Summer 2002: several months had passed since I'd left the dating website. My Lonely Hearts advert had resulted in one excruciatingly fun-free date. I guess I was kind of concentrating on my job and friends, but kind of realising that this sounded like a cliché and really I wanted more. I needed to kickstart my dating life again - but how?
An opportunity arrived in my inbox. While on the dating website I had given one of my external email addresses out to a few women. One of them emailed me all those months later. She and I had chatted online for several hours one evening but nothing further had come of it. What had prompted her to email me at this point? She didn't really give any reason but I wasn't about to worry too much about that - to be honest I was pleased to have a dating prospect on my horizon again.
We both had email access at work and time available to use it, so before long we were having email conversations throughout our workdays. We shared a similar sense of humour and we found out all kinds of information about each other's lives. Her ambition was to be a singer on Pop Idol. My ambition was to go on a date with her.
When I asked her on a date she agreed at first but then cancelled and asked to reschedule two or three times. This was a warning sign but I persevered, figuring that I had nothing to lose by being patient. Eventually, after three weeks of email chatting and postponed plans, we had a date which didn't get cancelled.
We met in a bar and sat down with drinks to find out how we'd get on in real life. The fact that we'd already chatted so much via email was both helpful and unhelpful: we already had a connection which carried over somewhat into the real world, but at the same time it felt strange not to be communicating through our usual medium. We didn't run out of things to say but we were both more tentative than we had been in cyberspace.
The date ended without any clear indication of what our next step would be. We hadn't managed to be fully comfortable in each other's company. But the next day, back on the emails, our banter continued where it had left off. We chatted as if the date had been a success and both said that we wanted a second. In the mean time our emails became more racy and suggestive. We talked as if all of our online chemistry would translate into the real world soon. Our second date was agreed around two weeks after the first.
For some reason, I agreed to our second date being at the cinema. Why did I do that? I should have known better! As I approached the cinema I could see her waiting outside. Bad vibes. She looked uncomfortable and guarded. Our initial interaction was less comfortable than on our first date, not more. We went in to watch the film and it seemed that she shrank away from me any time I tried to put my arm around her or show affection. Things were not looking good. It didn't help that the film was pretty bad as well!
We went for a walk after that and talked a bit. She said that she wasn't sure what she wanted and wasn't sure how to be around me. We parted ways at the station soon after that. I had a feeling that our next cyber-contact would not be a bounce back to our previous highs. My fears were confirmed by text later that evening. I think those dreaded two words "Just Friends" were involved again. Real-world reality had won out over online-world fantasy.