How THE HELL was the first date so good?

Last week I had my second date with Joe-Kay Cupid.

Our first date was two weeks earlier, and I had a great time, apart from a couple of issues (mentionitis about his ex and possible miserliness).

We were supposed to meet earlier that week, on a Monday night, but he cancelled due to a ‘family emergency’.

A ‘family emergency’ sounded made up to me. It feels like what you might say to HR if you’re hungover but you’ve already called in sick recently.

On our first date he said he’d only been on OkCupid for two weeks, and then he hadn’t been free for over a week, so I assumed he’d been on so many dates he’d burnt himself out.

Either way, he seemed keen to reschedule, so we arranged to meet that Saturday.

As the week progressed, he said more about being with his parents up North, so the family emergency seemed true after all.

The day of the date, I looked back at his OkCupid profile, and saw he’d deleted it! I wasn’t sure what to make of that.

I didn’t feel that enthusiastic as I got ready. I’d felt so positive after Date One, but I’d gradually talked myself out of liking him as time went on. Maybe it was because the messages in between dates hadn’t set my world alight.

We arranged to meet at Embankment and walk along the South Bank together.

I had been reluctant at first, as that’s exactly what I did with the Whippersnapper on our third date (which he went on to say was one of the best nights out he’s had) and I didn’t want to compare the two. However, Flatmate Joe said maybe going there with someone else would take the power out of it, like when they start using Voldemort’s name in Harry Potter.

We were due to meet at 8pm and I got there at 7:50pm.

He texted me saying he would be there “a touch later than 8” because “bloody trains were being so slow”.

I texted back saying “Don’t worry, no rush” and stood, leaning against a wall by the ticket barriers, looking on my phone.

40 minutes went by. FORTY.

Earlier that day, I had been kept waiting for an hour to get my hair cut, so by the time he arrived, I had read everything on the entire internet.

I am one of life’s less punctual people (although I am getting better with age – lately I’m loving the whole being-on-time-for-work thing) so usually I’m pretty relaxed if someone is late for me. However, on this occasion, I was pissed off when he finally arrived. Forty minutes is a long time to lean against a wall.

And it’s not “a touch after 8.” That’s like 8:05.

Sometime after 8:30pm, he texted me saying “I’m here now, where are you?” I thought Don’t piss about texting me, just hurry up and come to the barriers! 

He finally arrived, and came through the barriers. I went in for a hug, and he went in a for a kiss at the same time, which I deflected.

He apologised for the wait, and I asked what had happened. I assumed something had gone wrong, like maybe a tube line had been down, but he said just the trains “were being slow.”

He then went to get cash out. I realised I was probably being quite crabby, so I tried to get in the right mood and enjoy the date.

We came out of the station and started walking across Waterloo Bridge. I asked him what he’d been up to in the day. He said he’d been seeing friends in south London.

Then he asked “have you been at work today?”

This is annoyed me. It was a Saturday. One of the first things he had said on OkCupid was “I understand about shifts, my ex is a nurse” because he knew I work in healthcare. I said “Oh, my job is Monday to Friday, I don’t work shifts.”

I was sure it had come up a few times since then that I don’t work weekends.

We walked over the bridge and I tried to enjoy the view. It’s one of my favourite places in London.

I asked about the ‘family emergency’. He said his Dad had hurt his back.

We decided to have dinner in Strada. We were directed to a table. We looked at the menus and discussed what to drink.

He said “you can have a glass of wine if you like, or a cider – you can you have whatever you like!”

I know he was being nice, but the way he was telling me what drinks I was allowed made me think thanks Dad!

After ordering our food, we talked about what countries we’d been to, and the conversation felt a bit better.

We got on to films and TV, I realised something. On the first date, I had wondered if he was a ‘cleanshirt’. Something about him hadn’t seemed very adventurous.

This time, I realised what it was – joylessness.

So many things made him seem joyless. We were talking about cinema, and he said “normally I just watch films at home, because going to the cinema is so expensive. The drinks are so expensive!”


