Sept. 23, 2018, 1:27 p.m.

So maybe not the best story but getting it off my chest to a bunch of strangers seems like the right thing to do.

Until a few months ago I was engaged, and we'd been together for 5 years. Coming out of that, even though the actual break up was pretty amicable, is terrifying. I've not viewed women as dating material or whatever in such a long time, and a lot of the girls I know equally don't see me in that way. Enter online dating.

Not having a huge amount of luck, but a cute looking girl messages me and we chat for a bit, then she asks for my number and then she asks me if I want to meet. Her taking the initiative was really helpful, I could stand to put myself out there but the thought of actively pursuing someone was terrifying, saying yes to someone else's request on the other hand was a lot easier. So I go to see her (I live in Edinburgh and she was in Glasgow), it's a bit awkward at first, but she's cute and sweet and after we have a drink the conversation really flows so we make plans for her to come see me in Edinburgh the next weekend.

Now in the week in between I started a new job, and obviously we all went to the pub on the Friday night, where I may have had a tiny bit more than I should have. Come Saturday morning I have a pretty minor hangover, get some water in me, we're meeting in the middle of the afternoon so I should be fine. She says she's hungover too, so it's fine. We meet in town, I suggest getting some greasy breakfast food (I hadn't eaten all day) so we get a couple of rolls and go to sit in St Andrews square, a big public square in the centre of Edinburgh. We're chatting, things aren't maybe going as well as they did the week before, but it's still ok.

Until I take a bite out of my roll. I instantly know that I'm going to be sick. I think I can hold it in but about a minute passes and I realise there is no way that I can hold it in. I kind of apologise, tell her I'm going to be sick and get up heading towards a tree, thinking it's the best spot. I don't quite reach the tree, and stupidly put my hand over my mouth, which just covers my hand and the bottom half of my face in vomit, I get the rest out by the tree and realise I'm in public 30 minutes from home, with my face and left hand just covered. I don't have any napkins or anything, and I'm a bit panicky.
I go over to this dad who is out with his kids (who are a bit away from him thankfully) and ask if I can have a tissue, which he hands me with a look of absolute disgust and I manage to get my face and hand kind of clean.

Amazingly she hasn't run away (something we both joke about) so I go back to apologise again. I know that I've ruined things but I didn't just want to disappear on her, even though I definitely should have. So I get back to her, and she wretches a little bit and points out there is still vomit on my jacket collar literally about 3 inches from my face. I wretch a little bit too, get up and head round by the trees again, wipe the jacket on the grass and go back with it over my arm. We chat for a few more minutes and then I head home. She said that I should head home for a bit and get cleaned up and we could maybe meet up later for dinner, but that was just her being nice.

She did actually text me in the evening asking if I was ok, she's a very sweet girl, but that was the last time we spoke. I also haven't gone back to St Andrews square since.
I hope it goes better with whoever she dates next, and that they don't , you know, through up in a public park in the middle of the afternoon on a date.
May 15, 2018, 12:33 p.m.

Would you want to hear my dating horror story?

About a year ago, I had just split up from my boyfriend of nearly 3 years and I was trying to rebuild myself and go out there to date some new men.
Naturally, I had to try online dating. I'd been on Tinder and the like before and I didn't have much success. Most of the guys on there just weren't my type - plus I knew some of them from Uni so that wasn't going to happen. I'm into guys that are a bit rugged - big beards, chest hair, rugby lads, that sort of thing, you get the idea. Being a larger woman myself, I had also somewhat struggled with body image in the past so I decided to give this new app a go - called WooPlus. Within just one day of downloading it, I had found what seemed like Prince Charming (oh, lo and behold...).

Prince Charming, let's call him Ian, seemed to tick all the boxes for me - beard, bit rugged, lefty, Scottish. Music taste, taste in films and general life-outlook seemed perfect. We started talking and within a week, we'd gone out on a date. It was really nice, I couldn't get my thoughts off him day and night. He'd actually asked me to be his girlfriend on the night after our date.

Ian then told me he's a bit...unconventional and that he'd understand if I decided not to pursue a relationship. I thought to myself - 'Oh, fuck, here it goes!'. He then proceeded to say that he's into something called FLR - or Female Led Relationship. After some research on Google, I found out that it's a part of the whole BDSM culture. He only wanted to pursue a submissive role in our relationship but (silly me) as I was feeling adventurous I decided it's a good idea.

Fast forward a few weeks and some more dates, I quickly found out that we're, in fact, incredibly different. I had just been to his house - lives with his parents at the age of 27 (and I met them the same day we had sex for the first time....) - and the shock and horror of his room had set off some doubts in my mind. It is, to this day, the most disgusting place I've ever set my foot into. Bear in mind I've been to the Paris Catacombs.

That room was musty, dark, mouldy, the blinds were all broken, there was a lot of random things on the floor, it had never been dusted and there were wet patches all over the ceiling and walls. Miserable.

Anyway, I gently pushed this whole misery away because - well - I was feeling maybe desperate. We had planned a getaway together to sunny Glasgow in February and I was looking forward to that. In the days in between, I grew apart from Ian more and more and I realised I was dreading spending time with him. He was so dull - nothing to talk about and he wasn't even making any effort. He absolutely loved to leave all decisions to me which proved to be a massive turn off - it was all part of the submissive relationship. By the time we had to leave for Glesga, I'd realised I'd rather watch my toenails grow than spend time with that man. Again, I decided to not be selfish and mean and go on the trip that mostly I paid for - I didn't want to disappoint him.

Got on the train to Bristol and this is where the weekend from hell began. He was wearing a tightish top from synthetic materials and as I sat next to him, I immediately realised he was starting to smell of B.O. On top of that t-shirt, he had a winter coat on - covered in dust, filth and god knows what else. I was embarrassed to sit next to him on the train.

