I had a date.
I like going on dates for various reasons. Firstly because I am a normal girl in my late twenties with wants and needs. And secondly because I work in theatre and we rarely say no to a free meal. Complimentary food in general is always accepted with gratitude and if I am going to an event where I know there will be canapés, I will always attend carrying Tupperware. At the last Press Night I went to I came away with nine vol-au-vents and a cupcake. The caterers may have smirked at me but who was laughing at breakfast the next day? Me, that’s who.
Anyway, the man I went on the date with was a friend of a friend and most excitingly, he Does Not Work In Theatre.
This is positive and exciting for the following reasons. The fact that he Does Not Work In Theatre means that unlike people who Do Work In Theatre;
1. I haven’t slept with any of his friends.
2. He hasn’t slept with any of my friends.
3. He has not been told the now infamous tale of how I once got so hammered in the Players that I loudly booed the pianist, flipped the finger at Diana Vickers and snogged a Jersey Boy. When they threw me out I announced that I was ‘fucking leaving anyway’. My friends found me outside MacDonalds on the Strand, clutching a Big Mac and trying to light a tampon. ‘I need to go home,’ I hiccoughed, ‘but I don’t have enough money for a cab.’ The terse response to this was ‘Well it is only ten fifteen so you can probably get the tube.’
Anyway, I got invited to a house party thrown by Jenna and Mark, friends of mine who Don’t Work In Theatre. I got there fairly late having just done a show and made a beeline for the kitchen in order to catch up and reach everybody else’s fairly inebriated level. After a couple of tequilas, and some red wine, I was confident that I had ‘caught up’ but had not made the common mistake of ‘taking over’.
Jenna and I were still hanging in the kitchen a couple of hours later and I was trying to concentrate on a conversation about her hatred for Fearne Cotton when through the door, I noticed a guy in the living room wearing an unbuttoned waistcoat over a blue shirt. I am unquestionably interested by men in waistcoats and have absolutely no explanation for it. But maybe it wasn’t just the waistcoat. Maybe I noticed him because he had a nice smile. And green eyes.
‘Who is that?’ I asked Jenna. She turned round and took him in before whirling back to me.
‘Oh my god. That’s Stuart.’
‘Twenty nine. Single. Teacher.’
I do love Jenna. There was more.
‘And...’ she squealed. ‘he goes rowing!’
I was a bit confused. As a girl, I knew that we dutifully did squealing for firemen and sports therapists. But rowing? I vocalised this.
‘ You’re squealing about rowing?’
‘Shoulders,’ she hissed. I rolled my eyes and turned back to examine Stuarts’s.... strapping, powerful shoulders.
‘Stuart!’ called Jenna, and beckoned him to the kitchen. ‘New beer?’
‘Sure.’ Stuart came over and while Jenna rummaged in the fridge, he turned to me and introduced himself and I got a bit lost in the strong handshake, green eyes and Dolce and Gabbana aftershave. As Jenna gave him his fresh beer, she performed her hostess duty of starting a conversation. She did this by using a phrase I have heard parroted at many social functions.
‘Jess works in theatre.’
Stuart turned his full attention to me. ‘Are you an actress?’
‘Oh no I’m a Stage Manager’. I replied. And then had an overwhelming urge to say ‘But I’m really good in bed.’
I didn’t though.
At ten past midnight I complimented him on his waistcoat. At quarter past one I made him laugh with a rubbish joke about which cheese to use to hide a horse (mascarpone). And then at twenty past three he asked for my phone number.
Over the next few days we had several text message conversations which could all be deemed as successful. Oh, except one when he finished by saying ‘well I’m off to hit the gay.’ This transpired to be the result of some unfortunate predictive text messaging and what he actually meant was ‘I’m off to hit the hay’. We both laughed (well we LOL’d) and then, satisfied in the knowledge that he wasn’t a violent homophobe, I agreed to go on a date with him.
He took me to an Italian place he knew in West London with soft lighting, great service and thick linen napkins. And he wore a waistcoat.
The evening passed by in a giggly haze of wine, mozzarella, warm dough balls and hands that brushed against each other ‘accidentally’.
But waistcoats and shoulders aside, he made me laugh and was intelligent and even managed to remind me that my job is actually quite interesting. I think I forget that sometimes. And I genuinely found his job interesting. He taught English Language/Literature at a secondary school in North London and I asked him why he enjoyed his job. He took a swig of wine and said,
‘Working in a school means that even as a teacher, I never stop learning.’
An hour or so later, the remnants of a shared tiramisu were being cleared away and he asked me about my Hopes and Dreams.
I’m not a massive fan of talking about Hopes and Dreams. Mostly because I’m not entirely sure what they are. At the age of 29 you would think I had a better idea but I am still fairly flummoxed. I didn’t even have an incredibly strong ambition to work in theatre and kind of ‘fell’ into it. I guess that my Hope is that one day in about ten years I will ‘fall’ into something else. I’m crossing my fingers it will be Managing Director for a company that makes yachts for millionaires but I’m prepared for disappointment.
Stuart and his unbelievable green eyes are looking at me over a cappuccino, expecting me to divulge what my Hopes and Dreams are. I don’t want to disappoint so decide that the best option is to lie.
‘I want to travel to Haiti and build a theatre for orphans.’
He’s impressed. I turn the question back on him ‘What about you?’
‘Well, my father died a couple of years ago.’
I tut and do my god-thats-really-awful face.
‘And he left me a lot of money.’
I swallow and try very hard not to do my oooh-are-you-actually-quite-loaded face.
‘So now I’m thinking that maybe I will use it to do what I really love, you know? Maybe have a bit of faith in myself.’
‘Totally.’ Without thinking I rest my hand on his. He has lovely hands. Bit callousy but I’m assuming that’s from all the rowing and it’s rowing which gives him the Shoulders so I’ll forgive it. He smiles at my touch.
‘I think I will leave teaching soon. I’ve done it for a while now.’
‘Wow.’ I lean in closer. ‘So what will you do?’
He takes a breath.
‘I want to be an actor.’
In one fluid movement I have pulled back my hand and signalled for the bill.