January 2004: Around two years after my first foray into online dating, I was now on something like my fourth. The fruits of my efforts had been roughly a dozen first dates, far fewer second dates and a decidedly messy on-off relationship. But I persevered nonetheless. I still had faith in the concept and figured that if I continued to contribute time and effort then fate would at some point contribute luck.
My next date was with a young lady with whom I'd shared many texts and a phone call or two over a couple of weeks. When I say "young lady" I mean that she was several years younger than me, and I was only 24, but we'd seemed to click humour-wise in our texts. Over the phone we hadn't connected quite so well but then I'm not that great on the phone anyway. We had exchanged photos (by this point in history most online daters had managed to acquire a digital photo of themselves but many of us did not openly display them on our profiles) and had each made appreciative noises about the other. So, next step: meet up.
We met at a restaurant on a Saturday lunchtime. The restaurant was fairly quiet. This was lucky because I'm really not sure I would have recognized her otherwise. She looked absolutely nothing like her photo. How had someone so young had time to change so much? I was having trouble even convincing myself that it was the same person.
Of course, I thought that it would be rather rude to say any of this to her, so I tried to settle into the date and chat, but I was really struggling with the idea that my date had morphed. I felt like I was in one of the more confusing David Lynch films.
We ate our food and talked a bit but my heart just wasn't in it and I think she sensed that. After the food I let her know that I was planning to head off. She asked where I was going. I realised that I couldn't really claim tiredness at 2pm on a Saturday, so I admitted that I was going to do a bit of shopping. She asked to come along and again I didn't want to be rude so off we went. What little chat there had been was drying up fast. I did my shopping and then said that I would be heading home. I was relieved that she didn't ask to come with me.
Afterwards, looking back on the date, I was trying to figure out what I could have done differently. Would it have been better to tell her what was going through my mind? I guess that might have just made things more uncomfortable and still led to the same result anyway: we weren't going to see each other again.