Trigger Warning // Rape, Consent, Racism, Sexism, Misogyny, Abuse, Gaslighting
Go on a date in the 21st Century, whether initiated online or in person, and it is a bloody minefield. Many of you will know this. I’ve always joked about writing a book about it. Frankly, I don’t really have the desire to give some of these cretins book space. Article space, on the other hand…too tempting to resist. Here’s a handful of some of my most spectacularly bad experiences; on dates and in relationships at best for laughs and at worst, to know you are not alone and we are in this madness together, people.
This was Summer 2014. I really liked his voice on the phone. Husky. From Dublin. Cute picture too. Shallow? Me? Maybe back then yes. To a degree. We were going to go for a picnic in Regent’s Park which sounded lovely but then I decided a pub would be better just in case… more people around and all that. So he offered to take me to O’Neill’s in Leytonstone. Now I am no snob when it comes to boozers but I would definitely not chalk this one up to first date impressiveness. We opted for somewhere else nearby.
As he approached he looked about twenty years older than his photo, looked a lot more “knackered” and had lost a few teeth since… Despite this, a little voice in my head told me not to be so quick to judge. Damn you, voice in my head!
The date began with him buying me a bottle of white wine. Yes. A bottle. Not a glass, as I had asked for but a bottle. He bought himself a bottle of red. Then he went on to rant horrendously about his ex, comment on two Muslim women who walked past and then told me to “F*** Off!” because I wouldn’t sit on his knee. Honestly, I have never been so relieved to be told that because it gave me my cue to grab my bag, grab a taxi and leave at pace. I rang a male friend on the way and asked him if he could stay on the phone till I was safely home. During this, Mr Irish persistently tried to call me and eventually left a message saying, “Sorry. I screwed that up. What can I say? It was nice meeting you. It’d be nice to see you again.” Clueless. Totally.
SINS: Racist, Sexist, Aggressive, Misogynistic, Boundary-Less, Clueless.
Also Summer 2014. This was a flashy bugger from London Fields who took me to a posh steakhouse for a second date. It was lovely until he decided to belittle me in front of the waitress for my choice of wine and then whisper in my ear all of the very disturbing things he was “going to do to (me) later.” They all made me heave. Gross. I feigned a headache, told him I’d call him and legged it to the tube. I had never been so relieved to be on the hot, sweaty Central Line in high summer heading home alone. I didn’t call him although he did message me two months later to ask if I wanted to go to the theatre with him. No thanks.
SINS: Undermining, Disrespectful, Entitled, Without Consent, Gross, Oblivious.
An earlier one. I met this one at a party. 1992. Feeling lovely for one of the first times in my teenage years, growing into my skin but sadly not quite into my power just yet. Flattered by his advances I kissed him. Said kiss turned very quickly into me being pushed with force into a room and consequently into forced sex. There were people around. They left the room. I sprained my ankle in the process and had to limp home the following day utterly confused about what the hell had happened the night before. It took me a few years before I realised that this was rape. I thought it was my fault and that I’d sent him the ‘wrong message.’
SINS: Without Consent, Boundaryless, Entitled, Rapey.
A 2015 dating app experience. He was a lawyer. Seemed smart from reading his profile. Looked nice enough (whatever the hell that means). This one didn’t get more than just a few written messages but they were so jaw-dropping that they need to be shared.
Me: Hi there. Really interesting profile. How long have you been practising law?
Him: 7 years. Do you like it rough?
Me: Excuse me? What makes you think you can go right in and ask that???
Him: It sounds like you talk a lot!! I’d like to ballgag you and fuck you hard up the arse to shut you up.
Me: 🤢🤮 (and leaves conversation swiftly)
SINS: Misogynistic, without consent, entitled, disrespectful, undermining, aggressive, rapey, nauseating. A lot of sins for such a very short exchange. Terrifying he is a lawyer. Assuming that part was true.
Summer 2015. An NHS nurse with a sweet face. I agree to meet him on a very hot day in a pub in Walthamstow. He can’t stop touching me. I ask him to stop several times, quietly (an effort for me). People are looking over. Nobody says anything. I stand up to go to the loo (I’m thinking about how I can leave without him noticing for long enough so as I can get some distance). As I stand up, he puts his hand down the back of my trousers and under. It’s a ninja move and I audibly gasp with shock. It’s only when I shout at the top of my voice for him to get his hands off me that a staff member comes over and asks him to leave. He does. Nobody asks if I am okay. I sit at the table on my own staring for about an hour whilst my brain catches up with what has just happened. Eventually I call a cab and go home. I don’t date for almost two years after this.
SINS: Entitled, rapey, without consent, oblivious, disrespectful, handsy. Bloody hell, this one is a nurse!
I think I have met someone lovely in Autumn 2018. It’s great at first and after 7 months, I move in with him (my house is already on the market and about to sell so we figure, let’s give it a go). The mask drops fast. I am ‘not allowed’ to put my art on the walls (I have a lot of art and eventually I am given ‘permission’ to put one piece up in the back room). I am ‘not allowed’ to unpack my books (I have a lot of books). I am ‘not allowed’ to have any of my crockery in the cupboards because it is ‘too patterned.’ My dog is ‘not allowed’ pretty much everywhere. She gets distressed a lot because she is used to being with me all the time and, whenever she does, he leaps into a fit of rage lasting anywhere between 45 minutes to several hours. In fact, if I breathe the ‘wrong way,’ the rage happens. It happens weekly, then twice weekly, then three times a week. I leave after four months but not before he gives me a tsunami of final rage because I am leaving him. It takes another three months for him to stop harassing me, gaslighting me via emails and text messages, and finally leave me alone.
SINS: Controlling, abusive, entitled.
Summer 2020. I may have just met someone who is not a reservoir rat. But it’s early days. Time will tell.
SINS: None visible yet.
Ask For Angela
The #AskForAngela campaign was introduced in 2016. Thankfully. Not before time. If anyone ever feels under threat, or unsafe, you can go to a member of staff in most cafés and bars and ask for Angela. Most of these people should be aware now that this means it is their responsibility to get you to a safe place as soon as possible, away from the person you are with. You can find out more at http://www.met.police.uk/AskforAngela.