First Date in Twenty Years

March 13, 2012 § 81 Comments

From yesterday’s Times:-

Last night I had my first date in two decades.

For most of that time, admittedly, I was faithfully married, but I have been a plankton for years now.  I have had the odd quasi date, but they were odd in all senses of the word and don’t count.  This date with Long Shot was long-awaited and the real deal.

I am out of practice.  During the day I saw, separately, two old (male, married) friends and made them laugh a lot.  Each told me how attractive and funny I was.  Oh, yeah?  And what good has that done me?  Obviously not attractive and funny enough.  Still, it was a boost of sorts and gave me a midge of confidence for the evening ahead, but of course a date is very different from banter with old mates. However much one wants and tries on a date to be wholly oneself, as with old friends, there are in-built constraints.  And not being able to make jokes about being a plankton is just one of them.

I thought hard about what I might wear, and the implications of getting “it” right – “it” being not just my clothes, but my body language, my conversation, my attitude, my levels of flirtatiousness.  A bloody minefield, but the implications of the sum of these parts, crucial; a fun evening being the least of it.  Everyone can tell me how foolish I was to invest anything in the date other than to hope for a jolly night out, and they are right.  But when a date comes along just once in twenty years, I am sorry, but the stakes just do feel a little bit higher.  He and I would part that night either fancying each other or not as the case may be, and I wanted to do everything I could to increase the chances of the former or, at least for us to be of the same opinion either way, so neither of us (most likely me) would end up disappointed.

I felt I pitched myself right sartorially.  Simple dress, a little but not too much cleavage, heels, make-up but not caked in the stuff.  Wine and conversation was forthcoming and I think he was enjoying himself and didn’t seem to want to leave.  I liked him very much but I didn’t feel that elusive spark, mostly because I didn’t dare allow myself to do so, for fear that he wouldn’t feel it either.  He paid for dinner – I did offer – which was kind of him and may have indicated that all is not lost, but probably smacked more of generosity than attraction.

We parted amiably but with no plans.

Today, still the Plankton, I feel flat as a plaice.


§ 81 Responses to First Date in Twenty Years

  • fi0na says:

    Goodness 20 years. Imagine what sex’ll be like, when it eventually arrives, after 20 years of monogamy?

    • T Lover says:


      That’s your mindset is it?

      Get rid of the husband – the sex improves.

      • Fi0na says:

        Just egging her on really sex does appear in the bi-line of this blog… Nothing ever happens. My point is anything seems odd after a drought. Dating is one thing, sex would be quite another … anyhow we don’t know if P “got rid” of her husband or any of the circumstances around it.

      • T Lover says:


        How easy it is to misunderstand, especially eMail.

  • Why did you part with no plans?

    Did you send a follow-up email thanking him for a lovely evening?

    All is not lost, P, it sounds from what you say that you were too busy keeping sparks at bay so as not to be disappointed to notice whether there were any or not.

    Come on, don’t just sit there, do something!

    • The Plankton says:

      Thank you for your optimism, Sarah, which alas I can’t share. I sent him a really sweet and appreciative thank you text. Since then, fuck all. Instinct dictates that this thing is dead in the water. But I guess we already knew that. Pxx

  • Barry says:

    So sad….Married for almost 20 years and no dates. You gotta WORK at marriage ….I worked my socks off first time around , and am down to the bones of my feet this time around….We go on “Dates” , it’s so nice, Valentines day was the last one …….hope LS comes good for you and you have many more dates P x

    • Elle says:

      Barry, I’m glad you’re happily married but telling somebody to work at marriage when they are divorced isn’t very helpful. Most women on this blog aren’t married either.

      • barry says:

        I didn’t mean to unhelpful, my message is …you have to work in ALL relationships ….. I was unhappily married for a long , long time and a “Plankton” for many years although married.

        I really don’t see the moral problem with approaching a visibly unhappily married man with an offer of genuine affection . You don’t lose a lot, you may win ….. I can only speak from experience.

