After a heart shattering break-up, I swore off dating forever. But then I put down my Ben & Jerry's and leapt back into the dating pool. It's a daunting game out there, and I say it all comes down to chemistry.
Or does it? Maybe we have hang-ups or maybe we're just too picky. In 100 dates, I hope to figure out what it is that makes me - and you - 'click.'

Monday, 21 June 2010

Day 9: Out of towners

A good girlfriend of mine was raving all week about the trio of boys coming to visit her boyfriend - a pack of Londonners that she insisted I'd love. I'm not one for the English type, so I wasn't getting my hopes up, but I played along.

After an unusually busy day at work, I met this infamous crew for a beer in the Leidseplein sunshine. I show up overloaded with gear, to be greeted by a trio of some of the finest looking gentlemen I have seen in a while. These guys are British I thought? Damn.

We all ordered pints and fell into easy conversation. My friend and I are pretty outgoing women, and these guys were on par, trading stories about crazy travel adventures and describing their hometown in South Africa (They only just moved to London. Whew.)

I'm not going to deny that the South Africa thing made these boys a bit more attractive in some way - I do love a good foreigner. And as I gave them each the once over, there was one of them that caught my eye. Tall, curly auburn hair and lots of personality, L. We were in a pretty big group though, so getting any one on one time with him was hard and before we knew it, it was time to take the party elsewhere.

Because this was the boys' first time to Amsterdam, we decided to hit the Red Light District. At a seedy little bar with the best view of the street happenings, L and I fell into some solo conversation. The more we talked, the more things we discovered in common. He was cute, that's for sure, but there was something else about this guy. He's smart, funny, has a good job, some amazing life experiences and he actually seems genuine. Quite a package.

As the night went on, so did our adventure. Bar hopping on bikes, we tour the city from a strip club to a falafal joint, to a smoky bar in a dark ally – it was a long night.

It's not the best atmopshere to 'meet a man' I know, but this is the kind of adventure I love, and it seems like this guy feels the same way. He's spontaneous, outgoing and just fun to be around.

The night was over before we knew it, and we all ended up at my house to crash. With a couch bed and extra blankets, everyone camped out in the living room. Everyone but L and me.

Now I can't really say how it all happened, but I ended up in bed with L. We cuddled up together, and spent nearly the whole night talking between kisses. There was no funny business, if you know what I mean, but it was one of the most intimate moments I've had. Everything about it was so comfortable, in fact, everything about this guy seems familiar. I don't know when we finally fell asleep, but his arms were still around me when we woke up to his alarm. 7am - they had to catch their plane.

Everyone sleepily gathered up their things and a cab pulls up outside. They all file out with goodbye hugs and kisses, and L is last. He gives me a long, slow kiss. “It was awesome to meet you.”

Calm, casual, he shuts the door behind him. But I can't turn away so fast. Some guy from London saunters into town and gives me butterflies? This isn't like me. But I like it, and I definitely like L. London's not so far away, right?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Day 8: Drinks with my dealer

I live in Amsterdam, and like many of those in the city, I entertain myself with a taste of the local herb every now and again. There's one particular shop where I get my green, and I've built a happy comradarie with the shopkeeper, A.

Today, I swing in for a purchase just when A.'s wrapping up his shift. He invites me to join him for a drink at the bar nearby, which just happens to be my favourite spot in the city so I happily agree.

A. is a Dutch guy about my height, with strong looking arms and a great smile. He's rocking a beret though, which is throwing off his game a little I think, but not by much.

We hang on the bar's terrace drinking La Chouffes and chatting about work. Then he whips out his iPhone to show me pictures of his recent vacation to Thailand. Most of the photos are gorgeous beach shots with him (shirtless) and friends. Bonus, I think. He looks good under that shirt.

We order a second round, but I'm starting to find it challenging to keep up conversation. Not that I have a hard time being social, but I just don't think A. and I have much in common. He is clearly an outgoing and adventurous sort of guy, which I totally dig. But on an intellectual level, I'm not sure if we're a match. Just imagine work-talk. How much is there really going on at the coffeeshop?

A. has to jet after our drinks, so we say our goodbyes. He gives me a kiss on the cheek, and tells me to swing by the shop again soon. He shoots me a smile and a wink and bikes off.

