4 Messy Dates and a Parker Pen



This post was contributed by Danielle Conlon. Illustrations were provided by Ben Brown. 

In a very un-me fashion, after being single for a while (not forgetting all the men I’d fallen hard for on holiday, in class and on the bus), I decided to give Tinder a second/ OR seventh go. Admittedly, I’d sort of forgotten to put myself out there, and I knew had to change this instantly. And, what’s more instant than Tinder? SIGH. I flicked through the app, doing the classic judging of myself and others. But I eventually managed to find a few cute boys that I felt I could easily skip the awkward “small talk” part of messaging and get to the nitty gritty – dates.

In a weird twist of fate, I had managed to have three dates planned in a week. Ironic, because that was more than I’d had in the last year. This story is about the first of the three really, with a boy… let’s call him Parker Pen (what my friends will only refer to him as now). After accidentally ending up having chats every night for a week at 11.30 pm about music, movies and veggie fajita hotdogs (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) we decided to go on a date – eeeeek!

We met in Piccadilly Circus on a Sunday night around 8 pm, just by the ‘Sherlock’ screens as I called them, to which PP was confused as to what I was talking about (warning signs). I really love dating in central London. It feels special like I’m in an old movie and I’m about to get whisked off my feet at any given moment, or… get robbed.

I waited for him by a war statue, and we met briefly after he got lost and I had to direct him to my location over the phone, which was genuinely a good icebreaker. We went to a pub for a drink but had to leave every bar we walked into after one because it was a Sunday and every place was closing soon.

Parker Pen was your classic finance boy; he wore old school glasses, a chequered shirt, and a proper designer coat, whilst I’d arrived in old trainers and charity shop coat with buttons missing and somehow lipstick stains all over.

Still, he was pretty damn cute though with his lovely smile and adorable accent.

Parker Pen was your classic finance boy; he wore old school glasses, a chequered shirt and a proper designer coat.

After a lil’ bit of walking around, looking around to find our next bar and me almost getting run over and with him trying to hold my hand every road we crossed, we finally found a beautiful, secret rooftop bar where everything was pink – dream. Despite the fact that neither of us was smoking AND it was December, we settled on the outside terrace, which was covered in plants, and flowers as we overlooked the London skyline having the usual date chats.

Parker Pen was new to London as he’d moved from India to London for work, just 6 months before, so there I was recommending places to visit, places to eat and things to do, like a tipsy tour guide. Midway during our fourth drink, I mentioned how I’d just been on a spontaneous trip to Frankfurt and he told me he was going to Amsterdam last minute that weekend.

I got a little more into the date – cute AND he loves travelling?!

Surely too good to be true.

And of course, he was. But we’ll get there…

More talks about our favourite places to visit continued, and he asked me to go on holiday to France with him. I genuinely thought ‘what a great article that would be’.

I even had an article headline written in my notes ‘A Tinder Romance and a Trip to France’. Not surprisingly and more sensibly, we didn’t end up in France, as our few dates in London gave us enough material to add to the tragic Tinder date montage of my life.

Our few dates in London gave us enough material to add to the tragic Tinder date montage of my life.

Illustrated by Ben Brown

It got late, and we even got kicked out of the rooftop bar (not for being too drunk just because it was late, I promise!) We then had to search for a new place again – was this a metaphor for dating in the modern age? Or maybe it was just 1 am on a Sunday night/ Monday morning… who knows?

Wandering around, hoping the date didn’t have to end so soon, we stumbled upon a casino in Leicester Square, and it was the ONLY place still open on a Sunday. We got through security with IDs at the ready, and I was keenly smiling because this was my first time at a casino. Since I’m only 21, I had to sign up for a membership, which took forever and sort of sobered me up as filling paperwork often does.

Luckily, we chose not to gamble and drank instead – oops.

Our fun date ended soon after and by all accounts, I had become quite smitten. It even ended with a cheeky kiss in Leicester Square right in front of M&M world and McDonald’s –

R O M A N C E.

