You will remember that I met a quite ordinary guy on one of my field study trips into the wild last week (Angel is one of London’s less well covered grounds for me). While the experience of meeting and talking to a perfect stranger that held no visible attraction for me whatsoever was intriguing, I have to confess that I have started feeling deprived.
I have not been on a proper date – god knows for how long, it seems ages. And although I am happy with my new resolutions not to date anyone that is actually potentially interesting for something serious, I have started to experience date-cravings. You know how that feels….First, you don’t even think about it. Then it comes across your mind, but you quickly change thought and forget all about it. After a while, it becomes a nagging issue in the back of your head and before you know it, you find yourself procrastinating for hours dreaming about the one thing you have vowed to not dwell on anymore.
It’s always the same, be it chocolate during chocolate-free week or the gorgeous pair of suede ankle boots that cost an arm and a leg. And – as I have been able to experience over the last week – it is the same with dating. Not that I even had anyone that I wanted to go on a date with. As I had so diligently abstained from accepting invitations to parties or going on double-blind-dates with my girls, I couldn’t think of anyone exciting that I would go out with.
It started on Tuesday. During the day, I was still quite serenely going about my work, meeting for interviews and preparing a photo-shoot. But when I walked down from Pimlico to Chelsea, I found myself gazing longingly into the cosy, red-brick interior of Tinello’s on Pimlico Road – not because of the undoubtedly superb dishes but because of the happily chatting couples.
Wednesday got worse. I didn’t even last until evening. On my way to a meeting near Oxford Circus I stopped for a tea at a small, crammed coffee-shop. The girl standing before me in line was talking excitedly into her mobile, telling her friend everything about last night and how fun the date had been and how nice the guy had treated her and how exciting it had been to go back to his. You can imagine the rest. The cue was a long one – I didn’t get a coffee in the end.
I woke up on Friday, having dreamed about a faceless stranger sitting opposite me in a bar. I couldn’t remember, why, but was feeling hot and intrigued. Although I was determined not to waste another evening on a fruitless date, I couldn’t keep the thoughts straying to the stranger in my dream, wondering who this might have been.
Could I risk going out with John (the foodie from the Elk)? After all, he had sent a few texts, scattered irregularly over the last weekend, to which I had not yet responded. But then, I scolded myself, I must not act rashly and against my new credo. Was he worth a date?
What kind of guy is worth a date? My field trips have mostly ended in silent observations. During the few encounters I have actually had, I feel, I have learned nothing about who is and who isn’t good for me. I know who isn’t, probably better than who is – but since John has shown no signs of being attractive, successful or charming (the usual suspects when it comes to shaking up my female senses) I couldn’t see real danger.
On the contrary. Maybe John, I reasoned, was the ideal candidate for a date. Simply because he was neither of the above and at the same time perfectly alright to speak to. Since, we had found a good conversation topic so easily, maybe a date could pass by quite pleasurably.
I remembered that a friend had invited me to come to a restaurant opening night on Saturday and called to see if the list was open for another guest – it was. Confident that John would like to join me; I had my friend pencil us in and left a voice mail for John with the date and location of the restaurant.
You might notice, how little anxious or excited I was. Yes, I wasn’t. At all. I technically had just asked a man out and didn’t actually bother to check my phone for an answer. Was I arrogant? Yes, I probably was. And did I enjoy it? No, I didn’t. Isn’t the excitement, the butterflies, the many ‘what ifs’ worth the same if not more than the actual hours spent together?
Be that as it may, I did take care to look good. A slim pink dress with a large bow across the back, black patent peep-toes and scarlet lipstick (I refrained from having the nail stylist do my nails in crimson – too many painful memories are attached to this inglorious Sophie-calamity… - I now prefer them French or pastel colours). I scheduled a last minute blow-out with my favourite stylist at Hari’s and cabbed it to Bloomsbury just in time for the grand opening.