I'm curious as I watch him go. I like A., but yet again I have that 'something's missing' feeling. I'm starting to wonder if I'm being irrational - what's this something anyway? Maybe I'm being too picky. Maybe I'm just destined to be single. Or maybe I'm just crazy.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Day 7: My dad sets me up

My dad knows I'm single. Out of four sisters, I'm the only one chronically solo and I think he worries. But imagine my surprise when he makes one of his rare calls only to chat about his colleague's son, who coincidentally lives in Amsterdam.

Now this could all be a nice, friendly 'networking' set-up, disguised as another American in the city needing a helping hand, or my dad is trying to hook me up across the ocean. I try to imagine the best intentions here and agree to reach out to the guy, S.

After a few casual email exchanges, S. and I decide to meet up one night. He has a 'local' on one of the more colourful streets in the city, but I agree to see him there after work.

I pull up on my Batavus and take stock of the 'local' - a well worn Irish bar crowded in front with teen tourists - and have the feeling this is going to be interesting. I take a breath, and set off inside when I pass a stocky guy exiting the bar. He gives me the full on 'up and down' leer and part of me has the sinking feeling this is the guy. I notice the baggy khakis and the wrinkled polo tee and feel even more assured.

"Are you S?" I ask him. "Hey, yea," he replies as if I'm just one of the many girls to ask him this. "I think we were supposed to meet," I explain. He quickly perks up in recognition and tells me that he's actually working as a promoter for the bar's pub crawl, which will be starting any minute. I don't know if any of you have been on a pub crawl, but I have and it is not meet and greet material.

Because it's still mellow at the bar, and I told my dad I'd say hi to this guy, I try to relax and S. takes care of ordering some drinks. A few minutes later he arrives with (surprise!) Irish coffees and I launch into friendly convo, asking how he ended up in Holland.

Through his very thick Philadelphia accent, S. proceeds to describe - or brag rather - of his adventures as a bookie, travelling across the US, making loads of cash, buying 'sick' cars and 'condos' then landing himself an arrest warrant.

I am beginning to wonder what kind of guy my dad just sent my way when S. goes on to descirbe how he apparently escaped to Costa Rica and fell in love with a Dutch girl. It didn't work out between them, but he decided to come to her hometown anyway and check it out.

As I listen to S. unfold this unbelievable tale, I can't help myself from thinking how far this guy is from my type. Everything from his silly boastful attitude and his (lack of) style to the overuse of cringe-worthy words like 'bro' and 'wudder' are just plain turn offs to me. Geez dad, do you think I moved all the way to Europe to meet a Philly boy?

Just as I'm clocking my romantic interests at nil, S. tells me about the career in professional straight razor shaving that he plans to harness here in Amsterdam. He seems genuinely passionate telling me about what I thought was a dead art, and giving high-end skilled shaves to men who appreciate the old school barbershop style. Definitely a break from the bookie days - I'm impressed.

I take another look at S., and come to an important (if obvious) observation about men. They come in all shapes and sizes, I will like some. I will dislike some. But they are all unique and each with special - even surprising talents.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Day 6: Second date

A few days into this blog, we met D., a mutual friend who thinks I'm a lesbo. Yesterday, I ran into him again under slightly different - and more hetero - circumstances.

D. and I are both freelancers and when working at the 'home office,' we sometimes need a break. So, I called D. and asked if he wanted to meet for a coffee. The two of us hit a local cafe and had a little watercooler chit chat.

D. is tall, has an accent, and is a dapper dresser. Today these things seem to stand out a little more and as we’re gossiping about mutual friend so-and-so, I find myself cocking my head to the side a little and thinking, ‘Do I like D.?” (okay, it was more like, ‘Would I make out with D.?’ but, you get the picture).

Now, there is nothing about our hanging out that is overly affectionate or suggestive of any type of attraction – we’re ‘just friends’ as far as I know. But, today it’s like I’m seeing D. He’s a gentleman, has a successful career, seems genuinely interested in me as a person (generic as it sounds, D. really listens to me when I talk!), and he still manages to be awkward in a sweetly immature way.

Both D. and I are talkers, and we easily chat onto another cup of Joe. There's something about this guy makes me feel completely comfortable around him – there isn’t that sense of being judged or the pressure to put up some wall. Before I know it, I’m telling him things I wouldn’t ordinarily tell casual acquaintances, or even some friends, and there is something special about that.

