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Deciding Between Two Men

Remember how I went out with N.? How it was all lovely and picture-perfect, but neither of us really felt a spark? Well, seeing as we’re nearing our one-year anniversary of that date (and haven’t really been in touch since) we decided to repeat last year’s performance and go to the same outdoor festival. Now, I’m still not really in the market for dates, but this seemed to be more a reminiscent outing than anything else- we had a fun time watching a movie last year, so why not do it again.

The organisation was very simple- after all, we’d done this date before. The only apparent problem was that on the day of the festival, it was raining like mad (what with it being August in London and all), and I couldn’t really see us sitting outside on the ground, huddling in the downpour, trying to keep the mud from seeping into our mats and blankets, all while balancing umbrellas,  trying to see the screen and eating sushi. I guess you can see my priorities here.

Either way, I proposed what I thought of as an excellent alternative to outdoor cinema: Prom 55. It has the same picknick+culture spirit as the original plan, but instead of in the rain, we’d sit in the Royal Albert Hall. I love opera, I love Handel, I love Handel operas- I was already completely sold on the idea. In a quick text, my date agreed and we settled where and when we’d meet.

I spent half the afternoon researching Rinaldo, reading synopsis and interpretations and pre-listening to important arias online. I was positively giddy when I arrived at our meeting point. Also because I was curious to meet N. again. But yeah, mostly for meeting R.

Our preprom queue banter quickly showed that N. hadn’t even realised he was going to a partially staged opera performance instead of an orchestral concert. His face twitched slightly when he asked “Oh, with singing and everything?”- which should have warned me. However, I was in my own little bubble of enthusiasm and just replied “Yes, it’s going to be amazing!” instead of picking up on his scepticism.

We got gallery tickets, and found space to sit near the bannisters about in the middle of the gallery. Excellent promming! We could see the entire stage, albeit through “prison bars” as my date charmingly put it, and I got even more excited.

I was enthralled from the first notes of the ouverture (go listen to it here). Prom 55 was the Glyndebourne 2011 production of R. by Georg Friedrich Handel, where the crusade age plot is reimagined as a revenge-fuelled school boy’s dream after he’s been bullied one time too many. Seeing as the original baroque opera’s plot is confusing at best, and racially, sexistically and religiously insensitive and bigotted at worst, I thought this was a clever choice(although on a whole the “transported in modern time through one thing or other” strategy isn’t my favourite staging tool) and overall for me, the transformation into a teenage fantasy worked for me.

Sadistic teachers, wise teachers, mean girls, luring synchronised swimmers, armies of bicycle riders and football playing boys- R. filled his dream with some too-well-loved stereotypes and cliches along with some very bright ideas. While the latex-clad Armida as teacher with cane and posse of St Trinian lookalikes felt a bit heavy-handed for me, I found the reimagining of the final battle scene of christians and muslims as a slow-motion football game that ended with R. scoring into the orchestra simply ingenious.

The orchestra of enlightenment was fantastic, and although I wasn’t entirely convinced by his harpsichord solos, I really liked Ottavio Dantone’s musical direction. The singers were spirited and lively, with Sonia Prina’s title role a special treat.

You can tell, I adored it from the first minute. Poor N. really didn’t. He hadn’t read the plot beforehand, and my hastily whispered 45 second introduction to a story along the lines of  “…and then A dresses up as B and her lover C falls in love with her in costume, so she plots revenge together with B’s lover D, who she has imprisoned earlier. Oh, and she’s a witch!” didn’t really enlighten him either.

The prom performance was not supertitled like most other foreign language opera performances (a decision I don’t understand), N. thus had hardly any chance to understand what was going on for the next two-and-a-half hours.We discussed our experiences in the first interval, and it became clear he had resigned to just listening and ignoring the plot completely. And although he was too polite to explicitly state it, it was quite obvious that baroque opera was not the music he would usually choose to listen to for an evening while sitting on the linoleum covered floor amidst a bunch of opera-fanatic strangers.

This essentially gave me a choice to either a) be a very nice person, suggest to leave during the interval and get some drinks instead and spend some more quality time with X. or b) resist the social clues, stay for the rest of the opera and spend some more quality time with R.

I went with b). Because I truly fell in love with R. I’ve been obsessively listening to the recording over and over again in the past days. I’ve imagined our future, how I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out and how I’m going to go to all future Glyndebourne proms. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends, and just writing it down now makes me smile.

N. took it very gracefully, and I promised him non-operatic drinks next week.

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There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

This happened ages ago, but apparently I forgot to blog about this, despite it teaching me a very valuable lesson. I guess I was too embarrassed. But hey, I’ve been reprimanded for not updating my blog (by both my readers), so I thought I’d share it after all. I’m much wiser now, obviously.

When I moved house a while ago, I did it with help of several friends, who assisted in going through my wardrobe and sorting clothes into piles of why-do-I-never-wear-this and why-did-I-ever-wear-this, who helped to pack things into boxes and who made the new house a home. The only thing I needed to call a professional for was the transport of my belongings from my old to my new abode. As a moving company seemed a little unnessecary for my three suitcases and two boxes, I settled on a minicab.

