My First Date

he took my breath away

Shared by Miss Wooable.

I contemplate telling the taxi driver to turn around but wind down the window and take a few breaths instead. ‘Be sensible,’ I tell myself, but it doesn’t work. It’s my very first online date and I have no idea what to expect. I never imagined I would be doing anything like this. In the taxi, I smooth my dress over and adjust my hair for the tenth million time that hour. Choosing this outfit was no easy task. Especially when I had gone to extreme lengths to make sure my profile photo showed my best angle, in the right lighting on a good hair day. Extensive consideration went into the choice, this one finally matching the, ‘I’m sweet with a hint fun’ – criteria I was going for.

As we turn into Crown Street, Surry Hills my worries about my hair, outfit, conversation starters and conversation killers, unite in one paralysing force, pinning me to the seat. We are moments away. I manage to find my phone, and check the screen. I see nothing but the fluffy face of my black and white cat. Shit, I should probably change that picture. The traffic light flashes green and we continue through the bustling streets filled with hipsters and end of week revellers. Did we say meet out front? Or was it the bar? I clumsily open the internet on my phone and attempt to log into the dating site to see our emails. We crawl down Crown Street at the same speed of my internet connection.

Before I can even get into the R.S.V.P website, the driver turns to face me.

‘Here you are.’

The outdoor section of the Trinity is packed. My phone flashes and vibrates like a fire alarm, nearly sending me through the ceiling of taxi.

Hi I’m in a blue shirt . . .  

I don’t even open the message to read the rest. Instead I sink down in my seat, hoping he hasn’t already spotted me. The taxi driver eyes me suspiciously in his rear-view mirror, reminding me that I can in fact be seen. My date is probably watching me right now! I change gears so quickly the driver must think I have a personality disorder. Shoulders back, I sit upright and cross my legs, laughing casually as I tell him I’ll pay by card.

The next few moments are a blur as I exit the cab and shuffle towards the pub, scanning the crowd like a sniper for anything blue. There are multiple decoys.

Before I step inside, I check the text message again.

‘Hi I’m in a blue shirt upstairs, I have a table.’

This relaxes me slightly but as soon as I step inside I’ve completely forgotten what he looks like. I can’t see his face, just a blurry image and mop of dark hair. I get to the top of the stairs and beeline for the Ladies for a last minute once-over. With a forceful push the door swings open to reveal a queue that could rival entry to Disneyland. This is an emergency, I scream silently. The high-heeled girls shift their weight from one leg to the other as they re-apply their lipstick. There’s no way I’m even going to get near the mirror, I may be pierced with a stiletto if I try. I abandon the idea and make my way to my date. I have sudden overwhelming respect for every online dater out there and want to give them a virtual hug all at once. This is emotional warfare.

What am I so worried about? Is it that he won’t be like his picture? Or the online chat won’t translate into real-life conversation? Surely he’s not a serial killer?

Bachelor number one and I began chatting just over a week ago. We had good banter mostly about travel stories and future plans, both sharing an interest in South America. After several emails back and forth, he suggested we meet for a drink.

‘What if he doesn’t like me?’

The question stops me in my peep-toe heels. I’m putting myself out there in the truest sense. Up for review, up for scurrility, up for…rejection.

I could sprint down the stairs and run, but I can’t. All the past boyfriends, all the bad breakups all those wasted hours of de-coding emails, text messages and throw-away comments frog-march me forward.

He is sitting at the table as promised. I recognise him in a weird ‘I know you but don’t at all’ sort of way.
‘You made it,’ he says, standing and kissing my cheek. His smile is broad and I don’t get the sense he is disappointed. One hurdle down.

He looks like his picture maybe even better. I’m deliriously relieved.

‘Yeah,’ I reply. ‘It’s nice to meet you.’

He looks over his shoulder then back, his smile now gone. ‘Online dating rule number one,’ he whispers. ‘Never say nice to meet you. Everyone will know we are strangers…right?’

