On my worst date, he gave me a very unexpected and odd gift

My search for the right partner had hit a dead end. 

Most of my friends were coupled up and with a routine of working and playing netball, I was finding it hard to meet the love of my life.

The past few years had only seen me connect with somebody who claimed to be a monk wanting my phone number, and a short fling with a teacher who had no time for a relationship.

It was clear I was going to need to change my search criteria, so I decided to register for online dating. 

I got talking to a guy I’m going to call Mark.

The website we met on took potential matches through a process of answering conversation-starters before allowing you to get into a proper discussions and so we were chatting for two or three weeks before we finally decided to meet up.

We seemed to have common goals; he was keen to settle down but he’d found it hard to meet anyone because of the unsociable hours of his work as a chef, and he was even talking about kids. 

He’d talked to me about his family – we were clearly beyond surface-level chat.

Mark seemed to like animals and his first suggestion for a date had been that he pick me up at home and drive me to a local zoo. I was never going to agree to get in a car with somebody I didn’t know – and should have listened to the alarm bells there and then – but instead, we made another plan to meet at a smaller animal park half way between our homes. 

I was looking forward to finally meeting Mark but I was nervous.

I could see him waiting by the gate when I arrived. My heart sank.

He was much older than in his photos, and while I’d made a serious effort for someone who was going to be walking around outside looking at caged animals, he had not. 

He looked quite scruffy and was wearing a short sleeved shirt. It crossed my mind to drive away but he’d waved at me and I felt I at least owed the weeks of conversation a coffee, so we went in.

In a very awkward moment at the front gate, where I seemed to be the first to get my money out, I ended up paying the entry fee for us both, with Mark promising to buy me lunch – and me thinking there was absolutely no way I would be staying that long. 

Mark came back with what looked like a shoebox, wrapped in red and white paper with a bow on the top

We went to find a coffee and then it started to rain. The animals had moved from their outside spaces to their beds inside. This left Mark and I walking around in the rain commenting on empty enclosures. ‘Oh look, that one’s got a tree inside!’ ‘Great!’

We didn’t seem to have anything else to talk about, I was cold, fed up and bored. There was no chemistry, and I couldn’t feel a connection.

We found the cafe and when Mark went to use the bathroom I texted my housemate. A few minutes later the phone rang with our prearranged check in call – and this was my cue to make my excuses.

I told Mark that my housemate had a family emergency and needed me to get home. Mark seemed disappointed and said we should meet for lunch another time. I hoped I hadn’t given him my number.

As we got back to the car park, Mark suddenly blurted that he had something to give me. He ran over to his car to get a gift for me.

I wasn’t sure what was about to happen but I was in a public space so I thought I might as well wait it out and see if it got any weirder. 

Mark came back with what looked like a shoebox, wrapped in red and white paper with a bow on the top. I took it, said thanks and escaped back to my car avoiding having to hug him.

It was awkward. I probably should have opened it in front of him. He’d clearly gone to a lot of effort. Poor guy.

As we both drove away, he opened his window, stuck his arm out and gave me a huge wave goodbye. Mortified, I kept my head down and drove home, where I recounted the story to my housemate.

We opened the present together and found inside that Mark had printed out the messages we’d sent each other and made them into a ‘book’.

He’d threaded the pages together, decorated it all with stickers and feathers, and made sure to include extra pages for the future emails we’d send each other. 

He’d also sprayed the whole thing with aftershave.

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I removed myself from the dating site the same afternoon and never spoke to Mark again.

In the meantime, a guy called Olly had been in touch. I messaged Olly to tell him about my disastrous date and let him know that I would be deleting my profile, but said that I’d like to stay in touch if he would. 

He seemed ‘normal’ and, although I wasn’t convinced about my judgement anymore, we agreed to swap email addresses. 

Olly and I are now happily married with two children – and I can only hope Mark has gone on to find a woman who loves animals and extravagant displays of affection as much as he does.

You can find out more about Zoe here

So, How Did It Go?

So, How Did It Go? is a weekly Metro.co.uk series that will make you cringe with second-hand embarrassment or ooze with jealousy as people share their worst and best date stories.

Want to spill the beans about your own awkward encounter or love story? Contact jess.austin@metro.co.uk

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