I recently had my second date with the Bearded South African man (BSAM).
We had discussed me going to his for dinner, but somehow that didn’t feel right yet.
Partly from a stranger-danger point of view – he seemed lovely and normal on our first date, but something of a question mark from the early texts.
I wanted to make sure the normalness wasn’t a first-date fluke, before I committed to going to his flat, in a part of London I don’t know.
I suppose the horror of Amersham Sex Weekend made me cautious about going to strange men’s houses. Maybe I should request references and a full Criminal Records Bureau check first.
Also, I didn’t quite feel ready from a sex point of view. I knew if I stayed over, we would definitely have sex, and it didn’t quite feel right yet.
I was fairly open with him (about not being ready for sex – I omitted thinking he still might be a weirdo) and we agreed to meet for a drink in central London instead.
We arranged to meet on Friday, after work, in Marylebone. I found a cocktail bar online called ‘Purl’, which looked weird and cool.
It serves ‘inventively designed multi-sensory cocktails served in a brick-lined, 19th-century cellar bar.’ They had photos of cocktails served in Novelty London money boxes.
He said he liked the look of it.
I had a real dilemma about hair removal before the date.
I have ridiculously sensitive skin, so any hair removal causes an itchy, red, sore rash. I’ve always preferred waxing or epilation, where the root gets pulled out, because at least it lasts long enough that the rash has gone by the next time I need to do it. I avoid shaving because the soreness lasts much longer than the hair removal. (The other night I woke myself up at 3am, scratching my legs in my sleep, because they were itchy after me shaving them a few days earlier, even though I’d put Pharmacy strength moisturiser on afterwards.)
However, I’ve had some really bad experiences with waxing lately, and I’ve absolutely had it with epilation (both painful and ineffective).
I decided I’d just very thoroughly shave everything the night before, even though I didn’t plan to have sex, so I’d feel sexier. And just in case.
However, the night before rolled around, and I just couldn’t be fucked. I got home from my late shift and thought ‘no. I’ll set my alarm earlier and do it in the shower in the morning.’
Then, my alarm went off, very early the next morning. I took one look at the clock and thought ‘nope.’ And went back to sleep.
It wasn’t that sunny, so I knew it wouldn’t matter if my legs were hairy or not, from an outfit point of view. They would be covered by tights.
One of my best friends has a PhD in Chemistry and some of our chats have a Science edge; Keratin is a protein in hair, and we started calling it the ‘Keratin Chastity belt’ – when you can’t have sex because you haven’t done your bikini line. Or even, not doing your bikini line to prevent yourself later having ill-advised sex.
So I arrived to meet the BSAM, secretly covered in Keratin.
Doesn’t matter. I’m not planning to sleep with him anyway.
I felt more excited this time.
I saw him standing under the departure boards, all tall – limbs, beard and cheekbones. I walked over. We both said hello and seemed pleased to see each other.
We started walking to the cocktail bar.
BSAM had previously asked lots of questions about the male friend I was with, in the club where we first met. We discussed him on our first date, and then he had texted me a follow-up question about our friendship as well.
When we were walking to the cocktail place, I was confused by Google maps, and he said “Let me see?” so I handed him my phone.
A moment later he said “your friend is calling you” and handed my phone back to me. Of course, of all people, it was that male friend. I declined the call.
We walked and talked about work and things.
We got to the Multi-sensory cocktail bar, but we hadn’t booked, so a man with a clipboard told us to try again later. He signposted us to a nearby hotel where we could have a drink.
We did as we were told, and went to the nearby hotel. It turned out to be incredibly posh. It was a strange place.
The decor reminded me the film High Rise – it was both 1970s and futuristic. All the women staff were wearing jumpsuits and high heels. We were directed to the bar by a tiny lady in a pink jumpsuit.
Our drinks were brought to us by a lady in a blue jumpsuit.
We decided the colour of the jumpsuit seemed to denote the level of seniority.
We felt a bit out of place; it was the kind of place where you have to put your drink down on a napkin, even though the table is made of indestructible marble.
The conversation flowed pretty easily, although I can’t remember what we talked about. We had a good mix of fun topics, and more deep and meaningful ones, but I didn’t tell him any of the major plot-points from my backstory.
A few times he said my body was “smoking hot”, which was nice.
Despite feeling out of place, we had at least two drinks, and must’ve stayed for an hour or two.
Then we left the High Rise posh hotel bar, to try our luck at the Multi-Sensory cocktail place again.
We were about to cross the road when I saw a taxi indicating to turn down our street. I didn’t know if he’d seen it, so I instinctively put my arm across him, to stop him crossing.
He took the opportunity of physical contact and held my hand for the rest of the brief walk.
We reached the cocktail bar and the bouncer said we could sit at the bar.
The bar was in the basement. We went the steps and found some seats.
It looked cool inside. It had an intimidating menu of cocktails so I just asked for a glass of prosecco. He had a beer.
As we sat at the bar, on tall stools, he started stroking my legs. Then, after a few moments, he said “is that alright – are you OK with light, physical contact?”
