This guy has a really neat dating trick that makes me feel comfortable and relaxed in his company. It’s one which means we get to progress towards knowing each other way faster than I have with most other men in the years since I broke up with my ex. He does it consistently and brilliantly, and each time he does it I’m taken by pleasant surprise. Wanna know what the trick is? It’s easy. Absurdly, ridiculously easy, but quite rare. He asks me questions. That’s it. He asks me about my life, and when I say something interesting he asks a follow-up. If he realises he’s been speaking for too long, and the conversation is becoming a monologue, he says “enough about me. How about you?” That’s it. That’s the trick.
We sit together in a sunny beer garden drinking pints and learning the basics (where did you grow up, what’s your family like, what do you do for fun, etc) and I throw questions at him the way I do with all my dates. I am interested in this man, after all, so I want to find out who he is and what makes him tick. I’m still riding a wave of confidence about the fact that I asked this guy out in real life, without any help from either apps or alcohol.
Catch up with part 1 – the dating challenge – if you want a little of the backstory before diving into our first date.
This man has mentioned travel in our brief chats before, so I ask him: “where’s the best place you’ve been?” He tells me in delicious detail and I make appreciative noises and ask further questions – I’m a frustrated traveller at heart and he’s been to places that I’ve never visited myself. He shares a few highlights: fun, exciting, scary, weird. Recommending me places or telling me to steer clear of this or that city. And after he’s spoken for a while, he does the trick:
“That’s enough about me,” he says, “how about you? Where have you been? What’s your favourite place?”
It’s so easy, this. So easy! You don’t need to be the world’s best conversationalist in order to be fun on a first date. You just need to invite the other person into the chat. When I say – as I so often do – that ‘men don’t ask me questions’, what I mean is they so rarely do this. They’ll answer my questions and follow-ups, then sit with an expectant smile, waiting for me to come up with the next topic on which to quiz them.
Dating someone who is interested
Shop Man asks me questions. Sometimes about specifics he’d like to know, other times he just throws my own questions back: answering then flipping so we’re on a level, understanding the other’s similar-but-different experience. It isn’t that this man is Graham Norton, he doesn’t have to be. He just has that rare quality that so many other men seem to lack: he’s genuinely and truly interested in me. In the literal sense of that word.
It’s a revelation. A reminder that dating doesn’t have to be a slog, carrying conversations with men who aren’t interested in my opinions or experience, yet bafflingly want to keep dating me anyway. That’s what I’ve found so frustrating about this particular ‘no questions’ phenomenon: I don’t mind if a guy isn’t interested in me – most men aren’t! I can be very boring and annoying! But if I’m not interesting enough that you’d like to find out more, just don’t date me – it’s fine! Dating me is not compulsory, I only want you to do it if you’re interested in finding out more.
Shop Man is fucking interested! In me! He asks me questions and invites me into the chat. I’m not working alone, toiling away to build a conversation that stands as a shrine to his experience and opinions: we’re building something together. A rapport. A conversational structure that takes on the best of his stories as well as the best of mine.
He is the oasis in my dating desert and I drink so thoroughly from his company that it makes me feel dizzy with joy.
We talk about him, then we talk about me, then him and then me again. And we go back and forth like that in a way that feels genuinely equal. By the time we get around to discussing the way that we met, I’ve already half-fallen for this dude, purely for the fact that he says:
“Enough about me. How about you?”
“That girl you like”
When we eventually get to talking about our meetcute in his shop, that’s the point I go from ‘dizzy’ to ‘dumbfounded.’
“I’d been wanting to ask you out for so long,” he tells me, casually.
I manage to resist yelling “YOU FUCKING WHAT, MATE?!” and dropping into a dead faint, opting instead for the devastatingly smooth…
“Wow, holy shit! Seriously?!”
He elaborates a little, in ways that are so flattering I won’t repeat them here lest you all think I’ve disappeared completely up my own arse (always a real and present danger). But I will tell you the following, because it’s objectively very cool indeed: Shop Man reminds me of a time a couple of months ago when one of his colleagues was serving me at the counter, but said he had to run out the back to check on something partway through the transaction. Actually, he’d run out to tell Shop Man “psst, she’s here. Stop stock-checking. That girl you like just came in.”
