I have a strike system when it comes to dates and relationships. I'm a tolerant girl. I don't pick arguments over the slightest wrong words, I don't focus too much on what's said about exes, and I don't react too harshly when the guy is quite clearly being a hypocrite. But, that doesn't mean it's all forgotten. It's as if my mind has a basket, and one by one these 'wrong-doings' are thrown in until one day the handle becomes too weak and the entire thing falls to the ground with a loud thud, and everything is out in the open.
"I've never brought someone like you here before," Jimmy says as he pulls the chair out for me when we enter this gorgeous, Italian restaurant in Guildford. I reluctantly sit down, calculating in my head how exactly to take his words. But, I decide to say nothing. Perhaps he meant "I've never taken someone as beautiful as you here before" or "this place has never seen a more intelligent woman than you..." or ..."you've dressed as a prostitute today...are you one?"
But, I keep quiet and store this information away in my mental basket as I unwrap the napkin from its elegant clip and place it on my lap, occasionally playing with the edge.
I glance up at my date, who, despite his words, seems to be in good spirits. His green eyes dazzle like peridot in the dim, candlelit lighting, and his blond hair - scruffy yet fashionable, is the exact shade I once naively dyed my hair back in my second year of university. I wonder if perhaps he uses L'Oreal Casting Creme Gloss in Sweet Honey as well.
"Are you OK?" he asks, piercing the word association my mind is playing.
"Yes, of course," I smile angelically.
"Then, why are you staring at my hair?"
"I was just admiring your hair colour," I cautiously say.
"Oh, thanks," he replies as he calls over a waiter. "I've been dying it for a couple of years. An ex-girlfriend convinced me to use her hair dye once and I've never looked back since,"
L'Oreal Casting Creme Gloss in Sweet Honey it is then.
"Actually, the girls I go for are always blonde. You're a funny change,"
And there goes basket item number 2, practically cannonballed in. A funny change?! And yet, I still say nothing. It just sits there in my brain, niggling away at me until some point I won't be able to ignore it.
The waiter comes over with a broad smile - that attractive, flirtatious smile that Italian men seem to have down to a T.
"You'll like the Mediterranean salad," Jimmy points out. "Delicious and not very fattening," and he eyes my slim figure up and down as if I should be signing up to Weight Watchers.
Err...thanks for basket component number 3!
"I'll have the steak," he says, and my mind desperately attempts for a comeback. Hmm, perhaps something about his belly, which on closer inspection could do with a few sit ups. Or the deep wrinkles that are forming around his eyes...
A bit too far. He'll probably cry. This is a man who dyes his hair in a shade called 'Honey Blonde' for goodness sake.
"The Mediterranean salad sounds like a good choice. I'll go for that," I confirm.
"Wise girl!" Jimmy tells the waiter.
See...that's a sort of compliment...isn't it?
"How long have you been in advertising?" he asks me when the waiter leaves to tend another table.
I look around the room pondering over the three months that I've been working there. "A year," I lie.
"Still, you'll probably have to look for another job soon. I mean, you can't be making that much," he sips his wine and intently looks into my eyes, which I'm sure are like saucers over the shock of what he's said.
"Moving to law was the best decision I ever made. The money's brilliant,"
Good for you. Tosser.
"Success is a really attractive quality in a woman, and well, you are... you know,"
No, I don't know. Please go on!
"I'm used to girls who I can show off career wise,"
And I'm used to smart, attractive guys who adore me, but I'm not sharing that little gem with you.
"My ex was amazing. A real hard-worker. She'll go incredibly far, you know. Maybe I can introduce you to her so she can give you a few career tips,"
Tosser! Tosser! Tosser!
"I love my job. I'm really happy there," I tell him, as if I even have to justify.
"Well, I'm glad," he says in a patronising tone. And there goes another basket item.
I tuck into my meal when it finally arrives, and luckily the conversation has swerved away from my insignificant career, and Jimmy is telling me about his family who live in the north of Italy. He's a lot nicer when he talks about himself and stays out of my life, so these ten minutes are rather enjoyable.
But it doesn't last.
"It's so strange that I'm on a date with you," he weirdly informs me. "You're just not my type at all,"
Do you even like me???
"I prefer blonde, petite girls," the genius continues, "and, well, you're not,"
Yeah, how dare I be a tall brunette. Gosh, it's every guy's nightmare!!! Is this basket item number 100 or 150? I've lost count.
"Where do you buy your clothes, because they don't look that expensive?"
Right! That's it!
Question my looks and my career all you want, but say anything about my fashion sense and I will ruin you, darling!!
"You're an arsehole, so I'm leaving," I announce standing up.
"What?" he answers back, genuinely confused.
"Did you honestly think this was going well?" I sit back down again to tell him everything I'm thinking. "We've been here for forty-five minutes and for 70% of the time you've been talking about your short exes. You've told me my career is going nowhere and how well you're doing. I mean, have some composure. You've explained how I'm a 'funny change' to your usual type, well, let me tell you something, you're no God's gift to women! You're getting a pot belly, you've sunbathed so much you look like leather, and you've got a bald patch,"
He quickly raises his right hand to cover the back of his head.
"Probably from all the hair dye, which by the way, doesn't even suit you! Oh, and you think your career is going well? You seem to forget that my best friend is your assistant, and I hear from her that the company is losing money. So let's see who's where in a years' time, shall we?"
He's about to pipe up, but I don't let him.
"On the way here you told me you had a problem with hearing about my ex-boyfriend from three years ago, so why must I sit here and let you compare me to your past blondes? And you have the audacity to get me in contact with one of them! You have issues, mate!"
I rise up from my seat again, but then I remember another point.
"Oh! And you think this dress isn't expensive? It's not like you'd be able to tell anyway, judging by the way you're dressed. Pale green and navy don't go together! So I'm sure you and your Asda tie will have a lovely dinner together. Enjoy your evening,"
And I feel so much better.