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.