      • fi says:

        @Barry. So THAT’S how it’s done. I haven’t yet known a man who has left an unhappy relationship until the next one was lined up, but I’d always thought it coincidence.

      • T Lover says:


        I think Barry over simplified what he intended to say in the first place and you have reacted with undue cynicism.

        Ten years after catching my wife out, unhappily hanging on knowing there were children at home and then catching her again my marriage ended.

        I am the exception that proved the rule?

      • fi says:

        @Tlover – I think you are misinterpreting. I didn’t attach a moral judgement. To be honest I spent the last 10 years of my brother’s marriage encouraging him to have an affair (stone me then!). But he didn’t. He too stayed with a mad harpy for the sake of the children and I thought he SHOULD get some happiness.

    • The Plankton says:

      Thanks, Barry. When I say no dates for 20 years, of course I wasn’t looking for or expecting or wanting any when I was married, but the point is, I have been on my own for a long time now and am looking for, expecting and wanting a few! But very out of practice. Px

  • rosie says:

    Buggery, P, I feel for you, I really do. It’s crap when a date with someone you like ends like that!

    I guess there are only two options open to you now: a) do nothing, or b) try again. If it was me, raging curiosity and an inability to rest until I knew what the hell was going on would require me to email/text and ask him out again. This leaves you open to the hideousness of REJECTION of course and if that does happen it will be horrible but at least you’ll be able to put a lid on the whole affair once and for all.

    I have to say, LS sounds like he needs to be taken by the scruff of the neck and given a good shake!

  • Elle says:

    Sorry to hear the date didn’t go according to plan P, but hopefully you two can stay friends. Could you call him up and arrange to meet to go see a movie or a play? He might be shy, who knows, he might still fancy you.

    In the meantime get out there and date lots of men, no point in putting all your eggs in one bastard, as Dorothy Parker said.

  • rosie says:

    ps, sorry, didn’t mean to type ‘rejection’ in foot-high letters there, was momentarily thinking about a particularly awful personal experience of same.

  • rosie says:

    “I sent him a really sweet and appreciative thank you text. Since then, fuck all.”

    Oh, bollocks to him, P. Easier said than done, I’ll be the first to admit, but he’s a dead loss. And rude, to boot!

  • rosie says:

    “I really don’t see the moral problem with approaching a visibly unhappily married man with an offer of genuine affection.”


  • Catherine says:

    Dear Plankton,
    I urge you not to feel beaten or rejected. If he is so rude as not to reply, even to say I’m afraid this won’t go much further, then, as a very wise older lady told me one day, he’s not the chap for you. You are very worthy, quite out of practice, and you must view this as your first wade into the pond. It’s gluey, hard to see, and the bottom feels like rubbish, but swim a little way, keep swimming and the water will be clearer.

  • MissBates says:

    Sorry it fizzled. Just plod on from here, I suppose.

    Thought of all of you this past weekend. Went to a lecture at the Museum of the City of New York, about how the “grid” street plan of Manhattan was first conceived in 1811 and developed over the next century. I’m a bit of a history geek and was genuniely interested in the topic and the speaker, a professor who curated the book that was published by Columbia University Press in conjunction with the exhibit. ANYWAY, as I settled myself in my seat and looked about the auditorium, it occurred to me, “this is JUST the sort ot thing that plankton are always being encouraged to attend” — i.e., a lecture on a non-girly topic in which I am interested and about which I have some modest knowledge of my own, in a pleasant setting likely to attract similarly-minded folk. As I sat there enjoying a silent chuckle over this and waiting for the program to begin, I was approached by one man, weighing approximately 300 pounds and wearing Birkenstocks the better to display his unkempt toenails, who proferred a brochure and asked if I am interested in walking tours of New York City. The two young gentlemen sitting next to me (student architects, I believe) were gracious, made polite small talk with me before the program started, and then held hands throughout the whole lecture. The couple ahead of me were in their mid-fifties, and the woman leaned her head on the man’s shoulder for most of the lecture. The room was filled to the brim with couples spending a quiet Saturday afternoon together listening to a very interesting presentation. I couldn’t wait to leave.

