I had a really good first date the other day, but I think there might be two logistical problems that stop anything getting off the ground.
We met on OkCupid, and had been messaging each other for a few weeks before our date, because he’d been away visiting his family for Easter.
I really liked his profile. It was funny but with some serious bits about current affairs, but he managed to avoid seeming too earnest.
The messages we sent each other were OK, but not totally flowing. However, I wasn’t worried as I’m starting to realise there’s a weak correlation between how much you click over messages, and how much you click in person.
The day we met for dinner, it was one of the first really sunny days in London. I was knackered so I had a power nap for 15 minutes after work, before going back out.
He had suggested we have dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in central London. I’m not a vegetarian, but I said “sure”.
After I woke up from my nap, I decided to check the menu of the restaurant online, to make sure there was something I could eat, as I can’t eat gluten.
Oh no. I thought. There was literally not one thing on the menu that I could eat.
I texted him saying I can’t gluten and had just realised there wasn’t anything I could eat on the menu.
I said “We could still meet there and I can ask them if they can change anything to make it gluten free, but we might need to have a Plan B!Really sorry to be a pain.”
He was nice about it and suggested we meet near there and find somewhere better.
I had a quick shower, as it had been sweaty in my office that day. When I came back from the shower, he had texted suggesting a gluten-free restaurant he had found nearby. I liked the fact he’d done that.
We agreed to meet there.
I got the tube to Leicester Square, in central London, and walked to the restaurant he had found, called Leggero.
He got there before me, and texted saying I should follow the sounds of karaoke. I didn’t know what this meant.
Then I turned onto the street with the restaurant on, and heard karaoke booming out. At first I thought it was coming from the pub opposite, but then I realised it was coming from the actual street itself – people singing on the pavement. Then I thought it was some kind of official street event, but eventually realised it was just one guy with an amp that was in charge.
I saw the restaurant, just opposite the karaoke man, and saw what looked like my date standing outside.
We said hello to each other and went inside.
He looked as I expected from his photos. He was taller than me and slim. He was not bad looking.
He had already got us a table. The restaurant was pretty small and crowded, and it was hard to hear each other over the street karaoke.
A waiter came over and explained the convoluted system from ordering food, in which we were given a tiny clipboard and slip of paper we had to write our food choices on, but not our drinks (even though there was section marked ‘drinks’). He was very specific about that.
We started to look at the menu.
“Thanks for finding this place! It’s great.” I said. “So, are you a vegetarian?”
“I’m a vegan actually.” He replied. He had only been a vegan for a few months.
Oh God. A vegan and a coeliac. This is never going to work. Our dietary requirements are a nightmare.
We kept talking instead of looking at the menu.
“Is it bad if I eat meat?” I asked.
He said it was fine, and he seemed to mean it.
If I was a better person, I would be a vegetarian, because I care about animals and the environment. But I really like eating meat.
I think I would have become a vegetarian if I’d never had any problems with eating, but I had mild anorexia which started when I was 15, and even now I find it hard to eat sometimes.
It’s only more recently I realised I can’t eat gluten, but I think being a coeliac paved the way for the anorexia all those years ago.
I have always got sick easily and had digestive problems, I just didn’t know why, even though my mum is a coeliac and it runs in families.
I have always felt sick and lost my appetite when I’m stressed. As a teenager I would often throw up when nervous about something that I was doing at school that day, and even now, on my first day at a new job I’m often sick just before leaving the house.
When stressed, I just can’t force food down. It feels like it turns to straw in my mouth. When I was 15, I fell out with my group of childhood friends on Millenium New Year’s Eve. I lost a lot of weight quite quickly after that as I was really sad.
At first it was unintentional, but after a while, I got scared about putting weight back on.
I felt like all my friends at school didn’t like me, and I was terrified if I put weight back on I’d go too far the other way, and be fat, and then everyone would like me even less. I knew I wasn’t fat, but I was really confused about where ‘normal’ ended and ‘fat’ began, because lots of people who I thought looked normal, or even slim, got called fat in magazines and things. It was so confusing, I just thought the safest thing was to be underweight, then I knew I definitely wasn’t fat.
