It's been a while since I've been on one of my hideous dates. I'm blaming the weather and the coal fire. Why bother going out and meeting people when you're just as likely to end up flat on your back crossing the ice to Costcutter?
But this week I met Julian. Now, online he seemed charming - piercing gaze, wolfish grin. But as soon as I met him I realised "piercing gaze" meant "slight squint" and "wolfish grin" translated into "tombstone teeth". (Mind you, maybe his slight squint was more a reluctance to look at me. I later realised that I'd suffered a mild allergic reaction to the gym's new moisturiser and my face was one big chemical burn. Gay fail).
Anyway, he was posh. Now, I've nothing against posh men. I've sprung to their defence ever since a bloke once said to me "I bet you'd pull more if you didn't sound so posh." I'll admit, there have been posh episodes in my life (going to public school with the offspring of accountants, accidentally losing most of my viriginity to a young Conservative under a portrait of Mrs Thatcher) but I genuinely think I'm as classless as the shipping forecast (which translates to being painfully middle class and guilty about it). So, anyway, I'll stick up for nicely spoken men. But there are limits.
The limit with Justin was his laugh. Which went "haw!haw!haw!". I boggled at him. "Bally bar's shut," he said, "Shall we find somewhere else for quaffing? haw!haw!haw! what?"
Yes. "what?". If this was Agatha Christie's Poirot (and I was starting to pray that it was), he would have been tumbling out of a linen cupboard with a jeweled dagger poking out of his back by the second ad break. But this was real. And I'm nicely brought-up. So I didn't leave there and then. I figured let's go for a drink. It could be fun.
We found a pub. He ordered a pint of Bombardier, but he pronounced it to rhyme with "tararaboomdeyay". I quietly ordered a diet coke. No way was I going to risk getting drunk near him. I didn't fancy waking up staring in confused horror at another portrait of Maggie.
He explained what he did for a living. Yes, he used to be an investment banker. Or something vague in the city. Well, until one day he rang up the office and announced "I'll be working from the Rhone for a few months", after which he seems to have opened up some kind of internet systems consultancy. I would, I have now decided, like to open up an internet systems consultancy. I can piss money and bray.
"Best things are the conferences, not just for airing one's views but the nookie." I have never spoken at an internet conference. This is a source of weirdly bitter jealousy. I have no idea what I would say, but clearly conferences contain people who will sleep with anything.
He fills me in on his home life. "Well, the house is a bit crowded. It's a bit of a menage, to be frank. You see, once my wife ran away with my mistress, they moved back in. Frightfully modern, I know. And I figured what the hell and moved my secebo in - oh, it's Italian for a male lover. So much more le mot juste than manstress, what?" I apologise if I've spelt "secebo" wrong, but this is the internet, after all.
I boggled. "Your ex wife lives with you?" He demurs. "Frightfully complicated. We're Catholic landed gentry and it was the devil getting an annulment, but luckily one of my degrees was in medieval jurisprudence, so Lady Jane and I now rub along rather amicably."
His vocabulary was extraordinary. It was like going on a date with Giles Brandreth and all of Dictionary Corner. Which is useful, as one of the most irritating things I'm developing in later life is the kind of word-choice you associate with precocious teenagers. I thought the only things to worry about with middle age were getting fatter and camper, but it appears my brain is determined to make me sound like a knob. The other day I was in a bar and a friend came back from the bar, saying "Needed to make it up to a fiver so they'd take my card so I ordered you a spare cup of coffee."
A few minutes later I trotted up to the bar to get my spare cup of coffee. To my horror I heard myself saying "I believe you're holding a cup of coffee in abeyance for me." I genuinely couldn't stop that. It's like my brain revved into fifth gear towards twat. I remember making a feeble, inept apology, although the barmaid did give me two of those little biscuits they give you with coffee in pubs. You know the ones I mean - they taste a bit of burnt sugar and ginger.
Anyway, the point is, I wonder how long it is before I'm going on dates and people are staring at me in similar internalised horror thinking "Bet his cat's called Fauntleroy"? Maybe it has started already, what?