AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is longer than I anticipated so I hope you’ve got some spare time on your hands. Maybe an hour long commute or go get a pedi or something.
Now that I’m a fully fledged and grown up London gal, I’m back on that beloved (read: loathed) Tinder bandwagon and even though I am dismissive of it in general because I do bloody hate it, it has given me a great story to write up on here and thus shove me rudely back into writing again.
This is both a hilarious anecdote and a cautionary tale so take from it what you will.
I’m using an alias for the guy purely because I now can’t actually remember his real name, so everybody meet “Mike”. Mike and I chatted exclusively on Tinder for a few days before we met up on a Saturday evening last month. We had some things in common such as a love for dogs and agreement that Die Hard is definitely a Christmas movie, so when he asked if I was busy Saturday night I was only too happy to tell him I had no plans and would love to meet him for a drink. Good, right?
Mike suggested we meet in Shoreditch which, whilst now very trendy and cool, is not a place I know well because I am south-of-the-river through and through. But I thought why not, there is one place I know in Shoreditch and it does great dim sum and cocktails. This is the place I suggest and we both seem very happy with it because who doesn’t love dumplings?
Regardless of the outcome of the story, I do recommend the food here. Cocktails COULD be stronger but that might be because I really needed some alcohol ten minutes in.
We chat for another couple of days and then Saturday rolls around and I am psyched to get in there and order the crispy chilli chicken. I mean- psyched to meet this guy I’ve been getting on so well with. Yeah. That. It takes an hour to get to Shoreditch from where I live so I leave at 6:15pm on the dot to make in time for the reservation I made because I was terrified of just turning up and being told there was no space for us to eat dim sum. I’m a control freak, I get it from my mum (love ya Jules xo).
I make the eight minute walk from Old Street station to the restaurant and see him as I round the corner. With a jolly smile I walk over and say “Hi!”— and I’m met with a completely blank stare. In this second I freak the fuck out because I’m convinced I’ve just said hello to a complete stranger which is a huge no-no in London. Faltering, I power on: “Er- Mike, right?”
“…um. Hey, it’s Elodie- we met on- never mind, it’s probably because I don’t have my glasses on.” Then I let out some nervous laughter and there is still blankness as he just nods and says that we should go in if I’ve made a reservation.
At this point I know it’s gonna be a dud. I’m jonesing for a cocktail that’s 70% pure spirit and my crispy chilli chicken. At the very least, maybe I’ll get a free dinner and then I can go home.
We go inside and I approach someone to let them know we’ve arrived, and until this moment I had not been aware that the Drunken Monkey had two floors. I was expecting to have a table on the ground floor where the bar is, where the music is, and where the people are. Instead we are taken down a staircase to an empty room with a deserted bar where the music hasn’t even been turned on.
That’s our table right there. That secluded spot. For a first date. In an empty room.
I inwardly sigh and sit down, plastering on a smile and cracking a joke about the intimate setting. It is not received with a smile and I promptly decide that Mike has zero sense of humour (I am not proven wrong at any point of the evening.) We peruse the menu for a bit and I essentially make most of the decisions because I am a connoisseur of dumplings, and I start the conversation off with something safe because I get the feeling Mike is super nervous.
“So, you mentioned a bit about your job before but I don’t really understand it, what is it exactly that you do?”
He tells me in detail and I nod and smile and look appropriately engaged while I try to ration out my first cocktail. Then he finishes and just … stops talking. After a pause where it’s clear that a reciprocal question isn’t coming, I try to lead him a little.
“Oh wow, yeah that’s so cool. Much more interesting than what I do.”
There’s another pause but he thankfully picks up on the hint and asks me about my job and from here I just about manage to steer us through until the food arrives. At this point, another couple sits beside us and it is painfully clear that Mike and I are on a terrible first date. Mike seems to be loosening a little which is nice but it also means he keeps saying that we can ‘probably find somewhere else around here for a drink’ – I don’t want to do this but I feel stupidly responsible for his feelings and don’t want to say this in earshot of the other couple. Instead I stuff a dumpling in my mouth and vaguely nod.
Finally we finish and ask for the bill. Now, I am prepared as always to offer to pay halves because it’s only polite but I won’t lie that I’m hoping to be told no because I’ve already been working so hard at the conversation (not my natural role) that I feel I deserve some recompense. The bill arrives and before it even touches the table, Mike says quite forcefully, “Halves, yeah?”
Well. Yeah, okay. It’s not like I can really say no and I had prepared for this. We chuck down some money and as I put my coat on I’m rehearsing what I could say to this guy when we leave to let him know that I’m going home and we will never see each other again. Everything sounds a bit too mean and before I know it, we’ve crossed the road and are heading somewhere else for a drink. Fine, a pity drink I can do – that one weak-ass cocktail wasn’t really enough anyway.