We got to the airport and he told me he's not got much money so we have to keep it easy. Fair enough. Our flight was delayed, so I mumbled something like: 'Oh, I hope the fucking plane lands on time.' He told me not to swear. :)))) We got on the plane and he immediately fell asleep, snoring super loudly and weirdly - everyone around us was looking back and at me. I should've cussed more, I thought.

Got to Glasgow and I immediately went in for a shower. At this point, the B.O. was reeking off him. I gently nudged him to shower too and he said he'll freshen up (he didn't). He was unable to make decisions as to where to eat, so I suggested several restaurants. We ended up going to Zizzi because he found a voucher online...

By the next morning, I was so desperate to escape that I was going to cry. He got paranoid that there's a camera at our AirBnB and spent several hours looking very closely at everything. He then went to the loo, announced that he's going for a dump and that he's going to play music loudly so I don't hear him - I was in disbelief. He did exactly that.

The culmination of this shitshow was the following evening. Reluctantly, I had given him a handjob and when he got off the nice, white linen covers, there were several thick and long streaks of.... ass juice. He shrugged it off and said - ah, arse sweat - and thought nothing of it. I was mortified.

He proceeded to sleep for a whole night under a duvet covered in faeces residue, didn't say anything and even commented on what good night's sleep he's had. I slept on the couch under the pretext that I was going to watch TV in the other room. Shaking with anger and disbelief, I spoke to my friend and plotted my escape.

The very next morning (third out of 6-7 days), I took the first direct train back down with no explanation and deleted him off everywhere. To this day, I am still so angry that this man exists. Entirely true story. This is why I won't ever do online dating ever again - I'm scarred for life.
April 22, 2018, 5:36 p.m.

A Concrete Slab

This story goes back about ten years to a pre-swiping era of online dating, when men and women filled out long, detailed profiles on actual computers. I was in my early twenties.

I was messaging back and forth with one fellow on OK Cupid for a while before I agreed to go on a date. Let's call him Adam. Adam's profile exhibited playfulness, zaniness and zeal. The combination of goofiness and passion - particularly about left wing political causes - was attractive to me, even if his photos weren't particularly enticing.

Yet there were indications that he might be a little over the top. At the time the site had a feature where a user could hyperlink pieces of text as a way to find others with matching interests. Usually people hyperlinked things like "tennis" or "samosas." Adam hyperlinked " a concrete slab in a closed miltary zone." The full sentence was "I can sleep anywhere, even on a concrete slab in a closed miltary zone." I clicked on it just to see if any other users shared this experience. Adam was unique!

Adam's over-the-topness made me reluctant to meet him in person. But he coaxed me out with the promise of mind-blowing falafel in an authentic setting. It was an offer I could not refuse. I also guessed that an evening with him would not be boring.

We met early on a warm, sunny spring evening in Williamsburg, a popular hipster neighborhood in Brooklyn. The cafe was instantly charming. The owner and chef, a charismatic middle aged Palestinian man named Najib, gave us a hearty welcome. In addition to running the cafe, Najib also played and repaired ouds, and several of the handsome wooden instruments were hanging on the walls. Newspaper clippings under the glass on the table described the acolades of Najib's brother, a standard bearer for Arabic music in America. For most of the meal, we were alone save for Najib, who could probably hear every word we said.

The food tasted like a home I wished for but never really had (as a white American Jew who had been to Israel twice and bellydanced through college, I had a slight familiarity with the Middle East, enough for a few bites of Najib's lentil soup to evoke a beautiful sense of romantic yearning for the land of my fore-fore-fore-fore-forefathers). Not insignificantly, Adam was also a white American Jew who had traveled to the Middle East.

Adam was indeed a bit much. I don't remember what we started off talking about. We definitely discussed his activism and our views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His lived experience, as he described it was consistent with the combo of passionate activism and abiding goofines expressed in his profile.

For example, he spoke with pride about the time during his university years when a right wing member of Israel's parliament came to give a talk on campus. Adam preempted the talk by running up to the podium and chucking a pie in the politician's face. (It's a true story; I checked).

Adam got up several times to go to the men's room during dinner. He felt the need to offer an explanation: he was taking a prescription steroid, and it made him gassy. "I thought about rescheduling our date," he said, "but I thought 'if she's cool, she won't mind.'" I mustered a smile.

Before long I got to the irresistible question: What was the story behind sleeping on a concrete slab in a closed military zone? Adam was only too happy to share.

That concrete slab was a reference to a time he was in the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement, or ISM. The activists were defending the house of a Palestinian family that had been scheduled for demolition by the Israeli army, to make way for a piece of the wall then being built to separate the occupied West Bank from Israel propper. It seems there was a week or so of more or less sitting tight, waiting for the bulldozers to arrive. During that time, Adam sometimes snoozed on a concrete slab.

Adam was a vegetarian, and spent the week subsisting on hummus and falafel. He explained, this had given him a case of diarrhea. He was using the outhouse on the property when his business was interrupted by a goat ramming its head inside the outhouse.

"Meeeeeh!," Adam bleated, bucking his neck and stretching his head out across the table in a startlingly accurate impression. He had a small chin beard, and in the moment looked the very image of a goat. Also at that moment, I realized I would never be touching his penis.

I don't reacall whether the goat's intrusion heralded the soldiers' arrival. But when they did arrive, Adam and the other activists fanned out to create a human barrier in front of the house.

He and I were sharing a plate of hummus and pita and by that time of the evening, and delicious as it was, we had eaten our fill. Leaning into the weirdness, I asked him to sculpt the standoff scene into the hummus, and he of course, happily obliged. It certainly enhanced the drama to see it in 3D.

