The Separated Dad, Part 2 – Ambush

Lucy has a date with Pardeep, who is a tall, dark, and handsome chap that she found on Guardian Soulmates.

To read how this happened, click here.

Lucy has spent the week working from home in her pyjamas, so she’s pretty excited to have an excuse to put actual clothes on and go out and drink wine.  So excited, in fact, that she takes the opportunity to put on a dress and boots with heels and everything.  Well, Pardeep claims to be 6’2″ tall, so she can.   And after the number of dates she’s had recently where she’s had to wear flats just in case, that’s pretty fucking exciting too.

They’ve agreed to meet near Oxford Circus after Pardeep finishes work.  Lucy, who thinks Oxford Circus at rush hour is the seventh circle of Hell, figures if she has to go there at all, she might as well take the opportunity to go in a little early and nip to John Lewis to buy a new frying pan.  Hers has lost all its non-stick, so her fried eggs now turn into a burnt scrambled mess when she tries to get them onto the plate, which is clearly an utter disaster.

She wonders what Pardeep will think of a woman who turns up to a date in a dress and heels and carrying a frying pan.  He might think she’s weird, but on the plus side, if he turns out to be a creep, she’ll have a handy weapon.  Lucy wonders if she ought always to start bringing kitchenware with her on dates, just in case.

In John Lewis, instead of heading to the kitchen department, Lucy accidentally ends up in the womenswear section, where she spots a gorgeous coat. She’s been looking for a new coat for actual fucking years, and has never been able to find one that isn’t weird or shit or too expensive. But this one is perfect AND £75 off AND they have it in her size!  Clearly this is Lucy’s lucky night.  Even if the date turns out to be completely pants, she’s already won.

Which is just as well, since no sooner has she paid for the coat than she gets a text from Pardeep.

Five to ten minutes is no big deal, and he was polite enough to text, so Lucy carries on browsing.  She bumps into an old work colleague whom she hasn’t seen in years. The colleague is suitably wowed by how gorgeous Lucy’s looking, which makes her wonder how shit she used to look when they worked together.  Still, this evening is going very well so far.

Another text lands.

Lucy’s in a good mood, so she decides to forgive him – though she does wonder what’s holding him up.  Probably work or public transport, she imagines.  Well shit happens, it’s not his fault, and at least he is suitably apologetic.

Eventually, half an hour later than agreed, Pardeep finally texts to say he’s arrived. Lucy heads over to the bar to meet him.

She spots him as soon as she walks in, because this is a trendy place full of hipster guys with beards and jeans and he is the only man standing awkwardly by the bar in a suit.  But he looks good – tall and slim and exactly like his photos, and Lucy does love a man who dresses well.  Definitely attractive, she thinks. Good start. 

“Hey!” she says, and gives him a kiss on the cheek.
“Sorry I was late,” he replies with a smile, flashing perfect white teeth.  Nice, she thinks.
“What happened?” Lucy asks, fully expecting some vague story about being stuck at work.
“I went to buy a belt, and it took longer than I was expecting.”

WTF? He went shopping? When he was already late to meet her? Who does that?!  Lucy had been quite ready to forgive his tardiness, but now she’s not so sure. This seems rather flaky, TBH.

“You went to buy a belt? Why?”
“My trousers were falling down; I needed one.”
While this might seem like a reasonable explanation, Lucy’s not so sure. After all, surely his trousers were acceptable enough when he put them on that morning, and he’s been wearing them all day, presumably without flashing his pants at anyone too badly, so why the urgent need to buy a belt precisely at the time he was due to meet her?

Still, no point arguing about it too much now. And admittedly he does look good, so she’ll just have to put it aside and move on.

Pardeep gets a round in and they sit at a nearby table. The trendy bar is so dark and loud that they need to sit close together, but Lucy doesn’t mind because he’s handsome and smells good.

In his profile, Pardeep mentioned that he’s newly-single and has a small child.  Lucy’s keen to assess his level of baggage-carrying in more detail… but how to get round to the subject?  It’s not really something you can just launch into on a first date, it is? So, Pardeep, just how fucked up are you by your divorce, and how annoying exactly is your spawn?

No, she’ll need to be a bit more subtle than that.  Somehow, she manages to work the conversation round to family and Pardeep tells her he has a sister and a brother which makes Lucy feel like she’s back in French class (J’ai un frere et une soeur…).  Lucy discovers there is a 14-year age gap between Pardeep and his older sister, which must make his parents either gluttons for punishment or not terribly clever about birth control.