Hmmm, are these just things that I’m looking for in the man? Or, am I actually starting to crush on D.? Maybe it's much simpler than that. D. thinks – or at least thought – I was a lesbo. Maybe I’m warming up to the guy based soley on idea he's not interested in me.

After nearly three hours on this coffee break, we decide to leave, and there's another bonus. We may have gone Dutch on the bill, but we don't feel obligated to kiss three times goodbye as is so common here. A wave and a casual 'see you,' and we go our separate ways. This one really has me puzzled - everyone loves a challenge right?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Day 5: Mooi brill

I’m completely self-conscious about wearing glasses, which is why I usually rely on contacts. But, I recently got a pair of specs that I adore enough to wear outside. Namely, to my local watering hole where I met a girlfriend for a few mid-week drinks. One man, S. noticed me, and my glasses with a complementary “mooi brill” (nice glasses). One thing led to another, and before he left the bar he asked for my number, and I took in his well tailored suit and classy manner, and gave him my digits.

About a week later, S. invites me to his house for a few drinks. I’ll admit a bit of hesitation to going to the house of a man I don’t know at all, but I have faith in people (and in GPS tracking on my cell phone), so I agree.

S.’s house is around the corner from mine, and I arrive promptly at 20.00. He is waiting for me, and has apparently had time to set the mood. All over the house, candles are lit and ‘world music’ plays in the background. S. takes my coat and things, and gives me the grand tour. His place is gorgeous, and very well decorated, which I tell him.

S. went all out for our drinks this evening, telling me about a tasting menu he’s planned out. We open a bottle of prosecco first, and get cosy.

S. tells me all about himself, and he’s quite an interesting man. A manager at a high-end tailor shop on the wealthiest street in town, he says he’s looking for something “different.” I get the impression he’s directing that comment at me, but he is also referring to a position he’s been offered in Estonia. Kind of a sorry thing to learn on a first date, but I won’t let that bother me.

Whenever I mention something about myself, S. seems genuinely interested in hearing all about it. I make an offhand comment about a former job, and he perks up. “Please, tell me all about it, I want to know about you.” Sweet, I think.

At average height, S. has a very broad, muscular chest which is something I always fancy in a man. He is also the spitting image of Owen Wilson, nose and all. S. is younger than me by a few years, and that’s something that puts me off. It’s a bit of a disappointment, though I don’t know why.

What I like about S. is his outgoing spirit. He has a no regrets, seize the moment attitude, and I admire that. At a certain point, he’s telling a story and we’re both laughing in agreement, when he suddenly stands up. He walks around the table to where I’m seated, and kisses me. I can’t say it wasn’t a romantic moment.

We move to the couch, and onto the next wine in our ‘series,’ a smooth white. We talk a little more about ourselves and I start to wonder if S. is into me solely based on my ‘foreign’ status. An American in Europe, I’m a little used to that. But, as the white whittles down, our conversation becomes more of a make-out session and I’m literally having flashbacks to high school heavy petting. I’m not giving it up to this guy, and though it’s somewhat flattering that he wants it, I decide it’s time for me to go.

He’s a gentlemen, and helps me with my coat. As I’m leaving he kisses me again, and says, “You’re beautiful, and most important funny.”

Hmm. S, you’re sweet. Maybe I’ll see you again sometime, before Estonia takes you away.

Day 4: Bike boy

I went to the sleepy Dutch town of Gouda for a story this week. As my luck would have it, there is only one bus going in my direction and arriving at the train station, I miss it by one minute. The interview is important, and in the Netherlands, being on time is essential. So I foot the bill for a cabbie that ends up costing me all my cash. An hour and a half later, I’m leaving the interview and watching the number 189 bus speed past.

Gouda is a gorgeous town, and the day equally beautiful so I decide to walk the distance to the train station. After a good 20 minutes, and a growing sense of being lost, I encounter a young man on a bike, waiting at the corner for the lights to change.

“Which way is the station?” I ask him. He looks confused, not because I’m speaking English to a boy of no more than 15 but, apparently because of the distance. “But I’m going that way,” he says. “I’ll give you a ride.”

So, I hop on the back of his sturdy oma fiets and we take off toward the station. When he asks where I’m from, I admit to being American. “You don’t see many American girls in Gouda,” he says.

This boy is sweet, but obviously not used to giving bike lifts, evident by the struggle he has steering and maintaining speed. Through his laboured breathing, he tries to keep up some light conversation.