I giggle nervously until I realise he isn’t joking. I get the intense feeling I’m in a new country and I don’t know the language or code of conduct. I’m completely out of my depth. I need a drink. A big one.

At the bar, I choose red wine and he gets a beer. When the bar tender returns so do my nerves. What’s etiquette? Does he pay, do I pay, do we go halves? Before I can reach for my purse he slides his credit card across the bar.

‘Start a tab,’ he tells the bar tender as the wine is placed in front of me. I’m not sure what I think about this but I’m too preoccupied by my velvety wine to figure it out.

When we sit down at a nearby table, I can’t help but feel I’m on some sort of weird interview.

‘So you been on many dates?’ he begins.

‘This is my first,’ I say coyly.

His eyes widen. ‘Really? Wow.’

‘I’ve been on a lot, heaps actually.’

‘Oh yeah?’ I say genuinely interested but unsure what to ask next.

I needn’t have worried. He launches into a monologue about his one hundred possibly one hundred and fifty dates. He tells me about several of them.

‘You probably think I’m a massive sleaze right?’ I’m not, I just do well online.’

‘Right,’ I say, trying to figure out if this is plus or a minus.

He then goes into detail about one date particular.

‘Sally, her name was,’ he continues. ‘She was big. Here.’ He cups his hands and holds them in front of his chest. ‘She was falling out of her top, she pretty much did and she had the loudest laugh I’ve ever heard. Shocker.’

He takes a sip then begins a story about another ‘shocker’, Rachel. Where I could answer or make comment he does for me. I finish my wine and he his beer. He orders two more drinks. I welcome the break and hope there is change of topic or even just the chance to say something. It doesn’t happen.

I hear the hissing of a deflating balloon as I realise I’m not interested in this guy or staying any longer.

‘Don’t you think?’ he’s looking at me expectantly. I have no idea what he is talking about.

‘Yeah definitely.’ I smile and excuse myself for a bathroom break.

In the Ladies I try to come up with an exit strategy. Do I have time to phone a friend, or how weird would it be to ask someone in the queue? By the time I’ve left, I’ve done neither.

Back at the table, there is another drink waiting for me. Surprised, I wonder if he feels this is going well. Deciding it would be a shame to waste the wine I take a seat. He’s changed topic to his interest in singing. It’s far more exciting content even if there is still no opportunity to join in. I must skull the wine as it’s empty halfway through his story about a night he had with his boss at karaoke last Friday night.

‘I better get going,’ I slur.

‘Really? That’s a shame,’ he says.

Is it really? I wonder. We walk downstairs and I hail the first cab, muttering something about enjoying the rest of his night.

‘You know my place is just around the corner,’ he says with a slimy, beer-breathed smile. I recoil in horror, realising just how convenient this venue was for him. I only just manage not to take his foot off as I shut the taxi door and speed off.

I’m happy to be home, although drunk and disappointed.

The next morning, I wake up to a text message. It’s him. What on earth does this guy want? Maybe he wants to apologise? I squint as I open the message.

‘Hi, I think I’d like to meet up with you again. Although I can’t help but think you weren’t being yourself?

If I wasn’t already lying down, I would have fallen over.

I draft various replies, some including how I had a terrible time and it was the worst first date ever. Another where I ask how the hell he knows I wasn’t being myself when he hasn’t met me before!

I hit send:

‘Thanks for the message. Sorry I didn’t feel like we connected in the way I’m looking for, good luck.

He never replies.

After a few days break I re-visit R.S.V.P and scroll through my messages, there are a few potentials. A couple I’ve just started chatting to. One in particular seems rather nice. The hope of meeting someone slowly returns and my balloon begins to inflate once more.

So my first date wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for but I feel proud of myself for throwing my hat in the ring and best of all, I can officially say I’m an online dater.

Am I deterred from trying again? Not even a little.

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