I laughed and said “yes, I’m enjoying the Light Physical Contact.”
After a while, a sofa became free, so we moved. We ordered proper cocktails this time. They really were multi-sensory.
Mine came with a tiny cheesecake on the side (about an inch in diameter) and lots of liquid meringue on top, and his came with dry ice and a glass bottle of smoke. It could so easily have been annoyingly pretentious but it was just fun.
The people sitting opposite us ordered a cocktail that came with a balloon that had to be popped “so they could get the essence.”
A cocktail or two later, we plucked up the courage to do some kissing, which was nice.
After kissing for a bit, we went back to talking. For some reason, we got on to my ex-boyfriend, Matthew, and his anger management.
Then BSAM said “while we’re telling each other things… about 10 years ago, I slept with this woman, and I later found out I caught herpes from her. So, I’ve got herpes.”
This was my reaction:
Well, that was a my reaction in my head. Out loud, I said “Oh, OK. The last guy I was dating had that too. Is it type 1 or 2?”
He didn’t know there were types 1 and 2.
He said over the years, he has had a whole range of reactions, from people walking out, to being cool about it, but he said my reaction was the best, which I felt proud of.
He told me some ‘facts’ about herpes; he said very confidently that it was perfectly safe for me to give him oral sex “because coldsores mean everyone has immunity”, and that “sex without a condom can be safe too.”
These ‘facts’ did not correspond with my own herpes research, from when I first found out WS had it. Everything I read gave the advice to use contraception for oral sex. However, after discussing it at the sexual health clinic, we concluded the only risk was me potentially getting coldsores on my mouth from giving WS oral sex, and I made the decision to take the risk.
Also, it seems like it would be very difficult to know that “sex without a condom is safe”, because of the impossibility of knowing when you’re ‘viral shedding’.
It seemed suspiciously like the things he was confidently telling me were safe, happened to be the sexual things he wanted me to do. He also told me he had accidentally given herpes to another two women.
At the time, I was so used to being cool about WS’s herpes, I was automatically cool about BSAM’s herpes, although I did raise an eyebrow at the STI gods.
They called last orders at the cocktail bar. We both didn’t like the thought of travelling home on our own, and we were enjoying hanging out. We discussed him coming back to mine, to keep me company on the journey and carry on hanging out.
“Not for sex though.” I added. “As I said in my text, I prefer to pace myself. Also, there’s some body hair admin I haven’t done.”
We went back to Marylebone and got the train to mine, not for sex.
On the train, I confessed I don’t like beards, but said he got away with it because of his nice cheekbones.
He said something about getting rid of the beard.
“Oh, you mustn’t do that, just for someone else. Keep your beard if you like it!” I replied.
“Yeah, you’re right.” He agreed.
Damn. I didn’t expect him to give up on the idea so easily.
We got to my flat, and did some quite advanced level kissing. We both kept reminding each other we were pacing ourselves, and not having sex.
He went off to bathroom, and I changed into the T-shirt I sleep in.
He came back. My T-shirt didn’t stay on for very long.
Amazingly, after a lot of very post-watershed kissing, we did actually go to sleep, without having sex. Pacing prevailed.
He woke up at about 5 or 6am, and he immediately started touching my breasts and kissing me.
“I’m actually still up for carrying on sleeping!” I said cheerily.
He seemed a bit offended, and said “I was just being affectionate, I wasn’t trying to start a project.”
I tried to make reassuring noises, and then turned my back on him, as an invitation for him to spoon me. Understandably, he didn’t get that and kind of flounced over to the other side of the bed.
I went back to sleep for a bit.
When I woke up again, I got up to make us cups of tea.
“Do you want any toast?” I asked him, as I put clothes on.
He sighed and then said mournfully “…OK.”
He seemed like he was still offended by me spurning his advances earlier.
I haven’t got time for people morose about toast on a Saturday morning.
“Don’t have it if you don’t want it.” I said, trying to come across both nice, but also like I wasn’t going to stand any silly nonsense.
“No, I do want toast.” He said, seeming to perk up.
When I came back from the kitchen, he seemed to have fully perked up.
We chatted and had our tea and toast.
“I love Saturday mornings so much, reading the Guardian and drinking tea in bed.” I said.
We talked about politics and things for a bit. Then we started kissing again. His hands went in more risky places than the night before. A good proportion of the total time we’d been in bed, we’d been spooning with him pressing a massive erection against me; I think the cumulative effect of his erection swayed my decision to let his hands stay in dangerous places.
“Do you think it would be breaking the rules about pacing ourselves, if I put a condom on?” he said, after a while.
“Definitely.” I replied. “Have you got one? If not, there’s some in that drawer.”
We had sex. Even though I had completely hairy legs. I didn’t care.
When I’m in a relationship it’s different, but I’ve never had a first shag with hairy legs before.
When he put my legs up onto his shoulders and my hairy shins were suddenly facing me, I thought fuck it, this is actually quite liberating.