When my best friend Stella* texted to ask if I’d like to tag along with her and some mates on a night out, I was ready to say no.
For one thing, it was utterly miserable weather. Worse yet, we were stuck in the fear-inducing thick of our second-year university exams.
However, against all my good judgement, something made me say yes.
That something, it turned out, was Fred*. A mutual friend of Stella’s, he’d also been wooed by the promise of a fun night out.
Though I initially didn’t find him particularly handsome, my opinion of him grew fonder as the evening wore on. He was witty and readily embraced being the butt of his own joke in a way that many men were deathly afraid of.
When, at the end of the night he asked for my Notes app to jot his number down, I readily agreed.
Although I was casually seeing someone at the time, I didn’t see the harm in adding Fred to my contacts.
Except, over the ensuing weeks, amidst university stress, I admit I forgot to reach out to him. He’d mostly faded from memory until he reached out to me about a year later, completely out of the blue.
It turns out he’d got my number from Stella, and was dead keen on asking me out for some coffee. I liked coffee and the idea of going on a date with him, so I said yes.
And, for the first half-hour of the date, we got on like a house on fire.
He was even funnier than I’d remembered and, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was beginning to fancy him, I definitely wouldn’t have said no to a second date.
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That was, of course, until our date started to go completely off the rails.
‘So,’ he leant forward after we’d exchanged the pleasantries of a long-belated catch-up. ‘Is Stella seeing someone?’
‘Not at the moment, no,’ I responded – thinking my best friend’s relationship status was a strange topic of conversation for a date.
I tried to redirect the discussion to something we’d cackled over a few times before: stupid antics our dogs got up to.
However, like a hound on the hunt, he was not to be swayed. ‘Do you think she likes Robert*?’ he pressed.
‘I’ve no idea,’ I answered, confused – wondering what it had to do with me. ‘Maybe you should ask her yourself?’
Foolishly, I believed that to be the end of it. Well, it wasn’t.
He spent the rest of our 90 minute date attempting to badger me into revealing secrets about Stella’s dating life, bemoaning the fact she’d never agreed to go on a date with him. The latter was not for want of trying, apparently.
She was, he confessed after a period of tight-lipped silence from me, one of his crushes.
Wait a minute, I thought. One of his crushes? Well, why ask me out then?
I attribute my decision to not immediately march out to the same shock response found in deer that freeze in the middle of the road when confronted by a pair of headlights.
And that was how I remained – sipping my coffee in a state of utter bewilderment until a polite enough lull in the conversation appeared, enabling me to dash off.
Looking back on things, I think I’d have been more upset if I hadn’t been in a daze.
It was actually the next day, when things had started to feel a bit more real, that I remember feeling annoyed at how he’d wasted my time.
I thought my best friend’s relationship status was a strange topic of conversation for a date
Had he approached me with an honest request to help set him up with my best friend instead, I’d have been more than happy to oblige.
It was the unnecessary subterfuge that made me reevaluate wanting to take him seriously, even as a potential friend – and making me certain that I was never going to hook him up with Stella.
While I told Stella the whole story at the same bar where I first met Fred, I muted our WhatsApp chat. Firmly convinced that I’d heard the last of him.
Well… once again, I was proved wrong.
A few weeks later, he texted me a chirpy request for a second go. Unfortunately, my desire for a repeat performance had withered to a husk during our initial date.
I wasn’t willing to be rude and ghost him, even though he deserved it – but I couldn’t quite muster up the courage to tell him that I wasn’t interested in talking to him, either. So, our chats limped along for several months.
When the death knoll finally rang and our conversation dried up, I was relieved to be able to bury our messages in the cemetery of chats that had long overstayed their welcome.
It’s been three years since then and much has changed. I’ve got a stable partner who’s unafraid to speak his mind and, somewhere along the way, I picked up the backbone to do the same.
I’d like to think that, wherever in the world he is, Fred has also had a similar glow-up and can now be fully transparent with his potential dates, too.
Stella was better off without him, anyway.
*Names have been changed
So, How Did It Go?
So, How Did It Go? is a weekly Metro.co.uk series that will make you cringe with second-hand embarrassment or ooze with jealousy as people share their worst and best date stories.
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