It was the evening of The Date; the social institution whereby two complete strangers sit opposite each other and talk about themselves with the aim of deciding whether or not they are suitable for partnership. When you think about it, dating is such an odd ritual and for me personally, well, I've never had a good 'date'. Sure I've gone out for a drink with the guy I snogged at our work pub quiz (the snog that incidentally began the saga of Golf Boy) I've spent all day in the pub playing scrabble with my 'friend' (henceforth known as the saga of Number Six) and gone for dinner with Mr. Date- AKA Prince Charming but as far as full blown never-really-spoken-to-you before dates go, they have all been pretty disastrous.
I did wonder as I groomed, plucked and preened why I was putting myself through it all over again and if I was even ready. But before I get to the crux of this tale let's rewind two weeks... I need to tell you about The Wish.
It was the eve of my fateful breakup with E and Jess and I found ourselves in the very strange scenario of having both broken up with our boyfriends a the exact same time. I'm not even talking days... I'm talking MINUTES. Moments after E left mine I called up Jess to find her boyfriend of one year was... as we were speaking, gathering his belongings. It was probably a time for Ben & Jerry's, crying and watching of the Notebook.. but we decided to break out the champagne instead. Two glasses later and we were philosophising about the ridiculousness of monogamy, lifelong partnerships, everlasting love and how essentially we really only had our friends. We talked about how our parents f*cked us up and how I was eternally doomed to favour unavailable men while she would never settle for anything less than perfect.
Jess was distracting herself with an E-mail she had just received from a renowned documentary filmmaker.
"He has such amazing energy" she cooed. Jess's celebrity penpal (let's call him BP) had been courting her since she met him in Ibiza six years ago. He had been hinting for her to come back and visit him but had never actually given her an invitation. "And you know what?" she said... "You should totally try doing 'The Wish'"
"So," She began, "just last week I was thinking about how I want BP to properly invite me out there. I put all my positive thoughts into it and blew the wish out into the universe" it's a bit happy clappy but we'll let her off... she's a yoga teacher. "Anyway... now look! He totally invited me to come out there and stay as long as I want! So... that's what you should do! You should think about what you want and send it out into the universe"
Was it really that easy?
Fastforward two weeks and I'm face to chest with a tall cute Australian called Ryan. He was funny, well funny enough for me not to stay talking to him longer than a second which was pretty rare for a random encounter at a warehouse party where everyone looked about 18 and dressed like (post midlife crisis) Madonna. I gave him my number not expecting him to call after all, surfers who live in Marylebone and are also into classical music and modern ballet are too good to be true right? But then, I did make that wish.
The universe it seems, was listening, because that Wednesday I had a bona-fide date on my hands.
He'd picked an Italian wine bar on the corner of Portabello and Westbourne Grove after just the right amount of texts, so far so good. I should have been over the moon, but instead I found myself knotted in fear and nerves. I ran through the conversation over and over in my head... thought of all the clever things I could say and pictured how I would look when I swagger into the bar
"Heloooo. so this is a nice place." "Hi again, so how ARE you?" or something more saucy "Well helloo stranger, how's it hanging?" (how's it hanging?!) It was no use, I was bound to get as drunk as possible and be at least 80% weird and awkward. I mean just in the last hour I'd missed my stop on the tube, ripped my last pair of tights trying to wash and blowdry them in the sink... cut a massive gash into my leg dry-shaving and was running around trying to tame my hair with a sanitary towel stuck to my calf. Who was I kidding? The Ryans of this world didn't date girls like me! How am I supposed to even handle the complexity of a social situation as magnanimous a date? And where would I even start anyway? What part of myself will I be today? The broken self conscious me that cried in her therapist's chair? the drunk confident me that picks up 21 year olds in Infernos in Clapham? or the serious academic me?
It was all just too confusing. Who came up with the concept of a date anyway? Who decided that sitting two strangers in front of each other and doing the whole "soooo now tell me about you...." was in any way conducive to actually getting to know someone?
A massive glass of rum downed, my leg suitably patched up and a slightly holey pair of tights donned, I was ready for my big 'date'.
As soon as I walked into the bar confident me came out. Confident me is like one of those Rottweilers, it can smell fear on others and balancing on that barstool, Ryan looked even more nervous and awkward than I felt. It also probably helped that I was so taken aback by the paid of bright blue snakeskin pointy shiny shoes that I could barely stop myself from laughing. What was before me, far from the perfect Ryan I'd envisaged was a slightly nervous overly muscular badly dressed guy with hair that was halfway Russell Brand.
He told me he was a music lawyer spoke French and Italian, played piano and liked drawing. Our hobbies , he said, were like a venn diagram. It was probably at the point of him trying to explain what a venn diagram was that I completely lost interest. When he got all Italian ordering pancetta I wanted to hit him with the menu and when he got his phone out to show me where his Marylebone house was on Google maps I was really quite ready to leave.
For all his faults, he did pick up a pretty hefty tab of champagne and really good food, I gave him a peck on the lips before I jumped into the cab. As soon as the door was closed and the relief of leaving had time to subside, I felt a little annoyed with the world.
Why was the universe doing this to me? I'd wished for a smart, driven, caring, lovely guy and I got a sensitive wet cloth of a man with bad dress sense. Should I have been more specific? 'Dear universe, can I have a sweet caring lovely man who would never wear shiny pointy snakeskin shoes, is generous but doesn't show off, cares about such things as music and paining but not to the point where I'd question his sexuality. Also he really needs to make me laugh and be attractive but I'm not into muscles per say. Goddit?'
I jumped out the cab, paying the £30 fare for an evening I could have happily done without and with my head full of bubbles stumbled up the stairs. My room. My attic. Alone. It actually wasn't so bad.
Peeling off my makeup in the mirror I looked at myself, like really looked at myself. We were doing OK, me and I. I didn't need Ryan, in fact, I didn't need anyone. The me of yesteryear would have shoehorned the idea of the music lawyer into her head out of sheer desperation to be part of a pair. He was better than nothing right? Well, I guess I've changed.
Maybe the universe did send me what I needed after all.