“Have you tried Wednesdays yet?” a well-meaning married friend asked, who, given the question, I had to presume, had been living on the dark side of the Moon these last few months. “You mean Thursday, the dating app? No point”, I replied, before changing the subject.
We had been discussing my dismal love life, and how to defibrillate it, but the truth is, I have zero time or patience left for dating apps. If I’m honest, I haven’t for a good few years, and singledom has been much more fun for it.
Sure, the going was good at first – rifling through London’s buffet of single bachelors on the commute was more fun than playing Candy Crush. But the novelty soon wore off when it became clear that choosing beaus based on five photos (points deducted for manipulative snaps featuring small furry animals/ infants or worse, inane collages of their car) and a snappy bio lead to the digital dating version of opening Pandora’s Box.
All manner of horrors lay within; some resulted in simply bad dating stories with high entertainment value to be rolled out for dinner parties, and others too traumatic to utter again, were instead pushed to the back of Room 101 inside my head.
After eight-odd years on and off the demonic Waltzer ride of online dating, I’ve shut my online shop for good. It was more for my mental health than anything: there’s only so many toe-curlingly, face-slappingly bad dates one woman can reasonably go on before feeling her sanity slip.
I’m not just talking about general dating fatigue; the sort that comes from banal chat, whiny entitlement, sexism, mansplaining and gas lighting. It was the race fetishisation that did it for me, where I was seen as a conquest solely due to the volume of melanin in my skin. It only happened a handful of times, but that was enough to delete the apps for good. These were not my kind of people.
Even without the casual racism, it felt like these apps scraped together the dregs of the dating barrel, shoved it unceremoniously on my plate and expected me to be grateful for my lot. No thanks, Cupid.
And it’s not just me limping off the battlefield, scarred with war wounds. There was the mate who was sent an unsolicited nude; so far, so depressingly normal – except the bits in question were displayed, unfathomably, in a chastity belt. Another had a date who claimed to be an MI5 agent and used it as an excuse to end their drinks abruptly. One friend was accused of being “too powerful”; apparently her confidence gave him anxiety sh*ts.
Without the sadmin of replying to lukewarm messages from people who might pop up on an Interpol database, I can focus on the real world and meeting someone in it – like the good old days. But before I go, and in honour of Tinder’s 10th anniversary, I’m here to give you five of my printable worst dates for your amusement and understanding at why I’ll never swipe again.
Fasten your seatbelts.
The one who made his mum pay him rent
He was clean cut, with good teeth and decent enough jokes. We met at his Hammersmith local, where everyone seemed to know his name. It was going well until a tired blonde walked in and propped herself up on the bar. “Stacey!” Rob yelled out, “Where’ve you been, you old slapper?”
I shifted on my stool, taken aback that my previously chivalrous date had turned into an extra from Only Fools and Horses. Before I could ask who she was, Stace joined our table. Under the guise of rapidly slipping banter, they traded lower and lower blows as I shrank further and further in discomfort. It was only when she went back to the bar that he revealed she was his mum – and, it turns out, his lodger too. Their exchange had become more vicious because she owed him rent. How he came to be her landlord or why he was charging his own mum to live with him in his flat (bills extra) was never addressed – I didn’t stick around to ask.
There was just something about the way he was screaming at his mother for money in a pub full of punters that I found off-putting.
The one where he asked if I was a drug dealer
He looked like his pics and seemed excited, having travelled from Maidenhead for our date. In fact, he seemed more excited about being in London than he was to meet me. Bright lights, big city – I get it.
We headed for the nearest pub, one with seating outside. The sun shone obediently: a cold pint in the rays felt like a good way to kick things off.
But, before my bum hit the faded white wicker seat, he turned to me, eyes shining, and casually opened with: “You got any drugs?”.”Er – what?” Maybe he said pugs, he’s a dog person – he wants to bond over pets! “Any gear, nose candy? Columbian marching powder?” he clarified, tapping a nostril for good measure, “You London lot are absolutely rolling in gak!”. Now, I’ll admit, I’d entertained thoughts of scoring, but not like this. It turned out his jitteriness wasn’t first date nerves, but eagerness to get his hands on Class As. I had to draw the line – not the kind he was after – and left after the third time in five minutes he insisted we “bang some packet”.
The one who left me stranded on an ice rink
Against my better judgement, owing to a lifetime of poor experiences balancing on razor blades, I’d agreed to go skating for a first date. I didn’t want to seem negative, and besides, it was a good excuse to hold onto each other without feeling awkward. Off we traipsed to Ally Pally’s ice rink, laced up our boots and toddled over to the ice, laughing and flirting the whole way. He was the perfect partner, and held my hand the entire time.
Until that is, a group of girls glided onto the ice. Turns out one of them was the ex he’d told me about, in a grand display of his sensitive side. He knew she would be there; I had been strung along as a red herring for jealousy-triggering purposes. He went over to say hi and didn’t come back, leaving me stranded in the centre of a busy rink. In the end, they had to bring over one of those penguin-shaped aids they give to new skaters to help me off.
The one who ‘didn’t mind’ that I was Indian
When you live in a city as diverse as London, it’s easy, sometimes, to forget ethnicity. We’re all rats in the same race; hustling nine to five, dodging slow tourists, angling for the same Ubers. Not for this bloke, who masked his bigotry well past the messaging stage until we were down a few drinks. Nerves dissipating as rapidly as the fizz in his third pint, he leaned in, dropping his voice to deliver this knee-trembler: “I’ve never been on a date with someone like you before”. Yes, excellent. I’m here for the flattery. Oh wait, there’s more? “You’re alright for a brown bird, you are.” Oh. He must have seen my face, because he pawed at my knee to deliver the final ‘compliment’: “I don’t mind babe, I love an Indian takeaway.” Now, there were two ways to play this: be offended and leave, or make him look an absolute tit first. So, I played dumb, and pretended I didn’t get it. After three rounds of explaining our differences in skin tone, his voice rising in pitch each time, and bar staff intervening to check I was alright, I wished him a lifetime of burning indigestion and got my coat.
The one where I unwittingly became the other woman
It was the fourth date and I decided I’d stay the night. The evening was a dream, but the morning after was another story. I was startled awake at 5am to what sounded like Tyson Fury smashing the other side of his bedroom door – locked, thankfully. A woman was screaming in Spanish as she battered the wood; the frame was beginning to splinter and bits of plaster flew off the walls. It was terrifying. Well, for me at least; through the din, Matt barely stirred.I shook him awake to tell him his flatmate had gone nuts – and that’s when I found out. She wasn’t his flatmate at all; she was his fiance, back early from a work trip.
I had no time to seethe with GBH imminent. The question now was how to extricate myself from this bin fire. Matt (still psychopathically unfazed) nodded at the window, “just go through there”. It was the final insult. Instead I jumped back into last night’s outfit, hurled open the door to unleash hell – and ran. I had no idea he was a two-timing scumbag, but had no desire to become her punch bag either.