This is a long introduction to how I met D., my friendly minicab driver. We chatted on the way across north-east London, and as the drive took nearly an hour, we had plenty of time to get quite well-aquainted, despite our limiting language abilities (his English was creative, my Turkish is pretty much nonexistant). We talked about the weather in London (not good), the weather in Cyprus (much better!), his wife and family (two grown sons, who come home with their girlfriends all the time, because they’re good sons), his nephew (very cute and marriagable) , my fiancé (imaginary) and so forth. It was all perfectly superficial and amicable. I was excited about leaving my old house behind once and for all, and didn’t pay much attention to any subtext – I actually patted myself on the back for catching on to the nephew thing. He told me he’d be off work after bringing me to my destination, and would go home to a beautiful Sunday lunch of homemade kebabs surrounded by his amazing family.
After my expression of approval of kebabs and family life, D. invited me to join him and his family in (stereo?) typical turkish hospitality. I found this a bit weird, and just laughed it off politely and said I’d be quite busy unpacking all my boxes. He seemed to understand that (I mentioned the language troubles), but quickly suggested that I could come by any other time. Again, I took this as an overwhelming display of somehow misplaced hospitality, and tried to shrug it off.
We dropped the subject, arrived at my new place, and he helped carrying all my boxes inside. In the end, he firmly said “Vee do kebab next sunday, yes yes?”, and I might have laughed and said “Haha, so generous, haha, we’ll see.”
Any attentive reader who can now tell me where this is going totally wrong: congratulations- you possess more common sense than me.

I said goodbye completely obliviously to the fact that a guy who had my full address and phone number just invited himself round for a date, happy to have gotten a good deal on my taxi and having found the one friendly cabdriver in London who’ll help to carry boxes. Obviously this sort of naiveté doesn’t go unpunished.
I thus woke up the next Sunday around noon to a phone call from an unknown number.
“Yehs, yehs, is D. – going to be a bit later, but be there with kebab and vie-yun in half hour. yehs?”
Oh, holy fuck.
Half an hour later, I opened the door to my minicab driver, who had truly brought lamb kebabs, salad and a bottle of red. My manners dictated that I ask him in, and I set the table. More, slightly less amicable, slightly more awkward, smalltalk about his family, my family and the weather ensued. We ate the kebab, but didn’t drink the wine cause it was only 12.30 and he still needed to drive his cab. We quickly ran out of things to talk about. I started learning how to count in turkish. D. tried to kiss me.
Oh, holy fuck.
I asked him to leave, he asked for “Jus won keess”. I got him out of the door, double-locked it and put the chain in. My housemate came out of her room and asked what on earth had just happened.
I felt like an utter idiot. I always assume the very best in people, and really try to give everyone a chance. A lot of times this leads to great experiences and making new friends very easily. When opening the door, I genuinely thought “Hey, how nice is this guy for bringing by kebabs! This is so friendly.” Somehow I think that might not be the best strategy in London, where people have a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda. I got off rather lightly this time, but more caution might be advised in the future.

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Sine Qua Non?

Maybe a bit too glum and dry, but a not-too-recent date brought up this musing.

This blog is about dating. However, it’s not about falling in love, having sex or finding a life partner (or debatably all the interesting aspects of dating).  Instead, most of my posts centre on the formalities and mere technicalities of dating. Maybe this is due to my personal predisposition to feel more at ease once I have established a routine, and identified all the rules. In the end, this routine provides the necessary framework for the exciting rest, right?

With this premise, I happily blog about what goes wrong, what feels right, about patterns that I observe and about the little anecdotes my life provides me with that support this presumption.

But once in a while, a date comes along that challenges my framework. Much like any scientist, this leaves me astonished and a bit disgruntled. Acknowledging that my model can’t account for my data,  I either ignore the new data point as an outlier (the easy way out) or I need to change my model.

Some time ago I had a date that reminded me of an important flaw of my model, in that the date itself wasn’t flawed at all – it was simply perfect.

The pre-date communication went well, with several short messages that made me laugh and curious about N. and when we did meet, he proposed a good outing. We had time to talk, we shared sushi and hot chocolate, we walked around a bit, we laughed. As his emails had suggested, N. was attentive, spontaneous and great fun to talk to. He wasn’t rude to anyone. He wasn’t creepy and overly personal. He wasn’t boring or taken either. And you know what? He didn’t mention how drunk he was at university even once!

Instead we spent a few delightful hours doing some of my favourite things, eating my favourite foods, and generally agreeing a lot.

It’s probably worth mentioning that he’s not bad-looking either.

However (you knew there was a catch, right?), we didn’t go out again. Yes, I realised that I’d absolutely love to spend more time with him. He’s clever, kind and we have similar interests. I was almost sure that we’d make great friends. There, I said it. Friends.

I just didn’t feel attracted to him.

I always knew that attraction isn’t easily summarised or defined, but somehow I presumed that missing attraction was usually based on something tangible being wrong with a date –  like the dealbreakers I previously described on this blog. To a certain degree, I thought that if someone came along that “ticked all the boxes”, I’d also be attracted to him.

Yet here came N., handsome and entertaining, with no discernible faults  on a picture-perfect first date. And my visceral response was completely absent.

I therefore think my model needs revision. The above mentioned factors, collectively named “dating skills”, while necessary, are obviously not sufficient. Something else is missing here.

It could be called attraction, chemistry or spark, but for my model, I’m naming it sine qua non, or “the one without which nothing else will be possible”.

Now I’m not sure whether the consequence of this discovery should be to only date people who I initially feel this sine qua non with, or whether I can only discover this magical spark once I’m on an otherwise mediocre date that is lit up by it.

Stay tuned.

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