With the activists linking arms in a human chain, the soldiers moved in to physically remove them. Employing passive resistance tactics, Adam and his friends were rounded up and put in an army bus. The protesters were taken to an IDF facility, where a male officer interrogated Adam about his political beliefs and actions. The story even had a punch line: at the end of the interrogation, the officer asked him, in an inviting tone, if he wanted to move to Israel. As an As an American Jew who received this invitation multiple times on two trips to the Holy Land, I found this turn of events funny, but totally believable.
As noted earlier, the desire for a romantic or sexual interaction was gone with the goat impression. But I was having a good time, and wished, selfishly, to get the maximum entertainment value out of the evening. And so we decided to continue with the Middle Eastern theme and go to a hookah bar. Najib recommended a place in Greenwich Village that was close to the subway I needed to catch the bus back to New Jersey.

It was Manhattan-style close quarters in the hookah joint. We sat on low cushions and took turns sucking sweet flavored smoke from a long, twisty tube. On my dating profile it said I loved writing parodies and would "sing them to you at the drop of a hat." Adam asked for a rendition, and I obliged with a parody I wrote to "Stayin' Alive" about surviving a snowy night stranded in the woods by creating body heat with group sex. ("Grounds is a thumpin' cause everybody's humpin'/ We're just stayin' alive, stayin alive./We're all gonna make it cause everybody's naked/ Stayin' alive, stayin' alive...)

Adam smiled wide and his eyes twinkled. "My bubbe would love you!" he exclaimed. I was starting to feel bad.

At the end of the evening, Adam walked me to my subway stop. When he leaned in for a kiss, I dodged. "That was a bit...pre-emptive," I said. As I turned to head down the steps to the subway platform, Adam looked crestfallen.

I never heard from Adam after that. But I did go back to Najib's cafe. Najib asked me how the date went. "He's a nice guy, but a little too much for me," I said. "But he has good politics!" said Najib. "Still a 'no.' " But Najib told me if I wasn't into Adam, I shouldn't have gone to the hookah bar after dinner. "You lead him on," Najib scolded. I had to admit he was right.

A few years later the HBO series "Girls" was in its first or second season, and I was a fan. Lena Dunham's lead character Hannah, an aspiring writer, de a series of questionable decisions, including doing coke with her neighbor and offering sex to her boss. Eventually she admits the reason she does these things: it's all "for the story." With a tinge of disgust, I realized the reason I went out with Adam to begin with and kept the date going was also "for the story," even though I didn't admit it to myself at the time.

Since then I've made an effort in my dating life not to sacrifice the emotions of others on the altar of "the story," even though that was a pretty good one.
April 1, 2018, 4:59 p.m.

Date profile
Age: 30
Height: 5'9
Ethnicity: British Caribbean
Date location: Wakanda and Nandos
How we met: OK Cupid dating app

A couple of months ago I decided to take a deep dive into the pool of single and seeking men on the internet. I had tried it previously but was always quickly put off by the perverts and the chancers that smelt of desperation. This time I decided to stick it out "just keep swiping" soon became my new motto. As soon as one guy messed up another one was right behind, just like a bus.

If I was going to make this work I would have to get comfortable with the idea of meeting up with a complete stranger and trust that I would live to tell the tale. My rules are to always meet up in a public place which surprisingly (or not) frustrates many guys.

We had both swiped right and liked each other on the app meaning that you are granted access to message one another and patiently wait for a response. He messaged first "you don't look 30, high praise to your birth givers". His witty conversation starter made me laugh and was followed by an amusing exchange of messages which soon turned into a phone conversation lasting a good two to three hours. He was funny, came across open and honest and the conversation flowed. He ended the conversation by asking me to meet up with him the next day but unfortunately I had plans. He seemed to take this as a push back as I didn't hear from him for a couple of days (I now know this was a missed blessing in disguise). The weekend arrived and I took the courage to message him myself to see what he was up to "I'm meeting up with you" he said confidently. "Ok" I said, "let's do it". This was my first internet date and I was actually excited.

At this point neither of us had seen Black Panther so we decided to journey to Wakanda together. We met at the cinema, when he arrived I soon realised that I wasn't physically attracted to him but so far we had got on well so I wanted to give the date my best shot.

We joined the queue to buy the tickets "do you want to go halves?" I asked. "Nope that's a trick, I'm not falling for it, I'm paying". Haha. On this occasion I actually didn't mind paying for myself but I politely accepted his offer to play the alpha male and pay for our date. Our showing wouldn't start for another hour so we decided to go next door to Nandos in the meantime. Again he paid (you'll see why this is relevant).

I enjoyed the meal and the conversation was still flowing. We talked about everything and anything from travel, personal and career ambitions, family and previous relationships. Despite not fancying him physically I was actually really enjoying his company.

We returned to the cinema to watch the film, Wakanda forever! When the credits rolled he asked me "what are you doing tomorrow?" (Sunday), "I'm going to church" - enter fear of God.

Me: "I guess you weren't expecting that was you?"
My date (MD): "Errrm no I wasn't, are you like serious about it? Do you go every week?"
Me: "Yeah I am actually and yeah I do"
MD: "Oh ok, I'm not really religious"
Me: "Ok well we can talk about that later, let's go".

We left the cinema and headed to the bus stop. Turns out we get the same two buses home.
MD: "So what are you doing after church tomorrow?"
Me: "Going home"
MD: "Come and meet me"
Me: "Errm it's actually been a long week and I'm tired so just wanna chill" (get the hint)
MD: "Aww please just come and meet me for a bit".
Me: "Ok I tell you what; my church isn't far from your house. You can come and meet me afterwards for a quick coffee"
MD: "Ok".

A while later.....
MD: "Why don't you just come to my house tomorrow, I'll cook you lunch"
Me: "I would rather not actually, let's just meet in a coffee shop"
MD: "Just come to mine, you can drink coffee there."

