The average first date is a few hours of drinks, food and conversation at a run-of-the-mill restaurant in the “trendy” parts of town. I’ve done a couple of first dates with this kind of setup and I’m pretty much over it, or so I thought. If you’re feeling uncertain about diving into the dating scene, maybe this story will give you the push you need.
I recently completed four years of studying journalism at a university in Makhanda, a small rural town in South Africa,. Since moving back to my home city, Johannesburg, I’ve been excited at the prospects of building my career and making a ton of new friends. The thought of another first date with someone I’ll probably never speak to again was the least of my concerns at the time.
However, my thoughts towards exploring the dating world changed when I went on a 12-HOUR DATE unlike any other. For context, this was before Covid-19 made its way into South Africa and we weren’t compromising our health at all. I went on the date with a guy whom I didn’t have much initial interest in, but I wasn’t opposed to a 2p.m. lunch on a sunny Saturday afternoon. We’ll call him Ethan, the friendly, creative, and unfortunately emotionally unavailable man from my pre-Covid dating life.
I recall waking up on February 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day. I’d gone out the night before and my head was pounding from having a few too many cocktails. Nevertheless, I had to get myself together and find the strength to go on this date. Ethan and I had been rescheduling for about two weeks. I didn’t want to be the one who pulled the plug (again).
With that being said, I hopped in the shower, threw on a cute outfit (yellow crop top, shorts and sneakers), put on some light makeup and requested an Uber. We had arranged to meet at a restaurant attached to a boutique guest house. I’d never been there, but Ethan vouched for this place so I figured it would be a good time.
I arrived at the restaurant, completely unsure if I was at the right location. It literally looked like a small house in the middle of the suburbs. Had I been bamboozled into a first date at his house? Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.
I was stunned by how beautiful the restaurant was. We had amazing skyline views of the city. Ethan noticed me walk into the venue and led me to the table he had reserved for the two of us. This was the first time we’d hung out one-on-one, so I felt the nerves kicking in. But I have to say, I was really impressed by his outfit and how delighted he was to see me. The perfect starting point for a date that was about to go on for hours.
About an hour into the date, we ordered a delicious margarita pizza a few drinks. Sharing a pizza was a nice opportunity to learn about foods that we both liked and talk about more common interests. By this point, Ethan had asked a million questions about me, another great sign. I never realized how fun dates can be when both parties show genuine interest in one another and the conversation flows naturally. Who would have thought?
We’d spent a considerable amount of time at the restaurant, but neither of us were ready to part ways. In fact, the past four hours had flown by way too quickly. He suggested going to a friend’s music show in another part of town. Usually, I’d be hesitant to meet someone’s friends on the first date, but if they were anything like Ethan I’d certainly have a good time.
We got to the music show and it was absolutely phenomenal (we jammed to some vibrant jazz). Firstly, I was relieved to see that Ethan’s friends were actually talented musicians and I didn’t have to pretend to enjoy the tunes. Secondly, I’d spent enough time with him to feel like I’d known him my whole life. A strange, but heart-warming feeling indeed. Under normal circumstances I’d be looking for an excuse to end the date, but you can’t deny genuine chemistry. If the date going well, then why end it?
We decided we might as well keep the date going. Somehow, Ethan and I enjoyed going to the same bars around Johannesburg. I have no idea how we hadn’t met each other sooner. It was a no-brainer to head out for more drinks, fun and laughter. Better yet, I felt super safe around him. There was no pressure to drink too much or do anything that I didn’t want to do.
So two am came around way too quickly and the the last round of drinks had been served. The DJ was on his way out and it was it was time for our date to come to an end, 12 hours later.
Of course we made plans to meet up again, as it’s very rare that you can spend 12 hours with someone and have it run so smoothly.
I recall staring out the window of my Uber on the way home with a giddy smile on my face. I was probably daydreaming about future dates.
After this experience, I learnt to think of dates as holistic experiences. You don’t have to go on a second date if you don’t want to and you certainly don’t have to consider marriage.
However, there’s value in being completely open to prospects of getting to know someone and seeing where it goes. Ethan strikes me as an elusive character who’s in love with the idea of romance but shies away at the thought of commitment.
For that reason, we’ve decided to be friends.
But in a weird and wonderful way, I’m much more open to going on dates now purely because I’ve seen how amazing they can be.
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