Last week Lucy went on a second date with Pardeep, who is recently separated and has a two-year-old son. If you missed this, you can catch up here.
After an inauspicious start, the date was surprisingly Not Shit. Pardeep’s a sweet guy, a bit naive, but well-meaning, charming, and good company. Not to mention extremely easy on the eye, which is always a bonus. In other words, he ticks a lot of Lucy’s boxes, and so far he seems not to be entirely repulsed by Lucy either, so it’s all good.
Except it isn’t. As always seems to happen when Lucy finally meets a not-completely-offensive guy, she isn’t really feeling it. She and Pardeep get along pleasantly enough, they are both chatty, sociable people, but, in shock news, it turns out that it’s not enough for a man simply to be around the right age, attractive to look at and not a total dickhead for Lucy to want to grab him with both hands, shag him senseless, and then marry him. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if it were? But sadly there also needs to be that spark, that mysterious and impossibly elusive chemistry that makes all the difference between ‘Hey it was nice meeting you’ and ‘Holy crap where did YOU come from?!’. And as was made abundantly clear from the lacklustre kiss at the end of the last date, that magic ingredient is simply not there.
But Lucy’s not ready to give up yet. She likes Pardeep, she enjoys his company, and maybe, just maybe, if they get to know each other a bit better, something might develop. So when he gets in touch to ask her for a third date, she accepts without hesitation.
Since it’ll be the third date, she thinks, maybe she can just get a bit drunk and bang him; that might be a good way to catch feelings…
But any potential banging will have to wait until later, because Pardeep has an altogether more PG-rated suggestion for the third date: crazy golf.
Lucy’s only played crazy golf once before in her life, and has always been spectacularly rubbish at any sports involving bats, racquets, sticks or clubs. In school hockey she was forever stuck in goal, where she tried to convince herself that she was awarded this honour because she was a good goalie, and not just because she was chubby and couldn’t run. She tried tennis, but always managed to hit the ball not only into the next door court, but practically into the next county. So she took up squash because at least the court has walls round it to prevent that sort of thing from happening, but she ended up either crashing into her opponent or hitting herself in the face. Neither of which is a winning move, according to current rules.
So yeah, it’s fair to say that competitive sports are not really Lucy’s thing. She prefers the gym, where no one is watching (judging) and the only competition is between her need to burn calories and her desire to knock off early and go home to sit on the sofa and eat ice cream out of the tub.
It’s probably only fair to gently warn Pardeep of this.
In a surprise move given the complete lack of organisational skills he’s demonstrated so far, Pardeep massively ups his game on the planning front. He researches the venue, checks availability, and then simply and decisively tells Lucy what they are doing, when, and where. Lucy is absolutely delighted. This is much more like it! She can feel herself becoming more attracted to the man already.
While Pardeep rushes off to collect his son from nursery, Lucy carries on a conversation she’s been having with her best friend Lily about Adam, her new FWB. Adam and Lucy have only hooked up once so far but it went rather well, and Lucy is keen to see him again, at least for now while things are very much touch and go (and not in a good way) with Pardeep. But Lily’s concerned that if Adam likes Lucy more than she likes him, he might end up getting hurt.
Lucy types out a response…
… and then accidentally sends it to Pardeep.
She realises her hideous error the second she hits send, and stares in abject horror as the grey ticks land to show it’s been delivered, and then before she has a chance to delete the message, turn to blue. WHO READS MESSAGES THAT QUICKLY ANYWAY?!!
This is an utter disaster. No matter how understanding he may be, Lucy’s 99% certain that no man will ever truly get over something like this. If things with Pardeep weren’t floundering already, they certainly will be now.
There’s only one thing she can do, and that’s try to style it out and hope for the best.
She spends the next hour in a frenzy of anxiety and self-loathing before Pardeep finally puts her out of her misery.
Pardeep seems to be remarkably cool about the whole thing, which is an absolute fucking miracle. Lucy wonders if he might be a real keeper after all.
The next evening, as instructed, she squeezes herself into her nicest pair of skinny jeans – the ones that make her bum look as pert as possible – and heads off across town to the Junk Yard Golf Club on Brick Lane.
Constructed in an old brewery, vibrating with banging tunes, lit by flashing neon lights and full of 20-somethings even at 5.30 on a weekday, the Junk Yard Golf Club has clearly been set up to appeal to the pop-up, hipster, post-work, City crowd. Each hole has a pun-tastic name like ‘Ferris Baller’s Play Off’ or ‘Clown and Out’ , and is constructed from reclaimed junk, bits of old cars, sets from fairground attractions and props from old theatre productions. It’s mad, loud, and clearly the place of the moment right now, and forever uncool Lucy feels spectacularly out of place.
But it doesn’t matter, because Pardeep seems to be on fine form, taking charge, putting her coat in the cloakroom, handing her a club and ball, and getting the first round of drinks in. Could it be that knowing he has competition has made him up his game?