Ah, birth control. This brings them nicely round to the topic of children (hurrah!)
“So you have a child?” Lucy asks, “What sort?”
“A son.  He’s two,” Pardeep offers.
“And does he live with his mum?”
“I look after him 50% of the time.”
Lucy has mixed feelings about this sort of thing.  Of course it’s great that he’s an enlightened dad who’s pulling his weight and not expecting his ex to take care of the kid full-time, but dating a man who comes with a toddler in tow is not really her idea of a Good Time.  Other People’s Children are best avoided, in Lucy’s experience.
“So how long have you been divorced?” she continues.
“Well the marriage ended 6 months ago but we’re not actually officially divorced yet, just separated.”

Hang on a minute?! Did Pardeep just say he’s STILL MARRIED and has only been separated a few months?!
Lucy is definitely Not Cool with that at all.  Surely the guy should let the dust settle on the marriage before starting to date someone else?
But what is a girl to do?  If, as seems to be the case, the Good Ones are all taken, then when one does miraculously become available again you have to get in there and snap him up pretty damn quick before someone else does. The window of opportunity to get your hands on a Good One after he’s become single again but before some other girl grabs him is freakishly and terrifyingly small.

“What about you?” Pardeep asks, “How long have you been single?”
“Almost three years,” she reveals, conscious that this must seem like a fucking ice-age eternity in the wilderness in comparison to his brief flirtation with the notion of singledom.  The man’s not even bloody divorced yet, FFS!  In all honesty, it makes Lucy not want things to work out with Pardeep just to prove a point – it simply would be Too Fucking Unfair if he were to meet someone new and lovely before the ink is even dry on his divorce papers.

“So why have you been single so long?” he asks, with a slightly suspicious tone.  Or maybe the tone is all in Lucy’s head.
Still, it sounds very much to Lucy that he suspects there must be something wrong with her – so she’s quick to set him straight.
“It’s just hard being a single woman in your late 30s,” she tells him.  “I’m sure you’ve heard the stories. Lots of guys are dicks and all the good ones are taken. That’s why you have to wait for them to come around again!”  She gives him a nudge and a grin, and hopes he enjoys the suggestion that he might be one of the good ones.  Always good to flatter your date, after all.
“How’s it been for you so far then?” she asks.
“Not too bad,” he replies.  “I’ve been enjoying it, actually.”

Of course he fucking has. He’s an attractive guy, seemingly intelligent and charismatic, with a job and reasonable social skills, which basically makes him hotter than a vindaloo curry on a car bonnet in the Sahara.  Single men like this are in such short supply that there will no doubt be eligible women queueing round the block once word gets out that he’s back on the market.  Meanwhile attractive, successful women of the same age with no baggage, gym-toned arses, and great hair are so ubiquitous that guys can afford to fuck-em-and-dump-em on a daily basis, because as soon as one has got boring another can easily be found to take her place.

Lucy manages to keep this inner rant to herself, and simply says, politely: “Of course you have. Nice guy like you?  I’m sure you’ll have no trouble meeting girls.”
Pardeep smiles and takes a sip of his pint.

“OK, so we’ve done exes,” he says. “That’s one taboo subject for a first date crossed off the list! What’s next?  Religion?”
“We can talk about religion if you like,” Lucy replies. “I think it’s all a load of bollocks.  You?  Are you religious?”
“Well I was raised Sikh, but I’m not religious. Actually it’s something I’m keen to move away from. My ex is a good Sikh girl who I basically married to keep my family happy – in fact we even met on an Asian dating site.  But this time round I want to find someone who is right for me, not my family.”

Interesting, Lucy thinks, though she’s not quite sure what Pardeep’s serious and devout Sikh family would make of him bringing a feisty and independent atheist woman home with him. She hopes he’s not one of those guys who is only dating her just to prove a point and piss off his mum.

“So I guess she still lives nearby, huh? So you can share the childcare?”
Pardeep hesitates for a second. “Actually we still live together.  We haven’t sold the house yet.”

Another alarm bell goes off like a siren.  Not only is he not single, he still fucking lives with his wife?!
Lucy entirely fails to hide her surprise and disapproval.
“What? You still live together? You need to move out!”
“It’s ok,” he rushes to reassure her. “We’re just like housemates. We live in separate parts of the house. We barely speak to each other except to discuss childcare. We live entirely separate lives now.”
This does not sound healthy at all.
“But how can you be dating when you’re still married and you still live with your wife?”
“My Ex,” Pardeep insists. “We are divorced in all but name. And the only reason we still live together is because we are trying to sell the house and we haven’t yet. She wants to buy me out but she can’t afford to. So for now we just have to put up with it.”

