How To Not Get Asked Out On A Date In London Without Really Trying



Slide background



On first dates – and the promise of romance – in London.

I was killing time before a talk at the LSE one Saturday and was wandering the area around it: Kingsway-Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where I sat as long as I could bear the cold. It was late February, the temperature finally as it should have been in December, and I shivered on a bench, taking pictures of fat grey pigeons and a small dog patiently sitting in the middle of the small green observing squirrels while I tried to guess from the rooftops which house was the Sir John Soane’s museum. After half an hour of pretending I didn’t mind the freezing wind, I retraced my steps to Kingsway and walked into the first bar I came across.

In the early evening it was filling rapidly with couples on dates, friends getting together for a quieter drink before a more hectic night and the pre-theatre crowd examining their tickets. I sat at a long, high table and watched a couple of impeccably dressed men on what must have been a first date; the body language says it all – one moves closer into the other to catch a word, a hand on a sleeve, a quick glance up to the eyes before laughing. I sipped at a tall gin and tonic sparkling with ice, took a picture and posted it: at All Bar One, waiting for the LSE talk to start…

Occasionally, we are taken by surprise – sitting with our drinks or looking at a painting, the spark of communication across the city burning a small path from one to another.

And then, a message from someone – a Twitter acquaintance I had been talking about books with more and more lately:

The Other One: Excuse this DM, but I am walking and typing and trying not to fall over (chances of latter not good). Sending this as limiting to 140 characters too much to concentrate on. Am not too far away from you at the National Gallery and wanted to say ‘come over and view the Delacroix’ (or something equally casual yet irresistible as invitations go & cleverly disguising my interest at seeing you in person – Delacroix wouldn’t mind, being rather helpfully dead – but it’s the weekend and I have a time-specific ticket and perhaps ‘would love for you to stand in a queue for the Delacroix’ not so much an attractive proposition.

Me: Well, it is London… I’m frankly surprised no one has asked me to come stand in a queue socially before. Now that I think about it, no one has asked me to look at a Delacroix that they *happened* to be positioned close to.

The Other One: So, more of an apology for not inviting you to something you didn’t know you were not invited to.

Me: This may be one of the most compelling non-invites I’ve ever had. Definitely in the Top 5.

The Other One: I’ve started laughing – apparently not looked kindly upon in a gallery. Am sure to be blacklisted from all London cultural events in the future. But I like to think I fail well, and I hope to have the chance to fail again soon.

The talk was going to start soon, so he wished me a good evening and said goodbye. The ice was melting in my drink, top cubes crackling as they dropped lower into the tonic. I looked out of the window at the black taxis occupied with people beginning their journeys and then gazed around me in surprise: the bar was completely packed, and I was oblivious to it all in that time.

At any given time in London, think of how many first dates must be happening, and even more than that, the tentative communications between people each trying to gauge the other before asking. We look at photos and scrutinise hairstyles and eye colour, height and facial shape, swipe left or right, read bios that attempt to be aloof or tell their entire life story. Occasionally, we are taken by surprise – sitting with our drinks or looking at a painting, the spark of communication across the city burning a small path from one to another. And just sometimes, not being asked out is much more enjoyable and anticipatory than being asked. So the next time you hear a story of an exchange that happened in real time, imagine them in different parts of the city. Map London by it and think: each place we stand is another chance at love.