“Where are you headed?” I ask him. “To volleyball practice,” he replies. “Well, you can tell all your friends you gave an American girl a ride to the station,” I say. “Yea right!” he exclaims, “Like they’d believe me!”

I can’t help but smile at the fact I may have just made this boy's day – and after fully realizing the walk I had ahead of me before I met him, he’s made my day too.

At the station, he drives me literally to the platform steps. “That was the best bike ride ever,” I tell him as I hop off. “You’re welcome,” he says, then we kiss three times, and part ways.

Day 3: The boss’s bed

As long as I’ve been working this little cafĂ© side job, I’ve had an inexplicable crush on my boss, J.. But, nothing has ever come from it due to a host of reasons ranging from his older age, his hierarchical position, and his chubbiness (sorry to say it, but once you start getting fat, you start to stay that way).

This particular afternoon, J. and I finish our day’s work with a beer together. He’s a friendly, funny, and jovial guy and we have a lot in common. Conversation comes easily and so does the beer, courtesy of a fellow colleague. We talk about everything from our childhoods to our lives as expats, our careers and our fantasy vacations. It’s actually nice getting to know J., and I’m feeling that crush a little stronger.

After a few light touches here and there and an occasional serious stare, J. asks if I’d like to join him to hear live jazz with his friends. I’m tempted to decline, as I usually do whenever I sense a hint of attraction from a man, but the more I learn about J., the more I like him so I decide to bite the bullet and come along.

Jazz is great, but J.’s friends are the most impressive. They are a group of fascinating people from around the world, working on noteworthy projects and full of energy.

As I sit at the bar watching him interact with this crew, relationship thoughts fill my head. This is the kind of guy I should be interested in. Good friends, good career, easy going and kind to me – what more could I ask for? I get the sense he’s got a watchful eye on me, in a way that’s more sweet than condescending, and for a millisecond, I think to myself that I could be married to a man like this.

Whoa. Where did that come from? I chalk these thoughts up to beer-talk and turn myself to the crowd again. J. is telling his friends about my day job, and he seems almost proud of me. As the night wears on, so does my drunk and when the bar closes down J. and I decide its best for me not to bike home. So, I crash at his place. More specifically, in his bed.

I will admit that chubbiness has a certain je ne sais quoi in the bed, like a warm, human teddy bear. But, even with the marital thoughts from just hours before, I can’t muster up any sexual attraction. I count myself lucky that this guy isn’t on a quest to get in my pants, and we easily fall asleep together.

In the morning, as happens with any incident like this, I’m asking myself how I got in this bed – with my boss. J. seems unfazed by the whole thing, and before I know it he’s making us coffee. Over breakfast, I think what a great guy he really is and how maybe I do like him - like that.

When I take off, we leave together and J. walks me to my bike. As soon as he plants a goodbye kiss on me, I feel myself start to freak. Maybe it’s the intensity of kissing someone in public (I’m no PDA fan), or the passion I detect, but as soon as I’m riding away I take back all the thoughts I’ve had leading up to that kiss. Something just doesn’t feel right.

Whether it’s my own paranoia, commitment phobia, or that missing sexual attraction, I don’t know. Something in me makes me think this relationship will stay more professional than personal.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Day 2: Drinks with a friend

It’s an uncharacteristically sunny March day in Amsterdam, so when D. calls to invite me for a beer in the sun, I couldn’t turn him down. We meet at a casual after-work bar and watch the sunset over a few Heinekens. I know D. already, he’s a mutual friend who I run into here and there, but we’ve never had a one-on-one. Qualifies for Date Two, I think.

D. is tall, jovial, and as thirsty as I am, making for a lively conversation. We’re both freelancers, so it isn’t long before we’re talking business and I’m pleasantly surprised with some of the professional insight D. shares. Instead of secretly composing this 100 Dates post, I’m actually writing notes with tid bits of advice D. is dropping in my lap. Being ignorant to my work woes, I’m sure D. didn’t realise what a boost of confidence he had given me for the week ahead – though I’m sure the beer did it’s share as well.

As the pub turns baren around us, I start to feel an awkward moment materialising. I just know D.’s going to say something serious or (worse) heartfelt. Then, almost on cue the bartender offers us a plate of bar snacks on the house – perfect way to soften the mood. While we put away the greasy finger foods, I take a moment to reflect on our date. Why is it that as soon as I feel a heartfelt confession coming, my flight instinct takes over. I’m on a date, am I not? Isn’t this the point, to get the guy to like you?