They’re booked to play one round of 9 holes. While they tee off on the first, Pardeep awkwardly kicks off the conversation with the usual imaginative opener.
“How was your weekend?”
Lucy tells him about her thrilling trip to buy a new phone and asks him how his was.
“I met up with some of my guy friends from uni,” he tells her.
“Was it fun?”
“Actually they’re all married and a bit old and boring now.”
“What, don’t you have any single guy friends left to be your dating wingman?”
“Not one,” he laments. “I guess that’s why, when you get to our age, online dating is the only way. Almost everyone is coupled up so at least it saves time and embarrassment chatting to girls in bars who then turn out to be taken.”
“I’m not sure it was any easier when I was younger, to be honest,” admits Lucy. “I never used to get chatted up in bars. At least, not by the sort of guys I’d want to be chatted up by, only by sleazy ones. Nice guys never had the courage. You had to wait for them to get drunk enough to talk to you, but that only happened when they were 6 pints in and repulsively wasted, and then it was time for the last tube home anyway.
Lucy remembers spending most of her early twenties in London waiting entire evenings for things to get interesting, and then just when they did, having to bail and run for the last train because, if she missed it, it would mean a two-hour journey and two night buses full of vomit and drunks and people eating filthy kebabs all the way home. Today’s 20-somethings, blessed with the new Friday and Saturday Night Tube, don’t know how lucky they are, she thinks. If being able to get the train home at 4 am had existed 10 years ago, she’d probably be married now to some random guy who’d picked her up in a bar after downing six Jaegerbombs for Dutch courage and they’d be living in a house in the country getting fat and reminiscing about all the wild nights they had when they were younger.
Actually, fuck that, thinks Lucy. Probably a good thing the Night Tube never existed in the 2000s after all.
Just as before, Lucy’s having a relaxed enough time with Pardeep, but she just isn’t feeling it. Nice though he is, the chemistry just isn’t really there, and Lucy suspects that if it wasn’t for the golf, they would already have run out of things to talk about.
They settle into the game. After the first two holes they are neck and neck, but the third involves hitting the ball up a slope and through a narrow gap. Pardeep manages first time, but Lucy’s ball keeps hitting the side and rolling back down.
“Argh!” she wails. “I just can’t get it up!”
“I sometimes have that problem too,” jokes Pardeep.
The sixth hole is at the end of a long corridor with two corners in it. You have to get the ball to bounce off the wall at the correct angle for it to turn the corner. It’s a bit like playing pool, only with a golf club, and Lucy is even shitter at pool than she is at crazy golf. Again, Pardeep gets it on the first go, but every time Lucy tries the ball bounces off the wall and she ends up back where she started.
“This is terrible!” she cries. “I’m definitely not going to win! Clearly I didn’t have enough of a misspent youth hanging out in pool bars and sticky-floored pubs!”
Unsurprisingly, Lucy ends up losing by a massive 10 points. But she doesn’t really mind. It’s good to lose to a man, she thinks. Makes him feel clever and important. Women need to flatter men’s egos from time to time and make them feel manly and powerful, and if losing a game of crazy golf is what it takes, then Lucy is absolutely fucking fine with that.
The game over, they walk back to Old Street to get dinner at trendy burger joint Red Dog Saloon. Lucy orders a chicken burger, and realises her schoolgirl error as soon as the food arrives and she sees Pardeep’s juicy beefburger loaded with brisket, onion rings and lashings of cheese. Another fail. It’s really not her night.
Two guys are at the next door table. One of them is enormously fat and has ordered the largest burger Lucy has ever seen in her life: a heart-attack-inducing stack of four patties with cheese and bacon in every level and a bucket of chips big enough to feed a football team. It must be easily 3000 calories in just that one meal and judgy Lucy simply can’t help judging just a little bit.
“Goodness, what on earth have you got there?!” she asks.
“It’s called The Devastator,” he tells her proudly.
“It’s huge!” she says, in awe.
“I know, he says. “They actually have a challenge here where you have to see if you can eat the entire thing in ten minutes with a litre of milkshake on the side. I’ve done it, but it isn’t easy.”
Lucy takes another look at the burger. It’s massive, but Lucy’s a pretty champion eater. She can put away an entire M&S Dine In for Two meal by herself, and laughs in the face of people who turn down seconds of cake after just one slice. It’s why she has to spend so much time down the gym, just so she can make sure that all the food she consumes doesn’t end up on her waistline. A girl’s gotta look after herself if she wants to catch a man, especially now that Lucy doesn’t have youth on her side so much any more…
“I could do it,” she says firmly. “I eat a lot, and I eat fast.”
“No way,” Pardeep joins in. “You couldn’t.”
“I seriously doubt it,” says burger guy. “I’m 23 stone and even I struggled.”
“I could!” she insists.
“Right,” says Pardeep. “Next time I’m going to make you prove it!”