I made new friends at school quite quickly, or at least, I got closer to friends I’d known a while – that was when I became close to my friend, Faith, who is still one of my best friends now. There were also a few lads in our new group of friends (including the Alcoholic Twin, who I eventually got together with). Even though they all seemed to like being my friend, I couldn’t shake the feeling that soon they’d discover the ‘real me’ and bin me.
Then, that summer, I did my GCSE exams and was so anxious about them, I lost more weight.
By that Christmas, I had started making up weird diets, like trying to have only 5 grams of fat a day (instead of the recommended 70g a day for women). My poor Mum – every meal became a battle, with me saying “I will eat it later, I promise, I just can’t now.”
It got better, with just a few times in my 20s when I got thin again.
My digestive problems got worse and worse, in the last few years, with me being sick regularly and having diarrhoea most days. I always seemed to have a sore, swollen stomach and I felt exhausted all the time. My mum suggested I might be a coeliac too.
I’ve had trouble with getting diagnosed, as my doctors’ surgery isn’t very good. I tried cutting out gluten and couldn’t believe how different I felt. There were some symptoms I just assumed everyone had all the time, like having a sore stomach and exhaustion, until it went away.
I do like a drink, so half the time when I was sick or had diarrhoea, I assumed I was a bit hungover, but now I realise it was just my stomach.
So anyway, it’s harder to eat when you can’t have gluten, and often the only option is something with meat in. If I couldn’t eat that either, I know I just wouldn’t eat. I’m sure someone who was a bit more organised and less conflicted about eating could be an excellent coeliac vegetarian, but I’m not that person, so I’m prioritising my health above my ethics and being a hypocrite.
Anyway, I didn’t say any of this on my date with the vegan. We just talked about vegan cheese and how he missed pizza.
He talked mournfully about what pizzas without cheese are like.
“I suppose it’s kind of like bruschetta, isn’t it?” I said.
“I’d never thought of that!” He said, perking up.
I ordered squid ink ravioli and we talked about where we’re from and where we live in London. It was still a bit hard to hear each other over the street karaoke man.
He’s from the midlands and has only been in London for a couple of years. He’s a teacher and I loved the way he talked about it. There is a growing problem with knife crime among young people in London and he talked about trying to inspire his students to express how they’re feeling about that.
I found the more I talked to him, the more I fancied him.
We compared notes on working in increasingly under-funded areas of the public sector.
Our food came. It was quite posh, small portions of very tasty food.
We got on to talking about race and racism. He’s Asian. I said that where I’m from, in the country, that is not at all diverse, in any way, and basically everyone in my school was white except for about 5 people. He told me his school only had about 5 white people in.
I told him about my trip to India last year and we talked about where his family are from and different Indian languages.
“And, if it’s not too personal to ask…” I said, and he started to look nervous, “…what language do you speak when you’re talking to your parents?”
He said “Punjabi or English,” and looked like he’d found it endearing that I’d thought it might be too personal.
I told him about my friend, whose wedding I went to in India, and how he speaks Gujarati to his Dad, and Marathi to his Mum. If he’s talking to both parents he speaks Gujarati, but if he thinks his mum will be more interested in what he’s saying, his says it in Marathi.
We moved on to talking about music and the artists whose ethics seem a bit dubious now, like R Kelly.
“Oh my god, my friends and I came up with an idea to balance out everybody being a sex offender or whatever these days! It’s like Spotify but it would be called ‘Reallotify’. The name was my idea. So, whereas with Spotify, the artist gets like fraction of a penny every time you listen to their song, with Reallotify, instead of it going to the disgraced artist, it goes to a relevant charity instead. So, like every time someone listens to Chris Brown, instead of him getting the money, it goes to a Domestic Violence charity instead. If you want to listen to Rolf Harris, the money goes to a child abuse charity.”
He seemed impressed by this.
“And it can even work with less serious offences as well. Like, I really hate the Strokes’ song ‘Last Night’, because it seems to be about leaving someone because they’re suffering from depression. Maybe every time that gets streamed, money could go to Mind or the Samaritans.”
