I was feeling a bit fragile in the run up to the August Bank Holiday weekend this year- My recently deceased father’s birthday and the Blessing of the Graves. On the Saturday, as I leave to travel home for the weekend, I got an-out-of-the-blue text message from The Architect.
‘Can we talk?’
I panic, assuming it’s an arts emergency, probably related to concrete foundations.
‘Yes, what’s up?’
‘I think you're lovely’, beeps the reply.
I’m simultaneously relieved that the concrete has set and feel slightly queasy at the unexpected content of the message from someone I have known for a very long time.
A few more messages back and forth and he has asked me out on a date. To a really nice restaurant with fabulous vegetarian food, that Bank Holiday Monday. I’m in shock. On mature reflection though, I think, ‘Why the hell not?’ We are two free agents; we get on well and can talk about the setting time for concrete, if nothing else. I get excited at the idea of getting dressed up and going out somewhere, anywhere grown up, without two children in tow.
I don’t hear from The Architect the following day, or on the Monday.
I sit in by myself on the Bank Holiday Monday, half watching rubbish TV, nursing a very bruised ego.
The Architect sends me a sheepish message a few days later apologising, admitting that he had had ‘Dutch courage’ when he contacted me, and signs off saying, ‘I still think you're nice’. And then nothing.
I dust myself off and hope that we don’t have an arts emergency anytime soon.
My luck doesn’t improve when I impulsively decide to try my hand at online dating. Sure isn’t everyone at it?
Finance Guy seems keen until I try to confirm a specific time and location to meet him. He phaffs around so much that I decide to do him a favour and call off the date. I don’t hear from him again.
Lots of guys say an online ‘How’ya’, but don’t actually get beyond that. I loose patience, and confidence, very quickly.
Just as I am about to give up hope with the online thing, I can see that someone, who looks half decent, is looking at my profile. But he hasn’t actually contacted me. I send him a message. He tells me that he thinks I may be ‘too refined’ for him. I relay this to my work colleagues later, who almost fall off their chairs laughing at the possibility of me being polished.
We chat. He is relieved to hear me curse (only for effect though, I’ll have you know). Notions of my possible refinedness are soon dismissed. We arrange to meet. In Hollywood. Sure, where else would you have a date?
The idea of a meeting The Date gives me a pep in my step. I have a strange urge that I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Yes, a desire to clean my house. Soon I am cleaning windows to beat the band. I also have the inclination to take out my sketch books and to start painting again too.
A few days before we meet, The Date falls and breaks a bone in his foot. We postpone Hollywood and arrange a lunchtime date, somewhere convenient for a Dub with a ski boot and crutches.
In the middle of it all comes unforseen news. My long standing American boyfriend, Brad Pitt has just announced that he single again. I don’t know what that means for me/us long term. I had such high hopes for Brad and I, him being so good with clatters of children and all. My two would be a walk in the park for him. But it may take Brad a while to extract himself from his missus, so for now I’ll focus on The Date.
The day that I am due to meet The Date is the day when Today FM Radio is encouraging their female listeners to wear their wedding dresses to work, as part of the station’s ‘Dare to Care’ fundraising project for the Irish Cancer Society. I wonder if The Date would think I was jumping the gun if I wore mine to meet him. I decide against.
I’ll taking a half-day from work to meet him and I really wish I had paid more attention to those office-to-evening fashion features in the glossy magazines. I text The Date that morning, saying that I am running late, such was the dilemma of what to wear. He text me back saying that he was wearing a tracksuit. I’m sitting at my office desk in my carefully accessorised baby pink Karen Millen silk dress and he is wearing flannel. I think I might cry. Over a piece of synthetic fabric. Or in my mind, the message that his effort level was ‘ZERO’.
He redeems himself, explaining, very reasonably, that the trackie bottoms are convenient for his appointment with his osteopath and that he would change his clothes before we meet.
And there he is, spruced up, sporting a protective boot that wouldn’t look out of place in Star Wars. The music in the pub is too loud. The music in the restaurant that we go to is blaring too. I wonder if all of the natives were deafened from shouting during the recent All Ireland final, or if it’s just me. The waitress brings me a meaty pizza and doesn’t apologise that she got it wrong. The Date’s Star Wars boot looks cumbersome and awkward, but he doesn’t complain.
The Date looks different in real life, more three dimensional. Obviously. And handsome. We have nothing in common and everything in common. He tells me that he likes my freckles. I blush and suddenly feel self-aware, like I did as a child when an adult would bend down to me and ask me, in a kind voice, ‘Where did you get those big brown eyes?’
Four hours later and it’s gone in a flash. I have to go.
Later, I look in the mirror and observe that indeed, my face is scattered with little brown speckles, probably recently enhanced by a sunny weeks holiday in Wexford. I stand there and watch this stranger in the mirror and realise that it’s been a long, long time since I really looked at myself.
It would a shame to quit while I’m ahead, wouldn’t it ?