Before you actually started going on dates, you probably assumed that they were magical. Watch enough rom-coms as a teen, and you'll believe that dating is all bike rides, passionate kisses in the rain and falling in love over the last spring roll. But as you've now learned, most of the dates you go on end up being kind of shit.
Of course, as with anything in life, there are varying degrees of shit dates. Maybe your date spends the night talking about their ex, or they invite their friends along because they thought you wouldn't mind. They could eat with their mouth open or look nothing like their photos. Sometimes, being stood up can truly feel like the preferable option.
Musician Alexina and her friend and art director Daisy King, both based in London, know a thing or two about terrible dates. Three weeks ago, they created a website dedicated to showcasing people's awful dates. Refundmyshitdate.com is now home to over 400 submissions from unlucky daters, with stories about almost anything you can imagine – from being robbed or ghosted to ending up across the table from your friend's dad. Not only does the website provide a place to vent, the Alexina and King are also offering up to £100 to the person who submits the worst date.
I spoke to King and Alexina over Zoom to find out more about refundmyshitdate.com. We spoke about online dating, bad manners and, horrifyingly, bunk beds.
VICE: Hi guys! So how did Refundmyshitdate.com come to be?
Alexina: I’m a musician and songwriter and I wrote and put out a song about three weeks ago, called "Where Are All the Boys?" which was a bit of an eye-roll of a frustrated period of my life where I was going on these relentlessly shitty dates with crappy, misogynistic dudes. I got into the bath one night after a particularly shitty date where a guy had presumed that because he had spent loads of money on a fancy dinner that I should go on a second date with him. I was just like, “Where the fuck are all the guys? I’m single, young and in my twenties, all my mates are settling down and finding these guys". Dais sent me an image of a receipt and we were on the phone for two hours and refundmyshitdate.com was born.
Daisy: We were on the phone laughing, mainly about my terrible date experiences, then I was like, "Do you think anyone else has stories like this? Is it this bad for everyone?" Of course, they do, our site is 100-percent proof of that! We’re definitely not alone and the site has created a real circle of trust which I like. You can come and let it out and leave hopefully feeling a little bit lighter after this.
When's the deadline for those who want to get a refund on their shit date?
A: A dream for us would be to keep this forum open for as long as possible and keep rewarding people in some small way, whether that’s through sponsorships or people who want to get on board with it. We’re doing £100 cash at the end of this month-long period of the site being live.
So, there's still time to submit a bad date. What has reading all of the submissions been like?
D: We’ve had some where we’ve laughed and cried, it’s a real mixture. Some of them, we’ve felt really terrible for them. Others, we’ve been in stitches. It’s so hard to pick a winner that you almost have to categorise them. There’s so many different types of dates out there that we may do a refund for each category. We’d love to reach more people and give more generously.
Are there any frontrunners?
A: There’s a girl who goes on like OK-ish date, and she gets back to this guy's house and he takes her into his bedroom and he's like, "here's your bunk bed". He points to the top bunk and he just gets on his little bunk and they go to sleep and that's it. It must have been so weird to build yourself up in this mentality that you've had a great date, you're going back to his and then that happens.
D: One we had early on was from someone who said that they went out for a meal after having gone on a couple of dates. The day after, they arranged to meet, but he wouldn't reply at all. He just went dead. And then she watched the news and it turned out that he was a wanted criminal and living in his car in the woods.
Have you been on any dates that belong on the site?
A: My dating radar is pretty good, so I was sure that he's not going to be the one. He spent the whole evening talking about himself and he was drinking so much wine. I'm a bit of a big drinker as well, but I could not keep up with this guy. We get out of the restaurant and he throws up everywhere – he's sick, all over the pavement. There's a bit of sick on my jeans and I have to get back home smelling vaguely of sick. He was like, "Do you want a second date?” Daisy has had some mental ones.
D: I mean, one that pops into my head was a guy I dated a few years ago. He was really upset that I hadn't slept with him after three days. I think he felt like I owed him and he was disappointed that I hadn't put out. I woke up the next day, and I went to make myself breakfast. He just wasn't there. I assumed he was in the bathroom, but he had stolen all of the food in my house. Basically, I think it was his refund for all the money he had "wasted" on me. He also took my housemate's swim shorts for some reason. He grabbed loads, chucked it in his car and just left.
Why do you think so many of us have terrible date stories? Is it just a symptom of modern dating?
A: The modern dating economy is a bit of a double-edged sword. Online dating gives you the freedom and the ability to meet so many different kinds of people. In one sense, that's amazing, but I also it allows people to ghost you or to behave really badly. It's so impersonal. In a sense, that does allow for a lot of shit dates to happen.
But then on the flip side, it's amazing to go and meet with so many different kinds of people and maybe older generations didn't have that freedom. A lot of my parents' generation ended up settling down really young and maybe not staying together for a long time. Divorce rates seem super high. You have to develop a bit of a thick skin with modern dating. You have to learn to put yourself before someone else. I definitely lost my way with shitty dates and it wears you down and you think you're the problem.
D: There's almost no accountability with online dating, which is probably why people do act out in certain ways. It's definitely a minefield out there. But there's something beautiful about it as well. Humans are so relentless in their pursuit of finding love and a connection. I read an article the other day that said rejection stimulates the same systems in the brain as physical pain. We willingly put ourselves through that over and over again, whether the date goes badly or we get ghosted. You're just trying to find someone who you can, like, dribble on in your sleep, and they don't hate you for it.
It’s really interesting reading a stranger’s anonymous story. Do you remember PostSecret?
D: Yeah, we thought about that! It's really frustrating as well, because when you see some of them, you have so many questions. You almost want to ask some of them what happened to them.
A: I think it's very difficult to be anonymous. We've all got our Instagram pages that we're curating to all look so wonderful and all living our best lives. But actually, in the dating scene, it's very vulnerable space. It's nice to have a little space where no one's gonna judge you or find out who you are. It's quite liberating and I think we wanted it to be really judgement-free zone. It’s like anti-social media.
Do you have any plans to exhibit the dates in a physical exhibition one day?
D: Yeah, definitely, we'd have to be really sensible with COVID but we thought it'd be a great way of getting everyone together. We didn't anticipate how big this was gonna get. We want to feature every single one in a gallery space so you can walk around and read the receipt one at a time. We're gonna throw a little show as well. So there will be an exhibition, a bit of live music and food and drink.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.