He says he’d never thought about what that song is about.
“Well, it goes ‘last night, she said, I feel so down, it turned me off… it was a great big lie, cos I left that night.”
“I mean, I know it’s really hard being in a relationship with someone suffering from depression, but don’t write a jaunty pop hit about it!”
We left the restaurant after we’d finished eating, and decided to have a drink somewhere else.
We walked around Leicester Square, and I told him about how I’d been in Leicester Square on Sunday, watching the Harry Potter theatre play, which was absolutely fucking amazing. There was a gap of a few hours in between parts one and two of the play, and I had fancied a Sunday Roast dinner to eat. I went in three different pubs and said “are you serving Sunday Roasts?” And each time the bartender said “what is Sunday Roast?” and they didn’t seem to have heard of it, which I thought was absolutely ridiculous.
“That is ridiculous.” He agreed.
We went into a pub and I talked about Harry Potter, probably for longer than was ideal on a first date.
The music in the pub was good. An old Blur song came on and we tried to guess what year it came out. I looked it up and I was right – he was miles out.
“I knew it was 1997 because it was the year before I went on the German Exchange. I think one of my few skills is being able to tell you exactly what year any song from the 90s came out.” I said.
He tested me on a few others, which I got right.
“I’m no good at remembering dates or facts or anything, but I’m better at things like analysing systems and that sort of thing.” He said.
They’re not mutually exclusive. I think I’m good at both. I thought, but kept it to myself.
After we finished our drinks, we decided to go, as it was late.
He directed us back to the tube. When we got there, he realised he had accidentally brought us to Tottenham Court Road by mistake.
“Doesn’t matter.” I said.
We got the escalator down to the tube lines. He was telling me about a job interview he had, later in the week. He has a lot of job interviews coming up.
We reached the platforms, and suddenly needed to part ways, when he hadn’t finished his story.
We realised we were going in opposite directions and said goodbye.
“It’s been lovely meeting you,” we said to each other as we hugged for less than a millisecond.
I’ve been on a few dates now, where I said as we parted ways “let’s do this again!” even if I didn’t 100% want to, and then we never saw each other again.
I did want to see him again, but this time, I didn’t say anything and neither did he.
As I got the tube back home, I felt a bit sad that it didn’t seem like he wanted to see me again.
Maybe it’s for the best.
There were two, massive practical barriers to anything happening between us.
One was our dietary requirements. In the middle of the Venn Diagram of things I can eat, and things he can eat, there’s basically only about 5 items of food.
Secondly, all his job interviews are back home, in the Midlands. He’s moving out of London, to live back where his family are.
He told me that quite early on, on the date.
After the vegan revelation, I’d thought fuck sake, will this work?
After the Midlands revelation, I thought what the hell are you doing on this date then?
The next day, when I was at work, when I thought about the date, it really stuck in my craw that I had enjoyed it so much and yet he hadn’t said anything about doing it again.
Maybe he realises there’s no point, as he’s moving away. I tried to rationalise it.
Then, in the afternoon, I got this!
“Good to meet you yesterday Dater Analysis! Listening to Spotify this morning thinking how great it would be to offset my guilty listens.”
I left it a few hours, then replied “You too! You were good company!Did you have any Spotify guilty listens you want to confess to?”
He said “the Smiths :-(”
We’ve texted each other a bit since then, and talked about doing something on Saturday, when I’m back from Romania. He had suggested coming to South West London.
Last night, I realised it’s the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night.
I texted him saying “Do you still want to do something this weekend?
“I don’t know if this is a very maverick suggestion, but you know you said about me showing you south west London?
“And also, I know you appreciate high quality music.
“So do you want to come mine to watch Eurovision?”
I felt nervous about suggesting this, as it’s not a standard second date. Being in my house might make it more likely we have sex, and I think I’m quite excited about that, especially if he’s moving away and time is of the essence.
I thought he might think Eurovision is a naff idea and say no.
But he replied straight away, saying “That’s an awesome suggestion – sounds great to me. Eurovision, pure guilty pleasure”
And then “what time do you think? I’m free from 5.”