After weeks of awkward telephone conversations, unreturned texts (smses are not my strong point) and digital persuasion, I finally agree to meet up for dinner with Paul, yeah, let’s call him Paul. Having met once, briefly at an industry soiree I attended one month earlier, Paul and I had a mutual friend in common.
I recall being both appalled and intrigued by the obnoxious frou-frou arrogance exuded by the tall guy with the ‘pitchy’ voice. Not nearly intrigued enough to stick around in his glorious presence, but appalled enough for his presence at the event to be memorable, duly noted and filed away for later reference.
When I received a tweet (as is how things are conducted in the year 2013AD) saying how good it was to meet me, I immediately connected the Twitter ID to Prince Charming from the dinner and proceeded to launch into an eye roll of epic proportions. Alas, courteous conversation ensued (I’m trying this new ‘give people a chance’ thing), I admired the passion he had for his craft, I detested his over-zealous cocky confidence. It was one of THE most frustrating dynamics I’ve ever come across. But we’re giving people a chance, right? Right.
Defeated, in week three, I eventually agree to dinner. I had no plans. I deliberately never have plans. By the end of this story, you’ll have a clearer understand as to why.
So Thursday rolls around and my mood for dinner and company for that matter, has dwindled. I call Paul and ask whether we could please take a ‘strain’ check as the week truly kicked my ass and I just felt inclined to brood at home by myself. He says he understands and we shift the conversation to text (Paul doesn’t ‘believe’ in instant messaging services so everything is conducted telephonically or via sms, on rare occasion on Twitter.) his texts to me are peppered with a slew of guilt trippy quips, I wasn’t feeling it. I turn off my phone and go to bed.
The following Monday, I get a call from Paul asking me whether I have plans the Wednesday (we all know the answer to that) and we set a date for dinner.
My Wednesday afternoon at work proves to be no mean feat, and I end up marinating in unfinished deadlines which I eventually complete after putting in an extra hour or two, I let my impending gentleman dining companion know that I would be about 30 minutes late.
When I pick him up outside the hotel he was having drinks at, he got into the car whilst conducting an important sounding conversation on his phone. The entire drive from the hotel to the restaurant (which HE suggested then couldn’t find) homie was on his phone. Bear in mind this is a 1st date. I miss the turn off to the restaurant, he puts the person he’s talking to on hold and he’s on some “How can you miss it don’t you know Cape Town??” to me. We pull up to the restaurant, he finally ends the call, we emerge from the car, and the first thing he says to me is “Why did you make me wait so long?”. Good to see you too dude. Thrilled.
Relentless and in total denial, I smile and make my excuses, after all, it was not cool of me to be late, it’s impolite.
So this restaurant, which specialises in French cuisine, is bougie as hell. The maitre’d starts engaging about the meal options and makes recommendations to which I pay particular attention as my love for food and how it’s prepared is just not of this world. Paul, horrified turns to the maitre’d and I and says “Hellooo..you two, I’m over here whenever you’re done with whatever this is..”.
“Wow”, I think. Not sure whether to be shocked or amused by this bazaar display for attention.
So our table is cleared by the waitrons and he asks me if I’ll be having a glass of wine, “Are you not drinking?” I ask. “I’m having one glass for the night”, he replies. Then, much to his horror, I order an entire bottle of Merlot (Lawd knows I needed it at that point) him: “Are you drinking it by yourself??”
The wine arrives, I thank the waiter for pouring it , my date then promptly and matter-of-factly informs me “Oh and I’m not a ‘please & thank you’ all the time person ok?”. At this point, although hiding it well, I’m aghast but I keep sipping. We order starters, he abruptly retorts to the waiter “And we’re only having starters, that’s enough”. Turns out, he is also a vegetarian, which I have no issues with.. until he suggests we share a salad for the starter. Now, I’m a girl who loves her food and her meat, so sharing a salad is NOT an option in any lifetime. I politely decline in my best Mary Poppins voice and go on to order my starter. He says “I hope you finish it coz that’s all”.
