First Date - Sue Watson Page 0,1

about Labradors or Devon on his Instagram, just anonymous, moody landscapes and the odd selfie. Alex pours more wine for both of us while telling me about his work as a solicitor at Boyd and Walker, a big legal firm here in the Midlands.

‘It must be very interesting,’ I say, rather lamely. I’m not good under pressure. I have this tendency to make meaningless small talk. I don’t want to say something stupid and send the evening on a downward spiral after such a brilliant start – I need to stay calm and get to the end without knocking over a wine glass or oversharing my life story. I need to keep a little back and not throw myself at him until I know exactly who he is. Given some of the awful men I’ve met, I’m looking for the flaws, but so far, so good.

It’s well documented that the online dating world is fraught with danger, from dinner with potential serial killers to outings with bad boys and mummy’s boys. I’d been put off this kind of matchmaking, having spent my twenties going on dates with strangers off the internet. The first date often started well – let’s face it, no one is going to reveal their weird habit, real age or secret wife on a first date. But things would soon start to slide, like the gorgeous guy who on our first and only date seemed funny, intelligent and charming and, after a wonderful dinner, invited me back to his for coffee. I jumped at the chance, but arriving at his mausoleum-like home, he took me upstairs and asked if he could brush my hair with his mother’s hairbrush. She’d been dead ten years. I shudder now at the potential psychodrama I may have opened up, or if I’d even be here today, if I hadn’t made my excuses and left.

So far, Alex is intelligent, good-looking, and hasn’t mentioned his mother once. Nor has he referred to his ‘beautiful’ ex or introduced me to his ‘love truncheon’ under the table, as a previous potential mate did on a first date. It seems that Meet your Match, an app that states reassuringly that ‘your soulmate is only ten minutes away’, might just have the magic formula I’ve been seeking all these years. Hard to believe this Adonis before me was almost binned for an Indian takeaway and a night with Jasmine in our pjs watching Netflix. And it’s Jas I have to thank for this, really. I wouldn’t have even started online dating again without her encouragement. At thirty-six, I felt it was too late. But the way Alex is looking at me over his glass of wine, I’m beginning to think there might be someone for me after all.

‘Have you been on many online dates?’ he asks now.

‘I was in a relationship for a while, so I’m new to Meet Your Match, but I went on quite a few dates in the past.’ I roll my eyes. ‘And, trust me, they weren’t my soulmates. I haven’t done this for years,’ I add, gesturing from him to me. ‘The last guy – who shall remain nameless – seemed nice enough. On our first date he told me he shaved his legs every day because he was a keen cyclist. Turned out the real reason he liked his legs smooth was because he liked wearing women’s clothes. Now I have no problem with—’

‘Men in tight dresses?’

‘Honestly, I have no problem with that, you do you. But if something’s such a big part of your life it is worth a mention before you invite anyone back for coffee.’

Alex laughs, so I plough on with the story, hoping it will amuse him and he won’t think I’m mean.

‘He took a particular liking to a leopard-print top I was wearing – he even asked if he could try it on!’

He stops drinking and looks horrified. ‘While you were on the date? In public?’

‘No, when he invited me back—’ I stop, realising that this might give him the wrong impression, and that an invitation for coffee leads to my immediate abandonment of clothes. ‘It was just coffee. That’s all,’ I add.

He smiles, and goes on to ask about my job, and I fill him in on the life and times of a social worker, how rewarding – and frustrating – it can be.

‘Some of our clients need so much support, but we can’t give it to them because of the slashed budget. I work