Here we go...
Me: "I don't want to come to your house. If you want to meet up we can meet in Starbucks"
MD: "Come on just come to mine"
Me: "I tell you what I'll pay you can order whatever you want and I'll even buy you a cake"
MD: "I don't drink coffee"
Me: "Order whatever you want hot chocolate, water, whatever. I'm not coming to your house"
MD: "Ok".

A while later he plucked up the courage to ask me what I thought of him and our date.
Me: "Honestly I had a really nice time but I didn't feel a 'spark'. If you want to hang out again we can, I would genuinely like to but just as friends"
MD: "Ok I understand. For the sake of my ego though, do you think it's possible that if two people hangout for long enough that it could develop into something?"
Me: "Errrm yeah sure, anything can happen."
Wow he really isn't getting it.

Our second bus came. I got on first and beeped my oyster card, when he beeped his it made a funny noise and he mumbled something to the bus driver. "What was that? Are you ok?" I asked. "Yeah, nothing". Ok, that's strange but whatever.

As we sat on the bus he kept talking more about his great big male ego, clearly my 'let's just be friends' didn't suit his agenda. All I could think was how the hell am I going to get out of this one?! The bus came up to his stop and he decided that he would stay on with me for 'a few more stops'.

Me: "There's really no need to do that. It's getting late you really should go home"
MD: "Nah its fine, I honestly don't mind"
Me: "Ok but it's really cold outside I don't want you to get stranded"
MD: "How about I just come stay at your house? Haha"
Me: "Excuse me?! You certainly CANNOT stay at my house!"
MD: "I didn't have any money left on my oyster card that's what happened when we got on the bus. I just mumbled something to the bus driver and he let me keep walking."

Hoooooooo my Gaaaaaaaawd. Why does this keep happening to me?! The realisation set in that he wasn't joking, he really did hope that by staying on this bus I would allow him to stay at my house. Are you mad?! You told me you have your own yard! Are you homeless?! What the hell?! I hoped that if I blinked hard enough he might disappear.

Me: "You really need to get off the bus. Go home"
MD: "What so I can't stay at yours?"
Me: "No you really can't"
MD: "I tell you what we should do an experiment"
Me: "What are you talking about?"
MD: "Don't worry, you'll see."

I started to feel sick.
Me: "You're going to try and kiss me aren't you?"
MD: "Nooo, you'll see. It's just an experiment, don't worry."
Me: "I don't want to kiss you".

At this point I put my hood up; I needed some sort of barrier between his lips and my face. Despite my pleas he insisted on staying on the bus with me until I got off. I warned him several times that the last bus was about to come and that he should return back to the hole he came from.

MD: "I told you I don't have money on my oyster card"
Me: "Don't you have a contactless card, use that?" No answer. "Get an Uber?" No answer. "Call a cab?" No answer.

All I could think was - whatever you do, you ain't gotta go home but you gotta get the hell outta here!

It suddenly dawned on me... He had paid for everything using cash. Imagine that was all the money that he had?! This damn fool had asked me to come out with him on a date, insisted on paying for everything and then couldn't even afford to get home!!! Who does that?! At this point I didn't know whether to laugh or cry..... Hahahahahahahahaha. Inside I was dying, this had to be a test?! Either that or God was using me for bants. On the one hand it was sweet, he wanted to be a gentleman and to pay for everything. But on the other hand, why pay if it was going to be a problem?! Ohhhh that's why he wanted me to come to his house for coffee... maybe money really was the issue?

Despite my protests, after we got off the bus he insisted on walking me home. There was no way I was going to allow this dude to see where I lived. God knows when he might turn up 'as an experiment'. He was beginning to get on my last nerve so I was honest and told him "I just met you; you don't need to know where I live." I appreciated that he thought this was a nice thing to do so I allowed him to walk me half way before I stopped to say goodnight.

Me: "Errrm so how are you going to get home?"
MD: "Don't worry about me man I've been in worst situations. I've walked home from Central London drunk before"
Me: "Errrm, ok well good luck, it's been great get home safe."
As I went to hug him he held onto my arms and pushed his lips towards me. Ahhhhhhhhh.
Me: "What are you doing? I already said I don't want to kiss you"
MD: "Come on it's just an experiment!"

Hold on, I'm a woman not a lab rat, I don't need to partake in any 'experiments'. He apologised and went to hug me again. I turned my face to the side and his fat, wet lips touched my cheek, again he dove for my mouth. Wow maybe I was talking in tongues?! "I DO NOT WANT TO KISS YOU!!!" I'm done. That has to be the shortest friendship I have ever had, this fool be crazy.

When I got home he phoned me as he was worried I would stop talking to him (damn right mate) and wanted to ask if I had found him annoying. "Errrm yeah you are really annoying, you're clearly one of those guys that cannot take no for an answer". He pleaded that he wasn't and said that he would 'explain' later. He attempted to keep me on the phone with the hope that I would keep talking to him for the duration of his hour walk home. "I'm really tired, and like I said I have church in the morning so I'm going to sleep."

The next morning I messaged him to let him know that "I couldn't make coffee". Finally his dignity and pride kicked in and he politely obliged. I swiftly deleted his number and blocked him from ever being able to contact me on any app.

So what did I learn from this situation? I am 30 years old and I am able to top up my oyster card on a regular basis, I always have bus/train fare. Failing that I have a contactless debit card and an overdraft for if I ever do fall on hard times. Failing that I also have a smartphone with an Uber app where I can call a car to come and pick me up and take me home in under five minutes. I guess I took that for granted. Also ladies, your body and your lips mean your rules and your standards. No man has the 'right' to kiss you even if he has spent his 'last penny'.

Final thought, ladies and gents... If you're going on a date, never leave the house without your 'vex money' - that emergency money you need in case your date does not turn out as planned. Clearly this dude thought that this date would turn out a lot differently and ended up walking home in the cold with his tail between his legs. So keep your oyster card topped up, your smartphone charged, your Uber app updated and your petrol tank full!
March 28, 2018, 11:45 a.m.