  • rosie says:

    I was going to say Toenail Man must have been freezing in his Birkenstocks but then checked the temperature (like you do) in NYC. Lucky you, it’s still bloody freezing here!

    I try not to look at men’s feet as most of them seem to be unkempt but the real turn off for me is long nails. Urgh.

    • MissBates says:

      @rosie: It’s been in the 60s and 70s here this past week. Suitable, in other words, for Birkenstocks. (I actually NEVER find them suitable on ANYONE, but that’s another story for another day….)

  • rosie says:

    I quite like my bright red shiny patent leather ones… but I make sure my toenails are suitable for public consumption before I wear them!

  • Henry says:

    Why the long face, Miss P? It sounds to me as though you had a very enjoyable evening out, though I think that you and Long Shot were both rather foolish to part without at least discussing the possibility of a future date.

    I fear that you’re being rather unfair to poor Long Shot. After all, he did ask you out on the first date and he did pay for dinner. Is there not now some onus on you to invite him out to something in order both to repay his initial kindness and generosity and to demonstrate that you’re interested? Otherwise, how will he know? I would suggest that he’s now politely waiting for you to make the next move.

    Having allowed Long Shot to pay for dinner on the first date, you are now firmly in the driving seat as far as arranging the second is concerned. The future is in your own hands. Strike now.

  • Well, you guys here, 2 months from now, the first digit in my age will no longer be a “3.”

    Anybody want to tell me what I should be expecting now? Is this it?

    Is it all over for me? Time to pick out a plot and a headstone?

    • MissM says:

      As I am not subscribed to The Times I cannot read your link but Google tells me it is titled “Failed eyesight, permafrowns, unruly hair – help!”.

      It is no way over for you, only women have a sell by date set at 40. Women in their forties are now required to aim for no man younger than 80 – see Dick Van Dyke and Nigel Lawson as examples of appropriate partners. Of course, you being a man Scott, the amount of money you have will help determine how young your partner can be, looks have nothing to do with it (see also Dick Van Dyke and Nigel Lawson). When it comes to money, I hope you have lots.

      To anyone taking this post too seriously – I recommend seeking professional help.

    • Margaux says:

      Scott …WTF? !! 🙂 You decide!
      I know people who freaked out at 20, 30 and so on …trust me, 40 seems hardly worth getting wound up about these days …..anyway, the choice is yours….if you start thinking it’s all over at 40 it will be. On the other hand….

      • I keep hearing that 90 is now the new 80, and that 100 is now the new 90!!!

        Not entirely certain what that actually means though…. Probably anything you want it to?

  • Brigitte says:

    So sorry, P. That was not a pleasant re-introduction to dating.

    I’m also out of practice, amongst other things. The first man that turned me down on my dating website (the francophone, my age) because he was meeting another woman from the site, was back viewing my profile on Sunday. I sent him another message asking if he would like to meet for coffee and haven’t heard back. I’m hoping he’s just away on March break with his daughter.

    Now, to be fair, I’m getting all kinds of flirts on the dating site, some written messages, and numerous viewings (which mean nothing). None of the few appealing men that viewed me messaged me initially and others have not replied to my messages, yet many wrote in their profile: “Send me a message”. Is part of the definition of being a plankton that you are not desired by those you desire, because, despite the attention I’m getting from men I that don’t appeal to me, the silence from those I desire speaks volumes about my rank in the sexual food chain.

  • Lydia says:

    Yes, he asked you out now you ask him. Say you really enjoyed it and would he lilke to go to XYZ next week, your treat or something like that.

    As for whether people go no date in marriage most people probably don’t call them that (and I don’t think the Engilsh tend to use the word “date” anyway as it’s an Americanism which repels us) but still do go out with their spouse alone. As for dates since a divorce go on a lot. I’ve had some lovely times with men and even if most of the time it doesn’t even lead to a second meeting it’s been a lot of fun. There are some lovely men out there.

    • Margaux says:

      Since when have ‘the English’ not called it a date? news to me ….

      • fi says:

        Hmmmm. What nationality is Lydia?

