It’s a Thursday, and Lucy has an Actual Blind Date. With a faceless, nameless, completely anonymous stranger. Someone who might be the man of her dreams. Or a potato.
The date has been arranged by Jordi, whom she met at the Smudged Lipstick Connect 4 Dating Event. As well as running imaginative singles events Jordi likes to occasionally play matchmaker with his clients, and a week or so after Lucy failed to Connect (Four) with any of the men who were there that night, Jordi messages her to tell her he might have just the guy for her.
Would she be up for a blind date? Well sure! Why TF not?
There’s only one catch: it’s completely blind. She won’t get to see a photo, or even know his name. All she knows is that he’s taller than her, straight, and single. She has to trust that a random bloke who’s known her for all of about 20 minutes won’t set her up with an actual potato.
Lucy’s been on more dates than she’s had M&S ready meals for one (which is a LOT, in case you were wondering), but as she heads to the pub she suddenly finds herself sticky with nerves. Maybe it’s the fact that she knows nothing about this guy; she hasn’t had a chance to assess his profile, or chat to him via text message, so she hasn’t been able to form any kind of impression of what he might be like. And that seems to add to the pressure, as though not having pre-judged him somehow makes this date especially important, a real, genuine chance to form a connection as opposed to two swift drinks with someone you’ve probably already made up your mind about.
There’s pressure too because of the nature of the set-up. Lucy’s been on bajillions of online dates – they’re not special – and she’s learned to prepare for disappointment. But this is different. The fact that she’s been set up by someone who has met them both IRL and thinks they’d be a good match adds a weight of expectation. She doesn’t want to let Jordi down.
At the very least, she hopes she doesn’t get fucking stood up.
Lucy’s allowed exactly the right amount of time to get to the Northcote pub in Clapham, where the date is being held, but somehow the buses and trains line up perfectly and she ends up arriving early. Fuck. But what to do? Should she walk around the block? Hide out in the loo? Fake confidence and sit at the bar? Nerves are sending her already overactive brain into mach 4 overdrive. She decides that being early would be a complete fucking disaster, so instead she dawdles getting off the train like a bloody tourist, and browses unfunny birthday cards in the Clapham Junction gift shop before slowly ambling to the pub.
It’s busy. Jordi’s booked a table in his name, so Lucy goes to the bar to ask where to go. While she waits for instructions she checks out the men, looking for someone who might be her date. A hot guy catches her eye; Lucy looks at him optimistically before realizing he’s there with a group.
At the opposite end of the bar there’s a handsome man with a shaved head; he appears to be alone; could that be him?
Yep, nice. I’d definitely be OK with that.
Then she spots another guy on his own: this one is tall and slim, with a full head of neatly-arranged blonde hair, trendy Silicon-Valley-IT-style glasses, no beard, and the kind of geek chic that gets Lucy all squirmy (in a good way). She definitely likes the look of this one and briefly allows herself to hope this might be her date.
No chance my luck is that good.
But then something extraordinary happens. The waiter goes over to the Hot Geek, says something in his ear, and then leads him to an empty table for two.
No WAY. Could that really be him?
The same waiter returns and makes a beeline for Lucy. “Would you like to come this way?” he asks, and leads Lucy to the same table, where the Hot Geek is taking off his coat and Oh My God my date is FIT thinks Lucy, trying to act casual as she sends a telepathic prayer of thanks over the airwaves to Jordi.
The Hot Geek stands up, gives her a kiss on the cheek and introduces himself, and in her flustered confusion Lucy instantly forgets his name.
Jordi has very kindly arranged for them to have a free bottle of wine and a sharing platter for two, so the waiter comes over to ask what they want.
There’s an awkward pause – neither knows what the other likes and they’re both trying to be polite.
“How about red?” suggests the Hot Geek bravely.
“Um…” says Lucy, grappling for a polite way to tell him she doesn’t actually like red wine. “Can we maybe go pink or white? And how about the mixed platter with the cocktail sausages, scotch egg and cheese? Or do you prefer the charcuterie?”
The Hot Geek agrees with her selection and a bottle of rose and two glasses swiftly land on the table.
Again, an awkward, overly polite pause. Lucy’s fingers itch. He’s the man, he’ll want to take charge and pour the wine, right? If she does it, will it come across as too dominating? Will he feel emasculated? Would taking the bottle and pouring be the dating equivalent of tying him to a bed and standing over him with a whip? She sits on her hands.
“Shall I be mum?” asks Hot Geek, reaching for the bottle.
Wow, sexy, thinks Lucy, with an inward eye roll. But at least he sort of took charge, even it if was a rather limp effort, to say the least.
“How do you know Jordi?” asks Hot Geek. Nice safe icebreaker there, well done.
