University was a trial by fire for my introduction to the dating world. If Teen Movies have taught me anything, it’s that the ages of thirteen-seventeen are best spent testing the boundary between pubescent discovery and sex offense. By the time we ship out to university we should have enough experience under our belts to lure, bed, and quickly abandon any vaguely in-season female, only seeing them again when conscience dictates we must inform them of the malicious bacterial memento we left behind.
I was starting from the pit lane.
Naturally I chose to pursue the first girl to show even a flicker of interest. She was in one of my classes, and we walked home together once. That was enough. But to even consider asking for a date in person was unthinkable. The coward’s way is the indirect way. So, I asked a friend for the phone number of the girl’s friend, so I could ask her for the girl’s number. Numerical fruit was yielded. I spent two hours drafting a text that, to my mind at least, was winningly off-the-cuff and only indistinctly creepy. She responded, and I had a date. My first date.
The girl was nothing remarkable. A year later, following her particularly clumsy attempt to pull my friend in a bar, she became known to us only as Shrek. A cruel, yet largely accurate, likeness.
I decided not to be ambitious. We went to the pub. I behaved as television has taught me a gentleman should and bought her drink. The only problem was what the hell to talk about.
Beforehand, I had prepared topics. A lifetime of indoorsmanship had (and has) robbed me of even the most basic conversation skills. My list of romantic and racy topics included, among others, ‘What books do you like?’ and ‘Have you ever played The Sims?’
Without the list to hand, however, I was lost. Before I knew it I’d revealed my dislike for both dogs and cheese, opinions that to this day mark me for mistrust. I continued to dig my grave by explaining about Bread Tuesday. In my first year of university, I decided that every Tuesday morning I would purchase a loaf of bread and eat nothing else for the day’s duration. Shrek fidgeted with her hastily emptied glass and giggled nervously.
Around forty-five minutes into the date, as I babbled about Sim social services seizing custody of my Sim first-born, Shrek’s phone rang. Hindsight assures me that this was an escape call. Her friend needed her desperately for some computer project, or perhaps due to trouble at the swamp. Shrek and I parted ways. She didn’t even let me walk her home.
At the time, I thought it had gone quite well.
A second date was eventually arranged, but she backed out fifteen minutes before we were due to meet. Another agonised-over list of topics was wasted.
Sometime later, through a mutual friend, I stumbled across her Live Journal. There was an entry dedicated to our date. Apparently I was ‘very tall, a bit weird, not funny’. Most damning of all: ‘All he eats is bread.’ I resisted the urge to remind her firmly that this was only on Tuesdays!
Two years later, when I had slimmed down and could pass for dimly attractive, I encountered Shrek at a club. She eyed me like I were a delicious Christmas ham and stroked my chest. I let her buy me a drink, and then left her behind in the crowd.