      • MissBates says:

        Probably a tax exile in Monaco — all that money, don’t you know …

      • Lydia says:

        Not everyone. Lots of men have said to me they don’t use the word data, that’s it is an American import, that you might be going out to dinner with someone but the word date feels wrong. It does to me too.

        I would never say I am going on a date. I would say I am going out to dinner with a man or words like that. It is not important but I bet I am not the only person in the UK who feels the same about the use of the noun and verb date.

    • Elle says:

      Lovely men with STDs. 🙂 Sorry Lydia, couldn’t resist!

  • I’m so sorry there wasn’t a spark, as I vividly recall what an impossible hurdle it felt like to get a date…and then to get through a date and be asked on a next, and then to pass three, etc.

    I’m still feeling blessed and lucky for — and yes, am grieving — my first post-divorce relationship. But I am ever more hopeful having had it.

  • EmGee says:

    Well, fizzle.

    When can we expect him to surface again, mid May? I do hope he asks you out again, if only because he seems to be good company and a night out is always nice.

  • june says:

    Dear me P is it going to go anywhere , we wait with bated breath,

    I have some interesting news on the POF contact, one of those who lives a good 80 miles away, we have had the odd message and he announced yesterday he was going to france in his motor home early may, did i want to go! Now as i have never met this man and he me i felt this was rushing things slightly, and quite frankly would i want to spend 5 weeks in a motor home with a man i hardly know, even one i did know, as motor homes and camp sites have never been my idea of a holiday, Im more your at least 3 star hotel sort of girl, i am quite high maintenance so dont feel quite my thing, but i was amazed a man would ask a women he hardly knows to do this, is this how things are done now then, i cant imagine myself ever doing it.

    Still its comforting to know someone finds me attractive but its men who live near me i want to, not someone who lives miles away and who wants to holiday in a motor home, i think after 5 weeks of that i would be screaming to escape,.

    • fi says:

      You know June, I don’t think you’ll ever meet anyone who meets your criteria I’m afraid. I think you’ll need to broaden it if you don’t want to be a spinster for ever. I think its your choice though where your future will go

    • MissM says:

      FIve weeks in a motorhome would be tremendously challenging to even the most devoted couple. I know of a couple who spent three days on a houseboat just before their wedding, the wedding was called off.

    • MissBates says:

      @June Putting aside the wisdom of heading off in a complete stranger’s motor home to France (wasn’t that the plot of some recent serial killer film?), I must say 80 miles isn’t that far. Now, that may well be my American notion of distances speaking — but 80 miles from where I live in Manhattan just barely gets you out of the suburbs of New York, and would certainly be no barrier to a relationship with a decent guy. No, I’m not suggesting that Mr. Motor Home fits the bill, but I do I think that in general you have to be open to casting a much wider geographic net.

    • Margaux says:

      June – how about radically reworking your profile? If it’s not working perhaps changing it may bring different responses.
      Does it have a positive upbeat feel about it? or do you start from a position of ‘oh well, this probably won’t work’ .. …
      Does it have negative statements in it ?? If it does, I’d strip them all out and fill it with positives

    • MsHaversham to be says:

      I did two weeks in a campervan in New Zealand recently and loved it. It’s actually good fun. Being able to wake up in a different place everyday is wonderful, and the scenery……

      That aside, who the hell goes away with a man they’ve never met for five weeks in a campervan.

      Remember that freaky cartoon cat Charlie (apologies to non-English readers) from our youth ‘never go with strangers’.

    • RS says:

      80 miles is relatively close, June. You can’t necessarily expect to find someone in the next street. 80 miles is certainly close enough to meet up on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon/evening.
      I wouldn’t want to go motorhoming with the guy at this stage, but why on earth would you not try to have a dinner out with him??
      You’re not, I’m afraid, being at all realistic if you are discounting a mere 80 miles as an impossible distance.

