How should I define my first date? There were lots of experiences with boys long before I was ever formally asked to the cinema, or for dinner, or whatever it is people do when they’re not just desperately trying to rummage in each other’s pants.
The first time I kissed a guy (on the lips, no snogging or anything) I was at the swimming pool. Our friends had all got together for an afternoon of splashing around, and I was determined that I’d come home with a boyfriend. The proto-boyfriend, you understand – not a real one. The one you get when you ask your best mate to just go around all the boys who seem vaguely willing and ask them in turn: “Will you go out with my friend?”
I eventually secured the nervous assent of a young ginger lad, and before we got out of the pool he kissed me on the lips.
Sadly I blew it the next day, by sending him more than fifty love-notes over the course of one maths lesson. Understandably he called the whole thing off, again in the traditional manner: by getting his best friend to write a note to me that said ‘Sorry, you’re dumped.’
As a gawky, geeky kid I didn’t have many other options, so with a heavy heart I got to work on a different tactic: hanging out with guys for long enough that eventually one would agree to touch my tits.
During this time, almost any venue would have been good enough for a first date – my friends and I would spend most of our time sitting in parks, or in shopping centres, with only the occasional trip to something more exciting like the arcade. In the arcade they had motorbike racing games, which meant we could sit in front of the boys while they pressed their erections into us, each person trying their best to pretend that they either hadn’t noticed or didn’t know.
But dates? As an American concept, a first date seemed magical and unobtainable, just like Wal-Mart, ‘prom’, and those challenges where you get a free burger if you can eat a cow in under a minute. But, also like those things, dating came to the UK eventually.
My first date ever
Let’s call this guy Carl. And I’m not going to tell you what he looked like, I just want you to picture the softest-skinned teenage heartthrob from your own youth. Maybe Jared Leto, or whichever Buffy character made your heart race. He was one of those: far too beautiful to pay me even the slightest attention. If we’d gone to the same school, he’d have known me only as a nerdy kid who occasionally got brave and proudly Smashed The System by wearing fishnets after school.
But I didn’t meet him at school, so I got to do that thing we all do now on the internet, but which back then was such a rare treat: I could pretend to be a much cooler person.
He was the cousin or childhood friend of one of my mates, and when she told me he’d be coming over naturally I sniffed the air, smelled boyish sweat and the possibility of a fingering, so I dressed in the weirdest clothing combination I could find, slapped on whatever goth-paint I was trying to pass off as make-up, and sat at her house with my legs half-open hoping that he’d at least appreciate my enthusiasm.
I secured a date for that Saturday night: my parents would be at the pub, as ever, and my sister was having some friends round. So we could sit snuggled up on my parents’ bed, watching a film on the TV in the corner of their bedroom. Before he arrived I went through the same clothes/make-up/posing ritual, gushed my knickers at the idea of him touching me, and sprayed on enough perfume to kill a sniffer dog at twenty paces.
I. Was. Prepared.
I’d rehearsed in my head exactly what I was going to do when he arrived, I’d purchased some wine to offer him (OK, Lambrini, which is to wine what chip shop vinegar is to Diet Coke) and I knew exactly how long I was going to wait through the movie before I pulled down my top a little bit and tried to snuggle up to him. I’d imagined what his hands would feel like on my shoulders, as his fingers crept down gradually to reach the curve of my tits. I’d felt that gut-thumping ache as I imagined him sitting behind me, pressing a raging hard-on into the small of my back. I’d imagined what his lips would feel like, and the sexy way he’d roll me onto my back so we could get down to hardcore frotting.
You can guess the punchline, right? He didn’t show up.
Not the worst date of my life, but certainly pretty close. Although I was devastated, in hindsight there was definitely a silver lining.
Firstly because I’m certain it would have been a crap evening anyway. Although I’d dressed to the nines I hadn’t put much thought into atmosphere, and the film I’d picked for our romantic liaison was an uncensored cut of a terrifying 70s horror flick.
More importantly than that, though, having experienced a first date that was so predictably disastrous, almost every aspect of my love life from then on – even the awful bits – counted as a win. Every time I make a horrible mistake, fall of the bed during a shag, or sob wildly after being dumped, I can console myself with the fact that at least I’m not on my parents’ bed having a creepy, weepy wank while The Exorcist plays in the background.