Friends are wonderful things. They laugh with you, they cry with you and they always help you to find solutions to your problems. So, when my problems happened to include ‘getting a bit desperate for a date’, my friends had a solution at the ready: they donned their Cilla Black hats and organised a blind date for me. A Londoner born and bred, lawyer Dominic’s ‘friend of a friend of a friend’ status apparently meant that he was the ideal candidate. My friends took no time at all in arranging for us to meet in the mutually convenient location of Chelmsford, Essex, and I listened intently as they attempted to prep me for my the upcoming evening: “He has dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin. His likes include music, movies and animals and his dislikes include arrogance, laziness and marmite.” Great. That gave me no idea of what to expect because it could essentially describe almost any member of the western world who is over the age of three and not in a coma. Despite my concerns, I was reassured that I would not only have fun on the date but that Dominic was perfect for me: smart, good-looking and the potential to be a high-flying ‘Mark Darcy’ type within five years. I have to admit I was tempted to believe my friends when they told me this… wouldn’t you? After all, if the prospect of dating Mr. Darcy isn’t enough to convince you to take a leap of faith then I don’t know what is.
I selected my outfit for the evening very carefully. When going on a date with a man who will potentially turn into Mr. Darcy, it is very important to meet him in a outfit which says that you are both classy enough to attend a lawyers’ supper and sexy enough to get naked with him in his office between court cases. This is a very fine line to tread, requiring the neckline to be reasonably high and the hemline to be reasonably low while the colour of the material and your elegant high heels cry out “Take me, Mr. Darcy, take me!” In other words, your outfit needs to scream S-E-X in the most prudish way possible. It also goes without saying that hair and make-up should follow suit, so I decided that the natural look would be best: subtle eyeliner, rosy cheeks and the slightest hint of pink on the lips, accompanied by natural but devastatingly glossy hair and the delicate enhancement of a sheer pair of tights, (don’t even get me started on how much I hate stockings… fat thighs plus hold-ups do not mix). I would sashay into his life with all the sex and sophistication of Audrey Hepburn during her Breakfast at Tiffany’s phase – minus the waif-life figure, of course – ready to blow his mind with my sharp wit and confident swagger, all the while giving off an unmistakeable air of vulnerability, (I have heard that men quite like that). Or at least that was the plan.
At this point, you need to be aware that I am not known as a clumsy oaf simply for my tendency to drop everything. It is a well-known fact, among my friends, that if there is anything – anything at all – which I can mess up then I absolutely will mess it up and do so spectacularly. A good example of this would be my recent trip to China, when I managed to injure myself in a shower so small that I could barely stand up in it, let alone do what can only be described as a back-flip, damaging my neck in the process. Therefore, no matter how prepped, preened and primed I was it was never going to end well.
When I left my house, that evening, I was confident that I looked utterly ravishing; my preparations had been undertaken with military precision and I had successfully managed to do what I have only done on 3 other occasions in my life: I got my eyeliner right first time for both eyes. This sense of accomplishment had me strutting down the street as if the Bee Gees were following behind in a trailer playing Stayin’ Alive at full volume in accompaniment.
Reaching Chelmsford from my home town requires two train journeys: one from my home to a neighbouring town, which takes about twenty minutes, then hopping onto a connecting train towards central London which stops in the desired station after another half an hour. Plenty of time, then, to prepare myself for meeting the future husband. I wore a purple, fifties-style sleeveless dress with black polka dots, belted with a black patent belt, and accompanied by the obligatory sheer tights. I also wore a pair of purple suede heels which win the award for the most uncomfortable pair of shoes I have ever known; I chose them because, in my experience, lack of comfort is directly proportionate to sex appeal therefore, because these shoes were so hideously painful, they must have made me truly irresistible to the opposite sex. They did actually get me quite a few looks, but that may also have been because, after five minutes of strutting, I was reduced to a crippled hobble as the bones in my feet were crushed into a gritty pulp. I arrived far too early at Chelmsford station, which was then made worse by receiving a text from Dominic stating that his train was delayed by a further fifteen minutes, leaving me to stand by the closed WH Smith’s kiosk wondering how long it would be before my toes dropped off through lack of blood supply.
Thus began the scenario that I am sure many of you have lived through; you are forced to stand around waiting for someone so initially you do so without a problem. But then a person catches your eye – a security guard, let’s say – and you start to worry that you are acting suspiciously, so you begin to pace up and down hoping that you will look less suspicious. Then you start to worry that you might look even more suspicious because you are now pacing up and down, repeatedly glancing at aforementioned security guard, so you decide to go for a walk. You walk around for five minutes or so before realising you can’t actually go too far because you are supposed to be meeting someone, so you head back to the general area where they expect to find you and pretend to be doing something important like texting (when really you are just staring blankly at your phone while tapping the touch-screen to make it look like you are texting). Then you notice a second person, who is sitting somewhere nearby, has seen you wandering aimlessly and can clearly see you are a moron, so you then decide to stop pretending to text and return to your original spot, waiting in proud defiance of the second person’s judgemental gaze and hoping that the someone you were originally going to meet will arrive in the next sixty seconds. Finally you notice the security guard again, worry you are looking suspicious and end up waiting for another ten long minutes, embarrassed because you have also realised that the second person probably didn’t give a damn about you before but absolutely definitely does now think you are a moron.
