Ivo Graham: ‘A dismal failure’
On my year abroad in Paris – the city of love – I went on, if not an official date, then a two-person “rendezvous” where I was almost certainly harbouring more romantic aspirations than my opposite number. We elected, foolishly, to watch the film Buried, about an American truck-driver (Ryan Reynolds) in Iraq who spends the film imprisoned in a coffin. The only sliver of hope for this claustrophobic nightmare of a cinema experience would have been a mutual clasp of terror during one of the white-knuckle moments (the snake? the sand? Ryan’s phone running out of battery?). Alas, due to our late arrival at the Gaumont Parnasse, my companion sat not next to me but one row in front. And someone kicked over my popcorn. A dismal failure on every front.
Ken Cheng: ‘She reheated some pasta and started kissing me’
During the last Edinburgh fringe, I met a flyerer and we had a fun initial chat. We both had an hour to kill and she asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat. I went “Sure” and she said “OK, do you want to come back to my place?” I was a bit taken aback but it seemed innocent enough so I went along with it. When I got there, she reheated some pasta, we ate and then she started kissing me. She quickly stopped and said: “Sorry, I’m not into this.” So I left and we never spoke again. This all took place within an hour of meeting.
Sofie Hagen: ‘He said his powers came from his mother’s cat’
We had worked together one summer, and ran into each other one Friday night. We went for drinks and everything was fine, until he shushed me and started listening intensely to the music. It was Madonna or something. Then he smiled and said: “Sorry, it’s just that I communicate with God through music. Carry on.” He told me his powers came from his mother’s cats and that he believed all people were cats or dogs. “You’re obviously a dog,” he said with a big, caring smile. He wanted to win The X Factor. “Do you sing?” I asked. “No,” he said. “But I’ve never cried before and I can only cry if I win The X Factor. I’d love to try crying.” I still don’t know if he was trying to be funny or not. Either way, he never texted me back.
Suzi Ruffell: ‘I was smashing this date until…’
Edinburgh festival, 2012. She was flirty and pretty in a girl-next-door way (if the girl next door was really fit). She came to my show, said she loved it and suggested a drink the next night. We had several – laughing, chatting, sharing a fag. The bar was closing but she knew somewhere else. Brilliant! A jazz club. I’ve never been into jazz but I could be tonight. I’ve always been awkward on dates but I was smashing this one. As I walked her home, we shared an umbrella. (Since I was a teenager I’ve thought rain is romantic because of a kissing scene in Ally McBeal; I remember thinking: “Imagine wanting to kiss someone so much you didn’t mind your hair getting wet.”) At her house, we gazed into each other’s eyes. Then she broke the silence. “This was amazing. You’re the perfect date. If I was gay, you’d be the one.” Ah … not a date after all.
Emma Sidi: ‘Ask to see ID first’
I was 13 and Nick from my drama group invited me to see Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Remember it? It’s the one that was extra shit and in which Anakin refers to child jedis as “younglings”. I brought my best friend Libby with me, as was the Year 9 way, and we just took the piss out of the film, not saying a word to poor Nick. Afterwards a friend texted me on my Nokia brick to inform me something I needed to know about Nick. It turns out he wasn’t 13 at all – he was 12. Twelve! I felt lost, betrayed and humiliated. This Year 8 kid had lied to me and it was over. The experience taught me everything I now know about love: ask to see ID before going to the latest Star Wars instalment, or girl you gonna get burned.
Olga Koch: ‘I injected as much whimsy as possible’
This date was disastrous thanks to me and only me. While at university, I fancied myself a real manic pixie dream girl – so when a lovely young man asked me out, I decided to inject it with as much whimsy as humanly possible. First, I demanded he drive us to a cemetery, because I wanted to be quirky but in a goth way. It turned out to be much sadder than the Smiths made it seem, so we got back into his car. After that, I asked him to drive us to a strip club. There, he tried his best to maintain eye contact with me as a beautiful woman approached us offering a lap dance. He politely said “I’m good”, to which the beautiful woman responded with a shrug: “I’m better.” Later we made out in his car.
Stephen Bailey: ‘There was a bed of nails’
Once upon a time, there was a little, ginger, camp comedian who had just finished a Soho theatre run and was ready to find The One. He searched far and wide (OK, I went into Soho after my gig) and met a boy. He looked like Aladdin, we exchanged numbers. Days later, I was invited to his house (a warehouse in east London, and he was vegan – I should have known). The conversation was great, he was a little eccentric and wore a kimono but I just thought: “Take what you can get.” He took me into his “special room” and there was a bed of nails. He said they were for chiropractic – a likely story! I was dying to leave but the Uber surge charge was on. So I hopped on and I’ve not quite been the same since.
Angela Barnes: ‘I couldn’t escape’
When I was an awkward 18-year-old, all low self-esteem and Nirvana T-shirts, I met a friend of a friend in the pub. He had dark curly hair and lovely eyes, so when he asked me to go out with him, I was over the moon. I gave him my number (by which I mean the landline at my mum’s house) and steeled myself for a week of sitting by a phone that never rang. But it did. The next day. He was having a party at his house on Saturday night. Would I like to go along as his date? He lived in a village out of town so would come and pick me up. (He had a car! OK, it was his mum’s Nissan Micra, but it was a car!) I was so excited – a date and a house party. We made awkward small talk as he drove me to his parents’ house in the country. I thought: how cool must your parents be to just let you have a party in their massive house? We arrived, and I was greeted at the front door by said parents. Both of them. It was their 25th-anniversary party, where I was to be paraded and introduced to his entire family. I couldn’t escape – I didn’t even know where I was – so I had to smile sweetly and wait for him to drive me home.
