It all started out so well. Chip* was the true All-American type – very handsome, with an angular jaw, smart, friendly, funny, and warm. I met him through Gumtree London (fantastic results for online dating – more on that in another post), and we met on a Saturday afternoon at a pub in Clapham for a snack and a drink. He had met the US President, had lots of funny stories, and was fun to talk to about a whole range of topics, including any girly things I brought up. I would go so far as to say that it was the BEST FIRST DATE I’D EVER HAD (sorry, husband).
We even took a selfie (before people really even took selfies) and laughed that one day we’d tell our grandchildren that this was our first date. Okay, we didn’t say that, I got carried away and said it; He thought it was a little weird.
I was having such a good time, I ended the date after a couple of hours at the pub. I didn’t want to give it a chance to become boring. He pecked me on the cheek (gentleman – check) and asked when we could see each other again (keen – check). We made a date for the next weekend. During the week, we chatted on the phone a couple of times and had more great conversations. Just for something a bit different, for our second date we decided to go on a big St Georges Day scavenger hunt which was happening in London Bridge, and have lunch beforehand at a trendy bar in the Borough Market. It was a fantastic plan for our fantastic second date.
I rarely let guys know where I lived or took them to my house, so I asked him to meet me at Clapham Common tube. When I turned up he was already there, looking windblown and possibly more handsome than the previous week.
As we descended into the tube, he slid his hand down the rail of the stairs. I let out an involuntary “Eeewwwww,” I mean, seriously, who does that? Everybody knows they’re disease-ridden.
Chip looked at me and said, “What?”
“Well…. I just try and avoid touching them, you know. They’re really filthy.”
He cocked his head to one side. “Really?”
I shrugged and changed the topic of conversation. I know I’m a bit funny when it comes to things like that, and I didn’t want to put him off for being OCD.
But Chip wasn’t finished. “I love getting my hands dirty – literally,” he said, beaming. “My Mom told me it builds immunity.”
“Mmmmhmmm,” I said, not really wanting to get into it anymore. I’m pretty sure she hadn’t meant to include touching tube station stair-rails.
“Yeah, I think it’s good to touch as many surfaces in a public area as possible, and not wash your hands afterwards,” he said as the tube arrived. He jumped on and rubbed his hand up and down the rail inside the doors. “See, there would be so many germs on this – it’s no wonder I’m so healthy.” He said this part REALLY LOUDLY and laughed even louder. The train was pretty busy with people going in to enjoy London for the day, and a few people glanced at him.
I looked down at my feet and said “Mmmm yeah, that’s funny. Haha, okay, so this scavenger hunt should be fun, hey?”
Chip clearly didn’t read my tone, and kept on with his dirty hands performance. “Yeah, like sometimes, I don’t even wash my hands for two or three days,” he yelled over the noise of the tube. “It gets to the point where I can even SEE the dirt on my hands – Look!” He reached out to me to show me the palms of his hands, and I squinted at them – they were looking a bit grotty. “Some people think it’s gross, but I like it,” he said. A few people moved away from him, including me. “I don’t even wash them when I go into a public toilet. Even if I do a turd.”
I could feel my face burning as everyone in the vicinity was now looking at him. Chip was completely unperturbed. He was smiling with that white, toothy smile, and pushed his hair back with the dirty hand he’d just shown me. I was mortified. What had happened to my clean living, All-American, intellectual date? He’d morphed into a non-hand-washing lunatic.
I knew, deep down inside, that he was just joking. At least I hoped and prayed he was. He was probably just nervous and thought it was funny to joke about something I was clearly uncomfortable with. But I couldn’t take the risk. I know it’s a phobia, but I couldn’t bear the thought of him touching me in any way, shape or form, with those hands. I had to get away from him, fast. He’d turned a lovely second date into a disaster of epic proportions.
But I couldn’t just abandon him for that. I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and enjoy the day. We arrived at the bar for lunch, and he offered to go get our drinks. I glanced quickly at his hands and said “No, I’ll get them.” I got the drinks, we ordered food, then I went to the Ladies’ room and washed my hands thoroughly. When I got back, Chip’s serve of fries had already arrived, and he was digging into them hungrily. “You want one?” He shoved a sauce-covered fry towards my mouth.
“Um, no, I’m okay thanks,” I squeaked. “I’ll just eat what I’ve ordered.”
“Whatever,” he said, pouting. “I didn’t think you were one of those girls who doesn’t like to eat.” (Was that a jibe at my weight, germ boy?) We ate and drank in relative silence. The light mood of our first date was gone. I kept trying to bring up new topics of conversation, and bring back that jubilant atmosphere again, but it was pretty pointless. I knew that Chip knew it too. Then he tried to make things better, “Hey, Cath, you know how I said all that stuff about not washing my hands?” I looked at him hopefully. “Well, I was kind of joking, but it’s actually kind of true. I just think people make too big-a deal of that stuff.”
I nodded thoughtfully. “You know what? I don’t feel all that great.” (I really didn’t). “I think I’m going to go home now.”
Chip shrugged. “Yeah, this isn’t really working, is it?” He waved with a sauce covered hand and said, “Sorry about the dirty hands thing freaking you out. Catch you later.”
Not with those hands, you won’t.
Was I over-reacting? What would you have done?
What is a deal breaker for you?!
*Not his real name