Louise Ripley-Duggan

With RAG Blind Date coming up, LOUISE RIPLEY-DUGGAN assesses her less-than-successful dating history.

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RAG Blind Date is coming up, and a recently single Lou has thrown caution to the wind and boldly decided to go where she has never gone before. Because, believe it or not, I have never been on a proper, grown up ‘date’.

As far as I can remember, I have only ever been on one date, and it was neither proper nor grown up. It was with a young man who, for anonymity’s sake, I shall call Roger. I agreed to go on the ‘date’ on the sole premise that he was four inches taller than me. Being an unnaturally tall teenager is not fun. Boys grow after girls, you see, and so until I was 18, most of the boys I knew couldn’t help but have their eyes glued to my chest, as it was at exactly eye level. Horrific.

In any case, Roger was beautiful and not vertically challenged. Our first date took place in a pub in Camden where, lo and behold, we just so happened to bump into some mutual friends. They were all at something of a loss, and met us with exclamations of: ‘Ohmygod! You guuuuuuys! You’re here…together? Like, together together? That’s like, SO weird. And obviously, like, totally amazing! Are you guys like, a thing? Your kids would be SO effing tall ohmygod.’ Scintillating though the conversation was, we tore ourselves away and went to get a drink.

I was being dignified, and so I demurely sipped (okay, not demurely. I am incapable of being demure) – and so I sipped on a conservative two glasses of wine throughout the entire evening. My giant ‘boyfriend’ had two pints, but kept nipping off to the toilet, leaving me awkwardly playing with my phone, pretending to be texting so I looked like a date guru who had OBVIOUSLY been on lots of dates before. Every time he returned, I grew a bit more confused – huge though he was, he was definitely quite pissed, and his level of inebriation was rising steadily.

I felt embarrassed for him. I was also concerned that him drawing attention to us would get us kicked out of the pub, under-age as we were. That would have made for a very bashful journey home. So, I decided to buy the next round of drinks.  The barmaid smiled at me: ‘First date? So sweet, he’s so nervous! Keeps coming up and downing shots while you’re not looking, bless…’

Let us not even linger on her horrendous lack of solidarity to the poor dear in this situation. I was far too busy being bemused by Roger’s behaviour. At the time I thought it was quite endearing that he was so terrified of me. However, I soon realised it wasn’t. It was just proof of his definitive wet-blanket status. We broke up a week later.

Two boyfriends later and I still hadn’t had a second date. The boy immediately following Roger preferred to sit in the park and get high, glugging White Ace (great fun, just not exactly romantic) and the one after that was the accidental long-term boyfriend who started as a one night stand.

Dating confuses me. Or rather, American sitcoms confuse me. In Friends, the characters just seem to sit in Central Perk until someone good looking comes into the café, and if they like the look of them, they ask them on a date. I have it from reliable sources that this actually happens. And that it’s considered normal.If a stranger came up to me in a café and asked to take me out, I would be outraged, and probably ignore them. If they seemed nice, I might give them an: ‘I’m sorry but I don’t habitually spend hours alone with someone I’ve never met before.’

Why would anyone say yes? There seem to be a myriad of unwritten laws surrounding dating – none of which I understand. How many dates does one go on until the situation is deemed a relationship? What is the etiquette regarding how many people one can date at any one time? It all seems rather bizarre. If people only date to get laid, then I don’t know why they’d bother with expensive and awkward dinner first. And if people only date to find ‘the one’, I reckon they shouldn’t be forcing fate.

I’ll bite the bullet in the name of charity and perhaps it will convert me, but with a satisfactory love life without them, I’ll be sticking to White Ace in the park and pillow-chat until I’m panicking about my body clock and have only cats for company.