I’ve always admired the bollocks it takes for guys to go up to girls they don’t know and strike up a conversation. The (outdated) social expectation that it’s a man’s job to make the ‘first move’ must be nerve-wracking. Especially when there’s no drink involved; I’m not a shy person but I need at least two and a half bottles of wine to be confident enough to initiate chat with a complete stranger.
However, being mindful of a guy’s nerves can only take you so far if they start spouting utter shite at you.
Last week, my friend Louise and I were having an overdue catch up in sunny Kensington Gardens. I was of course flanked by wine and plastic cups, staying classy. We had just begun to plough into our Lebanese chicken wraps when a guy walked over to us.
He looked at me shyly and said, “excuse me, I think your friend is really pretty. Do you mind if I sit down?”
Unusual. Kudos for addressing the spare, there’s nothing worse than feeling like the invisible gooseberry, but is it really for me to give the permission?
Louise looked alarmed. I obviously know she has a live-in boyfriend, but it felt too cut-throat to send this bloke packing without even a hello. I mumbled through my mouthful of chicken and gestured to the space next to us. He sat down, all attention on Louise.
Introductions were made and the stony silence fell.
“Are you really drinking bottles of wine in public in the middle of the day? Are you an alcoholic?”
Good start mate. Surely you saw this before you came over? If daytime drinking isn’t your thing then you’re clearly
broken barking up the wrong tree.
Louise, now seemingly determined to have her mouth full of chicken at all times, nodded apologetically.
“So you’re party girls, yes? Do you have jobs?”
A little accusatory for my liking, but I told him I work at Royal Brompton hospital (not that he gave a shit) and Louise, who works in marketing, told him she works for Carphone Warehouse.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that this guy was from Cyprus and despite having an excellent grasp of English, the phrase “Carphone Warehouse” seemed to confuse him. Fair. Louise didn’t bother to explain her role, but said it’s a business that sells phones.“So you work in a phone shop? Oh. That sounds boring.” Smooth. “I study at UCL.” He paused expectantly, “that’s a pretty good university.”
I now have my wine glass almost permanently at my mouth to stop myself cringing.
“So, I like your necklace!” he says, pointing at the ornate silver elephant hanging round Louise’s neck.
“Thanks, I like elephants.”
“Are they your favourite animal?”
“Maybe. I quite like sausage dogs.”
“Yeh, they’re little and long. Like sausages.”
“Oh! Little and cute. Like you. You are like a little dog!”
To be fair to him, there’s definitely a (cringey) compliment in there, but misunderstanding this mildly rude cultural reference didn’t do him any favours.
At this stage he filled the awkwardness by telling us again that he studies at UCL because he wants to have a good job.
He rounded off by asking Louise for her number.
“Thank you, but I have a boyfriend actually. Sorry!”
He turns to me, “is this true? Does she really have a boyfriend?”
What the fuck?! “Yes. She does.”
“Ah… okay, that’s a shame. Well, you’re sort of cute too. Can I have your number?”