I’ve only recently started watching The Big Bang Theory, for no other reason than that it’s on around the time when I have my lunch. That, combined with the constant email ping pong I’ve got going on with one of my dearest friends, who’s just flung herself back into the dating game, reminded me of one of my own dating experiences, which took place well over a decade ago, when I was still living in London.
I was a full-time, (over)mature university student back then, and I had signed myself up to The Guardian Soulmates dating website, because that’s where you stand the best chance of meeting people in possession of at least one firing neuron cluster, who are least likely come out with xeno-, homo-, common-sense-phobic rants before you’ve even slurped your way through the miso soup starter.
So, I was having my first phone conversation with one promising candidate who looked good on paper – a handsome, divorced PhD physicist of Indian descent close to my age – when he asked me, “So, what are you studying?”. I answered him, to which he replied, “Oh, well, that’s a bit of a waste of time, isn’t it?”
Whoah, I thought, half outraged, half bemused, what a thing to say out loud to someone you might, possibly, want to get off with?!?
At this point, I should probably mention that I do have a bit of a soft spot for nerdy studious types, and a touch of social awkwardness I can cope with (hell, I’ve got an extensive collection of not-so-cute foibles myself!). Though, in real life, when considering someone as a potential partner, I’d probably draw the line way before Sheldon Cooper levels of Aspergerish self-absorption (he’s one of the main characters in The Big Bang Theory, in case this reference has just passed you by).
So, despite his whopping conversational clanger, I was going to give him a chance. I was also intrigued to see if this had been a one-off slip comment, or if his people skills were as well developed as a tortoise’s tree scaling abilities.
And I was not to be disappointed. On the latter account.
We met a couple of days later near Charing Cross station (next to Trafalgar Square). He was on time, which pleased my Teutonic genes no end, but… he sauntered up to me clad in a beige tracksuit, because, he explained, he’d come straight from the gym.
Erm…I mean… who’d turn up in a sludge coloured elasticated sofa-lounging outfit on a first date?! It is never OK, in London, to be seen out on the street in one of those if you’re not a) actually on the way to the gym; b) taking out the trash; c) post-pubescent; d) living in a part of town, where having every inch of cartilage that sticks out of your body festooned with metal pins or hoops is considered the pinnacle of stylishness.
I wasn’t expecting him to show up in a pinstripe and tie bearing a bunch of dewy roses, but one might take a pair of jeans and a clean shirt to the gym to change into after, or, if there’s not enough time, skip the gym and turn up in vaguely civilised work attire. It’s not so much about the clothes per se, but if you cannot be arsed to make the effort to modify your normal routine by a smidgen on a ‘special occasion’, what sort of a signal does that send…?
I was rather hungry, so I decided to stick around for dinner, which consisted of some fairly unexciting Chinese food. Dinner conversation was OK, he wasn’t wholly unlikable by any means, but there was no spark. On the way back to the station, he tried to put his arm round me, eliciting a rather squirmy response.
We parted at the station, after he foisted a rather awkward hug upon me.
Right, this wasn’t going to happen, that much was probably clear on both sides. If he contacted me again, I thought, it would be out of politeness and to gently firm up our mutual conclusion that there was no chemistry.
He emailed me a couple of days later, complaining(!?) that I had not called him on Saturday(?), as agreed. Clearly, he must have gotten me mixed up with someone else, because I had told him no such thing. (I’m pretty anal about sticking to agreements – Teutonic genes again! – when I say I’m going to meet or call at a certain time, then that’s what I do). He kept insisting, I kept on contradicting, it was all pretty irritating. Anyway, I assumed that after this message exchange, no more needed to be said.
Wrong again. I heard nothing more for a few days, but then he called me, quite late at night, pissed as a newt, telling me all sorts of disjointed rubbish, topped off by, “Oh, I think I could really love you…”
Given that my tolerance for drunken phone calls (and drunk people, in general), hovers around 269 ºC below zero (I did mention something about having certain foibles, didn’t I?), I drove home the message to him pretty succinctly to him on that occasion, in a way that any of the Big Bang Theorist would have understood.
Hmmm… now that reminds me of an ill-fated date with a conspiracy theorist…