The best kind of bad dates

Image by the awesome Stuart F Taylor

You might think that bad dates are – by default – an undesirable thing. The clue’s in the name – they’re bad dates! But although I’ll happily swerve terrible first dates where the person I’m with doesn’t ask any questions, or dates where they reveal ten minutes in that they’re a not-so-secret Tory, there’s one kind of bad date that will always have a special place in my heart.

That date you turn up late to because there were roadworks that you hadn’t factored in. You miss curtain call for a show that both of you were excited to see. Trying to make the best of it, you head to a nearby pub for dinner only to discover they stopped serving food five minutes before you walked in the door. At the end of the date, you each go home despondent. “We’ll laugh about this later,” you think to yourself, as you flump onto the sofa with a commiseratory glass of wine.

Those bad dates which started as a romantic picnic, but got ruined by pissing rain. Gathering soggy quiche and sourdough into damp plastic bags, you and your date run to shelter under a tree – the perfect location in which to have a vague squabble about whose job it is to go to the bin in the downpour to dispose of all your rubbish. You text them afterwards to check they got home safe, and they say “yeah I’m good – sorry for being grumpy. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time.”

The bad dates you go on the evening after one of you had a really sucky day at work. They dominate the conversation with work stories you only vaguely understand. But that’s OK, because the point of the stories is not to entertain the listener but to relieve the teller. At the end of the date, you both decide you’re knackered so you head off to your respective homes alone. The next day they text to update you on what’s gone on in the office, and you send virtual hugs and a couple of kisses for luck.

The bad dates that seem simple enough: you go to a new pub that’s just opened in the area. Excited to check out the local watering hole. But when you get there you realise everyone else in that postcode has had the same idea, and you have to queue for fucking ages for a pint. When you tap your card you gasp at the price, then stomp off to your table to bitch about it and plan a cheaper ‘tins in the park’ date for next time.

The bad dates that take you to weird open-mic nights that go from ‘funny bad’ to just ‘terrible bad’ and occasionally ‘appalling bad’, as someone decides to try out their bigoted five-minute ‘edgy’ set. You’re grumpy because they suggested it, and they’re grumpy because they said you should leave during the break but you chose not to – thinking ‘surely it’ll get better’, even though deep down you knew it wouldn’t. Later, you tell your friends about it, and your date chips in with colourful detail about how awful it all was. You laugh together loudly, making up for the cringing before.

Not all bad dates are equal.

These bad dates have a special place in my heart because they all have one thing in common: you know that no matter how bad the date, you’re definitely going to have another. The time you had isn’t a reflection on the person you’re with. It’s a rubbish evening ruined by happenstance – one that put you both in a stroppy mood and made a romantic or sexual climax less likely, but who cares? It’s important to have bad dates sometimes.

No matter how well-matched the pair of you are, your lives will never consist of a string of perfect evenings, unencumbered by roadworks or bar queues or pissing rain. Not all bad dates are equal. Some of them give you a warm glow of knowing that this person won’t disappear because you missed the bus or fucked up ticket purchases or picked a shit bar. You know you’re getting comfortable with someone when you can have a mutually bad date (or even just a meh date) and be confident that they’ll still turn up for the next one.

By this measure, the sucky dates are as important as the shiny ones.



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