As a child my parents advised me not to make a spectacle of myself and since then I've got pretty good at avoiding situations where people might point or whisper. I don't complain in restaurants. I won't sit directly in front of comedians trying to pad out their act by asking people what they do for a living. I regularly fail to perform acts of heroism such as luring aggressive ducks away from small children at boating lakes.
But all around me people are clamouring for attention, making snap decisions about their behaviour based upon a rapid calculation of how many hits it might get on YouTube if someone was filming it. I saw a bloke standing proudly in the middle of a pavement the other day attempting to drink a carton of cheesy coleslaw like it was a cup of coffee. Nine thousand hits minimum, I reckon.
Then there's the elaborate marriage proposal, delivered in public while people stand around capturing the awkwardness in glorious HD. The weekend before last there was a flurry of excitement on Twitter as it transpired some guy was going to be proposing at 3pm on Sunday under the clock at Waterloo station; our role as gawping flashmobbers was to cheer when she said yes. Or, conversely, mumble, "bloody hell, that was a bit embarrassing" when she didn't.
Because sometimes women say no. They're human beings with free will and they're allowed to do so – despite the fact that you've made it incredibly difficult for them to refuse by hiring a biplane, arranging for a line of chorus girls to sing "Happy Days Are Here Again" and painting the words "If You Say No, I'll Kill Myself" on the side of a nearby elephant.
You might consider yourself romantic, but these are acts of blisteringly insensitive hubris that aren't so much proposals as acts of coercion. "You will, won't you? Go on. Say yes. Everyone's looking."
Anyway, if you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of thing and you want to say no, but you don't want to make things any worse than they already are, just say yes. And then, later, when you're alone, say: "Oh, ha ha. I was only kidding. Sorry." And film his reaction and upload it to YouTube, because that's probably what he would have wanted.
'Crap Dates: Disastrous Encounters From Single Life' by Rhodri Marsden is out tomorrow (£6.99)Reuse content