Lucy’s date with Pablo the Argentinian might not have been a smoking hot success, but she’s never been one to give up at the first attempt. Convinced now that home-grown men are utterly fucking useless, and keen to capitalise on what she hopes is – to a foreigner at least – her adorable Britishness, she’s determined to give international dating another try.
So she goes back on Hinge, and matches with Pierre, who is – you guessed it – French.
Lucy likes the idea of dating a Frenchman. It is, after all, something of a classic fantasy. Pierre is bound to have a sexy AF accent, and of course he’ll be opposed to Brexit, and he’ll probably know a thing or two about good wine. He’s an economics lecturer at Cambridge University, so he’s obviously super smart, and being foreign he probably won’t own his own place, which means that when they fall madly in love and decide to live together, he can just move in with Lucy and she won’t have to decamp from her lovely West London home into a shitty mouse-infested rental flat in some nosebleedy area of London like Beckenham or Forest Gate (Lucy has no idea where either of those places are, but they sound fucking hideous).
So yes, a Frenchman might be perfect – so perfect that Lucy might even be persuaded to rethink the whole having kids thing, just so she can raise beautiful bilingual babies.
Pierre offers to come down from Cambridge for their date, so they agree to meet in a bar near King’s Cross station after work on a Wednesday night. Lucy’s feeling unusually positive about this one: the banter has been good, and an intelligent Frenchman really might be just the antidote to all those useless, incapable British men.
Pierre is at the bar when she arrives, which is helpful because Lucy doesn’t actually have a fucking clue what he looks like. His photos are like quite a lot of typical male dating profile photos, moderately of him, while at the same time leaving only the vaguest of impressions of what he actually looks like. What’s more, one of them is a group shot, one is of a piece of art and one is of a duck, which doesn’t really leave her much to go on. Fortunately Lucy looks exactly like hers and is instantly recognisable, so when a lone man at the bar looks up and gives her a wave as she enters, she assumes that must be Pierre and goes over to say hi.
“Hello,” he says, in a strong French accent, giving her a very French kiss on both cheeks. No, not that sort of French kiss, they’ve only just met FFS!
But Pierre is indeed very French, in that indescribable, indefinable way. He’s slim, with soft, floppy blond hair like every boy band member Lucy crushed on in her teens, black-rimmed glasses, and he looks like a schoolboy, even though he says he’s 38. While she might have fancied him when she was 15, she’s not sure this is a look that still works for her now.
When he smiles, he displays weirdly small teeth, which are mostly straight but quite stained. Lucy wonders with horror if he’s a smoker.
“What can I get you?” Pierre asks.
“Ooh, I’ll have white wine please. You’re French, you know about wine, right?” She tries to make it sound like a joke, even though she’s hoping the stereotype is true.
Pierre says nothing so she doubles down, just to make sure he knows it’s an attempt at breaking the ice with awkward British humour. “And you probably smoke loads… ha ha.” Maybe this is where he’ll confess.
But Pierre simply joins in. “Yeah! Two packs a day!” Is he joking?
“And what else… you love garlic, and onions… and you wear a beret…?”
“Ha ha everyone loves a casual racial stereotype,” grins Pierre, and Lucy’s not sure if he’s amused by her, or already bored by the same gags he’s no doubt heard eleventy zillion times before.
The wine arrives, and they grab a nearby table, sitting across from one another.
“So where are you from?” Lucy asks.
“Interesting that you’d admit that. Most people who live in Paris won’t admit to being Parisian, because Parisians are so famously nasty.”
“Oh… you know many Parisians?”
Lucy tells him she lived in Paris for six months as a student.
“So you speak French?”
Ah. Lucy realises she’s painted herself into a corner. She frantically prays he doesn’t ask her to wheel out her terrible French. She hasn’t had nearly enough wine, and his English is so perfect it’d just be fucking embarrassing, frankly.
She swiftly changes the subject and asks Pierre about his family. He tells her he has a sister and two brothers, and seven nieces and nephews.
“So you’re the black sheep of the family? The one without kids?”
“Actually it’s fine,” he tells her. “There’s no pressure. My parents have enough grandchildren.”
Lucy spots an excellent opportunity to ask his position on the whole kids thing.
“Yeah it’d be nice if it happens, but I’m not too fussed either way,” says Pierre.
Hurrah! A man who won’t dump her for a younger model when his biological clock starts to tick! Douze points!
Conversation seems to be flowing OK, and even though she still doesn’t fancy him Lucy wants to give Pierre a chance, so they order food. Over fish and chips they inevitably end up talking about Brexit.
“It’s OK for you,” says Lucy. “If it all goes tits up here you can just go back to France.”
“I have a mortgage her though,” he tells her regretfully.
Bollocks, thinks Lucy, as the dream of having a handsome Frenchman move in with her spirals down the plughole.
They order more wine, and Lucy starts to get a little tipsy. “So have you got any dark skeletons in your closet?” she asks. “Dirty secrets? Criminal record?”
Pierre thinks for an alarmingly long time.
“Well… I did take drugs when I was younger. And I once bought a huge block of weed with some mates…”
“What for? Did you sell it? Were you a dealer?” Lucy asks anxiously.
Pierre tells her no, they just divided it up between them. But what if he still does drugs?
“I also once took a speeding fine for my Dad,” Pierre adds.
“So you perverted the course of justice?” Lucy asks in mock horror. “Wow, you’re scaring me! A hardcore criminal!”
“What about you?” Pierre asks.