Elf Lyons: ‘He resembled a serial killer from Luther’
Never date someone older than your dad. Never date a drug addict. Never date someone you meet in a lift. These were the golden rules my mum told me. I broke all of them two years ago. He told me “You make me feel impossible” and quoted a Stephen King book at me. I assumed it was true love. We arranged to meet at 7pm. He was 45 minutes late. He told me he had been stopping a fight. This turned out to be a lie. He had gone to the cinema on his own to see Paddington and got the timings wrong. He wore Crocs, army shorts and a Robbie Williams Let Me Entertain You tour T-shirt. It was a Friday in December. He resembled a serial killer from Luther.
We went to a hipster restaurant where he talked about his brother’s divorce, his dead relatives and his acute IBS – all while taking out a lot of aggression on the bread sticks. After he asked if I had “ever considered getting checked for Marfan syndrome”, I stood to make a dignified exit. Instead, I banged my head on a decorative shelf and started bleeding from my head. As I bled all over my dress, the table, the food and my dignity, much like Sissy Spacek in Carrie, I also managed to bleed on his clothes. I apologised. He said there was nothing to apologise for. A week later he sent me a receipt for the dry cleaning.
Lou Sanders: ‘I did the walk of shame’
I was 15 and my boyfriend and I were in a posh spa for Valentine’s day. After some heavy petting in the deep end, I needed a widdle and because it was a nice place, I thought I would use the toilet. I sauntered off as sassily as I could in my mum’s ill-fitting Aztec-print bikini, through a door up some stairs. I was following my nose to the toilet because, like a fox (or rat), I work on instinct. I opened a fire door, which locked closed behind me and I took in my surroundings. I was in a five-star restaurant where people were busy eating Sunday lunch. There I was stuck like a fox (or rat) in the headlights: a dripping-wet, apologetic, bikini-clad rat. I did the walk of shame through to the other end of the restaurant, out the front door and back into reception. Hiya!
Ahir Shah: ‘I was beginning to inflate’
When we first met, my girlfriend was living in Bristol. Early in our relationship, we walked to the beautiful suburb of Clifton for lunch; it was all dappled sunlight and gentle breeze. Things were going tremendously well until the end of the meal, when my face and hands began dramatically swelling. My breathing was normal, I was merely beginning to inflate like Violet Beauregarde (but still brown). Once we had acquired deflationary drugs, detective work was in order. It turned out that the multivitamins I had started taking contained small amounts of krill oil. It also turns out that I am allergic to krill. Like a shit whale. If you want a date to go perfectly, avoid spending the preceding week microdosing yourself with poison while telling anyone who’ll listen that you’re “on a health kick”.
Lucy Porter: ‘He broke his arm’
We were just winding up the date when he broke his arm. My friend had arranged a blind date for me with her work colleague. There had been no spark of romance, I had to foot the whole bill and he told me I looked fatter in real life than on TV. We were just about to part ways (reasonably) amicably at the tube when he decided to vault over the barrier. The tube staff were really kind and sympathetic considering he was a felon, and called an ambulance. They assumed we were boyfriend and girlfriend and I felt obliged to go with him. I stayed with him for five hours in A&E until he was discharged. I would love to be a time traveller so I could go back to 2002 and tell my younger self to leave before coffee.
Sindhu Vee: ‘He turned on his heel and walked out’
When I was 18 I had an all-consuming crush on a boy who was also a very close pal. We were already very comfortable talking about romantic relationships, just never the one we were clearly meant to have. I decided I had to tell him and invited him over to my place. I went to make us some tea and returned with two mugs on a tray. As he took a mug, I said: “I really, really like you.” The mug stopped in mid-air. Wordlessly, eyes glued to the mug, he replaced it on the tray, turned on his heel and walked out the front door. Summer holidays started the next day. I didn’t see him again until we were 24 and he was a last-minute passenger in a car I was driving on a road trip. But that’s another story.
Joel Creasey: ‘The longest bathroom break ever’
Did You Hear About the Morgans? Not a question. That’s the name of the film I saw when I was ditched halfway through a date. I was 18 and on one of my first ever romantic outings. My date (let’s call him Liam … like his parents did) invited me to see it. I was on my best behaviour. I don’t even think we spoke that much but I thought everything was going great. Then the film started … Sarah Jessica Parker attempted a character that wasn’t Carrie Bradshaw and “Liam” (real name) had to go to the bathroom. It was the longest bathroom break ever because it’s still going, apparently.
Shappi Khorsandi: ‘There was no second date’
I came of age in the 90s. Back then, you just fell on someone in a nightclub. Dating came later. I joined a dating website a couple of years ago and got chatting to a nice woman. She was quite a bit younger than me but happy to come to my local. When I arrived, she had pushed two armchairs together and had bought not one, but two bottles of wine. I had to be up for the school run. After a few minutes she said: “You snogged my cousin at the Edinburgh festival’ ARGH! Obviously, her cousin did not respect the law of “what happens at the fringe, stays at the fringe”. At Edinburgh, I’m 90s-me again. All other times, I’m a tired fortysomething. There was no second date.
Kerry Godliman: ‘Dates are like auditions’
I used to watch people go on dates on Sex and the City and think: what are they doing? I didn’t have that sort of life. I used to sleep with people and work backwards: if you can tolerate them in the morning, you might get towards a relationship. I thought dates were like auditions, and I went on those and they were shit. But there was a time when I’d been single for a while so I appealed to a friend to set me up on a blind date. We had a nice evening, he was funny and interesting, but there wasn’t any spark. He was a playwright and was doing a production and offered me a part in it. I ended up snogging one of the other cast members and taking him home with me. He’s now my husband.