We wander for a bit and I begin to suspect that Mike doesn’t know Shoreditch that well. I’d already been up front about the fact that I do not, so I foolishly just believed that this was a familiar place for him. Instead, we just go into the first pub we see which is inexplicably tiki themed, filled with throngs of people wearing orange “Pub Crawl” t-shirts and there is nowhere to sit. Desperate, I push to the bar and order a double gin and tonic – it comes in a plastic cup. Okay, that’s fine. I can roll with that because I don’t intend to be here long, but the bartender turns to Mike to ask for his order before I can do anything like pay for my own and Mike throws a spanner in the works by ordering a double of a whisky that the poor girl has never even heard of. They do have it (phew!!!) but it also comes in a plastic cup and Mike makes zero move to get any money out. Guess this one is on me, then.
I pay £18. EIGHTEEN English pounds for two drinks. At most, my gin would have been £8 because there’s no way it was anything better than Gordon’s, so who the fuck is this guy to be ordering a tenner of whisky and making me shell out?? Whatever, I’m gonna down this plastic abomination and skedaddle. We huddle in a space by the door and he misinterprets my voracious drinking with a desire to go somewhere else for a drink.
“Looks like we have the same idea, there!” He says as he leisurely sips his stupid whisky and makes no conversation at all. I half smile and give no further signals that I am interested because I have by this point given up.
I’d rather have been on a date with the gal in the grass skirt. Even her chat would have been less wooden.
When we leave the tiki bar, I’m resolving to walk back to Old Street station and go home when I realise that I’m down £30 and this fucker owes me a drink. I am gonna get that drink back if it kills me (which it might). We walk back the way we just came and I offer up no speech of any kind while Mike stares at his phone, presumably for that well known search of ‘bars near me’ because he definitely doesn’t know this area. We walk in silence for a good while with him every so often piping up that ‘there must be something nearby’. He then posits that if we “turn right down this (narrow and sketchy) street there should be a bar behind that office building” – but there’s a perfectly good All Bar One just ahead so once again I seize control and we go there instead.
This time at the bar I order another double G&T and specify Hendricks gin with cucumber please and thank you, and then I stand perfectly still and leave my purse firmly within my handbag. Mike, shockingly, orders his whisky again. I try again to get some convo flow going and we talk a bit about his family, a recent holiday with his uni friends, and bizarrely about his two sisters’ degrees at university and what they hope to pursue when they graduate. Not once does he ask anything about me and I end up just volunteering information and looking like a self-absorbed twat.
I down the gin and head to the loo which is unfortunately not somewhere I can escape from because I’d have to walk back past our table to leave and he’d see me (my fault for wearing a bright orange coat). I take the opportunity here to send a “WHAT THE FUCK” text to a couple of friends, check my emails and watch some Instagram stories. When I return, my glass has been cleared and he is STILL nursing that whisky. I say fuck all because I just wanna go, he says fuck all because why change the habit of a night, and I start to get the giggles. Akin to getting them in the library at school, everything just gets funnier and funnier and I struggle to keep the lols inside with every passing, agonising second. At one point I turn away and pretend to inspect the champagne selection behind me because I am in real danger of just laughing in his face, especially when he makes the rookie mistake of bringing attention to the awkwardness.
“I hate all this first date awkwardness, haha-“ No, no. I’mma stop you there son, because this is not just first date awkwardness this is pure human awkwardness. I nod and begin to draw my coat onto my lap from the seat next to me and thankfully he’s quick on the uptake because he finishes his damn drink and allows me to say, a bit too loudly, “Okay! Let’s just make a move!” My coat is on in record time and this time when we leave I tell him it was nice to meet him and that I’m going home.
Thankfully we head in opposite directions and I travel the hour home alone.
It’s 10:30pm when I get home and even though I’ve definitely wasted an evening, I can already tell it’ll be a great story. Not least of all because it turns out Mike’s flat is in Canada Water which is also south of the river and means that we could have definitely met somewhere in the middle rather than both traveling north.
Oh, and he also only lives there two days a week because Monday to Friday he lives and works in Switzerland. Fantastic.
See ya never, Mike.
So there you go! Sorry it got so long but as much as I wanted to entertain you, I also wanted you to be AS BORED AS I WAS.
Just to round off, here’s some relevant advice for actively dating singles.
- It’s not actually a terrible idea to PRACTICE holding a conversation. Fuck it, google ‘small talk’ before you go to meet someone for the first time if you think you’ll have issues because then at least you’ve got SOMETHING in the vault to fill a void.
- If you find yourself talking a lot, take a mental step back and assess whether this is because you’re being engaging, or if the other person is doing all the hard work by asking you questions to get to know you and you are not reciprocating.
- Or if it’s the opposite and you’re doing the hard work because the other person is practically a mute.
- If you suggest the date location, HAVE SOME KIND OF CLUE WHAT’S IN THE AREA BEFORE YOU GO. Don’t turn up and have to spend ages on your phone looking up “bars near me” because making a girl (or boy) wander round the streets with you, or rather trailing after you, is not good form.
- And for the love of God, don’t order the most expensive whisky behind the bar that even the bar staff have trouble locating. Get a goddamn G&T and save some aggro for everyone.