Lucy does get this. London is expensive.  For many people it would be just too much to move out and continue to pay a mortgage as well as rent. But it does seem entirely unhealthy for a guy to be dating already, when he’s still living with the mother of his child.
But then guys do seem to move on with breathtaking speed. It took Lucy the best part of two years to get over The Ex, while he moved onto someone new with barely a backward glance and got engaged to her just five months later. Guys do this. And so if Lucy doesn’t want to miss out, she’s just going to have to take Pardeep’s word for it that he’s ready.
Even if she doesn’t believe him.

And in spite of these shocking revelations the date does appear to be going pretty well. Pardeep is chatty, open, honest, funny, and there is something kind of cute and bit vulnerable about him that Lucy likes. So when he suggests going on somewhere for dinner, she agrees.

They decamp round the corner to a nearby branch of the Mexican chain Wahaca, where at Pardeep’s suggestion they order margaritas and the sharing menu.  Lucy likes sharing menus: it means she doesn’t have the impossible struggle of deciding what to have, and she also gets to try All The Things, thereby avoiding the trauma of Food Envy when the other person has ordered something that looks vastly more delicious than her own meal.    Even better, the food arrives quickly, which is just as well because it’s already 10 pm on a school night and Lucy is quite tipsy after two large glasses of wine.

Over tacos and guacamole, they chat about their hobbies and interests.  Pardeep reveals he likes travel and is off to Colombia in the spring, which is a big tick.  Lucy definitely couldn’t date a guy who didn’t want to go adventuring with her.
“When the wheels came off my relationship me and my mate took our kids to Ibiza,” Pardeep grins.  “We were like two gay dads.  People thought it was weird. But also, we were like women magnets. They all wanted to help out.”
Lucy can only imagine. Two hot guys on a beach accompanied by cute toddlers.  A perfect blend of sexy, sun-kissed masculinity and endearing sensitivity.  She pictures the scene and suddenly the fact that Pardeep has a kid doesn’t seem quite so terrible after all.

By 11 pm the restaurant is completely empty. A waiter passive-aggressively brings them the bill, clearly keen for them to leave so he can go home, and Pardeep insists on paying.  Lucy graciously accepts: she’s decided she’d like to see him again, so she can get the next one.  They head back to the tube.

At Oxford Circus, Lucy swipes through the barriers and then turns to see that Pardeep is still struggling to find his payment card.  As he rummages in his pockets, a fare-dodger nips quickly past him and through the barriers behind a slow-moving guy with a ticket.  Lucy frowns.  Londoners really piss her off sometimes – but there’s nothing she can do about it.  She hopes the girl gets busted by one of those rare random ticket inspections.

Pardeep is going south, and Lucy is heading back to West London, so they pause by the entrance to the Central Line to say goodbye. This is only the first date, and in spite of two large wines and a margarita Lucy is not nearly drunk enough for a rare first date kiss, so she’s fully expecting a peck on the cheek and maybe a ‘let’s do this again sometime’.  But Pardeep has other ideas.  As Lucy leans forward towards his right cheek, he swerves and ambushes her with a kiss right on the mouth.  Lucy is momentarily taken by surprise and flinches, which makes Pardeep hesitate.  There’s a split second of awkwardness, and then Lucy decides to go with it and joins in.   But it’s not a good kiss – kind of clumsy and mechanical, and unlike good first kisses she’s had in the past where she gets warm squirmy feelings in all the good places, Lucy feels a disappointing fuck all.  She pulls away.

“I wasn’t expecting that!” she says brightly.
“Yeah, sorry,” Pardeep replies, “I thought I’d go in for a cheeky snog.”
Lucy laughs uncomfortably.  He gives her another quick kiss and turns to go. 
“I’ll be in touch!” he tells her.
She manages a smile. “Great!” she says, sounding slightly strained. “See ya!”

By the time she gets off the tube at the other end, he’s already messaged.

Lucy shrugs. Ok, so the kiss wasn’t great, and there are a lot of red flags about his relationship situation, but he’s a really nice guy, and attractive, and, astoundingly, appears not to be playing games!  These things are surely far more important than the small matter of a disappointing first kiss and an ex-wife still living under the same roof.  Or at least, Lucy is willing to give him a chance. Albeit a cautious one.

He texts her again the next day.

He feels bad, eh?  Cute.  Lucy smiles to herself.  Could it be that she has actually managed to find a rare Good One?  She’s unsure, but there is only one way to find out.

(For you, dear reader, that means clicking here…)

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