I have written about divorce, parenting, and falling in love again, but I have avoided talking about dating because it can read so much like gossip if I make it personal, and it has been a sort of all-over-the-place experience over this past year and hard to adequately sum up.
But a former Tinder date (and now lovely friend) asked me to answer a dating questionnaire for his Insta blog, and then Nicole asked me to join her on his podcast as she shared some of her hilarious (and not-so-hilarious) dating horrors. And if anyone has been on a date with me, they have heard some of Nicole’s dating horrors because they make excellent conversation topics. In this podcast she talks about dating a mercenary, a dog-murderer, a man obsessed with death and a ghostbuster. I’m sensing a morbid theme.
Here’s the podcast. It was hosted by Brett, who I swiped right on while on a short visit back home in Cape Town last year. He was the person who thought it wise to take me to an amateur comedy show on our first date, a small theater production (that was quite cool) on our second, and bingewatching Star Trek Deep Space 9 and Ru Paul’s Drag race on our third hangout. As you can imagine, the last one cemented our friendship and we have since watched Star Trek movies together on separate continents while WhatsApping our reactions to all the scandalous scenes. He is a cool dude and you should follow his Insta page or his Facebook page which he only just told me about. And, in the spirit of the podcast, I will start this date-focussed post with the date with Brett first! He is shameless (just listen to his dating tales) and so I assume he won’t mind. I’ve just put up just three dates here in full – nerdiest, worst and best, because it all got too long to write. I can include weirdest, most boring, most romantic, most confusing, most hectic, etc. if I feel like writing more fun and silly posts about my social life one day.
Date: Brett. Hyper-social, super handsome, far more fashionable than I could ever hope to be. Invited me to see an amateur stand-up production at Milk & Honey. Brett’s bio gives three options after meeting up. A ratings system, if you will: Gold, silver and bronze options for love/relationship, hookup, friendship, etc. I liked his forthrightness and told him I’m in town for a short while so gold was out of the question, but if he still wanted to hang, we should meet up.
Stand-up makes me cringe (which in turn makes me drink more), and there is a beautiful, possibly quite drunk singer who made me cringe and drink even more. The evening improved quickly though when we started talking Sci-Fi and we polished off all the wine. We got hazed a lot by comedians (more drinking!). I had a terrible hangover the next day and was mortified by having lost my wallet, and frantically called the Uber driver in the hope that I left it there. This may explain my poor Uber score mentioned in the podcast. A photo received on Bumble of my wallet in Brett’s hand told me I must endure further mortification by having to retrieve it from him, a bedraggled, hungover mess.
Date two I had forgotten we had arranged, because: wine and mortification. He was forgiving and I we attended a small production appropriately named Ego in the basement of the Baxter. My ego was sporting purple spots where I’d thwacked it with a bottle of red. I remained sober for the entire period. Success! But he was forced to repeat some of the things he said to drunk me. Fail. I had even forgotten that he had a Battlestar Galactica tattoo and I can’t believe this is something I would forget. I certainly drink, but have not been that drunk since I was 20 and got alcohol poisoning at Gandalf’s (YOU KNOW I WENT TO GANDALF’S WE ALL DID SHUT UP. I even had a membership card. oh god). I drove Brett home and because sober me couldn’t remember where he lived, he directed me the whole way. This may have been the last straw because mid-conversation about his swimming exploits as a teen, he decided not to lead me to his street but instead to nearly throw himself out of my moving vehicle to say hello to an imaginary friend he saw on the side of the road. Amused, I waved goodbye to him, possibly forever. He texted immediately to apologise for the weird behaviour, telling me he genuinely saw a friend he needed to get the attention of. I believed not a word and later told all my friends how I scared a guy out of my moving car. They laughed but didn’t look surprised, so I laughed too and planned to kill them all and get new friends.
But we met again. Star Trek seemed to convince him that I’m still alright and though I was sure I should throw in the towel before I did more damage to my social reputation (he knows far too many people), I wanted a do-over, to prove that I can remember things and have proper conversations and generally just human like a human should. We drank less wine this time, he let me snap nudes of him and did not care if I showed them to the world (nudes, anyone?) and I offended him by being bored by Drag Race (you win some you lose some).
Lessons learned from this Bumble encounter: be upfront about what you want; don’t try to drink as much as a South African twice your size; Uber drivers don’t enjoy you snoring in their cars; Star Trek is forever; online dating can be an excellent way to make friends.