Dominic arrived after twenty minutes. I have to admit that as he stepped off of the train he resembled something like Superman flying in to save Lois Lane… the initial excitement soon wore off, however, when he approached me and I realised he would have been a good four inches shorter than me even if I hadn’t have been wearing four-inch heels. This was somewhat of a passion killer. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with short men or the ability of tall women to adore short men, but I am not a tall woman and I do not have the ability to adore a short man, therefore when I am approached by a man who is considerably shorter than me – and I am an only an average-height woman – then I have to say he is well and truly buggered.
He greeted me with a smile which I knew was forced, because in his eyes was the look of utter terror at this purple dotty woman-giant standing before him. We met somewhere between the height difference to exchange a kiss on the cheek and then promptly left the station – both of us were trying to escape the feeling of awkwardness that comes when a woman has to look down past her nipples to meet the eyes of her date. I decided not to let the awkwardness phase me and stuck to my Audrey Hepburn visions, strutting with such confidence and purpose that, even if Dominic was not my Mark Darcy, he would tell all his friends about this leviathan of a woman whom also happened to be the sexiest woman he had ever met. He must have lots of lawyer-type friends, after all, and who knows who might ask for my number… I have to hand it to him that he was more attentive then previous dates I had had, since he noticed my enormous heels and asked if I would prefer to get a taxi to the town centre rather than walk, but I was so determined to live up to my Hollywood pin-up imaginings of myself that I gratefully declined. But as soon as I had refused his polite offer, shot him a confident smile and swished my hair elegantly over one shoulder, I regretted my decision.
This is because, at the exact moment I had finished hair-swishing, the heel of my shoe became wedged between the cracks in the pavement and I promptly planked it flat onto my face. Laying face-down kissing the cold, hard concrete, it was as if karma had decided to punish my inability to adore short men with a trip into the cavernous depths of humiliation. I felt a hand on my arm. Dominic gently pulled me up, worry splashed across his face, and began to repeat the question “are you okay?!” over and over again until I had regained my composure enough to stand up straight and reply with a “Yes, I’m fine”. I tried to recreate my Audrey Hepburn demeanour and appear completely unfazed by my sudden mishap. Ignoring the shooting pain in my right knee, I attempted to turn swiftly on my heels and continue walking in the direction of the town centre. This did not happen, however, because as soon as I had turned to continue strutting I walked slap-bang into the lamp-post I hadn’t noticed was there. This time my idiocy was met by Dominic’s futile attempts to stop himself laughing out loud at my expense.
Never before have I so desperately wanted an evening to be over: sitting in a Thai restaurant in the middle of Essex, my nose throbbing from its unexpected interaction with a lamp-post and my knee bleeding profusely, (the blood soaking down my sheer tights and into my hideously evil shoes), meanwhile listening to Dominic’s incredibly boring soliloquy about the thrill of working as a lawyer’s assistant, (turns out he’s a paralegal as opposed to an actual lawyer – Mark Darcy my arse), and being scrutinized by fellow diners who were wondering why I looked as if my date had decided to beat me up before treating me to dinner. I am sure that you have worked out, by now, that after we had said goodbye to each other at Chelmsford train station we never saw or heard from one another ever again.
It was on the long journey home that I spotted myself in the train window and noticed that my mishap had turned my sleek hair into a bouffant mess and my eyeliner was streaked down one cheek almost meeting the corner of my mouth. Dominic had probably not dared to mention this to me for fear that my misfortune might send me into a fit of hysteria – I cannot say for certain that that would not have happened. I had to accept that my fifties’ starlet aspirations were in tatters, as would be my dignity when forced to recount this tale to my friends the following evening in the pub. The only things that were not in tatters, coincidentally, were my tights which, despite being blood-stained, had not even gotten a ladder when they had impacted with the ground. I had to be grateful for small mercies*.
*I later discovered that copious amounts of dried blood mixed with black dirt will not wash out of a pair of sheer tights without leaving a rather nasty looking stain, so I was forced to throw them away, reluctantly. That evening may not have introduced me to my Mr. Darcy but it had certainly ignited a love-affair with ladder-resistant hosiery – a much-needed ally in the adventures of this particular clumsy oaf.