For some reason we got onto how often our parents go to the cinema. I said my parents go to this independent cinema with a lovely restaurant attached pretty much every week.

I said proudly “my mum is so friendly, she chats to everyone so all the staff know them!”

He said “my mum’s the same.” He made a sort of ‘motor-mouth’ hand gesture, and said “she’ll chew your ear off.”

Oh, that’s not quite how I meant it!

He said his parents never go to the cinema; he said the last time was to see Jurassic Park in the 90s. He said “my Dad had tissues in his ears because it was so loud.”

“Oh.” I said.

We got onto TV. We both liked HBO shows but hadn’t seen any of the same ones.

He asked if I’d seen Deadwood.

I said no, but I did used to watch Lovejoy, which also has Ian McShane in.

(Lovejoy was a Sunday evening gentle comedy about a loveable rogue antiques dealer.)

He kept saying about shows like Deadwood, “the good thing is there’s not too many seasons.”

I thought why do you want there to be less of things you like?


We discussed other joyless topics, such as how he’d come off Facebook because he fell out with his sister on there. At least there wasn’t too much mentionitis about his ex. Until…

“So how is it working for the NHS?” He asked me.

I thought What, since 2 weeks ago?

He asked me the same thing on our first date. We had quite an in-depth chat about things like the funding crisis, and I told him about the Health and Social Care Act, and he had told me in depth about his ex’s nursing job.

I wasn’t sure if he meant something different this time.

“It’s OK.” I replied, uncertainly. He looked at me expectantly, and it transpired he was asking the same thing again. He must’ve forgotten that we’d talked about this last time. First time round, we hadn’t had that many drinks when we talked about the NHS, so it didn’t seem like he’d forgotten it because he was drunk.

I said the same stuff about politics as last time, but tried to phrase it differently in case he suddenly got deja vu.

Then he said “my ex is a nurse. She works in oncology, and she used to work in a hospital but now she works in a hospice.”

I know all of this already! 

“The hospice is partly funded by the NHS, and partly privately funded.”


The bill came. He was joyless about not being able to finish his extra large bottle of beer. It was too much apparently.

He was going to pay the whole bill, which was generous, but I insisted I pay half.

We came out of the restaurant and he said cheerily “what shall we do now?”

Ahh, bless him. I felt bad.

I said “I’m actually not feeling 100%, so I think I’d better head off.”

He looked disappointed.

I prattled on “I’ve got like errr… waves of nausea? which come and go every so often? I’ve had it for a few days.” It was kind of true, I do feel sick a lot and did feel sick that night, but if I’d liked him more I would’ve powered on through.

We started to walk back over Waterloo Bridge and as we got halfway up the steps, I realised he was mournfully lagging behind. I waited for him and cheerily started a conversation.

“How’s it going with the sale of your flat?” I asked.

“Oh, it fell through.” He replied.

“Oh. What a shame.”

We started talking about what we were doing tomorrow, as we walked over the bridge.

“I might go running tomorrow!” I said. Then hastily added “if I’m feeling better, that is.”

We got to Embankment, and walked into the tube together.

There was an awkward moment where he said goodbye, because he thought we had to go down different escalators to our different tube lines, but actually, the escalator he was walking towards was one you couldn’t get on at our end, because it was bringing people down to our floor from somewhere else. After half saying goodbye, we then continued down another escalator together.

I got on my train home, and thought How THE HELL was the first date so good?

I thought about it. My criteria for how it’s going are different on first and second dates.

On a first date, I’m asking myself “are we talking?” If we are, instead of awkward silences, great! Especially in the first half hour or so – I’m not too worried about the content, but more interested in the flow of the conversation.

On a second date, without wanting to sound like Nickelback, I’m more like “are we having fun yet?” I’m a bit pickier about the topics of conversation.

For example, on our first date, I remember being pleased that the conversation flowed easily, as soon as Joe-Kay Cupid and I met. However, when I look back, what we were actually talking about, was the exact cost of his mobile phone contract.


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