      • Lydia says:

        80 miles it not too far. Believing anything might work until you meet though is silly on both sides. Meet quite quickly lots of people. Until you meet you know very little. if you get on and start seeing each other by all means fly out for 2 or 3 weekends with him whilst he’s in the motor home (but do not endure it for 5 weeks – most people with careers cannot take 5 weeks off in a motor home so do a bit of work looking at his finances and career too).

  • Margaux says:

    P – I still think sometimes these things have a to ‘cook’ a little. Is it that you decided you didn’t fancy him after all? or you expected him to give the signals and he didn’t ? Maybe he was expecting you to ?

    You may hear from him yet……I wouldn’t be surprised …

  • MsHaversham to be says:

    First dates post break up/end of a major relationship can be odd. At the back of your mind there is always that ‘the last time I did this was when I met the ex’ and that can be frightening, upsetting and unnerving.

    If you are able to go on a practice date before meeting with the man you quite like then do so. Of course they can both be disappointing.

    I went on two dates in November. One was a blind date with a man I called Gerbit (a cross between a ferret and a gerbil). I’m not sure what the most depressing thing was, him or the fact that anyone would think he was my type. Perhaps a hint that he was all I could aim for( physique wise was even worse, I’m into rugby players and he was skinny, only just taller than me and starting to go bald; another possible suggestion that he was all I could get?).

    The next chap was nice enough but there was no spark.

    Given those two evenings I decided to wade back to the plankton rock pool and here I’m staying!

    On the plus side P, next time you date you won’t have any thoughts about meeting your ex being the last date you went on. It will also be less upsetting, depressing, nerve wracking or any other emotion you might have felt.

    • MissM says:

      Ah the mysterious “spark”, what does that exactly mean? You liked him but he couldn’t make you laugh? You liked him and he was funny but he was about as physically as attractive as roadkill to you? Or you liked him, he was funny, he was attractive but there was something else that was missing that you need to take things further and you can’t say what it is only that it was missing?

      My sympathies on being paired with the Gerbit, there is nothing quite so demoralising as being paired with someone far below your level, that really does make it very hard to maintain ones self esteem. I do find it insulting, especially if it was your friend who did the pairing. Did they have a reason or at least apologise? I hope you thanked them appropriately.

      If I knew for sure that all I could realistically hope for is someone with the intellectual capacity of a box of rocks or an old man looking for a nurse with a purse, I’d definitely take myself off the market and make do with a dozen cats. If I can’t have someone to share my life with as an equal then I’d rather have no one at all.

      • MsHaversham to be says:

        The sparkless one- he was a tad overbearing (don’t you love it when a man talks over and at you?) and whilst nice enough, I really felt no mental or physical attraction whatsoever. I just remember sitting there thinking that no matter how drunk I am I could never go to bed with you. I’d say that’s a killer.

        As to Gerbit- it was the son of a friend of my mother’s. Yes I brought that on myself. I agreed to the date whilst working and not listening to my mother on the phone. Learn from my mistake. It’s too late for me.

        I really can’t face what’s out there anymore. It’s enough to make you tranquilliser dependent.

      • MissM says:

        Thanks for your response MsHaversham to be. Yes it makes a lot more sense if I can see the spark everyone mentions as being that elusive thing that makes you think ‘yes I would like to go to bed with you’ as opposed to hoping he never attempts to touch you… at all… ever.

        I totally understand how you feel about what is out there. I recently heard something on the radio saying that 45% of Australians have difficulties with reading and writing. (Apparently true, OECD statistics state 44.8% of Australians have a low literacy level, and only 17.4% are described as having a high rate of literacy.) Firstly I thought that figure is terrifyingly high, but then I realised around 99% of the men on the online dating sites here would fall into the low literacy category. Unless of course the literate ones live in other parts of Oz, it is a big country after all. Either way it is better not to look and depress oneself at what the options are.

      • MsHaversham to be says:

        Hehe (I can’t laugh out loud as I’m at work). I always assumed we had the worst illiteracy rates in the Western world; We keep being told that in the papers.

        Oh and then there’s the hygiene of some. Or the belief that the f word is an adjective.

