Lucy is going for a third date with Al, who originally asked her out after a random Twitter exchange about beards.
(To read from the beginning, click here)
Al is not Lucy’s usual type at all – he is a mechanic and lifeboat crew member with two kids who dropped out of school to join the army when he was 17. And most shockingly of all, Al has an huge and terrifying beard that wouldn’t look out of place on an 18th century philosopher or a 21st century Shoreditch hipster. (Circle of Life, innit?)
This is the exact opposite of Lucy’s normal type. She normally goes for clean-gut, highly-educated geeky or creative types. So the complete opposite of Al, to put it bluntly.
But Lucy’s type hasn’t exactly been working out all that well for her so far, and there’s something about Al’s calm manner with a hint of cheekiness that she rather enjoys. In spite of the fact that on the last date he confessed to liking taxidermy and keeping a lizard as a pet. But everyone has their weirdnesses, right? You just have to find someone whose weird is compatible with yours. The problem is, Lucy is not sure whether Al’s is.
On the plus side, it does help that he seems to be rather taken with her. Lucy likes being liked. Especially by hot lifeboat heroes with taut bodies and melty chocolate-brown eyes.
So there’s going to be a third date. They agree to meet for dinner in nearby Lewes, so Lucy heads over there on the train from Brighton after work. It’s a warm day, so for her third-date outfit she’s opted for a jumpsuit that always gets compliments when she wears it. Even though she’s pretty sure most people probably think she’s a crazy cat lady who forgot to get dressed and has come out in her pyjamas.
The jumpsuit is from Boden. That’s because Lucy is a walking middle-class stereotype. She wonders if Al has ever dated a Boden-wearing woman before. Seems unlikely. Boden is hardly the height of fashion, but Lucy’s pretty sure Hastings, where Al is from, is not a Boden hotspot. The good ladies of Hastings are unlikely to be Boden’s middle-class yummy mummy target demographic.
Al may not be familiar with the brand, but he appreciates the outfit nonetheless. “Damn, you look hot,” he tells Lucy.
“You think? You don’t think I look like I’m wearing pyjamas?” she queries.
One day Lucy will learn how to take a fucking compliment. Not today though.
Al looks good too. He’s wearing a slim-fit checked shirt and Superdry jeans. A chubby guy would have nowhere to hide in that outfit, Lucy notes appreciatively.
But by a country mile the best thing about Al’s date attire is the beard… which has shrunk dramatically! It’s still there, but instead of being stubbornly at the Charles Darwin end of the scale, it’s now far closer to a Ryan Gosling. Which is nice, since Lucy definitely fancies Ryan Gosling.
Even so, Lucy is slightly taken aback. This is a big change after just two dates. It’s too much pressure!
“I’ve taken about three inches off,” Al tells her. “What do you think?”
“It’s definitely an improvement. But I hope you didn’t do that because of me?”
“No I wanted to do it anyway, the fact that you’d like it better was just a bonus.”
But Lucy can’t help suspecting he might have done it because of her. Which makes her feel more guilty than that time she ate all the rest of the office birthday cake and then found out some people were still hoping for a second slice. She denied all knowledge, of course.
Al leans in and gives her a brief kiss. A third date kiss should be full of mystery and promise, but… it’s awkward.
WTAF? thinks Lucy. I’m standing in front of a hot, sweet guy who is into me, who has even removed most of his beard for me, and I’m underwhelmed. Get a grip, woman!
They walk to the restaurant and order food, a pineapple cocktail for Lucy and a beer for Al.
“You know, I think you’re awesome,” Al tells her.
Lucy thinks Al is super sweet. But somehow she can’t quite make eye contact. This is the third date, she should be excited to see him, but… she just feels guilty.
“It doesn’t bother you, the difference in our backgrounds?” she asks. “You know, because I’m basically a posh princess, and you’re…”
“I didn’t say that!” she squeaks. “I just meant, on paper we’re not exactly the most obvious match.”
“You’ve never dated a man who works with his hands before?”
“Actually, no,” Lucy admits. She looks at Al’s hands. They look slim and strong, and his nail beds are stained with engine oil. It’s actually kind of sexy.
“I don’t think it matters,” Al says. “It worked for Billy Joel: he fell in love with an Uptown Girl.”
“You think I’m living in a white bread world?” Lucy asks. “Actually I prefer granary.”
He laughs. “That’s because granary bread is posh now. White bread is what the plebs eat these days.”
“So I’m an Uptown Girl living in a granary bread world? Doesn’t have quite the same ring.”
The food arrives. Lucy’s gone for fish pie. Al has ordered a burger, and Lucy has food envy. She wonders if it’s ok to steal a chip.
“So have you had any really bad online dates?” Al asks.
“A couple that were pretty excruciating, but mostly they’ve been ok, just underwhelming,” Lucy says.
She tells him about Vincent, who revealed on their date that his friends often send him porn videos via WhatsApp.
“The thing is, I was really shocked by this. So I asked my friend, and he told me that guys do this all the time. Apparently it’s a thing.”
Al denies all knowledge of such activities. Al is either a total sweetheart (entirely possible) or lying to try to impress her (also possible).