Lucy thinks. And thinks. Until the staff start sweeping up under their feet and spiders build cobwebs around the bar. But she’s such a boringly good girl she really can’t think of anything.
“When I was a kid I used to shoplift pic’n’mix from Woolworths. They probably went bust because of me! And I once got a parking fine while delivering old clothes to the Oxfam shop…”
Proper gangsta, is Lucy.
“OK then,” says Pierre, “If you’re not a criminal, what’s the stupidest thing you’ve done?”
Again Lucy racks her brain to think of something, anything, that might make her sound cool and interesting, but the only thing that pops into her head is the fact that she had unprotected sex with both Brad and Charlie, which was obviously fucking stupid indeed, but somehow she doesn’t think that answer would go down very well.
“I literally can’t think of anything,” she says eventually.
“What, you never did anything stupid? Not ever?”
“I’m too sensible,” she shrugs, and Pierre’s face clouds with disappointment.
Over a third glass of wine they somehow end up talking about their favourite animals, because that’s how rock and roll this date has become. Pierre tells her his is a SHARK, thereby proving that he’s a MAN and into manly things like sharks and bombs and fire and meat. Probably.
Lucy tells him a story about how she once saw a platypus in Sydney zoo and it was the one of the cutest things she’s ever seen.
“A what?” asks Pierre.
“I don’t know what that is.”
Wait… what? The man’s never heard of a platypus? This must be a vocabulary thing, right?
But when Lucy explains that it’s a cross between a duck and an otter, and shows him a picture from the internet, he’s as astonished and fascinated as those 18th century scientists who saw the first one brought back from Australia and thought it was a hoax.
The man’s clearly intelligent, but still Lucy wonders if it’s a bad sign that he hasn’t even heard of basic flora and fauna. What’s next, she wonders, is he going to ask me what a fucking daffodil is?
“You know,” she tells him, tipsy now, “I didn’t recognise you when I came in. Your photos aren’t very helpful.”
“What’s wrong with them?”
“Well only two of them are actually of you, and you can’t really see your face. And why do you have a photo of a duck and a teddy bear?”
“Well you still liked my profile, so I must have done something right.” Pierre shrugs.
“I did? You sure it wasn’t you?” Lucy’s confused. She could have sworn Pierre messaged her first.
She gets her phone out to check their chat and there’s the evidence, clear as day. Lucy made the first move.
“Huh. That’s weird. Now why did I do that? I must have been drunk!”
She begins scrolling and offering constructive criticism. “See, now this one is OK… but this one you can’t see your face. And these ones of random things you should replace with actual pictures of you.”
It’s only later, when she’s sobered up, that she realises most men probably don’t want unsolicited dating profile feedback from someone they’re actually on a date with.
Drunk Lucy really should stop giving people advice.
“Well I dunno what I’m supposed to do, I haven’t seen any other men’s profiles,” says Pierre, with a Gallic shrug.
“To be fair, most guys’ photos are pretty rubbish, so you’re in good company!”
She helpfully flips to Bumble to show him a few examples of the type of thing she’s talking about: weird angles, group shots, blurry images, strange expressions, drunk shots, photos with ex-girlfriends. For form’s sake she makes sure to find something to criticise in every profile, though there’s one guy who looks quite nice and she would have like to swipe right, but out of politeness she doesn’t. Dammit!
Pierre says nothing. He seems unimpressed.
Then she notices something else. “But how did we even match when you live so far away?”
“I think the standard distance setting is 100 miles, no?” says Pierre, defensively.
Lucy double checks – hers is set to 25 miles. “Have you visited London recently?”
“Maybe a couple of months ago, but I’ve only been on the app two weeks.”
There’s an air of tension between them now, and Lucy suddenly – and somewhat belatedly – realises she may have gone too far.
This one’s a lost cause anyway. It’s time to call it a night.
All the way home she feels guilty about criticising Pierre’s profile. Did she go too far? Come across as too harsh? As an experienced dater she was genuinely only trying to help a newbie find his feet, but in the tube’s sobering strip lighting it dawns on her that her well-intentioned advice might’ve come across as a bit judgmental.
She wonders if she can make amends by messaging him. Normally she would message after a date to say thank you if the guy paid, but they split the bill so she doesn’t have that as an excuse. Also she’s not sure she wants to see him again, and a message might give the wrong impression. Fuck, it’s such a minefield!
She quite likes Pierre – he’s chatty and intelligent and they have stuff in common. But is he sexy? Is there a spark? Does she want to see him again? She doesn’t think so. He’s not Charlie, that’s for sure, she thinks. But will he even ask anyway? It’s not like there was a spark.
She doesn’t have to wonder for long. Shortly after she gets home, Pierre messages.
Well that answers that then. Lucy’s not upset, though she does think the message is a bit brisk! But maybe that’s the French for you.
Next morning, as if to add insult to injury, Pierre unmatches her. Simple efficiency, or was he really that offended at her constructive criticism?
And even though she isn’t interested, she suddenly feels a little bruised by Pierre’s cold rejection. Which surprises her, because when Charlie was around these little knockbacks didn’t bother her in the slightest. She always had him to fall back on, to boost her self-esteem, to make the disappointments and dating crap just that bit harder to bear. But now she’s lost her safety blanket, and she notices that, for all his faults, for all the hurt, having Charlie in her life definitely did make some things so much better.
Was it enough, though, she wonders…
NEXT TIME: After going Argentinian and French, Lucy tries a Colombian on for size.
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