        I’ll buy a bottle of tranquillisers for two then : )

    • RS says:

      Your description of Gerbit is giving me pause. I have recently met and am quite taken with a man who is just my height, slender, and starting to go bald. Not my normal type at all, but he is absolutely lovely, a decade younger, hilarious, smart, totally sexy and a doctor to boot.
      So, you know.

      • Barry says:

        Ouf! Go girl xx

      • ex-pond-slime says:

        The description of Gerbit gave me pause too – skinny, balding, not tall -sounds just like my lovely husband, who also had it made clear to him by various plankton that he wasn’t nearly good enough for them. Thank heavens they didn’t see what a catch he was, thank heavens it didn’t stop him trying, or we wouldn’t have met and found happiness together. Good luck with your prospective bloke RS, he sounds gorgeous.

        Dear Plankton, I’m sorry it didn’t work out with LS. Dating is hell. I remember the prinking and preparing and conversational twirling and all the desperate effort to perform that left my date blandly unmoved. The men who were full of bile and bitterness, the pathetic ones I felt sorry for but couldn’t bear to be with, the ones in love with someone else, the ones where it all seemed to be going so well until they shook my hand and rushed away as if my Dad had suddenly appeared with a vicar and a shotgun. I remember the dates with my now-husband, the constant agonies – will I put him off? Will he put me off? The possibility of a relationship was a tiny feeble creature barely alive huddled invisibly between us, and the more we tried to nurture it into life, the more likely we were to accidentally squash it.

        Dating is horrible, but the payoff is worth it. A million times worth it. And you never have to date again.


      • MsHaversham to be says:

        It depends on who you ‘spark’ with. My ex wasn’t physically my type and yet I found him instantly attractive right down to the butterflies (in my stomach not some odd tattoo). Gerbit was by no means sexy, funny or anything of the above. Unless you’re attracted to damp dish sponges.

    • Elle says:

      To be fair, as we get older we’re not exactly what some men are looking for ourselves. I think we should be flexible on “type” and give men a chance as long as they are clean, sane, sociable and intelligent.

      • MissM says:

        Very true Elle, but to clean, sane, sociable and intelligent I would have to add not perceived as physically repellent (actually you can swap sociable out since I wouldn’t care if he is completely asocial as long as he can get along with me). I said ‘perceived’ deliberately since what will repulse some is not necessarily going to repulse others.

        For some people a certain ‘type’ might just be an automatic turn off, and we just how varied those turn offs can be since on here they range from missing teeth to holding the cutlery the wrong way. Also what is one woman’s turn off can be exactly what turns another woman on, for example I actually like some nicely trimmed facial hair on a guy yet many on here would vote for making it illegal they find it so repellent. Not that I find it essential, it’s just one of those things that I find attractive. I also quite like guys who are a bit on the short and chubby side, not what most women probably want either.

        Sometimes someone can not be one’s ‘type’ at all and yet still be as attractive as hell for some undefinable reason.

        I think when it all gets boiled down, it is absolutely essential to be able to fancy the guy, and if you can’t, the reason why you can’t is irrelevant. It simply isn’t going to happen for the two of you regardless of how sensible or not it may be, some things are just outside the realms of logic.

      • MsHaversham to be says:

        Maybe but it comes down to the oft stated line, do you settle or not? I wouldn’t write someone off on looks but there has to be some attraction. As said above, the ex wasn’t what I traditionally find physically attractive but I fell for his personality so you end up loving the looks too.

        I just would rather singlehood or suicide than Gerbit.

      • MsHaversham to be says:

        Apologies there should be no but in my response. Guess who didn’t proof read again…..

  • Lydia says:

    Look at today’s Times – some pairing including Nigel Lawson (80) who appears to be divorced from his second wife now going ot with 37 year old blonde nearly 10 years younger than his daughter Nigella. It must be a rare 80 year old who can even maintain erections.

  • rosie says:

    Speaking of the motor home, two women I know who were online dating spent the night with a bloke without having met: one went to his house, the other sat waiting in a hotel room in Spain. Mad. Neither ‘date’ went anywhere.

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