In the spirit of fuck, I’m in my thirties how did that happen I better get a wriggle on if I want to have babies (which I do, possibly), I’ve been dating. I say ‘dating’, what I mean is that I’ve been exchanging messages with blokes on Tinder who a) offer graphic descriptions of their penis and what they’d like to do to me with it, b) ask if I’m ‘naughty’ and c) cease communication once I agree to meet in the flesh.
It’s shit, obviously. But I’m not taking it personally. You can’t. If you want to meet someone and have babies and if it has become clear that isn’t going to happen by conventional means (bar, club, friend, friend of a friend, brother of a friend, work, holiday romance etc.) then you need to approach the whole mating exercise in a calculated, clinical way. This is where I’ve been going wrong in the past: expecting that spontaneous attraction would yield results. Up until now I’d taken last-minute cancellations, ignored text messages and unfulfilled promises personally – I thought they were symptoms of my innate undesirability, rather than the behavioural traits of selfish emotionally stunted man-children who deserve to be ceremonially eliminated on a large, raging bonfire.
How things have changed. Can you tell how chill, laid-back and open-hearted I’ve become? I’ve dumped the unwieldy emotional baggage I’d been dragging behind me and I feel free, giddy and slightly reckless, like if one of those homeless men you see in LA, pulling along sixty shopping trolleys tied together with bungee cord and bits old rope, were to just let it go.
I say ‘dating’, I mean one date. And when I say ‘date’ I mean blind date, set up for a popular television programme, because it turns out that’s the only way single men will agree to meet me. But as I said, whatevs. I’m cool with that, because you learn something new from every experience* and what I learned from this experience was: don’t order the crab. Especially not on a blind date. Especially not when he orders the battered cod. Especially not when the date is being filmed by hundreds of Dalek-height cameras with rotating robot heads.
It was a whole crab, still in its shell – which I wasn’t expecting, obviously. I haven’t had a great deal of experience with undressed shellfish. I had whole soft-shelled lobster this summer and the proper method of breaking it open with dainty silver pliers and pulling out the flesh with a spear was patiently explained to me by hospitable Americans who don’t expect anyone to be cultured. But my memory of the technique is quite hazy because I was shown it after six Manhattans. Now, I was in a decent restaurant with white table cloths and po-faced Eastern-European waiting-staff in stiff black aprons, and the crab-shell was like rock, and every time I tried to break into it splinters of rock-shell kept flying off and landing on the floor and the surrounding tables and hitting my date in the face.
And all the while my hands were becoming sticky with crab-grease, which the luke-warm water in the finger-bowl was not satisfactorily removing. And every time I tried and failed to release any meat from the carcass my date gave me a sympathetic grimace and asked if I wanted a chip. Which I did, but I couldn’t say yes because you can’t order the crab and a salad and then eat all the chips off your date’s plate like some cliché of a famished anorexic movie star.
Fuck. This is why I don’t date.
I laughed it off, as you do, hahahahaha – and he was very gracious and didn’t turn it into a big deal, by which I mean even though I could see the glaze of horror settling over his eyeballs he did not make things awkward with a public display of revulsion. And it’s not as though I wanted to tear his clothes off with my teeth or bear his firstborn son or anything. But it remains that there is a bemused man on the loose in London, telling friends and acquaintances the story of how he went on a TV dating show and the woman ordered crab and didn’t even know how to eat it; he’ll tell them how she kept stabbing at the shell with the delicate silver pokey thing and that she ended up abandoning her meal, drinking mint tea and making feeble jokes about how she should have gone for the steak. And they’ll all laugh, hahahahaha. ‘Poor you,’ they’ll say, ‘sounds like you had a lucky escape’. And I’ll be at home, still sans baby, eating stilton out the fridge with my hands. This is what comes of dating.
*You don’t, of course, mostly you’re just reminded of things you already knew, such as that you probably don’t fancy kind, well-meaning community arts workers who wear hemp, and that 11am is no time to be dining in a restaurant that serves venison with a red-wine jus.
*Image is “Roasted Crab” by koratmember at freedigitalphotos.net.