Sunday morning. Isn’t this just the perfect opportunity to sleep in, snooze the alarm that I forgot to turn off (again) a couple of times more and then laze in bed and reflect on the past week? Well, it is for me! So, there I am with a big mug of coffee, in my bed – alone.
After having hardly been able to open my eyes on Monday morning, I had a quiet week until Thursday, as I had gone to a yoga class in South Ken and worked a couple of late nights rather than going out for drinks with the girls from the PR agency. Abstinence, even if short lived, can be so blissful… I had decided to put Mark (in case you forgot, the Dutch hunk from last week) out of my head for a while and my meetings this morning went amazing. I can be so concentrated and efficient if I don’t have to constantly fantasise and fret about a guy. In the evening I decided to be even more proactive about my ‘forgetting Mark’ project and started chatting to the not at all unattractive businessman on my flight to Rome.
I had booked my usual hotel, the Jumeirah, and was looking forward to a quiet evening with a neck and shoulder massage and a light dinner in my room. Much as I love travelling and exploring new bars and restaurants, I need a good night’s sleep before meeting with a new client and this contract I was very interested in. But, life has its way, and plans change… Before I knew what was happening, I found myself agreeing to meet Stefano for dinner at the highly praised Il Convivio Troiani. I told myself that I had always wanted to go there, that I could turn this into a story and so on. But, let’s be honest, no excuse could satisfactorily hide the fact that I was seriously endangering my morning meeting for… well, for what? An adventure?
Back in the hotel, I threw myself into my emergency little black dress, cute peep toe high heels and put on my new Chanel Rebelle lipstick. I could almost hear my dear Kate sigh. Not with pleasure though, sadly. For years, Kate has been warning me, that sheer red lips and high heels on first dates give the wrong signal. But, will I ever learn? And anyway, this could hardly count as a first date. After all, I had just met Stefano on the plane and what more; I would most likely not see him again after tonight.
Throwing cautions and Kate’s oh-so-sensible advice to the wind, I jumped into a taxi and headed towards the river and along to the Il Convivio Troiani, where my Italian admirer was waiting for me. I was excited but also a little nervous. Chatting all the way from London to Rome was one thing but actually meeting up for dinner, was completely different. It felt so…. purposeful. And despite the fact that the disastrous Mark-experience still smarted and my fragile female ego was in sore need of comfort, I was not at all sure that I wasn’t getting myself into trouble. What was worse: I wasn’t sure I didn’t want to get myself into trouble…
A short taxi-ride and a slap at my agonising conscience later, I arrived at the beautifully lit restaurant. Stefano was lounging in one of the white leather armchairs, looking completely at ease with himself and – maybe just because of that – ever more handsome. He looked up when I was ushered into the room by a black-clad doorman and his face broke into a broad smile. He smelt delicious when he kissed me on my cheek, earthy, manly with a hint of tobacco and I felt my stomach fluttering slightly.
My initial shyness was gone and I felt daring and sexy when he took my hand and led me to a table at the far corner of the room, conveniently located out of earshot of the buzzing ristorante. He took my coat (oh dear god, I am absolutely powerless when it comes to gentlemanly behaviour, aren’t you???) and made sure I was comfortably seated before I took the chair opposite me. He didn’t say anything, simply sat back and looked at me curiously, a half smile playing on his lips. The butterflies in my stomach stirred.
Not until the waiter had brought two glasses of champagne, did he speak. His tone was light and the conversation flowed as easily as the champagne that kept appearing out of nowhere. Stefano, who turned out to the creative director of a well-known Italian fashion house, was revered like a regular patron. He ordered oyster and lobster spaghetti; and since I had decided that this was definitely not an average date, I ate with gusto and truly enjoyed the night.
When the desert plates (wild strawberries in truffle balsamico) were cleared away and a cognac had been served, our conversation about historical Roman palazzi ebbed away and silence fell. Surely, he would kiss me now? I was curious and, owing to the generous measures of champagne and Italian red wine, not the slightest bit abashed when I leaned over the table towards him. He looked me into the eyes, with an unfathomable expression and ….
I still could not quite believe what I was doing in a taxi, alone and on my way back to the Jumeirah. I had had a very romantic evening with an Italian version of George Clooney (ok, ok, not quite as handsome, but still…) and nothing, NOTHING, had happened. Stefano had not even kissed my cheek and instead announced that he needed to go and check on his paperwork for an early morning meeting! Without further delay he paid the bill, ordered two (!) cars and instructed the driver of one to take the ‘signorina al a casa’.
While the intoxication of both the alcohol and the heady feeling of a potential Italian adventure left me, my sensibility, which I had carefully knocked out earlier, awoke. I ran myself a bubble bath in my lavishly decorated Italian marble powder room and dialled James’ number. Thankfully, he was awake.
James, despite being a fabulously successful artist and well known gallery owner, is almost as hopeless at dating as I, once again, seem to be. Consequently, he is used to listening to my never ending bewilderment about the male species. As one of my longest standing friends, he knows everything about me and is hardly ever shocked, no matter what I come up with.
This particular episode of ‘Sophie’s disastrous dating adventures’ however had him speechless for a while (or maybe he had fallen asleep during my half-an-hour monologue..?). He sighed. “Oh babe,” he said after a while. “Why on earth did you do this?” Hang on, I thought, do exactly what? Defiantly I said “I didn’t do anything wrong!” But was this really true?
James exasperatedly cried “He is Italian, isn’t he?” and continued more patiently “he is a macho. He loses interest as soon as he knows that he has won! And you did not exactly make it difficult for him.”
That piece of information momentarily stunned me into silence. After the few heartbeats it took to sink in that my interest in taking matters further this evening had obviously created the exact opposite effect, it was my turn to sigh. I should have known. Continental, especially Southern European, guys are simply different from our English lads. But the episode with French Pierre dated back years and anyway, the Italians were not the French, right?
I should have been subtle, I told myself, flirty, charming and, in a delicately inviting way, unobtainable. That would have intrigued him, and brought out the hunter. Macho guys want to choose a woman, chase and seduce her and bring home the trophy (figuratively speaking, in real life, that type of guy rarely takes you home). They need a challenge in order to keep pursuing a girl. And a willing woman, or even worse, a desperate one, is about as exciting to them as anover-eager teenager with pimples to us. I had made a classic mistake and turned him off!
I cringed inwardly as I imagined over and over how I had leaned forward to be kissed by Stefano, who had coolly turned his bored gaze to his watch. Urgh, the humiliation…
Meanwhile, James was inhaling deeply on the other end of the line (despite having managed to quit smoking, he occasionally indulges himself with a Cuban cigar). “You know what, babe,” he said “forget about the guy. Not worth creasing your pretty face into wrinkles.” I heaved a last sigh and agreed. At least I had a meeting tomorrow to worry about and it was much later than I would have wished for (especially after not spending the night together…)
When I stepped out of my bubble bath and sank into my wonderfully soft and man-free pillows, I was quite content again. Yes, the evening could under no angle be called a success, but, hey, at least I had – yet again – learned a valuable lesson!