For some reason, that’s the opposite of how I feel. Sure, I want the guy to like me, but not like me like me. Between bites, I look at D. and wonder what my problem is. He’s successful, funny, closer to me in age than S., and actually interested in what I have to say. But again, that chemistry thing isn’t happening. Maybe I’m being picky, or letting superficiality get the best of me (that’s a big nose, buddy) but I just don’t feel something special.

Then again, maybe the idea of a ‘spark’ is like a night in shining armour – it doesn’t exist.

These thoughts mill around in my head when we get another round. The conversation picks up again and we launch into friendly gossip about our mutual acquaintances. After a few minutes (or a few beers…) D. starts fidgeting and getting a little serious. After a confusing round of apologetic excuses he comes out with it, “It’s okay of course, I don’t care or anything,” - oh goodness, here it comes – “You’re a lesbian, right?”

Wow. Not what I was expecting. I do my best to convince D. I am indeed not a lesbian, despite his supportive “It’s okay if you are.” According to D., I’m “a lot like him,” and while I’d agree we have similar jobs, and tend to rely on sarcasm/humour as a deflector I do draw the line at a mutual romantic interest in women.

The final sips of our last round go down, and we pick up to leave the bar. I’m by no means offended at my sexual “enigma” as D. calls it, but I think we’re both ready to head home now. Our goodbye is short and sweet (think slap on the back, nod of the head), and we head off to our respective homes.

Wow, I think later, lesbian, eh? What was I saying about a boost of confidence? Where's the chocolate ice cream...

Day 1: Friend of a friend

Friends know you best, right? Well, that’s easy to believe until they set you up on a date.

So, I was nervous about letting my friend set me up with S. But, from her description - Charming, funny, sarcastic – I thought he couldn’t be too far from my ‘type.’ So, I gave her the okay to set things in motion and before I knew it I had a dinner date for 20.00 on Saturday night at Nam Kee, the famous little Chinese restaurant in the Nieuwmarkt.

A gentleman from the start, S. offers to pick me up (on bike), but I decide instead to meet him at the restaurant. He was a bit put off by this, and it made me wonder - was it wrong for me to prefer a rendez vou at the restaurant rather than have a date pick me up at home? Have I lost touch with the romantic days of past where a date greets you at your door, flowers in hand? Maybe….I haven’t even gone on the date yet and already I’m learning something!

At 20.00, we arrive nearly simultaneously at the restaurant, and I take in S.’s classic grey hair, well tailored suit as we head inside to our reserved table (maybe I shouldn’t have gone with the ‘casual’ look…)

S. is Dutch and although his English is near perfect, he apologises continuously. I can’t imagine how hard it is to date in your second language, but he is doing a fine job. I wonder if it’s less his language skills than his nerves doing the apologising.

We begin with the usual Chinese tea and a few shared words about our day. Though I know the restaurant, and what I’d like to eat, S. surprises me by objecting to my order of Shanghai shrimp and noodles (“I don’t like to order noodles out,” he says). So, he takes the lead and orders our dinner himself.

We share a dish of baked salmon (his) and beef with veggies (mine) as S. talks about himself. He is an incredibly interesting man who has done a number of fascinating things in his life ranging from antics as an anti-fascist youth squatter to teaching ceramics to psychiatric patients. As I listen to his tales but can’t help my mind drifting - Do I like this guy? Do I like this food? Will we get married? There is nothing wrong with S. but I’m feeling a certain lack of spark, if you know what I mean.

When dinner wraps up, we’re discussing his mother’s aggressive attitude (“My mother is mean,” he tells me) and I’m still waiting my turn to share.

Then, S. suggests a round of warm sake. Good choice as we have a few mugs and launch into a deeper discussion of life and mediation – finally, a conversation I can add to! But due perhaps to the depth of the topic, or the cosiness of warm sake my eyes start to feel heavy and I realize its 23.00.

Three hours seems a good mark to end dinner, and we get the bill. He kindly pays, which was agreed on before dinner (“I’ll pay,” he told me, “and I don’t expect anything from you.” A relief, I guess). He offers to accompany me home and we set of biking side-by-side to my house. At the door, I expect to encounter an awkward-goodbye but it was nothing like that. I thank him for dinner and we exchange an affectionate three kisses before he rides off.

A lovely finish to a lovely evening, if perhaps an evening without chemistry.