In the podcast Nicole chats about some of her horror dates. My. God. They are worth a listen-to. I have been far luckier than she, and never met a person that tried to kill their dog, never dated a mercenary, nor any real whackjobs. But I have had a couple of oddballs and one awful date (which I mention in the episode). But to sum:
Worst Date Ever:
Date: Nick the Dick
Nicholas was passing through town and I was helping my muse and true love, Ingrid, out at a Flamenco festival. I told him I was busy but he said he just wanted to chill and drink and didn’t mind meeting me afterward for a quick greeting. He didn’t know anybody in town. I know, I can read, all the signs are there! But I was VERY new to dating, and then I didn’t know what the expectations of a 10pm date from Tinder were. Ugh. Foolish I was.
We had great conversation, mostly about his wild sex life that I found fascinating but not at all appealing. He had been everywhere, done everything, and I had been nowhere and done nothing. We drank an overpriced cocktail in Grunnerløkka and afterward, as it got late, I said I had to get home, but was nice about maybe hanging out again if he was still in town a few days. He wasn’t my type, and the only flirting he did was a bizarre exaggerated eyebrow-waggle. It stirred something in me, but more in the stomach region, not the loins. He then asked whose place we were going back to, and when I told him I had not intended on sleeping with him, he shrieked at me that he felt really rejected and as I apologised and explained myself he kept shouting that I was not being very nice. I asked hurriedly for the bill, paid my half and waited while he tried to remember his PIN for his half. He’d forgotten it and I thought I was being conned by the least ambitious conman ever: for a free cocktail. He then yelled that it was because of the stress of the situation that he had forgotten his PIN, and I sat quietly while he paced about trying to remember it. He did, eventually, and I still don’t understand why I hung around to say goodbye after he had been so awful. Like I said, I was new to it and my training to be a Woman meant I felt responsible for his feelings. Ridiculous. Now that I am angrier and more experienced, I do not feel as responsible for the feelings of others, least of all entitled men.
Best Date Ever:
Like I said, I’ve been lucky with dates. But this one, pretty much the first date I ever went on from the apps, is still by far the best. For many reasons.
I sent Lauren a very neurotic message about being incredibly fresh to dating and not knowing what I want. Crickets. No reply. Then, *ping*! A short response: an invitation to wine and a lighthearted, “I don’t know what I want either! Perfect!” sort of line.
A few days later, in the sticky Cape Town heat, we met at a shmancy bar I had only just been bounced from even walking near a few days before because some important diplomats were there and apparently even the pavement was too good for me. Lauren was there with some impressive writer friends (she turns out to be a writer of some reputation and is friends with many of my friends – which served to make me ever more sweaty and nervous). They were talking clever things and drinking white wine when I arrived and I was almost speechless with anxiety when one of her friends stood up, headed to the balcony door, stood with her legs slightly apart and hiked her skirt up a little to let the breeze cool her thighs. She also sighed with cooled-down relief. I immediately relaxed because if I’m in the company of people who are comfortable fanning their fannies in public, then I’m in the best sort of company.
We drank wine, got to know each other, and then needed feeding. Lauren proposed that we head to a restaurant at the top of the building her office is in and I didn’t care where we went, as long as I was going with her. She was witty, hella pretty, and quite mad. Neither of us had really dated women before, and so this was new territory. But for some reason, we were so at ease.
Having started making out in her office, we continued our teenage foolishness at the Restaurant On Top of the Building, much to the snooty waiters’ distaste. Lauren insisted on paying because she chose the venue, and when I saw the menu and prices, I didn’t put up a fight. Good lord, no wonder the waiters were snooty. Somehow the waiter found a place for us, because Lauren knew the owner from meeting in a lift one time and I immediately offended an already offended waiter by revealing that I was… vegetarian. Yeagh. He smiled through his teeth and told me they would arrange something special.
And so arrived the most expensive uneaten meal I have ever had. There were cute, minuscule portions of round food perched on spoons, various varieties of foam garnishes and one solid bottle of wine that my date and I paid close attention to. We didn’t even wait around for dessert because we spent the entire time smooching at the bar like the trash we were. It was bliss! We discovered sometime later that the restaurant we had crashed drunkenly into and pawed each other at had a ridiculously long waiting list and the food was famously excellent.
A lovely friendship was made out of this first date and we have been to crazy dress-up house parties together in the Northern Suburbs, drunk margaritas in Berlin, and e-mailed each other while she was visiting penguin colonies in Antarctica. So, definitely success.