Date profile
Age: 30
Height: 6'3
Ethnicity: British Nigerian
Date location: William Hill (betting shop)

Take one: For a period of time last year my love life went through a dry spell, literally dry like the desert. For a long time I wasn't meeting anyone, and then when I eventually started meeting guys the ones I liked weren't interested (or not seriously) and the ones that liked me well... no thanks.

One day whilst sat at work day dreaming a good friend from church messaged me to tell me she'd been "husband shopping" for me. Yes! I thought, God has people looking out for me. "You're the same age, he has a good job, great personality, goes to our church and thinks you're gorgeous". Huh?! Ok, soooo what's the catch? This was far too good to be true... Finally a man who had the fear of God in the right way. In the words of prophet Drake, God's Plan! Hook me up!

I was excited, I've never been set up before and I clearly needed the help. He messaged me immediately to introduce himself, we swapped a few pleasantries and he promised to call me that evening. He called right on time, we spoke for a while and agreed to meet up the following weekend. The day came, and he arranged to pick me up. Yaaay I thought, he's a gentleman! As I got in the car he was on the phone to a friend "so my friend's car has broken down do you mind if we go help him?" Me: "Errrm ok I guess not", I pictured some poor guy broken down at the side of the road, and who was I to stand in the way of him wanting to be a good friend. Ha!

On the way there the conversation was flowing, there was banter, we were getting on well and he genuinely seemed like a really nice guy. He told me that after we sorted out his friend that we would go into Central London and get something to eat. Nice! He had already planned our evening and food is definitely the way to my heart.

A while later we pulled into a quiet road, "errrm where's your friend?" I asked (clearly not stranded). He parked up, jumped out the car and handed me a box of chocolates (aww he's sweet) before leaving to knock on his friends door, "do you want to come inside?" I certainly do not! I slowly realised that this friend was 'stranded' in his house and we were his ride.... so not broken down then he just wanted a lift....."Babes you're gonna have to get in the back", NOOOOOOO why are you doing this we were getting on so well? So I guess the chocolates were just to keep me sweet. I got in the back as I assumed this had to be a temporary measure, surely this friend had to be getting out somewhere on the way.

On our journey into Central London, his friend (we'll call him 'the betting man') started making suggestions for where we should eat, I'm sorry WE?! I'm on a date where are you going? We eventually arrived in Leicester Square, the betting man hadn't left... On our way to find something to eat, the betting man wanted to stop off at a betting shop (figures), "come on babes" 'my date' exclaimed. Surely I'm getting punk'd, this has to be a joke?! Within five minutes the betting man had won PS500. What?! I was so confused. I thought I was going on a date but instead I had left my house to stand in a betting shop in a new dress, wasted on a man who seemed to be more interested in his boy and money. "Errrm babes are you ok? Mate we have to go she looks hungry".

We finally arrived at a restaurant chosen by the betting man. At this point I was HANGRY and could only think about finally eating food. I was sat next to 'my date' with the betting man across from us, his presence began to annoy me as he chimed in on our conversations. This clearly wasn't actually going to be a date then *sigh*. Which grown adult brings their friend on a date?! The bill came and the betting man paid, which seemed fair due to his winnings. As we left the restaurant 'my date' said "come babes we're gonna win some money". Fam! Your mate is PS500 up how much more does he need? And why is he still here?! The realisation set in that he thought this was normal, fun even.

We crossed the road and arrived at a casino. As we got inside I told 'my date' "I'm going to need a glass of wine" to which he obliged. Inside the casino, both men were consumed by the machines, the tables and the money. The more I drank the angrier I became.

Me: "I want to go home",
'My date' (MD): "yeah we're going soon babes I promise, half hour max"
(I am definitely not your babes). Following my pleads with Jesus "this has to be a mistake, I thought we had agreed no more frogs?!" I messaged a friend "what should I do? Do I just leave? Why is this happening to me?" After a while I looked up and realised both guys had their backs to me, I could just walk out now and 'my date' wouldn't even notice.

Half an hour passed and I came to my senses.
Me: "I'm leaving"
MD: "Babes I'm really sorry, don't go please, we're leaving now. I'm really sorry, I'm going to make it up to you, please you have to let me take you out again".
He rushed off to grab his friend and when he came back I was by the door.
Me: "I'm gone, it was nice to meet you".
MD: "Wait I'm coming with you, come to my car I'm going to drop you home, you have to let me talk to you. I'm really sorry, I'm going to make it up to you, next week we'll go out and it will be just me and you".
Me: "I'll think about it".

Take two: A week later somehow I had calmed down and allowed him to take me out again, after all he had come with a trusted recommendation, people make mistakes and I was working on my forgiveness skills. We spoke and agreed the last 'date' had been awful, somehow we were even able to laugh about it. This time round he insisted on picking me up in the late afternoon so that we could spend "as much time together as possible". This time there was a concrete plan - food and cinema. I chose the restaurant and he chose the film, how could this go wrong? We arrived at the restaurant, dinner was ok... This time the conversation was not flowing and there was a lot less banter, it was as if I was the one that had messed up!

After dinner we headed to the cinema, turns out the film wasn't out yet... great planning Batman, so we headed to a bowling alley... it was all booked up. So what now... "Why don't we just go for a drink?" I said but my suggestion fell on deaf ears as he raced back to his car.

Me: "Can you slow down please I'm wearing heels"
MD: "Well why are you wearing them?"
Yep I'm done. Firstly, I thought I was on a date... again. Secondly, all that nonsense about spending time together and now he can't get rid of me soon enough, maybe the betting man was waiting for another ride?

