Christian dating can be perilous. Whether you've been set up by well-meaning friends, finally plucked up the courage to ask that new girl at church out for coffee, or met someone online, frankly it's usually a bit of a minefield.
But – given that you can get through anything if you imagine how funny your friends will find it when you recount the story later – it's also a goldmine for awkward moments.
With that in mind, we've put gathered together some of our own, and some of our readers', stories. So if you ever find that you're already halfway through your first mouthful when your date grabs you by the wrist and says "Shall we just pray first?" – yes, it's happened – remember there's strength in solidarity.
1. "One time I didn't totally realise I was on a date until I was being told about how he'd thought about what his future wife would be like."
2. "As I was getting out of his car I accidentally said 'See you never', winked at him, and then hit my head on the car door."
3. "One date spent the entire time telling me about his congenital ailments, and those of his family too (sister's missing ovaries and all). I like to think I'm sympathetic about health problems – we've all got a few – but it was like sitting through a medical seminar. By the end, all I could think was: 'No way am I ever mixing my DNA with yours, mate.'" [HopefulGirl]
4. "After an online date, as we headed off in opposite directions, he yelled: 'You're better looking than your photos!' A kind thought, but did he have to tell everyone on the busy riverside we'd just been on a blind date?" [HopefulGirl]
5. "I got asked to a comic-con event (I don't even like comics). The guy then produced an anime drawing of me that he'd done himself, complete with a very pronounced bust."
6. "I was having a coffee with a guy who had a really loud voice. In the middle of Starbucks he announced, 'We really must be careful in Europe, because it's being taken over by Muslims'. It was a proper wish-I-was-anywhere-but-here moment."
7. "A guy I dated once told me he liked my shoes. Fair enough. Then he said he'd once found some similar ones abandoned in the street and given them to an ex-girlfriend as a gift. If there's a social convention for how to respond to that one, I'd like to know what it is."
8. "This guy and I had been chatting a few times online and decided to meet up. We'd arranged to meet on the South Bank in London to go for a walk and then go to a museum. He called me about an hour before to say he was going to be late because he had to go the clinic (why, why tell me that?), but still wanted to meet up. When we finally met, he said his doctor had said he couldn't really walk very far, and he couldn't sit down. We just had this awful date where I knew something was wrong with his bum, and couldn't help inwardly speculating about what it was. We didn't see each other again."
9. "I once went on a date with a guy and we sat on a picnic bench in a pub garden. After about 20 minutes the conversation ran dry, so for some unknown reason I suggested seeing how far you could lean back on the bench. He gave it a go, leant too far and fell off the bench in front of a pub full of people."
10. "A girl I'd only been dating for a short time announced over coffee that we shouldn't talk for an entire month so we could 'Figure out God's vision' for our relationship. We didn't find it."
11. "Despite my obvious dismay at all his racist and sexist comments during our date, one guy had the cheek to go in for a snog at the end of the evening. I politely kissed him on both cheeks, but he lunged in a third time, muttering: 'I want a proper one.' I wouldn't smooch someone I barely know, even if he was wildly attractive – and certainly not with this horrid bigot, on a stinky train platform, surrounded by hoards of people and rubbish blowing around. So I smacked him with my woolly hat." [HopefulGirl]
12. "I was at a church carol service, and started speaking to this man I hadn't met before. I'd had a couple of glasses of mulled wine and got really giggly. At that point, another friend came over, looked at me weirdly and said meaningfully to the guy: 'When is it you're getting married again?' How embarrassing."
13. A friend set me up with someone she knew who she was convinced would be perfect for me. She'd gone on about it so much that I was already thinking there's no way we're going to get on (how can anyone live up to that hype?). But at least it will be a nice evening.
I rocked up and met her, and knew with instant certainty that I fulfilled absolutely nothing of what this girl was looking for. All I can say is that she wasn't rude, but everything about the evening made me feel like I was in a job interview with no hope of getting the job. It was an hour and half (I genuinely thought I'd been there for about three hours) of me putting on a dog and pony show, trying to get some sort of response or connection and getting nothing. On the one hand, it's fair enough to meet someone and think 'no', but come on, at least play the game!
14. I was recently single from a long term relationship, and a friend wanted to set me up. I thought the girl and I were going to be at the same Christian festival so I text her seeing if she wanted to meet up, but it turned out I'd misunderstood and she just lived nearby. I said I don't really know the area, but I knew where the big Tescos was, and was there anywhere near there we could meet? She just replied and said the Tescos was fine.
Looking back, I think if the best you can muster is a drink in a supermarket, you're doomed from the off, but I was clearly out of practice after having been in a relationship for so long, so I went along with it. About halfway through our horrendously awkward coffee I had that horrible epiphany of 'Oh my gosh, is this what dating is actually like?'. It's like that Pulp song, 'I took her to a supermarket, I don't know why but I had to start it somewhere'. For us it started there, and sadly it finished there too.