Lucy explains. “Apparently the way it works is your mate sends you a video that looks innocent, so you watch it, and then after a few seconds it hard cuts to something obscene. My friend showed me one. It was of a car reversing. You watch it thinking, ‘what’s this about then?’ Is something going to happen to the car? And then suddenly it cut to a scene of a man fisting someone. I really didn’t need to see that! It’s burned on my retina now, I’m going to have nightmares!”
Al looks shocked.
Lucy laughs. “I bet you didn’t think you’d hear me say the word ‘fisting’ on our third date!”
“To be honest,” says Al, “I didn’t even think I’d get lucky enough to have a third date.”
Conversation starts to flag. Not a good sign. “What are you up to tomorrow?” Al asks.
“Just work, and then I’ll go for a run,” she says. Thrilling stuff.
“You know, I never do any exercise,” Al reveals.
This surprises Lucy since Al doesn’t appear have an ounce of fat on him. She tells him so.
“Well I guess working on the lifeboat keeps me fit,” he suggests. “But I don’t work out. Guess I’m just lucky I’m naturally slim.”
Lucy has to work out four times a week to ensure she’s not the size and texture of a sofa. Life’s a bitch.
She squeezes his arm. It’s rock solid. He offers her his thigh to try too. Zero fat there either. Abs? Absolutely perfect. Not even the slightest hint of a beer gut.
It’s official. Al is FIT AS. So why isn’t she feeling the urge to jump on him?
He’s finished his burger, so Lucy starts helping herself to his leftover chips.
“Do you mind?” she asks.
“Not at all, I think it’s good,” Al replies.
This may explain why Al is naturally slim and Lucy is only normal-sized because she fucking kills herself in the gym four times a week.
The conversation turns to unsolicited dick pics. “Ever had one?” Al asks.
“Actually no. I guess something about my profile doesn’t attract those sort of guys. Not that I’m complaining.”
“I can send you one if you like,” he jokes.
“I’m amazed you haven’t already,” Lucy laughs. “I thought it was pretty standard. I’d just assumed the reason you hadn’t is because you have a really tiny penis and you’re embarrassed.”
“Actually I have the opposite problem,” Al says. It’s so big that it won’t fit in the photograph. Even with a wide angle lens.”
“Then get a selfie stick.”
Always there with the helpful solutions, is Lucy.
Lucy allows herself a moment to wonder which of the two explanations is closer to the truth. As a girl, it’s always tricky when you sleep with someone for the first time. You never know quite what you’re going to find down there, and there have been one or two occasions when Lucy has been exceedingly disappointed.
Though right now Lucy is really not sure she is that bothered about finding out with Al.
WTF is wrong with me?! she laments. This lovely, cute guy is into me, and I’m just not feeling it.
Lucy has a strong suspicion that she may well be one of those fuckwits who’s only really interested in a guy when he’s running away. She always seems to be far keener when they’re a bit distant and aloof. Even though at the same time she finds guys who take ages to reply to messages intensely irritating.
This is one of the reasons why Lucy is probably going to die alone.
But is Lucy not feeling it because Al is too nice, or because the chemistry just isn’t there? You can’t force yourself to want someone just by willing it (and Lucy’s pretty strong-willed, so if you could, she would have done it by now). And while kindness is a fantastic quality, and definitely something Lucy’s looking for in a man, there has to be more.
They get the bill and head back to the station. The next train is not for another 10 minutes. Al steers her up against a wall and kisses her.
It’s a perfectly decent kiss – but Lucy’s still not feeling it. And as a beard-hater she finds the feeling of hairs tickling her top lip weird and disconcerting. She’s really not sure if she could ever get used to this.
A drunk man interrupts them.
“Excuse me,” he slurs. “I’ve got kids, right…?” The man tails off.
What does he want? Lucy wonders. Is he about to get aggressive? Is he giving us grief for the PDA? We were only kissing, it really wasn’t that outrageous. And there aren’t even any kids here anyway? What’s his problem?
But the man isn’t trying to abuse them, in fact bizarrely he’s trying to offer them some advice. “Me and my missus were outside the Tate gallery…” he continues.
Lucy is confused. Is he trying to give them some cultural insights? Recommend a venue for the next date? Impress them with his knowledge of 17th and 18th century art?But no, it’s rather more practical advice than that. The man continues “…and we went into the toilets. They were nice. Not sure the toilets here are as good but…”
Lucy and Al are confused. What’s he trying to say?
“I’m saying you could go in there.”
Oh ok…. so drunk guy appears to be suggesting that Lucy and Al should go and have sex in the toilets. What a helpful chap.
Al has a glint in his eye that suggests he doesn’t think it’s such a bad idea.
“I’m afraid I’ve got a train to catch,” Lucy says, happily.
“How long have you got?” drunk guy inquires.
Lucy checks her watch. “Four minutes.”
Judging by the state of him Lucy’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have even managed one minute, let alone four.
She gets on the train. Immediately, Al texts. “Damn I like you xx.”
Lucy feels sad.
(Editor’s note: Lucy later told Al she thought they should just be friends. They stayed in touch and carried on following each other on Twitter. Then Lucy posted a tweet that got her into trouble. To find out what, and why, click here…)