Editor’s note: After almost a year out of action, Girl About Town is back. Your young, free, single, foot-loose, fancy-free, unattached, unaffiliated, uncommitted, independent, autonomous, available friend is back to share her dating woes.
There’s something comforting about traditions that punctuate the year – having those friends from way back who you always see on Christmas Eve, or the crew you always spend Bonfire Night with. The problem is, any drama that might otherwise be forgotten is dragged back up again annually, as everyone remembers that time. And this Halloween, my friends will absolutely not let me forget last year. Though I’ve learnt my lesson, and will very definitely be going alone, they’ll all remind me of what happened when I tried to procure a date … by guilt-tripping him.
Now I know lots of you probably think I shouldn’t have gone to the party at all – and the Halloween debate is something we’ve discussed threads before here and here – but I promise I wasn’t there dressed as a vampire, or anything. I was just there to see my friends.
I’d met this guy a few weeks earlier, and so far, so good. It had started very casually – he lived near me, so we’d gone for a drink in our local, a luxury that London seems rarely to afford. Conversation was easy, he’d made me laugh, so I didn’t see any harm in getting together again. The next time, we went for fancy cocktails, another night was pizza and football, and we even met for brunch one Sunday: each situation passed pleasantly and without hiccup. Rare, I thought, for Girl About Town.
There were a couple of questions in my head though, which needed resolving before I could consider if this might turn into something more. First, would he be on board with my faith? Ideally I wanted to date a Christian, but like many others before me, the overwhelming impression I was getting from the Christian men I met was that I’d eat them alive. So as a minimum, he needed to be sympathetic and supportive. So, tentatively, I’d invited him along to church, hoping that the fact that I was preaching that evening would be enough of a hook. It was: he came, he behaved himself, he didn’t run away. Excellent start.
The second issue would prove less simple to crack. What would my friends think of him? What would he be like around a whole group of people? Quiet? Cringey? Charming? You can see then why a low-key Halloween party seemed the ideal testing ground. Enough people that he wouldn’t stick out – a few friends were bringing friends – but casual enough that he’d definitely end up chatting to the people I wanted him to meet. I gave him the address, and he gave me his word that he’d show up a little later in the evening.
Naturally, I spent the first few cups of punch giving my girls all the gossip on him: they wanted to know everything from who he worked for, to what his accent was like, to whether he’d paid for all the cocktails or split the bill. Enjoying having a date to talk about, I told them more and more, exaggerating his virtues so that I’d look good for having apparently bagged such a man.
When 9pm rolled around and he wasn’t yet there, I almost believed the hype I’d created for him. He must be too cool to show up at parties this early. At 9.30pm, I tried a casual text, while still telling everyone else he’d definitely be there soon. So his apologetic reply caught me off guard.
“Out with work friends,” he told me. “Didn’t realise the time, or how much they were drinking. Can’t leave now, a friend wants me here. Really sorry,” he said, he’d make it up to me.
I should have left it at that. I know I should. But my pride was wounded and I hated the fact that my friends would all see how I’d been stood up. If he knew I was still keen to see him, perhaps he’d change his mind and jump on a tube. But in my determination not to look needy, to play the game right, my attempt to coax him into coming backfired.
It backfired spectacularly.
I told him I’d really wanted him there, to introduce him to my friends. He apologised again, more profusely this time, but still clearly wasn’t going to come. By now, I’d shared the news with the group, and they took interest in the conversation, so to save face I started to give him a piece of my mind – I told him how rude it was to back out of plans just because you get a better offer, how I’d thought he had more decency than that. This time he was really sorry, over-the-top sorry, and let’s face it, probably-pretty-drunk sorry.
My friends laughed, and my ego was soothed, and I know it was terrible, but it felt like an acceptable way to nurse my wounded pride, so I pushed the guilt thing one more time, and this time everything erupted. The floodgate opened, to mix my metaphors, and his repentance poured forth. I’ll spare you all the details, but by the end of the night, there were promises to move heaven and earth for me, and the L word had been used – and retracted – more than once.
I’d taken it way too far, and neither of us came out of that exchange with much dignity in tact. I looked cruel, guilt-tripping him for the entertainment of my friends, and he looked … well. As above. It turns out it’s not only Christian boys that Girl About Town is likely to eat alive.
We did meet one more time for coffee. But in the cold light of day, neither of us could look one another in the eye – and the previously pleasant conversation was now the height of awkward.
So this Halloween, I’ll be back at the same party, with the same friends, wearing probably same hastily thrown together non-offensive, non-creepy attempt at a costume. But this year, I’ll be taking no one with me – and leaving my pride at home, too.