Everyone has a ‘worst date’ story – the course of true love (or as it turns out, not-so-true-love) never did run smooth. But while awful, there’s always a lesson to be learnt when it comes to affairs of the heart. Or dating app.
So, for reasons even we don’t know (maybe we just don’t have filters anymore?) we share them with you now.
Emma – The Three Rules of Dating
It’s actually hard to pull out just one bad date story, I’ll be honest. Until my late 20s I had been permanently single and therefore convinced there was something wrong with me. So when a switch flicked in my brain (ovaries) and I decided I should start dating, I then went hell for leather and squashed 10 years’ worth of dating experience into a three year period. I absolutely don’t recommend this. The only thing that remains from this period of my life is the same therapist.
Dating is very hard and anyone that tells you otherwise either a) struck it lucky the first time or b) has been in the same relationship since they were 15. We are all just squidgy bits of neuroses and hurt and dating is sharp and cold and painful. However, like all the difficult parts of growing up, it’s necessary. Sometimes you only work out what you do want by having years of experience finding out what you don’t want.
About a year into my dating journey, I had come up with three rules I needed for any potential partner.
1. They had to like women. I don’t mean in a heterosexual way, I mean in ‘I value women as whole people and I value their impact on society.’ You would be amazed to know how many men, at least in their 20s and 30s, fail on this one.
2. They had to like themselves. As my favourite book Your Voice In My Head once included wisely, “You can’t give unrequited love to someone who hates themselves.” It is a well that will never be filled and you will hurt yourself trying.
3. They had to like their mothers. See above.
Interestingly, despite having constructed these rules early on, I failed to use them over and over and over again, only to be reminded with each terrible relationship and subsequent terrible break-up, why I had created them in the first place. Funny how that works!
There are two important things for single people to remember, in my opinion. The first is that everybody has a bad track record of dating until they don’t. So no matter how hard you’ve had it, it is never too late to be loved.
And the second thing is an absolutely annoying cliché. You know the one – that the minute you stop looking for someone and start looking after yourself, they’ll turn up? It’s the truest bit of dating wisdom I’ve ever found. The more you fall in love with your own life, the more you’re likely to attract someone who adds to it, rather than takes away from it.
Nicky – My Worst Date Was With My Husband
I have been married to the same person for 12 years, and with him for many years before that. Remembering the bad dates of my youth, therefore, is these days a bit of a struggle. To be honest, at this point in proceedings, the idea of going out for dinner with someone you’ve never met before actually sounds quite interesting.
What I can report, however, is that bad dates are not merely the domain of unsuitable singles. It is also possible to have a truly awful date with the person to whom you have made a lifelong commitment.
I know my husband agrees with this because when I raised the topic, we both recalled with clarity one disastrous New Year’s Eve. It was about 10 months after our first child was born and over the course of those months I had gone from the immediate postnatal high after giving birth, into the shell-shocked new parent zone and recently arrived at the, ‘Is this what the rest of our life is gonna be like?’ phase.
My mum had kindly offered to babysit so that we could go out and do something fun for the evening. And yes, it should have been fun. After so much time not being able to do anything of the sort it should have been utterly delightful.
But the truth is, I flat out ruined it. You see it turns out that if one of you has been harbouring a burning resentment to the other that you’ve barely been holding in for some time now, then a Japanese restaurant on December 31st is as good a place as any to let it all out.
I began the evening by being sullen and rude, then moved on to furious and tearful and finished up with a generous dose of mean and accusatory. My bewildered husband went from surprised and concerned through to hurt and defensive and eventually wound up throwing his napkin on the floor and exiting the establishment. I then had no choice but to eat all the tempura myself and walk home glumly, and alone, to my mum.
To be fair to my husband, who is in most regards incredibly patient, he did his best to stay the course. The fact is, I was pretty determined to drive him away from the table. And whilst I’m not proud of that behaviour, I can, with the gift of time, now look back at that overwhelmed young woman with a lot of love and kindness.
If I could, I would tell her that it’s ok to feel tired and sad and heavy with responsibility for someone else’s tiny life. I’d say, it’s ok to miss your old life and your old freedoms and your body, back when it’s primary purpose wasn’t to keep someone else alive. I would tell her that it’s totally reasonable to feel so much love but also so much boredom at the monotony of caring for an infant day-in, day-out.
The thing I would most like to tell her is that last night I had a date with the little person who was a baby in that story – my wonderful 10 year old girl. I would tell her that we stayed home and watched a movie, drank hot chocolates and did quizzes from her Total Girl magazine and, would she believe, it was just about the most perfect date night of all.
Kelly – Timing is Everything, and it Sucks
You need two things to co-exist for a relationship – chemistry and timing.
I’ve learnt the hard way that when you don’t have one of those two things that your relationship is doomed, regardless of whether you love each other.
Timing’s a bitch in all matters of the heart, and it directly led to my worst-ever date.
It was a month or two after I’d experienced a devastatingly painful breakup, and emboldened by a bottle of wine and the crushing fear of being alone forever, I re-downloaded the dating apps and prepared to fling myself tipsy-headfirst back into dating’s cruel pond.
Still hopelessly in love but determined to find an even better kind elsewhere I resolved to meet as many guys as I could, figuring that one of them must be the Disney prince I figured the universe owed me.