But is there going to be a next time? Lucy’s not so sure. She also seriously doubts whether shovelling the equivalent of four beef burgers into her face in one sitting is the best way to attract a man, but fortunately it’s highly fucking unlikely she’s ever going to have to find out.
There’s another dip in conversation, and Lucy decides to fill it with the one thing that’s been hanging over her all night. She takes a deep breath.
“So, I owe you an apology.”
“That text message. I’m so embarrassed!”
“Don’t worry,” he says. “Honestly, I thought it was funny. I even sent it to my mate. He thought it was hilarious too.”
He pulls out his phone to show her the chat. On his home screen Lucy spots that he has several bright red notification flags: an insane 86,011 unread emails, 56 WhatsApp chats, and 75 missed calls.
Lucy’s horrified. How does he live like this?! What does this say about him as a person if he doesn’t read or respond to calls and messages and can happily go about his day knowing that all that correspondence is sitting there? She wonders if he’s also the sort of guy who doesn’t do laundry until he’s worn all his pairs of underwear at least twice, and eats food straight out of the container rather than putting it on a plate to avoid having to do washing up.
“How do you cope?” she asks, astounded.
“It’s fine,” Pardeep reassures her. “It’s all just spam.”
“Yes, but still….!” she tails off, speechless with horror.
“Anyway,” he concludes, “don’t worry about the text. It’s fine. It’s just dating.”
“I know,” Lucy agrees, but dating is hard, and it’s important to treat people with respect. So many don’t, you know.”
“What do you mean?” he asks.
Lucy tells him about a guy who cancelled on her on the day of the date because he finished work early so he decided he’d rather just go home than hang around for two hours waiting to meet her.
“I don’t think that’s so bad,” says Pardeep. “Maybe he didn’t want to waste time?”
Lucy is beginning to be mightily unimpressed with Pardeep now.
“But what about MY time?!” she squeaks! We had plans! I’d washed my hair, turned down other offers, scheduled my day around the date… Online dating just makes people so damn rude and inconsiderate! Like ghosting. If you don’t want to see someone again, just say. It’s not that hard!”
“Yeah but if you don’t reply they’ll soon get the message,” argues Pardeep.
This is clearly a man who’s yet to be ghosted by someone he was into. He’ll soon learn, though, she thinks. Perhaps I should ghost him just to teach him a lesson. Though by now she senses that Pardeep probably wouldn’t be all that devastated if he never heard from her again, so the lesson would almost certainly fall on deaf ears.
“That is NOT the point,” she tells him. It’s so rude and disrespectful. The other person might be worrying or wondering. It costs absolutely nothing to be polite and let them know what’s going on.
“Well if I don’t get back to you tomorrow you’ll know!” Pardeep jokes.
But is he joking? After her second mini rant at him in as many dates it’s entirely possible he’s not.
They head back to the tube, walking side by side but still not touching. Something is definitely off here: after two dates and two kisses, you’d expect to be holding hands by now, but there is still a distance between them that’s exponentially larger than the actual 3-foot gap.
“I’m actually quite full now,” she says, to break the tension.
“Haha, I knew it!” he teases. “Eyes bigger than your stomach, eh?”
“I guess so,” says Lucy, slightly relieved that she won’t have to take on that monstrous burger after all.
At Old Street station they’re both getting on the Northern Line, so they stand together on the platform, again not touching, and not really talking. Lucy’s actually rather relieved they’re going the same way, because it means there’ll be a very quick goodbye as one of them gets off the train, and no chance of an awkward will-we-won’t-we-kiss moment. When she gets off at Bank, one stop later, it’s easy enough to just give him a brief peck on the cheek, then leap off and run away.
She’s certain she’ll never see him again.
Ever polite though, Pardeep messages her the next day.
After that conversation fizzles. They message occasionally over the next couple of days, but he doesn’t ask her out again, and Lucy’s pretty sure he’s only continuing to reply because her rant has put the fear into him and he doesn’t know how to extricate himself. So out of courtesy to him, she lets him off the hook and just stops replying herself. Seems the kindest thing to do.
Until a week later, when quite by chance she finds herself back outside the same restaurant again.
Lucy feels a little sad. For all his ineptitude and some slightly ill-advised opinions, Pardeep really did seem like a pretty decent guy. But unfortunately it’s not enough for a guy to be nice intelligent, and handsome – you need to have chemistry, and sadly, as so often seems to happen with Lucy, that chemistry was sadly lacking.
So she wishes him well, and releases him back into the wild where perhaps he will find some other lucky girl who is better suited to him.
Lucy’s glad if in some small way she’s helped Pardeep rebuild his confidence after his divorce. After all, dating can be an utter shitshow, and she believes strongly that all daters should work together to make everyone’s experience a little less traumatic by being courteous and friendly, even when things don’t work out. She doesn’t always get it right, of course, but on this occasion she feels she probably has. And hopefully his good experience will ensure that Pardeep treats his next date the same way. Fingers crossed.
NEXT WEEK: Lucy meets an ‘Entrepreneur’.