“I went to one of his dating events. How about you?”
Hot Geek tells her he went to Cards Against Humanity speed dating, and an Escape Room.
“Oh cool! I’m booked to do an Escape Room in a few weeks! Was it good?” she asks, before realising she might have just spectacularly cocked up. Does it look bad that she’s got another dating event lined up? Does going to too many make her look desperate? What if they get on really well; how will he feel about her going out to meet other men? Arrgh!
But then Lucy remembers that’s about as likely to happen as her waking up one morning to find her mortgage has been paid off, so she relaxes.
“Have you come far? Have you been to this pub before?” asks Hot Geek. Lucy notices he has a strong Sarf Lahndan accent and replaces ‘th’ with ‘f’ or ‘v’ in all his words: he says ‘vis pub’ instead of ‘this pub, and ‘vose fings’ instead of ‘those things’. It’s not an awful accent, though slightly grating, and Lucy’s suddenly painfully aware that she’s a lot better-spoken than him – a hideous affliction that has all too often ended in disaster for Lucy when the guy in question becomes tied up in self-conscious, intimidated knots and bins her in terror before she has a chance to prove to him that she doesn’t give a flying fuck whether he calls his evening meal ‘tea’ or ‘dinner’.
“I live in West London, she tells him, trying to play down the fact this probably makes her sound posher than Kate Middleton at a polo match. “It’s not the best area, but I live 2 minutes walk from a really good gym so that’s helpful.”
“I used to go to the gym quite a lot, but I can’t anymore,” confesses the Hot Geek. “My doctor says it’s not allowed.” He nods cryptically towards his leg.
“Oh? Something wrong with your knee?” queries Lucy, but Hot Geek simply looks a little uncomfortable and doesn’t answer the question, which makes Lucy wonder what on earth could be so mysteriously wrong.
Why is he being so cagey? Holy crap, does he have a prosthetic leg?
Suddenly she becomes convinced that he’s hiding an important detail from her. Was he involved in a terrible accident? Did he lose a leg in a car crash or while operating a chainsaw that went berserk? Maybe he got gangrene after catching frostbite on a trip to Siberia and had to have his foot amputated? Wild explanations froth and scurry round her head. Is he sitting oddly? Does one leg look different from the other? When he gets up, will she remember to check if he’s walking awkwardly? (Answer: no, she won’t.) Would it matter if he did have a fake leg? Probably not if he turns out to be hilariously funny and fantastic in bed, but if she doesn’t stop staring obsessively at his leg she may never get the chance to find out.
The Struggle Is Real
To distract herself from the confusion Lucy tries to engage Hot Geek in conversation, but swiftly transpires that being hotter than packet of crispy bacon straight from the frying pan is about the only thing her date really has going for him. Lucy asks all the usual questions – where is he from (South London, no surprises there then), what does he do (banking) – but he answers in five-word sentences and seems uncomfortable talking about his work. She tries asking about his family, which makes her feel like she’s in a school French lesson (j’ai deux frères et une soeur), but she’s forced to press the line of questioning, like some sort of Gestapo interrogator, because he doesn’t seem to want to ask her anything back. He seems to have zero interest in her background, and doesn’t even ask what she does for a living. In an attempt to keep the chat going Lucy just tells him anyway, in hopes that he might be curious to know more. Apparently he isn’t.
The platter arrives, and Lucy,
hungry greedy as always, dives in. And finally, during a pause in conversation while she chews a mouthful of bread and cheese, her date finally asks her a question: what does she like to do in her spare time? Lucy tells him that she doesn’t have any regular extracurricular activities because her job is too unpredictable, so she can’t commit to things like clubs or sports teams that meet every week.
“I don’t play any sport either,” he replies. “Because of my leg.” And he nods to it cryptically a second time.
This feels like Lucy’s cue to ask again. “What happened to it?”
“Oh it’s just a ligament injury in my ankle,” he reveals, disappointingly. So why the fucking secrecy, you weirdo?
Lucy’s annoyed. She was hoping for something at least a bit more interesting.
Hot Geek reveals he’s in a choir, and Lucy, who also enjoys singing, feels a flash of optimism that finally they’ve found something in common. A vision of him sexily serenading her across a crowded bar like Tom Cruise in Top Gun pops into her head – but is her appreciation of men who can sing and a common interest in music really enough to base a relationship on?
She tops up their wine glasses, and notices that Hot Geek has hardly touched his, while she’s been busy sinking the entire bottle by herself. He also doesn’t appear to be interested in the food: they have a huge platter full of sausage rolls, pork pies, cheese, bread and Scotch eggs, and yet he’s barely touched a thing – all he’s eaten is the meat from the middle of one sausage roll, leaving the pastry on his plate.