The thing about ‘getting back on the market’, so to speak, is that you’re at best rusty, and at worst traumatised. Where I was on that continuum I don’t know, but suffice to say my defences were down and my once-prized filters were very, very off.
That’s how I found myself sitting in one of Auckland City’s worst bars, staring incredulously at a man who personified the word arrogant.
I knew within the first 10 seconds that this was a mistake. I felt my inner balloon of hope deflate faster than Donald Trump’s hair in a light breeze as the man in front of me swaggered up to the bar to order a light beer without asking if I’d like anything, then plonked himself back down and launched into a spiel about the high-powered clients he’d hosted for lunch on the company dime that week at fancy restaurants and bars. It was five minutes until I could excuse myself to and get a (large) wine from a very sympathetic eavesdropping waitress who offered to pull a fire alarm if I really needed it.
In the first 10 minutes, we established we had nothing in common. He hated sports, I love them. He didn’t like the Queen. I worked as a mass market women’s magazine. He made it very clear he didn’t like women in positions of power. I adore Jacinda Ardern.
Actual quotes from the night:
“Oh, you watch rugby league? That’s a bit brutish for a girl, isn’t it?”
“You voted for Labour? Jesus, what are you a communist or something?”
“And then we went to SPQR and I said, absolutely not, Mr Davies, you’re not paying the bill – let me get another bottle of Bollinger.” (This was uttered, I shit you not, 10 minutes before the bill came which he insisted on halving, which is fine, until I realised he’d had double the amount of drinks than I had had.)
He probably wasn’t a fundamentally bad guy – I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a serial killer or anything – but I remember sitting in the chair pretending to listen to the diatribe of crap in front of me, wondering if this was what I had to look forward to now I was single and struggling not to cry.
But my gut also told me that no matter who was sitting opposite me in too-short pants guzzling back beer and talking at an inappropriately loud volume, the lesson would have been the same.
My relationship had ended because of timing, and the universe was once again reminding me that timing is everything – most notably, that you can’t force love – even a date – before you’re ready, and I was nowhere near ready.
I mean when I learnt that lesson I didn’t expect that I’d still be single almost three years down the track, but it is what it is. And actually, I wouldn’t trade these last few years for anything.
I’ve learnt who I am – my good bits, my bad bits, the things I will never compromise on, the things that I’m truly, fundamentally looking for in a partner.
I’m independent, I’m strong and I genuinely like myself (most of the time), and I wouldn’t give any of that up for any man, ever. I’ve truly become happily single, and I count myself so lucky that I’ve been able to do that when so many people I know haven’t.
So now, when the right one does come along (smart, sporty and preferably one who loves dogs, kthanks) I’m ready, and I can give the relationship, and him, 100%.
Alice – Don’t Listen to People Who Tell You You’re Too Picky
Like Emma, I wasn’t quite sure where I should possibly even start with this one – I could tell you many an insane relationship story.
See, after spending nearly all of my 20s in one relationship, then jumping straight into another when that ended, I then found myself properly single at 30 – and Lordy, it was daunting. The last time I’d gone more than a few weeks single, I’d been 16. And as I’m sure you could assume – dating at 30 vs 16 is quite the different scenario.
At the time I thought it was all a cruel and unnecessary trick the universe was playing on me as I spent years on strange dates, or very good ones, just with the wrong people.
Now, with the wonderful clarity of hindsight, I see just what the universe was up to – and in fact, it was less about the ‘universe’ and more about my own terrible choices and mindset that was sending me on a wild goose chase of love.
Back then I set my expectations low, as well as my standard in men. Yay, I’ll never get properly hurt! Yay, this mediocre relationship is fine, because I don’t really expect anything better! Even if some of them had been good people, I truly didn’t expect a lot of them, so they never had to act accordingly.
I can’t remember many truly terrible dates, I mean, I definitely had some odd ones, but when it comes to insane short relationships, I’ve had some clangers.
There was the time I went for dinner with a friend, where the guy I’d been seeing for three months was coincidentally also there… on a Tinder date. A couple of years later I’d been dating someone even longer when I discovered he’d actually had a girlfriend the whole time. (Besides being incredibly angry I was also very curious – just how the heck does an adult find the time in 2020?!?). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What would have likely been my best insane date stories were ones with guys I matched with on apps but – fortunately – never actually met up with in person for one reason or another.
One of the strangest was with a guy who organised a date, then later text me because he had a late work emergency. “I’m so sorry babe, I wish there was a way out of this. Work is so insane this week and I know it’s not giving you and me the time you deserve at the moment, but it won’t be forever, I’ll make it up to you babe, please just hang in there.”
Again, no, we hadn’t been together a few years – we’d never even MET at this point and had only exchanged a handful of messages over three days. When I didn’t reply he then text me what we’d do, see, eat and drink on our first SEVEN dates, then text, “How many children do you want? Because I’m sorry babe, this is a dealbreaker.” I’m embarrassed to say I’ve ghosted two people in my time, and this guy was one of them.
Look, I don’t know if all of those years of chaos really ALL had to happen, but I certainly learned a lot about myself and what I did and did not deserve in a relationship. It took a while, but I started listening to a little voice that said ‘hmm, this doesn’t feel right.’ and ‘hmm, I think I deserve better,’ until they were thoughts I believed so much that I started saying them out loud.
I’d spent years rolling my eyes when people talked about women over 30 being single because they were “being too picky”. Well, as it turned out, for me, it took becoming VERY picky to things around.