Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Case of the Disappearing Dates

One of the perils of the blind date is the disappearing partner. You’ve just ordered the meal and she receives an unexpected text. Her dog’s been run over, her flat is on fire, and her sister’s husband has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Don’t believe a word of it. You’re her date from hell and the text from her best friend is the prearranged escape route.

I’ve spent the last few days discovering the perils of dating. Not for myself, I should point out. Jo and I are very happily loved up at the moment; indeed, I’ve finally consolidated our relationship by proposing to her. This week she and I met scores of people rather less lucky in love, all of whom are so desperate to find Mr or Miss Right, they’ve responded to our adverts for participants in our new television dating show which is to be hosted by Cilla Black.

There were quite a few tragic tales: the single father whose girlfriend left him at the altar with their two-year-old; a 37 year old woman with sad eyes who has only ever had three boyfriends, all of whom cheated on her; a gorgeous lady who fell in love with a handsome Swede and moved to Stockholm to get married, only to find out that her new husband expected her to let him continue enjoying the corporal delights of his former girlfriends. It was sad to meet so many charming women with the relentless chiming of the mid-thirties clock in their ears. Most of them deserve love, and some of them may well find it through our show, called Loveland.

We heard some great stories of thwarted romance. A chap who, late for dinner in a restaurant where he was to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time, screeched into the only available parking space to find himself in a furious row with a man already trying to reverse in. He arrived at the table to discover he’d punched his girlfriend’s father. Or the teenage girl who turned up for Sunday lunch at the home of her new boyfriend’s parents, to be greeted at the door by a completely naked father. Her boyfriend had forgot to mention that his parents were naturists.

A large pretty girl told us of a blind date in a Toby Carvery. The boy ordered just a salad then, when she started piling her plate at the buffet, he popped out to the loo and never came back. She had to telephone her father to rescue her and pay the bill. In fact, more than half the people we met had been victims of the disappearing loo trick. It normally happens shortly after the start of the date. So boys: order wine by the glass, just in case.

We had a glorious selection of people: “glamour” models (“I’ve only spent £20,000 on my body so far – I’m just 18”); a bald fat Russian (“She must speak Russian, and cook, and must be clever for our children”); and a whole cast of wannabe actresses seduced by the chance of getting on the telly (“I was at the Sylvia Young stage school – but I really do want a date, honest”).

As we listened to the stories, I felt relieved that I no longer have to take part in courtship rituals. Once, on a candlelit date with Jo, a young admirer at the next table slipped her a note (“Don’t want to interrupt your meal with your dad, but are you free later?”). Thankfully, she said yes to my proposal, so a large engagement ring now defiantly fends off all comers. And the increasingly big bump in her tummy helps too.

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