As we started to head home he explained "we don't want to do too much together too soon, we'll save something that we can do together next time". Yeah that sounds great, can't wait "drop me at the train station please". I called a friend "I need a drink I'm coming to meet you".

We pulled up to the train station, "thanks for dinner" (definitely the last time). He pursed his lips and leaned in for a kiss. Is this guy for real?! What part of the last few hours, in fact the last week did he think warranted a kiss?! So as I looked at him like he really must be nuts I gave him a hug and spudded him "ooooh friend zoned" he said. I smiled sweetly and hopped out the car.

These disasters were followed by several invitations to meet up at his house, for what... I didn't care to find out. It's funny; I had always assumed that a 'church guy' would be more intentional and I guess more 'serious' about dating. He took some time to reflect and eventually let me know that he was sorry (again) and having an 'off month'. I actually don't think a guy has ever apologised to me before. It felt good to know I wasn't going mad.

I guess I will have to take a deeper dive into that sea to catch my fish.
Read more about my road to romance here:
March 19, 2018, 10:05 a.m.

I was reminded of this horrible date from 8 years ago by one of the podcast's recent stories, which one will become very evident.
It was my final year at university, I had just come back from a year abroad.
During that year abroad, I was recovering from a break up and a family tragedy that had left me in no state to properly date anyone, and finally coming back to the UK and feeling a bit stronger emotionally meant I felt super ready for finding a boyfriend, or at least having some fun dates.
This thought was obviously at the forefront of my mind early one morning on the way back to my flat after a night out, having seen some vaguely good looking bearded man sitting on the stone steps outside our flat's building at 3am having a smoke, I decided that I just HAD to ask him to roll me a cigarette. Now this led to him inviting me up to his flat for a drink, just one floor below ours, and drinking tequila in the living room until sunrise. We did snog a bit, and exchanged numbers to set a date to meet up in the near future.

How we set up our first proper date isn't really something I remember, but I do remember that we decided to meet for a drink after university one day, he had been staying at his parents' house on the other side of the city so it made more sense to meet around the university rather than where we lived. First warning sign, after ordering drinks at the pub, he suddenly remembered to tell me that he forgot to get any cash out of the bank and could I pay. For some reason I didn't think to bring up the fact that bars happily take cards as payment. Anyway, it wasn't a big deal, I would cover this one. As we finished our drinks he said he'd like to take me to his favourite secret spot for an amazing view of the city. Anyone familiar with Edinburgh knows there's lots of lovely spots like this, and I was definitely up for finding out about a new one. So we headed to the opposite side of Princes Street, about a 25 minute walk, and as we got closer to Calton hill I figured that must be it (amazing view of the city, but definitely not a secret) and that this Edinburgh boy didn't have any fun local knowledge after all. Well, he very much did surprise me when he didn't cross the road to the entrance of Calton Hill, but guided me through some gates and into a graveyard. Great, first date, to a graveyard. It was still daytime, and there were people around, so I wasn't scared at all, just realising that my desperation for some male companionship had led me down a rather strange path. After climbing the wall to his 'spot', I found a very uninspiring view of the city.

Now we sat there for about 15 mintues, and I well knew at this point I didn't have any interest in the graveyard dater, but we had a problem, we lived in the same building and now I had to walk back with him. Somehow, along the walk back, I let this guy convince me to invite him to my flat, cook dinner and open a bottle of my wine. I am easily influenced, and looking back on this now, I can only scold my younger self. Again, my flatmates were around, so I didn't feel unsafe, just... annoyed more than anything that I'd let this date go on for so long. So, as he's enjoying my food and my wine, after me taking him out for drinks, and having taken me to his favourite spooky spot, I ask him more about his flatmates and living situation downstairs in an aim to work out if I can avoid seeing him in the future. This is when the truth comes out. Actually the flat downstairs is owned by his parents, and actually he doesn't have a job just now (I think he'd told me something vague earlier in the date and quickly moved onto another subject).

So, finding out he's jobless, I ask, do your parents you stay there for free?
"Well", he says, "that's the other thing, I don't actually live there. I sometimes borrow the spare keys from my parents, and crash on the sofa."
Now I'm starting to really question what kind of guy this is, "Are you good friends with the people living there then?", I ask
"Ehhh, no, not really".
"Wait now. How are they okay with you doing this?"
"That's the thing", says bearded man "they don't actually know that I do it...and the tequila we were drinking the other night, well that belongs to them." he confesses...

So in my attempt to pick up a vaguely good looking bearded guy on my way home, I had broken into my neighbours flat and stolen their alcohol with a stranger while they were sleeping.

Thankfully, I was at least smart enough to know that should be the end of the date and told him it was his home time. That didn't stop him launching himself on me for an uncomfortable last kiss though, mind. The sheer memory of it almost stopped me from writing this story.
Over the coming days, I warily entered and left the building, feeling vaguely safe knowing that he didn't ACTUALLY live downstairs.
Of course I told all my flatmates all about this, and on the few occasions he decided to come a'knockin' I hid in my bedroom as they dutifully told him I wasn't home. Thankfully, I never saw him, or had to feed the scrounging graveyard dater ever again.
March 13, 2018, 5:04 p.m.

Okay, this is somewhat X-rated...

I was drunk in Thailand, visiting my old pal Monkey Dave who worked in Bangkok. We'd been looking forward to the trip for months and there we were in a bar, in the nicely merry stage.

But I swear I didn't intend to have sex with a prostitute. I could've left the bar when I was being pressured into sex, or simply not walked in in the first place, but I did neither. The fact is she was lovely and not, in my head, a hooker; more specifically a desperate and potentially manipulated poor woman from a third world country but a very attractive and extremely keen girl who I swear to god wouldn't leave me alone, and smiled constantly, and made me forget where I was and what was happening to the point that my morals and convictions went right out the window. Men are morons, and I don't know what else to say; Men just want to get laid.

