When I tell people I’ve written a novel about online dating with a heroine who's been on a ton of bad dates, they often want to know about the bad dates I’ve been on.
Perfect Match isn’t autobiographical and it’s not just a collection of bad date stories either. It’s a romantic comedy about a serial dater called Sophia who, having reached breaking point with dating, creates a joke profile describing her perfect man, who happens to be a Robert Pattinson lookalike multimillionaire (natch). The profile is just a joke and Sophia doesn’t expect to actually find a guy who fits the bill, so when a man comes along who ticks all the boxes, she’s left wondering what the catch is.
I’ve never created a profile for a Robert Pattinson lookalike (although maybe I should!) and the story is made up. But a lot of the bad dates Sophia refers to at the start of the novel are based on real dates I've been on, and most of the weird messages she receives when she signs up to fictional dating site, Dream Dates, were copy and paste jobs from my own inbox on PlentyOfFish.
So, for anyone interested in my diabolical dating history, here are five bad dates that inspired Perfect Match.
Height is a surprisingly controversial topic in dating. A lot of women will simply refuse to date someone under a certain height. And a lot of men get very upset by the perceived superficiality of women who filter matches based on this criterion.
Personally, height isn’t something that particularly bothers me. I’m not a fan of guys towering too high above me. My ideal height is around 5’9" in a guy, but equally if I got on really well with someone, I wouldn’t care if they were shorter than that or taller. A lot of women do seem to prefer taller guys though, which is why you see guys proudly dropping in that they’re 6’1" in their Tinder bios.
I got chatting to one guy online who had listed on his profile that he was 6’1". We then met in person and he was shorter than me. I’m 5’6". This really got to me. His height wasn’t the issue, it was the fact that he'd lied so brazenly. There was literally no way he could have gotten away with the lie. Maybe if he’d been an inch or two shorter, I might not have noticed, but six inches? I mean come on!
It really put me off because I instantly knew he was dishonest and a bit of a scammer, and regardless of height, who wants to date a guy like that?
I got chatting to a guy on PlentyOfFish – or PlentyOfFreaks as my friends and I affectionally call it. He was very attractive – half Scottish and half Egyptian with dark appealing features and I was really excited to meet him. I was 28 at the time, and while I prefer not to date younger guys, he said he was 25 and I didn't think three years was such a big deal. I went to a pub to meet him and in walked a fricking baby-faced teenager.
He looked way younger than his pictures and I felt so uncomfortable. It was clear he’d been lying and after a bit of probing, he finally admitted he was 18. We had a quick drink and then I was gone!
We all want to feel special. To be that girl who just takes someone’s breath away - the way people fall in love in movies. Well, one guy made me feel a bit like this.
I’d just had my hair cut and was rocking a pretty nice blow-dry, and I was feeling good as I stood outside St Paul’s station waiting to meet a friend when this guy walked past. He was older, probably by about 15 years, but he was attractive. Our eyes met as he walked by, and he smiled before slipping into the station. I smiled to myself, and continued looking out for my friend, when he suddenly came back out of the station and walked towards me.
‘You’re beautiful,’ he said. ‘You don’t have to do anything with this, but here’s my business card.’ He thrust his business card into my hand, before hurrying back to the station, looking embarrassed.
A lot of women would probably think this was totally sleazy, but I thought it was cute. Plus, I checked his card and he had a really good job! So, I sent him an email the next day. We got talking and met up for a date near St Paul’s at a bar called Dion (a great date venue by the way!).
I was excited to see him, but rapidly realised I was just there as an audience for him to deliver lengthy monologues about his life, frustrations and feelings. We ordered nachos and I ate the whole lot while he talked. I don’t think he asked me one single question. He was so loud and exuberant and talkative that I felt like a quiet little mouse. I just shut down and had nothing to contribute. I left after just one glass of wine, using the excuse that ‘I have to go home to walk my dog'.
By the time I got home, he sent a butthurt message complaining about me cutting the date short. He said he was standing on London Bridge looking at the stars and then sent a lengthy emotional poem about his feelings.
So yeah, remind me not to take business cards off random guys in the street next time.
Another PlentyOfFreaks gem was the ex-con. I got chatting to this guy who looked like an English gent rather than a convicted criminal. He had a distinct Hugh Grant vibe about him and seemed really well-mannered and sweet.
But despite my good first impressions, I did my usual pre-date due diligence to check he was legit, but it was a bit harder than usual. Normally, you can find most guys by searching online for their name, university, job title, etc. But this guy presented more of a challenge. He said he had his own haulage business and I only knew his first name. Anyway, eventually I found his company on Company’s House, which listed him name as Director. So far, so good.
I then googled his name and a stream of results appeared of news stories with headlines like ‘Drugs duo jailed for 12 years’, ‘Jail time for heroin dealers’ etc. I clicked on them and found out that the Hugh Grant lookalike I was meant to be going for drinks with had been dealing class As, in particular heroin, for four years before getting sentenced in his early 20s. I get that we’ve all made mistakes and he’d served his time, but it was a bit too much for me!
The rude guy
I got chatting to an attractive 30-year-old accountant on Tinder. He was the first guy I’d ever spoken to on Tinder and he seemed nice. He was quite funny, charming and seemed ambitious. Although, he said a few things that in retrospect were a bit harsh and should probably have been red flags, such as mentioning that he hated online dating because with most people he met, he’d know he wanted to leave after two minutes.
I ended up being one of those people.
We met for coffee in Greenwich on a Sunday morning. I overslept and was in a bit of a rush getting ready. I hadn’t washed my hair for a few days and instead of, you know, washing it, like most people would do before a date, I decided to just put it in a ponytail and hope he’d look past the greasy hair and see the real me. Not the best date strategy.
I also hadn’t planned my outfit so I just threw on some mismatched clothes. The guy (who’s name I can’t remember at all) took one look at me and his face fell. We then made awkward chit-chat for the duration of one coffee and the only true smile I saw on his face was when he made an excuse to leave and instead of heading out of the coffee shop with him to the station, I said that I was going to stay and read for a bit. He looked so happy and relieved and within the blink of an eye, he was gone. Five minutes later, he’d unmatched.
Welcome to Tinder!
What are your bad date stories?
To read about Sophia's dating adventures in Perfect Match, click here.