28 Dates Later by Willard Foxton: Part One, Love Bites

The first instalment of our new blog series.

I never really meant to start a dating blog. But, I went on my first online date, and it was a catastrophe. How bad can it be, I hear you ask? Well, it led to this Facebook chat with a friend:

She seemed pretty normal at first. Pretty, worked in publishing. Sadly a little dull in person. OR SO IT SEEMED.

We were in a Vietnamese restaurant and I'm terrible with chopsticks, so she was touching me a lot, helping out. Quite nice, quite pleasant. Anyway, dessert arrives, I am struggling with some piece of sugary slime, she reaches over, takes my hand... Takes the chopsticks out of my hand, starts sucking my fingers. WEIRD. But I didn't stop her. I should have.

She then bit my fingers, really hard! I screamed at the top of my voice (default setting: loud) "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?!", causing a scene in the restaurant. She tells me she thought I'd like it - then bursts into tears. I wrap my bleeding hand in a makeshift bandage I fashioned from a napkin, walk to the bar & say "I'd like to pay & leave, please".

They then can't get signal on card machine, so paying takes ten minutes. While she sat sobbing in the background. It was excruciating. I probably could have handled it better; I do feel guilty about it, but she literally bit my fingers until she drew blood. I honestly thought she might bite them off.

It was only a week later, visiting my doctor suffering from headaches and nausea, my doctor (a lovely old posh scottish lady) asked "Hmm, have you been bitten by any animals, Willard?", and it turned out the bite wound was infected(medic friends tell me this is pretty common, as the normal human mouth is a nasty place). I actually felt quite sorry for the girl in question. I've even found the article in a glossy mag that recommends a woman “Press a fork into different parts of his body at dinner—his butt cheeks, his pecs, his thighs. If you really like him, bite him in the restaurant”.

While this was clearly one of the worse dates ever, it wasn't the worst I've ever been on, or ever heard of.

It was only after this experience - and hearing other friend's bad online dating experiences - that I decided to do a dating blog. My favourite friend's dating experience was a girl who told me she went on an internet date with a guy who was genuinely dreadful - a real "ahem, you had three rolls, I had none, so a I think a 35/65 split is more equitable on the bill" type. Date is over in about an hour, she heads home, thinking, what a douche. He texts her, saying "I realise the date went badly, but was wondering if you were still interested in sex. I have a massive penis. Jim. XX". And attached, is a picture of said massive penis. In fairness to him (she's shown it to me), it was huge - like two beer cans welded together.

So, this online dating business is clearly a wasteland populated by freaks, huge-cocked mutants and blood-crazed biting cannibals. As one of the few (relatively) normal survivors out there, it seemed like a good idea to chronicle my wander through the wasteland - leave behind a survival guide. For example, I've since discovered that the website I met the biter on (OK Cupid) is notorious for being full of what one online dating veteran described to be as a "Legion of Polyamorous Kinksters", so it was probably a bad choice for me.

Of course, looking around, I wondered how could I make the dating blog different from every other dating blog out there. I mean, how could I guarantee every date would be bad enough to blog amusingly? Then I hit upon an idea; why not try to do a multitude of different dating sites?

So, here's the plan - 28 dates. 28 different dating sites. A mix of the most common sites, and some of the crazy ones. So. Let's see how this goes.

And with that, Willard stepped back out into the wasteland.

This post originally appeared at 28 Dates Later. Stay tuned as we catch you up with all Willard's disastrous dates so far over the next week.

Illustration and montage: Giulio Cipone.

Willard Foxton is a card-carrying Tory, and in his spare time a freelance television producer, who makes current affairs films for the BBC and Channel 4. Find him on Twitter as @WillardFoxton.

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Are there “tens of thousands” who still don't have their Labour leadership ballot paper?

Word has it that swathes of eligible voters have yet to receive their ballot papers, suggesting there is still all to play for in the Labour leadership contest. But is it true?

Is there still all to play for in the Labour leadership contest?

Some party insiders believe there is, having heard whispers following the bank holiday weekend that “tens of thousands” of eligible voters have yet to receive their ballot papers.

The voting process closes next Thursday (10 September), and today (1 September) is the day the Labour party suggests you get in touch if you haven’t yet been given a chance to vote.

The impression here is that most people allowed to vote – members, registered supporters, and affiliated supporters – should have received their voting code over email, or their election pack in the post, by now, and that it begins to boil down to individual administrative problems if they’ve received neither by this point.

But many are still reporting that they haven’t yet been given a chance to vote. Even Shabana Mahmood MP, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, still hasn’t received her voting pack, as she writes on the Staggers, warning us not to assume Jeremy Corbyn will win. What’s more, Mahmood and her team have heard anecdotally that there are still “tens of thousands” who have been approved to vote who have yet to receive their ballot papers.

It’s important to remember that Mahmood is an Yvette Cooper supporter, and is using this figure in her piece to argue that there is still all to play for in the leadership race. Also, “tens of thousands” is sufficiently vague; it doesn’t give away whether or not these mystery ballot-lacking voters would really make a difference in an election in which around half a million will be voting.

But there are others in the party who have heard similar figures.

“I know people who haven’t received [their voting details] either,” one Labour political adviser tells me. “That figure [tens of thousands] is probably accurate, but the party is being far from open with us.”

“That’s the number we’ve heard, as of Friday, the bank holiday, and today – apparently it is still that many,” says another.

A source at Labour HQ does not deny that such a high number of people are still unable to vote. They say it’s difficult to work out the exact figures of ballot papers that have yet to be sent out, but reveal that they are still likely to be, “going out in batches over the next two weeks”.

A Labour press office spokesperson confirms that papers are still being sent out, but does not give me a figure: “The process of sending out ballot papers is still under way, and people can vote online right up to the deadline on September 10th.”

The Electoral Reform Services is the independent body administrating the ballot for Labour. They are more sceptical about the “tens of thousands” figure. “Tens of thousands? Nah,” an official at the organisation tells me.

“The vast majority will have been sent an email allowing them to vote, or a pack in one or two days after that. The idea that as many as tens of thousands haven’t seems a little bit strange,” they add. “There were some last-minute membership applications, and there might be a few late postal votes, or a few individuals late to register. [But] everybody should have definitely been sent an email.”

Considering Labour’s own information to voters suggests today (1 September) is the day to begin worrying if you haven’t received your ballot yet, and the body in charge of sending out the ballots denies the figure, these “tens of thousands” are likely to be wishful thinking on the part of those in the party dreading a Corbyn victory.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.