September 11, 2013
What A Bad Date Taught Me
I met Mal on a Friday night, during my birthday week where I went to Amsterdam and London with my brother Harry and my best friend Will. He showed up twenty minutes late as I sat by myself in Edge Bar in Soho, where the typical questions that run through your mind when you’ve met somebody on a dating app occupy you. Do I look like my picture? What if he’s a psycho killer? What if we have nothing to talk about and it’s really awkward?
The date with Mal (not his real name) proved to be amazing. We chatted about out hopes and dreams, our lives, interests, likes and dislikes. He was a great kisser. He dressed well, and had an awesome job in the video game industry. He wanted to settle down with a guy and start a family. We messaged each other non-stop for the next three weeks, and I decided to travel from Harrogate to London to see him again to continue whatever it was that there was between us, for there was something but I’m not sure what. Then whatever it was all fell apart.
We met at King’s Cross station. We drank some wine, took in the view at Parliament Hill, and walked holding hands. We ate some great street food from around the world that we discovered at a market that we stumbled across at the South Bank. Curried goat from the Seychelles, chicken stew from Ethiopia, cod, chicken and potatoes from Portugal. A drink out in Soho. He introduced me to the TV show Archer when we went back to his. It was a perfect day. Mal was charming, funny, handsome, and genuinely nice. Yet there was something at the back of my mind telling me that this exact same situation had happened a few years earlier, when I broke up with my first ever boyfriend. It was a rebound. I knew it, but didn’t want to admit it. I slept on it.
Mal went to church the next day, leaving me to explore the British Museum for a little while by myself. Terracotta siren jugs, ivory chess boards and intricate ancient Persian jewellery kept me occupied as I waited for the service to be done. We went to the Natural History Museum, where I ogled the likes of Albertosaurus and Tuojiangosaurus in their most naked forms. My heart both swelled and sank as we walked around an exhibition dedicated to British World War Two hero Alan Turing at the Science Museum. We chatted a lot at Mal’s favourite sushi place as we devoured tuna sashimi and pork cutlet. A drink at Circa, then we headed to Edge, where we’d met a few short weeks earlier.
The conversation turned uncomfortable.
“So, what do you like to do in your free time? Like, your hobbies?”
“Well….I like to watch movies, listen to music, travelling to new places…sometimes I read. I go to the gym,” I snorted as I said that, “I really enjoy writing.”
“Yeah but like, what do you like to do? What other things? Like, do you paint? Like walking? You know, actual things you do.”
“Well, I guess writing.”
Mal conceded that writing was in the same league as the likes of painting. It was creative. Still, I felt uneasy. What was wrong with my liking to watch movies? He’d asked me if I knew a lot about movies. I replied that I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of any particular area of cinema, I just liked watching movies. He looked unimpressed, and I noticed him glance around the bar. His eyes settled on a group of five or six guys in front of us. “They look fun,” he commented. His gaze would keep going back to a blond muscular guy in a t-shirt for the rest of the night.
“So, what are you going to do about your job?” He knew that freelance writing was the only thing that I had going on, and he knew that I desperately wanted to move out of my home in Harrogate, a town of no opportunities and definitely lacking any kind of bustling feel or international flare.
“I don’t really know. I mean, I like writing. I really don’t want to keep living at home, there are no jobs in Harrogate. But moving to London, it’s just so expensive here and it’s so competitive.” I was inadvertently answering questions that I’d been asking myself since coming back to the UK, but found myself getting more irate as Mal questioned me. Probing me. Pushing me.
“It can’t be that hard to find a job,” he’d said. What did he know? He’d been offered the job he was doing on a plate. When was the last time he’d had to actually look for work? He mentioned my degree, a thing that actually makes my job prospects worse here in Harrogate as it means I’m over-qualified for most positions. He was doing the same thing that my mum had been doing for the past few weeks – assuming that it’s easy to get a job, while not actually having had to look any time recently. I was fed up at having my life questioned. He wasn’t being malicious, but he hadn’t taken the hints that my one-word responses and absence of a smile from my face had given him.
He even brought Gil Dong into the equation. He’d read my blog, and the post of which I’m now more than a little embarrassed. He kept asking if I wanted to go back to Korea, why Gil Dong and I broke up and if I wanted to get back together with him, prodding further when I told him that Gil Dong will be doing an internship in Australia, a country which I could easily obtain a working holiday visa from. I snapped.
“Look, he knows I could go there. He hasn’t suggested it. I’m not chasing him any more. The ball’s in his court.”
“OK,” was Mal’s curt reply.
The night turned into an absolute disaster. All I’d wanted in London was a fun weekend with a guy that I’d had an amazing first date with. Instead of the spark that was there on our first meeting, there was barely a flicker, and I was bombarded with questions that had been constantly thudding in my head while at home, a place that I don’t particularly feel welcome in. On reflection, I’m not mad that Mal asked questions, but the probing and judging that came with them was what I didn’t appreciate. Why was I so sensitive, anyway? Mostly because I didn’t have any real answers. The life I’d had in South Korea for four years had come crashing down, and I was clueless about what I was going to do.
My responses to Mal were juvenile and my body language said it all. The questions had struck a nerve, and I couldn’t get them out of my mind for the rest of the night. We hugged an uncomfortable goodbye in the morning, and he sent me an annoyingly diplomatic, ‘you’re-nice-but-I-don’t-want-to-date-you’ message via Whatsapp as I sat on the train from King’s Cross to Leeds. I considered responding, but ended up just deleting it instead, with the words still ringing in my head and mingling with Basement Jaxx’s Jump N Shout blasting through my earphones, not exactly a song you listen to while you’re pondering things in your head.
So what did I learn from the date-gone-wrong? That I’m horribly unhappy here in the UK. I feel unwelcome, unwanted, and the country I’ve called home for the past quarter of a decade doesn’t feel like home anymore. All the signs are pointing outwards and overseas. I felt at home in Korea. I was doing a job that I loved, a job that gave me a purpose. Will I move to Korea again? Probably not, but I’m ready for a new adventure and new experiences. I’m not ready to settle down, and don’t want to compromise and make myself by miserable by doing a job that I hate. I always hear, “well everyone does it?” but I don’t want to, and I’m sick of getting lampooned for it.
I’ve given myself a deadline of January, so it’s time to put my thinking cap on and make some decisions. All I have right now is time, and it’s time that I started using it a bit more wisely and thinking about makes me happy, rather than dwelling on what doesn’t.
So there you have it, folks! Now, I want to hear from you. Have you ever experienced anything similar before? Has a bad date taught you anything about yourself, or changed the course of where you’re going? Any recommendations on where I should go? Let us know in the comments below, or shout out on Facebook or Twitter.