John was there. He had abandoned the T-Shirt and was wearing a (rather casual) shirt and a greenish tweed blazer with his jeans. No, I thought, suppressing the slightest cringe, this was not how I wished to appear in public. Immediately, I checked myself. Sophie, I told myself reproachfully, stay cool, be fair, give the guy a chance – he was nice enough, when you last spoke to him.
That, however, seemed to be the thing. He had been nice when I had met him in the Elk. But for all intents and purposes, I had approached him then and now I had asked him out. If John was under the impression that I was keen on him – who was to blame but myself?
His eyes lit up and when he turned round and – too obviously – took in my dress and heels. I quickly arranged my face into an engaging smile, bracing myself inwardly for an uncomfortable evening fending off a touchy admirer. Great, Sophie, this is exactly what you deserve! You could have told the guy that you were merely friendly with him as part of an experiment and you would have been fine – maybe not on a date, but at least comfortable.
Oh, I hate situations in which I feel eyed up and appraised. It makes me want to run faster than anything else. Maybe, this is also, why I am so frequently attracted to the wrong guys. It is traditionally the cool, laid-back womanizer, who light the spark, because they do not chase hard (unless hopelessly drunk and who is attractive in that state, anyway?) but wait until their quarry is ready to be snatched.
My ideal date… what is my ideal date? The man must be intriguing. Handsome if possible, but not necessarily beautiful. Interesting more like, decidedly manly and most importantly: at ease with himself. A man has to be comfortable with who he is. There is very little that kills the attraction faster than someone who just wants to please you and bends over backwards to receive approval. Too needy, too dependent.
On the other hand, a date has to be curious about you, needs to focus on you 100 per cent. If I notice a guy eying up other women if he is out with me, that warrants a clear no, regardless of how yummy he may be. I want a man to approach me with a sincere curiosity, a certain delicate reservation and a rather incidental admiration.
I might feel like a beautiful and costly sculpture that is contemplated by an appreciative connoisseur, who has not yet quite decided if he wants to make the purchase, but intrigued enough not to walk away…
Am I asking too much? I sometimes think I am. If a man is too casual, I don’t feel appreciated, if he is overly eager, I want to run for cover. And then, if I am looking for someone who is ideally not an experienced player working me like a professional, don’t I have to cut him some slack?
But back to John and the imminent restaurant opening. He kissed me on the cheek, which I had not offered. Too familiar for a first date. At least he was cleanly shaven and smelled fresh of moss, pine trees and something that reminded me pleasantly of a herb garden. When we walked in, he placed his hand on the small of my back (just above the large velvet bow and slightly too low for observing decorum). However, he gallantly snatched up a glass of champagne from a tray-bearing waiter and pulled back my chair when we arrived at the table.
Good breeding and gallantry are absolute must-haves, don’t you think? Even if a guy comes from a different background, he should observe others and learn to play the game – as naturally as possible. A little attentiveness never goes amiss and a guy can really stand out if he perfects it.
Dinner was an enjoyable affair with pleasant people, a few good laughs and plenty of superb French cuisine. John, thankfully not sitting within reach of me, had given up trying to establish body contact and was talking animatedly to a corpulent and red-faced gentleman on his other side.
When the last drop of 2008 Chablis Fourchaume had been drunk and the candles were burning to a low I had spent a surprisingly pleasurable evening. Maybe, I thought, when John fetched me my coat and draped it gently over my shoulders, maybe, I had not given him enough credit. He was probably more aware of my sentiments towards him than I had allowed for and it did him credit that he did not press his suit any further.
He hailed a cab for me without asking for a nightcap and told the driver to bring me wherever I wanted to go. He must have paid him, too, for when I arrived at home, the cabbie said the bill had been settled and even came round to open the door for me.
I was still musing over his not having tried to kiss me goodbye and merely raising a hand in farewell – a detail that was in itself curious (not the wave, but the fact that I was dwelling on it at all – had I not been cringing at his appearance, had I not been uncomfortable at his touch?).
Now, a good night’s sleep later, I am lying in my luxuriously comfortable bed and I cannot decide if I might not be the tiniest bit interested in John. Let us see what the next week brings – I cannot wait!