Dating Disasters – PART 1, 2 & 3
As a child my mother always told me to be prepared, so did my Boy Scouts Leader and given that I had no other mentors in life, it was with their advice that I showed up 45 minutes early to a swank inner city restaurant for the opening date with my best friend’s girlfriend’s best friend Miranda. My best friend would not-so-affectionately refer to her as ‘meander,’ referring to her lack of personality and tendency to tell really boring stories, but nonetheless, she was female, recently single and provided a weak smile and a nod when I asked her to dinner. That was enough to fill me with confidence.
45 minutes early is definitely taking things too far, especially when I’ve never been early to anything in my entire life. ‘Just a booking for 2, by the window,’ I whispered to the waiter, pointing to the window which I had specifically requested over the phone when I made the reservations. ‘Special occasion?’ Asked the tall, dark and handsome Italian waiter, giving me a wink and a wry smile.’ ‘First date,’ I replied confidently. ‘I think she likes me, and I bought a new shirt for the occasion.’ The waiter suddenly broke eye contact with me, turned around and marched me to my table, in the ‘long-term relationship’ section of the restaurant. I ordered a beer straight away, and gave slight glances to the couples on the surrounding tables. They were all in their mid to late 30’s, successful, well dressed and completely disengaged from each other. The women were all looking at their phones and the men were staring out the huge windows towards the river, which glistened in the reflection of the city lights. I had never been on one of these dates before. The previous date I’d experienced was with Amy O’Hea, the girl from the counter at my local supermarket. We walked 50 metres from her work, bought an ice-cream and I never heard from her again. That was 7 years ago. Now, at 29, I was seated on an uncomfortable wooden chair in a plush inner city Italian restaurant, repeating to myself that I wouldn’t allow anything to go wrong. After approximately 35 minutes, I saw Miranda enter the restaurant. ‘Should I get up and greet her, or do I wait for the waiter to direct her to the table?’ I asked myself. In the distance I could see her body language. She looked uncomfortable. Her arms were crossed, her left hand firmly gripping her phone and her eyes were darting around waiting for someone to assist her. I decided to stand up and approach her. I walked through the restaurant. Miranda saw me and smiled. I waved. Not sure if I should kiss her on the cheek or not, I approached her and gave her a firm handshake, something not unlike a cheesy greeting from a real estate agent. ‘Did you find the place alright?’ I asked, pretending I was a regular patron and neglecting to mention that I had to pull over to check Google maps 3 times on the way there. ‘Yeah, I came here recently. The food was really good if I remember correctly.’ Miranda replied. ‘Did you come here with friends or family, or with one person?’ I asked, making it obvious that I was prodding her to find out if she had come here on a date. Miranda’s eyebrows scrunched up like a bag of chips and she gave me an awkward smile before changing the subject. ‘Work was really tough today. I think I’ll need a big glass of wine.’ I noticed we were still standing in the foyer of the restaurant and I decided to move locations and get her back to the table so we can both relax. ‘Shall we get you seated?’ I asked attentively, like a flight attendant. ‘That would be lovely,’ Miranda replied and I led her to the table.
I pulled her chair back awkwardly, then pushed the long table cloth back underneath the table, before walking around and resuming my seat. This entire process took about 1 minute while Miranda stood there watching me prepare the table. She then took her seat. ‘Can you see the waiter?’ Asked Miranda as she opening the leather jacket of the wine list. ‘I’m not sure,’ I replied. ‘What were you thinking of ordering?’ ‘I’ll probably have a glass of chardonnay,’ Miranda said as she read through the menu. Deciding to once again take the lead in the interaction, I raised my hand and rang an invisible bell with my fingers to attract the Italian waiter’s attention. He approached slowly, with a grin on his face. ‘What would you like to drink?’ The waiter asked in a thick Milanese accent. ‘Are you from Northern Italy?’ Miranda asked, slamming the menu shut like a fly trap. ‘Yes,’ replied the waiter as he smiled modestly, ‘I came here last year to study Masters in architecture. I’ve been here six months.’ Miranda smiled, ‘I’d love to study architecture, I’ve always wanted to build things.’ ‘Perhaps you should be a builder then,’ responded the waiter cheekily. Miranda smiled again, before I extinguished the flirtation. ‘We’ll have one glass of the Chardonnay and I’ll have another Peroni,’ I said firmly, not looking at the waiter, who took the wine list from in front of Miranda and kept his gaze on her. ‘Okay, I will be back shortly,’ said the waiter slowly.
I had to do something as Miranda was slipping through my fingers and I was losing her. After the waiter left I had to say something to get the conversation going. The only thing I could think of asking was a question about her career, one of the biggest mistakes a man can make on a first date. ‘So, what is a consultant anyway?’ I asked nervously. ‘It’s project management consulting,’ she responded, like a bank teller. ‘I work for a large firm and we advise companies on their various projects. We’re working with a company out of Abu Dhabi at the moment. ‘ I knew Abu Dhabi was an Arabian city, but not Dubai. It was the other guy, less sophisticated, not as attractive and a little more boring, like me compared to the waiter. I said the first thing that came to my mind. ‘They don’t treat women very well in those countries, apparently,’ I blurted, taking a nervous sip of beer and letting off a half-burp on the final word in the sentence. Everything I knew about the Middle East came from online News Corp publications. When I think of the Middle East, I think of mistreatment of women and terrorism. ‘Well I’ve never been,’ Miranda said, ‘we do most of our meetings via Skype.’ She took a sip of her wine, which had arrived without either of us knowing. It appeared that the waiter had placed it next to her elbow stealth fully, before retiring back to the kitchen. Perhaps he was trying to make her knock it over to try and sabotage my date while also providing him a reason to come back and wipe up the spillage, giving him a prime position next to her legs, which were hidden beneath a medium length black corporate skirt. My paranoia had definitely begun to kick in.
‘So,’ I said slowly, pondering my next sentence. I took a sip of beer. ‘How long have you worked at this firm?’ Again, like the first stage of a job interview, I returned the discussion to her career. ‘About 4 years, I really like my job.’ She said, glancing down at the menu. ‘Should we order an entree or something?’ Miranda had changed the subject. She’d liberated me from the burden of having to manufacture the conversation from thin air. Again, I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. ‘I don’t like scallops, I had a look at the menu before you arrived. There are a lot of entrees with scallops, and I’m not a fan to be honest with you, not a fan of scallops.’ She was utterly dumbfounded by my moronic , longwinded statement about scallops. ‘Okay then,’ she said quietly, her eyebrows retracting like a drawbridge and lips curling into her mouth immediately. ‘Why don’t we get the Wagyu strips,’ she read. ’2 pieces, served rare.’ I literally had no idea what a Wagyu was. To me it sounded like some kind of endangered marsupial, native to Tasmania. I imagined a park ranger telling a group of tourists to look out for Wallabies, Koalas and Wagyus. I was very particular with food. My diet is basically lamb, vegetables and potatoes, with fast food in between. I knew I had to comment on her suggestion with something to made me seem intelligent and well travelled. ‘I must admit,’ I said, not sure what to say next. ‘I’ve never eaten Wagyu before.’ Miranda got excited all of a sudden. ‘Oh, you’ll love it!’ She said enthusiastically. ‘They’re bred in Japan and fed these really specific diets.’ I still had no idea what it was, but took the risk in continuing the discussion. ‘I thought they were Australian,’ I said. ‘Do Wagyu also come from Japan?’ Miranda smiled to herself, looked down, then looked back up. ‘You don’t know what it is do you?’ ‘Not exactly,’ I said, with a wide nervous grin.