“Are you not hungry?” she enquires.
“I am,” replies her date, “but this isn’t really my thing. It’s all a bit too bready for me.”
“Oh no! Are you gluten intolerant?”
“No I’m just trying to watch my weight.” Which Lucy thinks is ridiculous because he’s already slim and doesn’t appear to eat.
“Well I feel bad because I appear to be eating all the food and drinking all the wine.”
“It’s fine, really. I’m not actually a fan of rose.”
Well why in bloody fuck did you agree to order it then?
“We could have had a different platter, and different wine,” she says, mildly peeved, “or you could have gone to the bar and got a beer…”
But her date just shrugs.
Lucy gazes into a future in which she’s in a relationship with this guy who apparently neither eats nor drinks, so she’s forced to drink entire bottles of wine by herself and has no one to steal chips from, and decides singledom might well be the better option.
But as she makes her way efficiently through the bottle, the alcohol helps her relax and lose a few of her inhibitions.
“Have you been on a real blind date before?” she asks.
“Sometimes my friends have set me up with people, but I just use dating apps now.”
“How long have you been single?”
Her date doesn’t seem to have an answer. He umms and ahhs and thinks for a while before tailing off without coming to a conclusion. Is it perhaps that he’s never been in a relationship? she wonders. Is that a bad sign? What’s wrong with him?
Only one way to find out…
“Why are you single?” she asks, before mentally slapping herself for asking such a hated question.
“I don’t really know. I just haven’t met the right girl, plus lots of my friends have been in bad relationships, which puts me off. And also, you know, when you get to our age, it’s harder to meet someone. Girls in their early 30s just seem so immature.
That’s reassuring, at least. Suddenly Lucy feels herself warming to the Hot Geek.
This feels like a good opportunity to find out how old he is. With his good hair and smooth skin she has him pegged at about 36, but it turns out he’s just turned 40. Lucy’s delighted – now she doesn’t have the fear that he’ll reject her for being too old! Ok, he still might, but then that’ll just make him a twat and she won’t care so much.
Even better, he’s too polite to ask her age, so she gently drops hints that vaguely suggest she might be a little bit younger. She wonders how long she can keep up the pretence for. How long can you be in a relationship with someone without revealing your date of birth? She wonders if she might be able to get him to throw her a proper 40th birthday party in, say, five years?
“So why are you single?” he asks Lucy.
Lucy tells him she thinks she missed her window of opportunity by being in the wrong relationship throughout her early 30s – and about what a monumental shitshow dating is these days, what with ghosting and dick picks and people generally being total cunts all the fucking time.
“I know,” sympathises the Hot Geek. “I have a mate who has an entire album on his phone of dick pics in different locations and in different lighting, to send to girls. He has one in the gym, one in the shower, one where you can see his army uniform in the background…”
Lucy’s shocked, and yet… not. “I really don’t get why guys do that,” she sighs. “Like who wants to see this stuff?”
“Apparently some girls really do.”
Not this one, that’s for fucking sure.
While Hot Geek heads to the loo, Lucy checks her phone, and is surprised to find a dozen notifications in her family WhatsApp group from about two hours ago.
Fuck. Thinks Lucy. Here she was attempting to flirt half-heartedly with a handsome but rather dull man, and meanwhile there’s all this drama going on. Fucking fuck.
Oh. So after all that panic it turns out her Dad is fine after all. And she’s missed all the drama because she was too busy drinking wine and eating sausage rolls on a pointless date. How very on brand of her.
Meanwhile her siblings get yet more family brownie points for being all supportive and wonderful, while Lucy, with her unreliable job and her failure to produce a son-in-law or grandchildren, is the black sheep of the family yet again. Fucking typical.
It’s 9.30, and Lucy’s bored. This WhatsApp drama feels like a good excuse to call it a night. Happily Hot Geek agrees, so they head back to Clapham Junction.
As they walk back, fairly amicably, Lucy considers what to do next. Her date seems nice, and he’s certainly her type physically, but sparks haven’t exactly been shooting around like rockets on Bonfire Night. If he asks her out again she’d say yes, just to see if things might warm up, but his distinct lack of interest in her throughout the entire evening suggests he’s not going to do that.
So when he pecks her on the cheek at the station and swipes through before she’s had a chance to get her card out, she’s neither surprised nor too disappointed. But she does, bizarrely, feel a little sad – not for herself, but for Jordi who set them up, and had high hopes for them, and who is going to be disappointed now. Lucy feels as though she’s somehow let him down, and she hates it.
But still, it’s probably a good thing she won’t be seeing the Hot Geek again. Because as she boards her train she realises she’s spent nearly 3 hours in his company, and she still has no fucking clue what his name is.