“How the hell did I get here?!” has run through my head so many times in the last few years, and I’m not always specifically thinking about being in Canada. I always knew life had twists and turns but it still catches me by surprise sometimes. And sometimes that surprise is pleasant and sometimes… well it’s not.

One of those times was not too long after my first proper date Post-D(ivorce), when my confidence had been boosted by that experience. Though let’s keep this in context, I was still feeling like bambi on ice when it came to dating, maybe just slightly thicker ice. I think I also wanted to keep the ball rolling, so a few weeks after Crazy Sink Guy I ended up planning two first dates in one day. Which was the first part of the “how the hell did I get here?!” thought. I could barely get myself out the house for one date a few weeks prior and now I was planning two in one day. Bold.

It really wasn’t my intention to double book myself though, but I’d been chatting to both of these guys for a little while and for whatever reason hadn’t been able to meet up with either of them until this particular Saturday. So when one of them wanted to do daytime and one of them wanted to do evening, it just seemed efficient to fit both in. And who doesn’t love efficiency?

“The day of 2 dates” started off with a coffee date with a 29 year old Brazilian, who worked in the film industry. He was friendly, softly spoken, passionate about a lot of different things, including coffee. Hence the coffee date. And I went along with his suggestion because… I’m agreeable I guess? Plus I figured suggesting midday drinks might have a been a little aggressive. Canada’s drinking culture is a little different to the UK.

The one thing I didn’t mention to him was that I don’t actually drink coffee, never have. Love coffee flavoured everything, except coffee itself. But coffee shops don’t just serve coffee so it would be fine. Or at least it would have been if I hadn’t ended up distracted when I first arrived and so ended up having him order me a double macchiato…

The distraction was my fault. Well, maybe my girlfriends’ faults… going back to the team dating that had begun on the last date, every chat, every online match, every date I had was poured over by my gorgeously witty girlfriends who offered their opinions, questions and warnings. In the case of the Brazilian, while carefully studying his dating app profile pics one of them pointed out his double full arm sleeve tattoos. Despite the 8 hour time difference between half of our group chat, a ridiculously quick message was sent from the other side of the pond saying “um, I don’t think that’s tattoos, I think that’s hair”. And hence was born his nickname Hairy Tattoo Guy. Leading up to the date, it was talked about extensively.

On arrival at the super cute coffee place that we’d decided on, all I could do was be distracted by the peek of (admittedly very hairy and definitely not tattooed) forearm. Trying desperately not to stare, stifling a laugh and resisting the urge to text the team was enough to make me only be able to glance up at the menu and order the first thing I saw. Double macchiato it was.

The reason I ordered a SECOND one of these about 45 minutes later when he suggested we got another one, is beyond me. Maybe it’s part of my want not to ever feel flustered. I hate not knowing where I’m going or what to order or even that feeling when you walk in a restaurant to meet someone and you spend the first 30 seconds searching aimlessly for them. I hate it. So I’ve always just employed a strategy of “don’t hesitate and just sound/look/act like you know what you’re doing”. It doesn’t always work out. Like now.

But the coffee was good, there was a buzzy atmosphere in this local neighbourhood coffee shop and we covered a great range of topics, he was easy to talk to which is always the least you can hope for on first meeting someone.

The date finished with him walking me home and then attempting to kiss me on the street across from my apartment, which horrified me. In part because PDA’s were something I had forgotten all about and I’m not a teenager anymore, plus I wasn’t really attracted to him (nothing to do with his arms, tattooed or otherwise).

I headed back upstairs for what was supposed to be a quiet couple of hours, watching some TV, filing my date report in the group chat (obviously) and then prepping for the next date. Turns out the caffeine I’d thrown back earlier had other ideas.

Almost as soon as I sat down on the sofa, I started to feel pretty unwell. My heart was RACING. My stomach was CRAMPING. And my head was POUNDING. At first it didn’t click that it might be the caffeine. For the past year, I’d been struggling with very regular fainting spells and I thought this was maybe a next level of that. Turns out, no. It’s just what will happen to you if you drink two double macchiatos. Did I mention I was also running on a pretty empty stomach. Yah, fun times.

