02 February 2018

The year is 2014. I am two months into writing a dating column for a national newspaper and I am aware that I’m going to have to really deliver a corker for my first Valentine’s Day. This is the time for a big scoop. I am Carl Bernstein; this is my Watergate.

Alex, a man who I met on Tinder and went for a completely pleasant but quite platonic date with, invites me to his flat for a Valentine’s Day dinner. He asks me to bring two single friends. Persuading my friends Sabrina and Belle to go to a singles' dinner party is quite some task. Sabrina’s reservations aren’t helped when, by chance, on the morning of the dinner party, she is watching an old rerun of the trashy ITV programme Dinner Date and spots Alex as one of the contestants.

“He was on Dinner Date?!” she yelps. “Why didn’t you tell me?! That’s a very vital piece of information to miss out.”

“OK, well, I didn’t know that. He’s lovely.”

“He didn’t get chosen. He came across really badly.”

“Well there are two other ones as well,” I say reassuringly.

“When we go in, do we ask who is allocated for who?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” I say. “Look, you might meet the love of your life tonight.”

“It’s more likely that I’ll grow a third boob than meet the love of my life tonight.”

We arrive at his beautiful West London pad and Alex presents all the guests with a red rose. It’s a nice touch, one that would have earned him extra points on Dinner Date, at least. He’s brought two friends, one beardy and a bit zany, one more clean-cut in good knitwear. They’re both easy on the eye, but not my type, and I know for certain they aren’t Belle or Sabrina’s either.

We begin drinking heavily. I corner Alex, Sab takes the beardy one, and Belle takes the one in the roll-neck. At 10pm, we have the starter. Alex apologises that he doesn’t have much in the way of crockery or chairs, and Sabrina and I have to sit on a sofa footrest, our chins just grazing the table as we share a plate of mezze served out of the Nisa Local plastic containers they were purchased in. We also have to take turns with the sparse cutlery. Sabrina wonders aloud whether the flat and perhaps even the friends are all rented for the night.

The girls later tell me that the point they knew I was not enjoying the evening was at the moment I queue up for the loo in the hallway of this man’s flat with my handbag over my shoulder like we’re in a nightclub, to avoid sitting at the table and having to make conversation with Alex.

Dolly Alderton on Valentine's Day

'With nothing else to talk about, we sit and silently adorn him with all our bangles, necklaces and hairclips as if we were playing a game of human buckaroo'

The main course comes at midnight, and we’re all completely trashed – if it were an episode of Dinner Date, the producers would have already booked our Addison Lee taxis home for health and safety reasons. We know the chances of romance are off because, before I’ve finished my plate of chickpea stew, one of them is ferociously tucking into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s with a spoon. This hunch is cemented when, for some reason I will never be able to understand, we all gather round on the sofa and watch the opening ceremony of the Sochi winter games on an iPad, for an hour.

We divide into a disparate party of two: girls on one sofa and boys on the other. Later, Belle tells me she felt the atmosphere at this point was that of a university seminar when the tutor asks the class to divide into groups to discuss a topic. We interact across groups only once, when the man with the beard asks to try on all of our jewellery. With nothing else to talk about, we sit and silently adorn him with all our bangles, necklaces and hairclips as if we were playing a game of human buckaroo.

We leave at midnight. The cold air hits us and I’ve been drinking like Oliver Reed all night. I trip over my stiletto and stack it down the stairs. I stand up and dust myself off. “I think that went quite well,” I say. “Happy Valentine’s Day”. 

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