After the first date, we texted a lil’ and soon planned a second one. This all happened a week after my week of dating three boys –sorry MUM. We met at a salsa bar where he admitted after I said I love salsa, that he was one of those people who doesn’t dance unless he’s drunk (warning sign numero dos). 

Second dates are weird.

You’ve had all the small talk, and know most of the basic stuff already so it’s pretty make-or-break. After a plate of nachos and bottle of Desperados, which I had gulped down before the nachos arrived, it suddenly became unnervingly clear that we had nothing in common, and NOTHING to talk about.

What we missed on our first date, in-between the rooftop bar and the casino, was that we both lead VERY different lives. He works in finance 9-5 and I’m still in my overdraft from Uni.

We both lead VERY different lives.

Despite the awkwardness, we chatted on about our weeks and I explained my love for writing and told him about my current projects, whilst he told me about his office party (YAWN). He asked me what kind of office party person I am. Without even letting me finish, he chimed in with ‘I’m sure you’re the kind of person who gets a little drunk but doesn’t make a fool of yourself’.

Which is BIZZARE, because I totally am the one who makes a fool out of myself, and I hardly find that embarrassing. Sorry…not sorry.

I explained my current dilemma of wanting to work but also live my best life. Despite my opening up and sharing my self-reflections with him, he comes out with one of the most insulting things I’ve ever been told in my life…

‘Well Dani, you do seem like the kind of person who shies away from responsibility so…’

Which is really where the romance fizzled and died a DEATH. I’m not really one to argue, but I tried to explain my case before I realised how silly that was. I politely ran to the toilet to text my friends to plan my escape exit before finding out it had only been ONE HOUR since we met. Even though he’d insulted me, I couldn’t leave so soon – that would’ve been rude. So, I mentally gave him an hour to redeem himself and to see if he was worth it.

I came back with fresh lipstick, attitude and an extra layer of responsibility ™, and I’ve never seen anyone look so apologetic.
Illustrated by Ben Brown

He listed his worst qualities which made it even worse, and I gave him a stern telling off for ‘mansplaining my life choices’ which I meant as a joke but I swear he rolled his eyes. We decided to go to a different bar for a change of scenery.


As we walked down the road to the next bar, we noticed drunk people kissing and having a great time and I looked into the nonexistent ‘The Office’ camera with a look of despair.

There was a long moment of awkward silence(s) when he reached for something in his bag. I didn’t know what to expect. He handed me a small gift with a gentle ‘I know I’ve been a little weird but I do really like you…This is your Christmas present.’

Now, bearing in mind he’s Hindu and doesn’t celebrate Christmas, this was weirdly sweet.

I opened the present to find it was a Parker Pen (!!!) and he said, ‘So you can write stories about us’. I felt confused and slightly creeped out honestly, but it was thoughtful at least.

From then on, I realised 2 things: 

1) Obviously, there wouldn’t be a future with us – I’m not great with insults and expensive pens.

2) It’s okay though – we were already out, we may as well have a bit of fun.

We ended up having a late night, filled with beer and drunk dancing, which I can confirm, he would never have been any good at doing sober.

The night drew to a close and we may or may not have kissed again. The penny finally dropped when he drunkenly admitted that he actually liked me so much and didn’t ever want to let me go (a very strange choice of words).

We parted ways, but I knew I’d never see him again, a bittersweet feeling.

I left with a pretty good story, a parker pen and a really bad hangover.

Ironically, I started writing this with the parker pen, so I did write a story about us in the end, but maybe not the one he wanted me to.


Illustrated by Ben Brown

Meet Danielle: Danielle Conlon is half Filipino, half English northerner, living in London looking for love, friendship and writing inspiration across the globe. With a heavy heart (and love for satsumas), when she’s not travelling, she’s working on her fantasy children’s book series: She Belongs To The Sun. Keep up with her on IG

Keep up with Ben The Illustrator on IG too. 

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