Melissa Kite: Auditioning for love can be savage

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The Independent Online

So many. Oh so many terrible first dates. The guy who took me to a conceptual art exhibition, then a David Hare play. Straight after, I tell you, without even so much as a double vodka in between.

The guy who told me we would be splitting the £55 bill for dinner but he would pay extra as he had had the steak and a slightly bigger starter. (He put down £6 more than me in exact money and told the waitress to keep the 50p change.)

Or the divorced fireman who, after wooing me with macho tales of rushing into burning buildings, revealed that he had just "had the snip". For a woman in her late 30s with no children, that was a bad one. We had only just started our pizzas so I had to make a huge effort not to reach into the air to wave the waitress down and ask for the bill.

But for sheer soul-scarring awfulness, the worst date of all is the one where you realise you are the other person's idea of a bad date.

Reading Rhodri Marsden's viral tweet about his worst date this week, I must confess I panicked. A bar in Clapham. A girl he hadn't liked...

I went on a blind date in Clapham once. I turned up in a nice outfit, not looking too shabby, or so I thought. I stood by the bar, then a guy fitting the description of the one I had been in email contact with walked in. The place was empty.

There was no one but me and a drunk old man in the corner. But my date walked all over the bar scouring it for other possibilities before he came over and stood next to me checking his phone. I cleared my throat. He looked me up and down. And then he sighed and tutted. Yes, tutted. I should have walked out, but I felt so guilty about not being the girl he was hoping for that I insisted on buying him two drinks.

Dating is savagery. It doesn't work and makes you feel worthless. No wonder Marsden's tweet sparked a Twitter storm of dating horror stories. Blind dating, in particular, shouldn't be legal in Britain. It might be all right for more extrovert cultures like America, but we Brits don't do well when forced to audition cold for a stranger's love.

Apart from the obvious point that single people are single for a reason (no one can put up with us), we are not good at self-promotion. It is a cruel irony indeed that the very people who most need to date are precisely the sort of people who are useless at it.

It wasn't always this way. In the old days, people went on dates just as often as we do now, but they went with someone their friends knew. They were fixed up. My mother met my father like this, and very gentle and romantic it was too. Since the dawn of internet dating, however, it has become the brash, unforgiving norm to pitch up at a bar and try to romance a random stranger.

Let's be clear: this is the equivalent of shutting your eyes and putting your hand into a very big jar of pick-and-mix and hoping you won't come out with an aniseed jelly covered in nasty blue hundreds and thousands. You are fishing in too big a pool, with too many maniacs and oddballs.

The chances of picking a man who pays a restaurant bill in small change, or me, are far too high to make this a worthwhile venture.