Making a graceful exit on a bad date can be tough
Even though my heart sank when I saw Tim, the blind date who my friend had insisted would be "perfect" for me, I decided to give him a chance.
But after half an hour of him discussing the weather and his afternoon buying socks at M&S, I knew that I had to get out of there.
So I did what I've always been told to do - faked a call from my friend Victoria, claiming that my mobile was on vibrate. Unfortunately, in the midst of an Oscar-winning performance ("You broke up with Mike? You poor thing... I'll be there in five minutes!"), the phone rang in my ear. I was busted.
Making a graceful exit on a bad date can be tough. Most people these days are wise to the "emergency" phone call half an hour into a date.
An entire industry has sprung up around extricating people from awkward situations. Virgin Mobile provides a service called Rescue Ring, where you can text to receive a recorded message that will talk you through a fake conversation. The key, it seems, is to keep white lies plausible, and treat dates like airline flights - always note the location of the nearest exit.
Making an escape in an office, hotel, or cinema is easier, because you can always slip out of the fire escape. But getting out of someone's house can be a bit trickier. Recently I went over to a man's house for a first date, and after we cooked dinner we started kissing on his sofa. That was as far as I wanted to go, but I suddenly found myself in a military manoeuver in which every square inch of my body became disputed territory.
We were both drunk, so I told him that there was a lunar eclipse that I had to see. By the time we were outside, still drunkenly trying to spot the moon on a cloudy night, my taxi had arrived.
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If all else fails, I'd fake an illness. "Some people swear by a migraine, but if I'm really in a bind, I'll just say something like, 'Sorry, female trouble,' and double over holding my stomach," says Victoria. She's right. And anything involving the digestive system tends to neutralise sexual desire instantly.
My male friends don't understand my need for theatrics, since on the whole they prefer hasty exits to drawn-out drama. They simply stop returning phone calls. "It's less awkward," says my friend Michael. "After two or three dates, explaining why you don't fancy someone enough to continue to see them seems cruel. So I use the 'I'm busy at work' line. They can write me off without being upset."
I'm beginning to see the allure of the disappearing act. It allows both parties to believe it just wasn't meant to be, rather than over-analysing what went wrong. But Tim kept e-mailing for another date, and I decided that I owed him an answer. So I called him. "I'm sorry," I said gently. "You're a nice guy, but I don't feel we've enough in common to go out again. The chemistry just wasn't there for me."
"You're ringing me to tell me you DON'T want to see me again? Thanks a lot! I have enough friends!" he shouted, before hanging up on me. I guess sometimes you just can't win.