I glanced at my phone again. Friday. 8:30pm. I was going to be seriously late.
I looked up. My date across the table was saying something terribly intelligent about German literature. Not sure I was quite following at that stage, but it didn’t matter. Bless his heart.
“Excuse me for a second”, I smiled apologetically, parked Pint Number Two of my favourite cider on the table and ran up the stairs, heading for the exit – the precious exit guarding behind it the wonderful thing that is the mobile network reception. Wake up, phone.
One by one, four semi-identical text messages and a voicemail – all from the same number – flashed in front of my eyes. I had been cut off for too long. Let’s call him back.
“Hi there, sorry, still at the farewell drinks for one of my colleagues, will be a few minutes late,” I stopped to catch my breath, pressing the phone to my ear not to miss a word of his response. I’m a terrible liar. I blush and I mumble. My East European accent gets shamelessly worse. Sure he’ll figure things out in no time.
But – relief – the guy at the other end seemed cool. No problem. He’d wait for me. Later.
Now let’s make a dignified walkout from that pub date.
Back to my Goethe enthusiast, and it’s time for another apologetic smile. “One of my colleagues is having leaving drinks. Close friends only. Won’t be seeing him for a while. Got to go say goodbye.”
I emptied the glass in front of me. I wasn’t leaving a sip behind.
“And hey, thanks for the cider.”
An unnecessary double cheek kiss (whoever invented those?), a good evening’s wish, half-hearted regret we had to part – and I’m out again. On my bicycle in the streets of Friday-festive London – and heading for the second date of the night.
So young and so free.
You can all see what was happening. Of course none of my colleagues were leaving their cosy jobs. Of course there were no associated drinks. And yes, I had just told a lie. To two people. At least it was the same lie every time, just told twice.
I know – poor excuse.
A strange feeling of shame swirled up in my stomach. Telling lies to anyone – let alone to two perfectly decent men within a short timeframe – was not a nice thing to do, and certainly not something I’d happily tolerate in others. The problem was that the truth was not likely to be appreciated by either of my two dates. Because, of course, I had more than one date planned on that starry Friday night in London.
Now, clearly, I shouldn’t have allowed that to happen.
Or should I? – I insisted, squeezing hard the brakes of my bike at the traffic lights. Weren’t such the rules of the game? Wasn’t everyone doing the same – especially the popular girls? Surely they weren’t expected to save their entire steam for a single Friday night do. Spread the love, baby. Cancel dates? God forbid. Plan multiple dates and navigate carefully through? Absolutely.
Hence my hypothetical colleague had all the right in the world to get shamelessly inebriated at his “leaving do” that Friday night.
Having said that…
Now, ranking me at par with the “popular” girls would certainly entertain a few people. The truth is, my Friday nights are decidedly uncool. More often than not, the top activity on offer involves staring at some airport announcement screen in silent hope that, for once, my flight will depart on time.
A scenario even less glamorous has me prostrate on the couch in anticipation of imminent sleep – never ceasing to wonder why people bother dragging themselves out on a Friday when (a much better in every respect) Saturday night is only 24 hours away.
And yet that particular Friday I found myself caught inside not one but two important evening occasions. Two dates, in fact. Two dates with two perfectly eligible men. Both of whom I was adamant about honouring with my presence.
It escapes me now how this whole arrangement came together. Perhaps I had simply forgotten about the first date when the other came about. Or I was way too eager to wear a popular girl’s hat, for a change. Or the airport screens suddenly lost part of their appeal. Heaven only knows.
The result, however, was clear: I was meeting this cute (if somewhat nerdy) German guy for a drink at 6pm. And at 8:30pm, I’d have dinner with that other guy – a smart (but thankfully not nerdy) Lithuanian.
You heard me. It was not going to be just another Friday night in front of some airport screen. No, I was actually going to make this one memorable.
My best planning skills were put to use. Nerdy Germans are about the last curse one would inflict onto themselves – especially on a Friday night – and could not receive more than a casual drink’s allocation. On the contrary, smart Lithuanian guys typically make for candidates infinitely more promising and, as such, qualify for dinner material.
And so it was. Drinks and dinner. 6pm and 8:30pm. German and Lithuanian. On a Friday night.
I was such a genius.
But life is full of surprises
You can probably see where this is all heading. Not everything in life goes according to plan. In a manner most miraculous, the nerdy German rose out of the ashes to defy every cultural stereotype. He wasn’t nerdy. At all. In fact, he was quite the opposite, cracking joke after joke in a near ecstatic inspiration and certainly not failing to entertain. My people reading skills had been shattered.
The carefully allocated slot flew by in a flash. I laughed so hard I completely lost the sense of time, flirted with the idea of cancelling the second rendezvous altogether, in the end decided to stick to it but never made it to the venue before 9pm. Enter the smart Lithuanian.
The smart Lithuanian. The one who not only swiftly went for gold in the World Nerds Championship but also punished somebody’s late arrival by ordering a “special” drink (one of those über-fizzy champagne concoctions all guys think girls like and I, anjči, cannot stand) and making me pay for half of it in the end. By suggesting we famously split the bill, of course.
But not before we’ve mumbled through a conversation most ungratifyingly unmemorable. Frankly, I was happy to pay my way out, if only to make sure that the date was finally over.
Looking to the future
The experience taught me a few lessons in dating best practices. First, never schedule dates too closely together. Spread them around. Every candidate deserves a few minutes of extra time to score that decisive goal. Don’t rush; give everyone an equal chance, and you may be pleasantly surprised. And even get a moment to go home and change horses (I mean clothes) inbetween.
Second, don’t judge your potentials too early. Avoid pre-packing them into neat little character boxes and allocating time on that basis. Germans are not always boring. Not all Southern Europeans are annoyingly loud. And an odd Finn may even get chatty on occasion. Unless your date is someone you grew up with – in other words, if there is a slightest chance you don’t know them very well – give plenty of the benefit of the doubt. Come with an open mind, and you won’t be disappointed.
Or you will still be, but hopefully slightly less.
Furthermore, do come up with a legitimate excuse if you need to rush to your next soiree. Learn from my mistakes – leaving drinks are fine in principle but raise serious suspicions if had on a weekly basis (unless you are running a temp agency) and may even signal a drinking problem. Lying is not a virtue but – if you really must – think of something plausible that your counterpart will have no idea about. Say you have to submit a 3,000-word blog post to an Australian e-zine by morning their time. Or that you have thousands of photos at home pending publication and in need of serious processing. Or that your Norwegian class has been rescheduled inconveniently. Things happen, you know.
Having said that, you may just find that careful manoeuvring associated with dating several people at the same time (even if for one night only) simply isn’t worth the effort. And the feeling of guilt and wrongdoing resulting from the whole multi-staged mating dance leads me to a boring but inevitable conclusion: date not more than one person at a time.
Even if, God forbid, they happen to be nerds. Or German.