I won’t go into the gory details but suffice to say I now understand when people say “that coffee went straight through me”. It was grim. Did I mention I also had the sweats? Real nice. So realising I probably needed to rehydrate myself, and after talking to a friend who assured me it must be from my caffeine overdose, I set about trying to make the decision as to whether to cancel date two or not… as if there was actually any decision to be made.

Turns out by the time I’d made that decision, I realised that date two would have been on his way from where he lived. Shit. Literally. And rather than just tell him to turn around because he was about to go on a date with a sweating, jittery, loose bellied mess, I figured that the polite thing to do was just to suck it up and get on with it.

That’s when the real thought of “how the hell did I get here?!” occurred. I realised not only did I have to go on a first date feeling like this, I also had to go on a first date to a Mexican restaurant feeling like this. Now, I love Mexican food. Ordinarily I can’t get enough of guac and jalapenos and fried beans and carnitas. Today, the thought of it literally made my stomach wobble.

So enroute to the Mexican restaurant which was, thankfully, only 1 block from my apartment, I stopped in at the pharmacy across the street (yep, right where Hairy Tattoo Guy had tried to kiss me earlier) and picked up some Immodium. Probably not the normal pre-date pharmacy shopping list, if you know what I mean?

The smell as I walked into the restaurant almost turned me straight back around. I arrived first so I chugged 2 glasses of water before he arrived. He being a 34 year old Canadian (I only point out nationality as it becomes relevant later in my dating story) who worked in insurance and lived in a basement suite in a suburb of Vancouver.

He was nice, a little nervous it seemed, but engaging and funny. Meanwhile I was attempting to not sweat over the table and trying to keep my toilet trips to a minimum. The Immodium felt like it took a loooong time to kick in. I also couldn’t decide what to order and, for the first time probably ever, declined the obligatory chips and salsa. They’re called obligatory for a reason, people.

When my food arrived and I became one of those horrible dates that just push their food around their plate and doesn’t really eat. When normally, in real life, when I don’t feel like my stomach is going to fall out, I am not shy about eating on a first date or otherwise. I’m almost constantly able to eat and the words “I can’t, I’m full” very rarely pass my lips, and I’m not ashamed of it. I wanted to address with him the fact that I wasn’t at my best during the date but I didn’t really want to have to answer too many questions.

Barely an hour later I’d managed to hide some of my steak, rice and beans under the tortilla that came with it, he’d got the cheque and I was heading for the hills, aka my own bathroom. I barely even stopped to hug him properly and I may or may not have broken into a slight run as I crossed the road back to my building.

Later that evening when I was feeling better and all the water and the Immodium had taken effect, I texted him to thank him for dinner and admitted I hadn’t been feeling my best but would love to see him again if he wanted to. He replied saying he hadn’t noticed anything and if that wasn’t even me at my best then he’d love to see me again.

I wasn’t sure whether to believe him (hi there trust issues, but also I was a mess how could he not have noticed?!)  but I wasn’t about to question it so I took the compliment and vowed to myself never to plan dates with different guys in the same day again. I couldn’t help but feel there was something very karmic about it turning out the way it did. I should have been fully engaged in each date, not being half present and trying to fit them both in because it worked for my diary. And, for the most part at least, I have stuck to that vow since.

I’ve found myself in a number of situations while dating that I can’t work out if I’ve crossed the boundary of human decency, if I’m just too naive or if this is “just how it is in [insert year here]”. This was definitely one of them. I’d never dated multiple people at the same time. I’d been with one person for the entirety of my 20’s and prior to that I’d had a couple of high school boyfriends so chatting to, flirting with, or dating multiple people is not something I’d ever done before. It wasn’t something I was instantly comfortable with.

My go-to now, when I’m querying a situation like that, is “how would I feel if the shoe was on the other foot?” I can’t say I’d mind if someone had been on another date earlier in the day before going on a date with me, or vice versa, but at the end of the day no one’s going anywhere, there’s time to have dates on different days so why even put myself in a position where I question my morals and karma comes back round to kick my ass?

I never did see Hairy Tattoo Guy again, despite him enquiring about a second date. I just didn’t feel like we had very much in common, apart from maybe both moving to the city from somewhere else, but that goes for about 90% of the population here and I’m not about to date them all. And despite the mess I was on my second date of the day, I did actually go out with that guy again. The story of how that went and the birth of his nickname are up next.

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