I'd landed that morning and this was our first night out. Monkey Dave and I were joined with two English colleagues of his, and we quickly hit the bars. As working guys themselves, they hadn't gone out on a cliched lads' night for quite a while and we ended up in some of the seedier joints around Sukumvit, essentially a hot Leicester Square but with more neon, and girls who'll sleep with you for money.

It wasn't long before we were approached in the very first bar we got to; two women - Mook and Sue - appeared from nowhere to listlessly rub our thighs and engage in pointless smalltalk. I felt both uncomfortable and concerned; I didn't like the fact these scantily-clad strangers were throwing themselves at us when our intentions were to just drink and chat among ourselves. Worse still was the thought that they'd have better luck with probably the worst kind of male on the planet; the old fat Brits and Aussies in football shirts who were prowling around outside, grinning.

We left the bar and the girls and I was escorted by the guys to Nana Plaza, which I now know is a kind of small, layered shopping precinct of sex. We found an inconspicuous looking bar and sat outside for a couple of minutes until the urge to go to the toilet took hold, and that's when my evening took a turn. An absolutely stunning girl in a bikini was stood outside by the entrance with a younger, smaller girl who appeared to be her manager and who made a grab for me as I approached. I managed to politely shrug them off and make for the bathroom. On my return, as I headed for the exit, I grinned awkwardly at the two girls by the door intending to walk past them, Instead, the manager shoved Bikini Girl at me who teetered on her high heels. I grabbed her as she giggled. Being British, I went red, and apologised.
'You drink inside!' they cajoled.
'No thank you. I'm good. Thanks.'

Ten minutes later, we were all sat inside, with the stunning Bikini Girl sat next to me.
'This country is nuts!' I yelled into Monkey Dave's ear as Europop blasted overhead and dead-eyed, bikini-clad dancers wiggled unenthusiastically on podiums.
Bikini Girl - to my shame, I never did catch her name - wriggled against me with her fabulous warm body as I smiled back awkwardly.
'No thank you,' I said when the subject of sex came up almost immediately. 'I can't.'
My crotch kept being grabbed repeatedly as a clumsy (yet sadly effective) inducement, but I was made of sterner stuff, telling them straight - Bikini Girl, the madam manageress, the ladyboy waitress - that no, I wouldn't be doing anything, thankyouverymuch.
'You married?' asked Bikini Girl.
I shook my head. 'No,' I replied. 'I just don't... y'know... agree with this.'
'You fuck!' yelled the ladyboy, pointing at us both. The girl nodded in agreement.
'No, really.' I stood my ground. 'I can't do this to you,' I said to the girl pressed against me, her arm around my waist. 'Do you understand?'
My hand touched her bare back to reinforce my point. 'You're a human being. I can't just pay for you like that,' and she looked at the floor. Her smile was gone and she seemed to understand. Thank god, finally she got it and my Decent Guy status was intact. Her large, wide almond eyes seemed to dim as if I'd extinguished them.
'I'm sorry,' I said to the side of her head, 'I just can't.' Then she turned slowly to face me and stared into me with those brown eyes and brought her lips to my mouth.
'Uh,' was all I could manage as gently, she kissed me.

I looked away at the dancefloor, totally confounded. I was half aware that my right hand was still nestled on her smooth narrow waist, and I had been rubbing her with my thumb. Still perplexed, I looked back at her and she stared back, dangerously close. 'What the hell am I doing?,' I thought as we kissed again.

'I'm not doing this,' I whispered into her ear as I caught the sweet floral scent of her shampoo. It had been a long, long time since I'd smelled something so innocent and feminine, and in that seedy place, it waylaid me. This continued for something like twenty dangerous minutes, a gorgeous, coffee-coloured semi-naked girl pressed hard against me, kissing me, acting nothing like a desperate, manipulated, downtrodden woman, but rather someone totally eager and smitten.

In retrospect, that was when I should've got up and walked out the door, but - and I cannot stress this enough - the girl in the bikini was too good to be true; too beautiful, too keen, and with my entrenched loneliness at that point, it was a lethal combination. I began to waver.

'She dance for you!' the ladyboy waiter yelled, prompting the girl jump up to the podium with a grin.
'No,' I yelled in panic. 'Seriously! Don't!'

And then she danced for me, slowly, rhythmically, and I was in hell. I tried to stare at the floor, somewhere, anywhere, but I was drawn back up to the stage. The thought flashed through my mind that I could have that body - not as a possession, not to buy or rent, you understand - but I needed her immediately. I'd say it was something primal but that sounds too base and aggressive. It was more like a yearning, a desperate, urgent need to feel warm embrace not just of another human being but for her, just her - and after such an absence in my life, it ached. I watched almost in tears as that astonishing body of hers wrapped itself around a pole and, as she smiled back at me, the thought of what might happen made me feel ill .

'I don't know what to do!' I yelled out to Monkey Dave.
'Go for it!' he said unhelpfully. That wasn't the moral advice I was after.

'I can't do this!' I pleaded with Bikini Girl as she climbed down off the podium, jumping onto my lap, and gyrating her round, g-string encased bottom into my crotch.
'Oh god,' I croaked. She sat back down next to me and the words, 'How - uh, what do we do now?' came out of my stupid head.
She smiled and we kissed again, slowly, as my hand slid down her tanned back and under her g-string.
'We go outside?' she asked, which essentially meant this was going to happen.
'I can't,' I whispered this time, more in pointless echo than anything sincere. She wasn't a hooker. She was just fabulous and really, really keen.
... Rubbing...
Kissing. Slowly...
I'm almost 75% sure there's absolutely nothing wrong with this...
And then my wallet was out and I was shaking my head at the insanity.
I paid the bar a small release fee, and Bikini Girl disappeared for ten minutes to freshen up while my heart pounded and Monkey Dave cackled in my ear.
'What the hell am I about to do, Dave?'
'Pay for sex,' he laughed.

