Belfast Telegraph

Why my dating disaster has taught me nothing

After failing quite spectacularly with my New Year’s Resolution, I’ve now decided to try a St Valentine’s Day Resolution instead: No more blind dates. Ever ...

As you may know, I’ve been intermittently single for the best part of a decade. During this time I have attempted to find love again by many fair ways and foul, and in the process I’ve become a reluctant expert on the pros and cons of the post-divorce dating scene. And it’s mostly cons, I might add.

I could illustrate this with some really toe-curling anecdotes but I’m saving them for my future best-selling novel. So instead I have chosen to describe just one, from a few years ago, which alone should serve as a kind of modern-day cautionary tale to anyone in a similar situation ...

One evening I was browsing on a dating website when a new member’s details were forwarded into my email inbox. Apparently his credentials and mine were a match made in heaven and so we started to write. So far so good. After a couple of weeks or so of emails and phone calls he plucked up the courage to ask me on a date:

“Look, I’ve been invited to the evening do of a wedding this Saturday — a distant relative — and I’d love to take you along as my guest ... if you’re free, that is?”

He sounded nervous and obviously had to psych himself up to ask me, so I decided it would have seemed churlish to refuse. Besides, I couldn’t think of any reason not to; it would give me an opportunity to meet him with lots of people around, so no safety concerns in case he turned out to be a weirdo. Also there would be enough happening around us to keep the conversation flowing and no doubt music and a buffet to enjoy if it did dry up.

Apparently it was being held in a marquee in the grounds of a country estate, which sounded quite posh to me, so I decided to dress accordingly and wore my hair up, adorned with a feather fascinator and a cocktail dress teamed with strappy sandals — smart, pretty, ‘weddingy’ and not too fussy: an ideal outfit for a romantic, rural setting. I was sort of imagining the first scenario from Four Weddings and a Funeral ... posh and elegant but relaxed at the same time.

That was my first mistake in an evening of many.

As my taxi pulled up at the allotted place, a few minutes fashionably late, an unfamiliar-looking guy in a checked shirt, jeans and muddy boots slid across the wet car park and opened the passenger door. I wouldn’t have recognised him as he looked nothing like the lithe and handsome fellow in the photos, but I did recognise his voice and so had to accept that this was indeed my date for the evening. Looking back, I now suspect that he had cut up a Next catalogue and posted the Men’s CitySmart collection where his pictures were supposed to be.

Let’s just say it wasn’t love at first sight. AND I felt horribly over-dressed.

“Everyone’s waiting on us!” he huffed as he strode and I minced across a hundred yards of muddy farmyard forecourt.

The word “everyone” set new alarm bells ringing. It turned out I was right to be concerned.

“Everyone” was, in fact, well ... everyone. It may very well have been the wedding party of a “distant relative” but nevertheless his entire family tree seemed to be there. His granny, his mum, his dad, all his aunties and uncles, his neighbour’s son’s kids ... even his ex-wife and her mum were there, eyes trained on the tent opening for my dramatic entrance spattered in mud, out of breath and with a limp fascinator atop a hairdo that was about to collapse from the onslaught of too much weather.

To make matters worse, everyone was dressed for a Country & Western-style hoedown. Gingham dresses, cowboy boots, jeans and fringed waistcoats were the order of the evening and everyone was dressed accordingly, apart from me.

So I took my seat looking decidedly out of place in the middle of the family circle and the most surreal scenario imaginable: on a blind date with a total stranger and being simultaneously scrutinised by all his in-laws.

And no, we didn’t click against all the odds, like in a romantic comedy where two mismatched yet ultimately destined lovers eventually become an unlikely item.

In fact, the whole experience put me off dating for good. So never again.

Well ... apart from tonight, that is. I’ve been invited to a St Valentine’s Speed Dating party and — famous last words — it would be churlish to refuse ...

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