- The date who told me as an opening line that he lived in the forest for a bit after his girlfriend broke his heart. This seems to happen a lot in Norway, going to live in the wild. I immediately started talking about how I have never taken a dump in nature and I knew from that moment that the conversation had ended any potential romance.
- The date who invited me to see him perform in a Battle of the Bands for our first meeting and I almost met his parents on the same evening! We had a good summer fling despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I voted for a different band to win the competition.
- The date who was so chivalrous that he waited outside in the cold for 20 minutes to be able to open the restaurant door for me. I was already inside, toasty and deep into my glass of wine. He turned out to be a darling, even if I did make fun of him about his dated chivalry.
- The date who wasn’t sure if it was a date and asked my friends if it was. Perhaps it was a sign that it wasn’t since we both had other friends there.
- The date who asked me loudly, in front of everybody, if he had just been friendzoned.
- The date who chose to eat mussels before kissing me without warning.
- The date who asked me, after forty-five minutes, “So… how long do you normally wait before sleeping with someone?”. Surprisingly, we still hang out and listen to 90s industrial music together.
- The date who I invited to a house party before meeting him and made him tell everyone we knew each other from university.
- The sweet guy who cried three times in the four days I hung out with him.
- The date I took to meet my ex-husband at a talk about Black Experimental Feminist Writers because my ex was bringing his girlfriend to the same talk and I didn’t want to be a third wheel. That man was gold for doing that. And he was generally just lovely. Turned out my ex’s girlfriend had already brought a third wheel and she sat between us couples, a very grumpy fifth wheel.
- The date who insisted I leave my cosy apartment at midnight on the first day we met and meet him at an underground hip-hop club at midnight and is now one of my best friends.
- The young date who accidentally whispered ‘I love you’ the first day we met and looked very shocked to have said it. Not nearly as shocked as I was.
All the people I’ve met have added value to my life. They all have such wildly fun personal histories, come from different countries and have the coolest occupations: bakers, engineers, psychiatric nurses, filmmakers, musicians, cryptocurrency geeks, academics, inventors, dockyard workers, athletes. You never know what to expect on a date. But, like Brett says in the interview, the best thing is to go in with no expectations. But I do expect to come out with some kind of experience.
Just one year into online dating, I suppose I am already a little weary. As I mention in the podcast (though it is not well-articulated), I’m struggling with the kind of baggage that comes with dating in general. I struggle with being a woman, with the weight of having to make oneself desirable and not take rejection as an affront to one’s sense of worth. I struggle with being a feminist and trying to navigate the power discrepancies in heterosexual dating. I struggle with ‘playing nice’ all the time and not being OK just saying ‘fuck off’ to people who piss me off. In the discussion I say that 5 minutes is too harsh to ‘call it’ on a date, and that’s still true for me. But I was thinking like a woman trained to be amenable. Brett was confident in saying that he owed nobody an explanation and god, he may be right. I should have walked out on the date who tried to tear apart my ethnic identity to satisfy his erroneous beliefs about South Africa. I’m sure there are other moments I could have used a good “um…bye”. Nicole should have felt comfortable walking out and calling the cops on the guy who tried to kill his dog.
I hate that so much of our sense of worth comes from external approval, and that we are most fragile at points of sexual approval. I think many people leap into relationships just to get rid of all that vulnerability. And while I have never slept with anybody I didn’t desire, nor befriended anybody I didn’t like, I know that it could happen one day, when I’m feeling a need for validation. What a horrible thought.
I have to deal with people fetishising me for my ethnicity, and also my own internalised racism and sense of worthlessness that comes from growing up in a racist, segregated society. I am even ashamed of my accent that doesn’t sound like my family’s, and so hearing this podcast was a little excruciating. Everything I do and every person I connect with makes me second-guess myself, makes me wonder what the bigger-picture dynamics that underpin these interactions are and what I can do to just RELAX and value myself and enjoy the process of meeting new and beautiful and wonderful people.
I don’t know if I will learn to live in my head less. Being in my head made me fail to recognise a little while ago that I’d fallen for someone. Now I’m determined to fix my head and insecurities before I let love in again.
Now, to take a less introspective turn, who thinks I should convince Nicole to let me write down some of her dating horrors? I mean, she only mentioned three. There are more! Or the dating goodies – ones that went well but are still entertaining to hear about. I feel like a petition is in order. We want to hear more! Also, listening to the podcast, I had no clue Nicole was such a bloody excellent speaker! This from the woman who once froze in front of a group of HR training clients and left me (who had done no research) to do the talking. I winged it but I stuttered all the way. She is a damn natural! More of her, more of her, we all need more of her!