When I started dating after my divorce, I made every mistake in the book. (Literally. All my mistakes are now in my book.) I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t qualify people. I didn’t ask the right questions. I didn’t know who to meet, and who to decline.
The good news is that I learned all the tricks through trial and error, and I can pass on my wisdom to others.
And the better news is that I’m now extremely fun at parties. I have enough bad dating stories to keep my friends entertained for hours.
There was David, one of the first men I dated, who turned out to be unemployed, depressed, and living with his mother. I offered to pay for the coffee, even though David had asked me out, because he just looked so broken and sad.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “I have no money at the moment.”
It wasn’t an auspicious start.
There was Geoff, the man who taught me the importance of photos. We were set up by my friend Alice, who lives interstate, and who’d done business with Geoff over the phone.
The Mamamia Out Loud team deep dive on one night stand etiquette. Post continues after audio.
I didn’t know what Geoff looked like, so I was thrilled when he turned out to be an extremely handsome man in a suit. And then I was crushed when I realised I’d approached the wrong man, and that Geoff was the dude in the corner. He was wearing shorts and a tank top, a tattoo of an owl was emblazoned on his neck, and a long, narrow beard sprouted improbably from the centre of his chin.
“I have something for you,” Geoff told me, and pointed to his groin. For one panicked moment, I thought he was referring to his penis. But no, it was a small flower, tucked firmly into the waistband of his shorts.
“Take it,” he said.
“I’m not reaching into your pants!”
“Take it!” he insisted.
I did not take the flower. And I never trusted Alice again.
Then there was Richard, a long-time acquaintance, who called after his separation and invited me to tea. Richard was older, and a professional, and on the school board, so I felt comfortable going to his home.
We sat on the couch and chatted about our kids, and then suddenly, Richard pulled off his shirt and lunged at me. I had been there for all of fifteen minutes.
“No way!” I cried. “I barely know you! I’m not here to have sex!”
“Who said anything about sex?” Richard murmured, leering me lasciviously. “You’ve been a very bad girl. I think you need punishing.”
I felt like I was in some kind of middle-aged porno. I grabbed my bag and marched out of his house.
Oh! And let’s not forget Gary, the middle-aged lawyer who announced at our first meeting that he found me very attractive.
“I mean, I’m very attractive too,” he said. “I’m top tenth percentile. But you’d be in the fifth.”
I wondered how long I had to stay.
“Hey, can I get a photo of you?” Gary asked. “To send to my friends? They won’t believe I’m with such a hottie!”
“No,” I said. “I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
“Ah, but you touched your hair!” Gary exclaimed. “I’ve studied body language! You’re flirting with me!”
I excused myself from the date. I’m not sure what the body language experts would say about that.
Finally, there was Allan, who taught me not to believe what I read. He was a designer, his profile said, 53 years old, and five foot seven on the old scale.
But when Allan walked in to the café, he looked way older than his photos, and considerably shorter than five foot seven.
“You fudged your height!” I said chidingly. I don’t mind short men, but I can’t stand liars.
Allan laughed. “Okay, you got me. I’m really five foot five.”
Well I’m a tad over five three, and I towered over him in my flats, but I wasn’t going to argue.
“Is there anything else you want to tell me?” I asked. “Are you actually 53?”
He wasn’t, of course. Allan was nearly 62. I declined to meet him again.
These days, with all the tricks I’ve learned, I suffer through far fewer bad dates. And I’ve met some wonderful men, whose company I have enjoyed, men who are funny and interesting and smart and not living with their mothers.
If you’re out there dating, you’ll meet some terrific men too.
But when you go to parties, the bad dates are far more interesting to share.
Kerri Sackville is a writer and social commentator. Her latest book Out There: A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife (Echo Publishing) is available now.
Kerri is appearing at Melbourne Jewish Book Week on Monday 7th May – where a fantastic panel on 'Difficult Women’ will delve deep on the things women are thinking about in 2018. Find out more here.