I have been on some truly bad dates in my life. I’ve been catfished, rejected, pounced upon and often wondered if it was all worth it.
However, I honestly believe that even the bad dates have made me a better person. Every time I’ve been knocked down – literally on one occasion – I always feel like I am a step closer to finding what I really want.
Theme park nightmare
My first truly bad date was largely due to my own naivety. I met this guy on a British online dating platform and decided we should go on a date. We went way overboard and decided to go to a theme park.
Let me tell you now: never go to a theme park with someone you don’t know.
It was the most excruciating experience of my life. We didn’t click at all and he was a bit standoffish. Nothing changed over the course of the date. We decided after three hours to call it a day, but not before he had a go on the rollercoaster.
I had passed my limit of what I was accepting for the day so declined. He was OK with this but asked me to film him from the grass next to the rollercoaster. I obliged and sat there filming the train going around and muttering to myself: ‘Jesus, why am I here? This guy is such a c**t.’
The camera picked up every single word.
Even worse, once he disembarked, he watched the footage in front of me and I had to stand there and listen. It was the most cringe-worthy moment of my life.
I had to sit with him for another hour while we went home from the theme park.
What was the silver lining to this sad tale? Learning that sometimes I need to keep my mouth shut! And actually seek out signs of compatibility, not just a cute face and close distance.
My naivety wasn’t to blame for the other incident that changed my viewpoint on dating. I was catfished. He arrived in yellow trousers, cardigan and hair suggesting he’d just go out of bed. Oh, and he had one eye.
Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against people with disabilities. My concern was more that he looked nothing like he did in any of his pictures. I’m still not sure to this day if it was just a bad picture or completely different person!
Things, however, were to get worse. I decided to try and ignore the image change and just try to have a nice time regardless. He plied me with drinks and became quite pushy about going back to his place.
Although inebriated, I thankfully came to my senses and realized what he was doing. I said my goodbyes, but not without a final struggle to get away. I don’t feel like I was in any danger, but it’s the first time I had actually to say, “No, I don’t want to do this.”
You see, I was a very eager-to-please kid that came out at 14 and said ‘yes’ to anyone interested. There were slim pickings in my part of Scotland, so I went on very few dates. But this incident made me realize that I shouldn’t always say ‘yes’. I was better than this and wanted more.
The honeymoon soon turned sour
The last one that had an impact on me wasn’t even a bad date at the time. I met someone who I thought was the perfect person. He encompassed everything I had always wanted in someone at first glance.
He pushed me further to do things I’d put off for years. It was one of those things that burned brightly and quickly, before coming crashing down. It moved that fast that I really didn’t understand what was happening or understand how much I was neglecting myself.
When it did end, everything came tumbling down. I’d succeeded in ignoring issues in my own life while it lasted, and found myself distraught when it crashed and burned. Part of this was due to the ending of the relationship, but a lot more was due to how I’d put my own mental health second to it. It all bubbled back to the surface.
I know I’m prone to anxiety and I overthink things, need to make an effort to look after myself more than I do. Something I’ve also learned is people can be very different to how they appear to be at the beginning.
If someone shows signs of selfishness, or appears reluctant to ever make you a priority, then you have to leave. A relationship is a team: one person can’t do all the work, no matter how ‘perfect’ it seems on paper.
Learning lessons for bad dates
I spent about a year in therapy after that. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I was able to understand myself so much more than I ever would have before. I learned that I had to stop comparing myself to others, and that I’m not always to blame when relationships go wrong.
This is a more serious ending to what I had initially set out to write. But I honestly believe that for every break up, rejection and bad date I have ever had, I am a better person for it. I know who I am more, and I like myself more due to that.
And I’ll never go to a theme park for a first date!
Follow David on Twitter: @David__McGregor
Younger gay guys need to stop thinking of older gay men as creepy and predatory…