If you've ever dated via non-traditional means – lonely hearts columns, internet dates, speed dates, or inappropriate blind dates set up by well-meaning but unhelpful friends – you'll have a stack of anecdotes detailing the occasions it went badly wrong.
Whether you disliked the other person, they disliked you, or you found some kind of grim solidarity in your mutual loathing, that unique social discomfort tends to be seared into your memory forever. The stories become dinner-party staples; your appalling experiences, mellowed by time, transforming into comedy gold.
And, for some reason, the British tend to have more potent tales – possibly because we're more socially inept, more apologetic, more likely to put up with rudeness and idiocy. Some of us will sit in pubs for hours with people we dislike because we're scared of saying to someone's face: "Look, I'm leaving."
I'm one of those people.
As I wandered down the A24 in Clapham on Tuesday evening I passed a bar that brought one dating memory flooding back.
We had nothing in common, and nothing to say. The silences became excruciating. She was from Wigan, and I actually heard myself saying: "So, what's Wigan like, then?"
I tweeted this recollection, and soon hundreds of people were sharing their own experiences, all distilled into 140 characters or fewer. They were stripped of extraneous detail and they become brilliantly funny one-liners.
The full collection – still growing – can be seen at bit.ly/140dates, but here's a choice selection.
Note the overwhelming dominance of stories from women; I hereby apologise for the male sex, and promise that in future, we'll try to behave better.
@rhodri Went on a date with a man who kept an overly large coat on. Reason became clear when he stole my handbag while I was in the loo.
@rhodri Went on date with woman who, after one drink, said "how serious are you?" I stared blankly. She described herself as "80 per cent serious".
@rhodri Once saw a guy who painstakingly taught me the Welsh national anthem phonetically, only to dump me because "you can't speak Welsh".
@rhodri I once went on a date with a guy, with two Gillingham FC tattoos, both of which were spelledincorrectly.
@rhodri Worst date has to be the guy who pretended to be a doctor. When rumbled, he pretended he was a secret agent posing as a doctor.
@rhodri I once phoned a date to ask why he was late/if he needed directions. He said he was busy doing 'hundreds of pushups'.
@rhodri Date brought her friend, who was obsessed with Michael Mann, showed me "love letters" from him (reality = court orders from his agent).
@rhodri A date met me with a mix cassette tape (in 2005) of him MC-ing to hard house. He did observational "freestyle" rap all evening.
@rhodri The same girl met same guy at cinema, he said he'd bring some food. A takeaway curry he proceeded to eat DURING film. With plastic fork
@rhodri A guy who had photos of his ex all over his flat and, on our first night, made me watch Dune 'cause she had a bit part in it.
@rhodri First date, girl turned up with three friends and suggested we go swimming. It was 10pm in the middle of Liverpool. I went home.
@rhodri Met a bloke for what was supposed to be lunch. He told me he didn't like what I was wearing and said I should go home and change.
@rhodri Had date, no chemistry, didn't call her. Years later saw her on TV makeover show, saying sadly she'd only been on one date in her life
@rhodri I dated a proto-goth who spent the entire meal asking me to describe dead people and how peaceful they looked (I was a cop then).
@rhodri Met guy at his flat, opened door in blue check fleece dressing gown and an electronic tag on his ankle, "shall we just stay in?"
@rhodri First date ended with him running to a bus stop shouting "I have to go to my friend's cat in Tottenham". We were outside his flat.
@rhodri I went on a date with a man who took my used napkin at the end of the meal in case he needed it later.
@rhodri Went on a date with a guy who LOVED his local Wetherspoons. Said "some people he knew" even took Mondays off to spend there.
@rhodri Guy's opening line was: "How many cats do you have?" Me: "Eh... two." Him: "Knew it." Then told me about the time he ran one over.
@rhodri I went on a date and he took me on a burglary. I stayed in the car, not having a clue (I was 18) what he was doing in that house.
@rhodri One gentleman took me to the pub car park to show me his motorbike. He revved it for about ten minutes then did a lap and drove off
@rhodri One of my recent worst was when I went back to the guy's place & he put Top Gun on & recited it word for word. With "accents".
@rhodri My mate had a date with a man who did oil paintings. Which would have been OK, but they were ALL of the cast of The OC.
@rhodri I went on a date once with a woman who showed me 25 photos she'd taken of Sylvia Plath's grave as a conversation opener.
@rhodri I am living proof, after one date, that the line "I can't see you any more, I'm becoming a priest" is still in modern use.
@rhodri I once dated a girl who left my cheeseboard selection from my fridge in places around my flat. And then denied doing so.
@rhodri Went on a date where the guy boasted about not having central heating and kept proudly showing me his chilblain-ridden fingers
@rhodri I had a blind date who turned up with a bag of homemade savoury muffins. Halfway through the date he weighed himself. Peculiar.
@rhodri Friend got so drunk she fell asleep on the loo for 20 minutes then couldn't find table again. Date had to stand and wave across restaurant.
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