She reappeared a different woman; elegant and stunning in a little black dress as, smiling, beaming, she reached out for my hand. I grabbed what remained of my scotch with my other hand and threw it down my neck as we walked outside and headed up onto the second level. I felt quite sick as there I was, out in the open, a first-time John, a hooker's Trick, a sex tourist walking guiltily past random girls and sneering ladyboys. The place was a warren of neon bars and of heat and people, of small chickens on rotisseries, a confusion of noise and smells and the sudden emergence of a young Western couple whose presence made me cringe with shame.

We reached the top where a seedy hotel of sorts resided in the shadows. An elderly Scandinavian man walked out from within looking determined and unashamed while in the reception, a young woman was lying prostrate on a sofa impassively watching a violent Thai movie.

'You pay 300 Baht for room,' said Bikini Girl expectantly, and I did so at speed. Then we we walked into the red-lit bedroom, shut the door, and flung our arms around each other.

Without going into details, we spent an hour together, a very, very happy hour where I occasionally remembered who she was and where we were, but remained convinced that, despite the possible debasement, the seediness, the manipulation, it was actually incredibly tender and intimate. It's very hard even now to convince myself that I had paid for sex with a working girl, as it felt nothing of the sort. There was too much hugging, so much eye contact, and stroking - well you get the idea.

I woke up the following morning with the worst,'Oh God, what the hell did I do?' of my life. There were no shades of grey; I'd had sex with a prostitute. I'd walked into a bar, met a girl I liked, and fucked her for money. I felt awful as one simple, sobering fact remained: I had travelled to a developing country and taken advantage of a beautiful local girl.
I'd emailed my friends in London that afternoon, to tell them what I'd done.
'Hahahahahahahahahaha!' they more or less replied, along with the standard jibes that I'd shagged a ladyboy.

I suppose the email was meant to be cathartic, a priestly confession of the secular age, but it made me feel like a braggard. How dare I actually tell her she was a human being, then rent her like a piece of meat anyway? Surely that was worse than just walking in and choosing her immediately? But those eyes that stared up at me from the bed, it was all so intense.
I emailed a right-on campaigning friend of mine who was suitably disgusted, then told me I should take her out for dinner and leave it at that. That made some sense, but I didn't trust myself that it wouldn't all just happen again. I'd have to run in, hand her cash out of the blue hopefully without management noticing, then run out again. But that just seemed odd.

The days passed, and I pondered what to do to right this wrong. But the more I though about it, the more I was unsettled. Specifically it was friends' dumb jibe that I'd bedded a ladyboy. Well of course I hadn't. You can spot ladyboys a mile off as there's something contrived about them. They try a little too hard to be more woman than women, while the woman I'd slept with was too beautiful to have once been a man.
Though having said that, it can be hard to tell.

HOWEVER, there was thank god the simple matter of her vagina. Because it was a vagina. It had been a while for me, but not that long. Her vajayjay worked perfectly, and by that I mean in the moments leading up to sex, she was, erm, ready. I guess that's just a talent of mine. And while I know nothing about gender reassignment, I'm practically100% certain that medical science will never recreate spontaneous internal lubrication in a man. How could it? It's just not possible without some kind of switch or fluid at the ready so, ladyboy? Ha! No. End of Story, case closed.

But she was tall... just a shade shorter than me and I'm 6-feet in walking boots so for a Thai woman even in heels, she was practically a giant. Then there were a couple of things that just didn't sit well with me. It was like living in my own personal Usual Suspects as I had little flashbacks about the extremely over-eager Bikini Girl.

.... "I don't know what else to say; Men just want to get laid."

'Dave,' I'd whispered to Monkey Dave when we had a quiet moment away from his wife and kids, 'how can ladyboys get, y'know, wet? They can't, can they?'
'Dunno,' he'd shrugged. 'Some kind of lubricant, I suppose.'

I'd nodded, and wandered off, playing that night back in mu head... leaving the bar... walking upstairs... past sneering (envious of a more convincing?) ladyboys... falling onto the bed kissing, and taking off our clothes, when Bikini Girl got up and stepped behind the partition in the corner of the sparse room.
'I have to shower,' she'd said.
I thought it odd, particularly as I'd waited ten minutes for her to get ready downstairs and assumed she'd already freshened up then.

..... 'Some kind of lubricant, I suppose.'

And when she'd returned from her brief shower, her skin was dry to the touch.

Then there was her clitoris. It was chubby, like a reconstructed bell-end. And I can't remember much in the way of labia, or a hood, and although she was a model of femininity, her ladygarden being quite unkempt, when a tidy Brazilian trim would've suited her perfectly. Perhaps it was covering up the scars?

The Usual Suspects was becoming The Crying Game.

And then there was the last piece of the puzzle. In the crime-solving world, this is known as an admission. But at the time, I dismissed it, ignoring the signs because I didn't want to hear it.

Bikini Girl wriggled that body back into her little black dress while I climbed dazed and grinning back into my shit shorts and t-shirt. She took my hand and we walked downstairs. Back in the bar, while management prepared the sex bill, a quite drunk Monkey Dave yelled into my ear: 'Mate, you would not believe how many of these birds are ladyboys.'
I looked around, now paying more attention to the half-naked dancers who appeared quite mannish.
Bikini Girl - in her little black dress - was sat looking up at her gyrating colleagues, so I walked over to her.
'Are there lots of ladyboys here?'
'I'm a ladyboy,' she replied, pointedly not looking at me but staring up at the podium.
'Eh?' I'd replied with a smile. The daft, beautiful leg-puller, and left the bar to go home.

... Some sort of lubricant...
... Men just want to get laid...
"I'm a ladyboy."