I remember that incident, and the delight I’d felt when I saw him saunter out of the back room (no offence to his lovely colleague but I’d been disappointed to be served by someone other than Shop Man that day, and I’m glad he popped out to fetch him). Then I tell him that the last time I came I had to detour round the block a few times because I couldn’t see him at the counter on the first couple of passes. We laugh at ourselves and each other, and both make regretful noises about not having said something sooner.
“It could never have been me who made the first move, though,” he tells me. “I wouldn’t want you to think I make a habit of hooking up with customers.”
I KNOW RIGHT. This man’s pretty dreamy.
It’s lucky I’m not going to shag him today, because that might cause me to trust him too much, too soon. But these days I’ve got myself on strict instructions to never bang a guy on the very first date. So we talk a little more (“Enough about me, how about you?”) and I kiss him in the beer garden. Then kiss him as we’re leaving, and again at the entrance to the tube.
And we make plans to hang out next weekend.
Next weekend rolls around, and he cooks for me. He cooks! For me! He doesn’t order Deliveroo like he’s flush and willing to flash it: he actually goes to the trouble of cooking me dinner, an act of care that (to me) will always be infinitely more valuable than ordering takeaway. He’s a fabulous host, bustling around looking after me and making sure I am comfortable.
At some point I have to tell him about my job. That’s how much I like this man. Normally I’d hold that info back until at least date three, though I’ve been lax with that rule recently: dating men who know me first as GOTN, which is definitely a mistake. It’s probably a factor in the ‘men don’t ask me questions’ thing: I imagine it’s harder to think of something to ask a woman if you’ve already read so many of her stories and opinions online. Perhaps they’re worried I’ll say ‘I’ve covered that on the blog’ and then bollock them for not properly doing their homework (I won’t). Maybe they’re worried that I’ll reveal too much of the ‘real’ me in my answers, thus ruining the horny fantasy character that they’ve conjured based on my work (I definitely will).
I’ve thought on this a lot, as you can probably tell. It’s played on my mind. I have over 10,000 words in draft about it, in various forms: angry blogs, sad ones, ones where I try to spin my poor luck as dating advice. And none of them have ever seemed quite right.
So here, thank God. Thank fuck. Thank anything you like! A guy who helped me work out how to write this right. The guy who’s single-handedly restored my faith in dating. He’s interested in me, so he asks me questions. In fact, he’s curious enough that it actually feels strange for me to hide what I do for a living (not a problem I had with any Feeld or OKC dates, because those guys rarely cared enough to probe beyond ‘freelance copywriter’ when we swapped job descriptions), so I bite the bullet and tell Shop Man about my job.
He’s intrigued. He asks about the sorts of things I write. Brace yourselves for the money shot, people: he wants to hear my stories.
He asks if I’ve ever had a threesome, and I’m flirting with him so I say “sure, what kind do you want to know about? Two guys and me or a guy/girl and me? One where I’m in the couple inviting someone else in, or one where I’m the guest?”
He grins, and picks a category, then I flick through my mental bookshelf and choose a tale that fits. Dust off the cover, open page one and begin. Drawing out the details. Painting in the context and tone. Taking my time to build rather than rushing to the climax because I’m worried he’ll get bored or interrupt. I’m showboating a little because fuck it, he asked, and I’ve workshopped this one on the blog so I can tell it in style. Besides, it’s not often I get the chance to recount an old story to a brand new audience. I may never get another opportunity like this, so I’m gonna make the most of it.
When I’m done, I smile with satisfaction. I can’t have been talking for more than three or four minutes but it feels obscene to have held the mic for that long. I’m about to hand back to him and ask for a tale in return but he beats me to the punch. Lets out this big long sigh and looks across at the late evening sunset. Says “wow. OK. Amazing. Tell me another.”
And yes, I know. This makes me sound as if I really love the sound of my own voice but honestly… yeah, I do. I literally turned ‘talking about myself’ into a job, don’t be surprised to learn that I enjoy it in my downtime as well. In meeting a man who actively wanted me to tell him stories, I couldn’t help but be struck by how weird it is that no other guy has asked for this before. On most dates, I am the one who asks questions and nods and smiles and throws out encouraging follow-ups. I’m the one trying to draw interesting tidbits from somebody else. It’s astonishingly rare that I get to do it in return though. Even the men who asked to date me because they liked my blog still never asked for any stories.
