asking him what he wants to drink ("Surprise me!" he says. Christ! No pressure, then!) I sit down to wait. His text messages continue to charm. He's revealing lots about himself without even being in the same room. And nary a sign of a LOL. I fancy him even more now. As an added distraction, there's a couple at the table next to me arguing over what to order from the menu. After a good 20 minutes of furious, exaggerated whispering, they leave unfed. As they clear out of my sunlight, they are replaced by my date: flustered and handsome, smiling reticently. He seems suitably embarrassed that he is late.
"You chose well," he grins as he sips his drink.
"Thanks," I reply. "It's a lot of pressure to put on someone before you even meet them, you know."
He laughs. "It wasn't a test. But you passed it anyway."
But of course everything is a test on a date, whether we like it or not.
We talk easily and I try very hard not to look him over too obviously, but there's a lot I want to look at it. He is so effortlessly, insanely scrumptious that I feel almost self-conscious, but if he's finding me repulsive, he's hiding it well.
The empty glasses stack up and the lateness is soon forgotten. We talk a lot about his job (I know, boring, but I've never dated a builder before!) and the associated stereotypes. All is falling into place remarkably well. He's hot, funny, hot, interesting, hot and drama-free. And he's hot. I can't even begin to imagine what he's doing here with me. I don't want his good looks to cloud my judgement, though; I definitely want to know more, what lies beneath. No, not that. Well, yes, that - but not just that.
He has a playful innocence which I don't think is solely related to his age. He's refreshingly uncomplicated and level-headed. The only baggage I can see is the largely unremarkable despatch bag he brought with him.
Soon, the night winds down and we leave the pub.
"That's my bus," he says, watching it pull away from the stop. If this is a hint at coming back to mine, he doesn't press it further and I don't encourage it.
"I'll wait with you if you like," I smile.
"No," he says, "don't. It's getting cold."
"Okay, well let's do this again soon."
"Absolutely," he grins. "My turn to let you be late next time, okay?"
"Don't worry, I intend to be right on time."
As I walk away from him and start to meander home, I reach round and give myself a tentative pat on the back.
Nicely played. I hope.
Stats: 26, 5'9", brown/brown, Midlands
Where: Brixton, SW2
Pre-date rating: 8/10
Post-date rating: 8.75/10
Date in one sentence: It's about bloody time.
A truncated version of this post first appeared in GT magazine, where I write a monthly column about my dating experiences. Find out when the next issue is due on the GT website.
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