I do ask for Shop Man’s stories too, of course, in case you’re worried I became a monstrous mic-hogging prick as soon as an interested guy rocked up. But they aren’t my stories to tell so I won’t share them here, I only mention it so you know that our conversation is delightfully equal: both of us contributing questions, stories and enthusiasm. That’s the beauty of it: we’re not competing to see who can be funniest or most impressive, we’re a team collaborating to build a rapport we can both enjoy. We pass the baton back and forth, revealing past fucks, glories, threesomes and happy memories.
The only slight mis-step is when he tells me a beautiful bucket-list dream about fucking someone out in the open, at one with nature. On a remote mountain or in a beautiful valley, at night beneath a sky that is peppered with millions of stars. It’s a gloriously romantic, clearly heartfelt dream. Unfortunately it contrasted dramatically with my own answer from five minutes earlier, when he’d asked me about my own sex bucket list and I immediately blurted out ‘GANGBANG.’
Enough about me, how about you?
When we’ve mined this conversational seam for long enough, he kisses me with a brand of firm, measured calm that makes my cunt thud with longing. Slow enough that I could pull away at any moment without having to interrupt the flow. A speed which doesn’t rush me or push me or drag me into a fast-flowing river of horn. Kissing me gently enough that I always have time to pause if I would like to, he demonstrates how confident he is that I really want to be there. This man kisses at precisely the speed of consent.
As a result, I consent so much harder to this kiss than I expected to before our lips touched. It’s not something to which I acquiesce, it’s everything I want in that moment. To sit there at the window, being firmly and slowly and skilfully kissed by this beautiful man… who asks me questions and listens to my stories and genuinely cares about hearing what I have to say. God, fuck. Wild horses couldn’t drag me from his arms at that instant in time. Frankly, you could have set off the fire alarm and I’d have ignored it.
We do some things other than kissing. And the fact that I’ve written just seven words about the hot part of this date will no doubt annoy those of you who are keen for this sex blog to start living up to its fucking name again. I might tell you one day, but I’d be lying to you if I tried to shoehorn porn into the plot at this point. The headline is that this man truly heard me. That’s the miracle. That’s the thing I adored about our dates. That’s what restored my faith in dating.
At any point in the last six months I could have hopped onto a dick. Sucked someone off or asked them to finger me, maybe joined a hot couple for a threesome if they were in town.
Sex is easy. Sex is mundane. To bastardise a famous phrase, sex is abundant and low value.
This stuff, on the other hand? The stories, the chat, the back-and-forth, the equal conversation? That, my friends, is the gold dust. When we’re dressed again and re-settled by the window, we go back to swapping stories. “Tell me another,” he says. All languid and chill and calm.
I had so much fun being kissed by this man. Loved running my hands over his body. Grabbing his arse. Undressing him. Prompting that initial move from chairs to bed. I loved the way he slowly got me naked – undoing the buttons on my shirt and kissing my neck as he stripped me bare.
But above and beyond the hotness, and the dinner, and the genuine warmth of his smile and his beautiful eyes, what amazed me most about this man was his ability to draw me in and share the stage.
To lift me up and listen to my stories.
Part 3 of this story will be up in a couple of weeks, or if you’re on Patreon you can hear it in this month’s update.
Postscript: if you’re a blog reader I’ve dated and you see yourself in the margins of this story (I imagine there are about eight of you), I am truly sorry. Thank you so much for putting yourself out there to ask me out, I am extremely grateful and I recognise this is a woeful way to repay your kindness. I almost certainly had a nice time even if the ‘no questions’ thing played on my mind. I am not trying to make you feel bad, but I realised I’d started to find it difficult to tell any dating stories at all which didn’t revolve round this issue, and eventually I realised I couldn’t tell this story without at least touching upon the most common issue in my dating life so far. The fact that it’s been such a huge thing hopefully shows that it’s not a problem unique to you, and it’s not unique to me either: I have spoken to many many other people who have also spotted this pattern, though it is definitely exacerbated by me dating followers (a mistake that is entirely my fault, and for which I apologise).
On top of this, after many conversations, I do think ‘no questions’ upsets me more than the average person – I am a loudmouthed, performative, overly-chatty twat with a lot of as-yet-unresolved trauma around not being heard by men I am close to. More on that in the next blog I write about this guy, but yeah: I am disproportionately upset by dates/conversations where someone only wants to escalate without finding out anything about me, and overthinking this stuff is a core part of what I do for a living so I have fixated on this for a very long time. It’s not just you, it’s me. And I’m sorry.