Now remember folks, we’re conversing while this fuckery is playing out. At least…HE is conversing with me. About himself. The entire time. Our starter arrives, mine has scallops, in a garlic and basil infused coulee. My heart skips a beat, I’m not present. I’m slap bang in the epicenter of a simultaneous heaven and hell situation. The more he talks, the more I drink (best and quickest bottle of Merlot I finished by myself ever). I leave a bit of food in my plate as I really wanted to leave space for the herb encrusted lamb shank on the menu, it’s been given kudos all over the Cape Town social and foodie circuit so this was basically my opportunity to check it out and allow it to save the day.
The waitress (we have a new server now as the last one asked to change) arrives and he tells me in front of her how I wasted my food and am ungrateful. I’m bemused. She eyeballs me on some “who is this mess?”, but swiftly clears our table and returns. I order my mains, the lamb shank with rock star status, he orders his vegetarian dish and goes on talking, I go on drinking, he is so mean to our waitress. You know the kind who treat people in the service industry like a sub-species? I felt like I may just be sitting with their king. UN Ambassador To Douchebagistan.
Our waitress returns about ten minutes later to assure us that our order should be ready soon and enquire about how our evening is faring. He glares at her and asks if the reason she keeps coming to ask if we’re okay is because we are the only people of colour in the restaurant. I. DIED.
If the earth could engulf me into the pits of the abyss at that very moment, I would have welcomed it.
The main course arrives and I can physically feel my face lighting up. Herb encrusted lamb shank with sweet potato gnocchi, a bed of asparagus sprinkled with truffle oil. There she is, the raison’détre, draped across the plate like a seductress waiting for her hungry lover to devour her juicy loins. He remarks, something about the pinkness of the flesh of the lamb, I drown him out, all I hear is a chorus of culinary angels singing. I start the ritual, coz eating is like, sacred, you know? It lived up to it’s reputation. Orgasmic.
He goes on to tell me how pleasantly surprised he is that I’m so ‘down to earth’. “I expected you to be more of a bitch”. The hits just keep on coming. I felt compelled to actually check the perimeter of the room for hidden cameras and microphones because surely this can’t actually be happening. 4 glasses ago I would have staged a one woman protest about that crass use of ‘bitch’ in reference to me but my defences were fading. So was my interest in the rest of the tales of fame and fortune, glitz and glamour, pomp and ceremony spilling from my dinner companion’s mouth like a slip stream of verbal regurgitation.
Then he (finally) excuses himself, I text my girl “Why is this my life?”. The waitress rushes over and asks whether I mind if another (would be our 3rd) waitress takes over from her. I tell her that really isn’t necessary as we’re happy with her service and I apologise for Paul’s acerbic display. As if on cue, he returns mid-negotiation and condescendingly tells her he was “joking”. I feel bad for her, I’m pretty confident she feels even worse for me.
I order dessert, and a white wine spritzer. Again, HORRIFIED he says “Let’s just go”. I protest. Dessert arrives, Turkish delight crème brulee. Phantasmagoria in a white porcelain ramekin.
Paul says “You’re so tiny, I didn’t realise you ate so much, was the starter and main course not enough for you?” Buzzing on sugar and the best of Durbanville Hills vineyards, I humour the comment. My wine arrives, he says “I have wine at my place” (imagine), I decline and proceed to point out that being in public with him has been soul destroyingly painful enough. He thinks I’m joking “Thuli mentioned that you were quite a riot.”
I eat my dessert and drink my wine as fast as a girl can and when I finish, he asks for the bill. The bill arrives, he grabs it off the table as if it was about to set the linen on fire had it perched on there a second longer, opens it up and a worried, pale look sweeps across his BEE face. Suddenly , that cool, calm, douchebag persona is replaced by a very perplexed young man. “Mel, I…I didn’t expect this…”. Wiping the crème brulee off my chin, I ask him to pass the bill, the damage is R1300, I push it back to him and get out my card.
Homeboy starts an internal spiritual battle with himself and says to me “No, No, I got this”. I insist. He protests. I give in. Okay, pay. I watch him, no, I’m staring now. Directly at him with these big bug eyes. He decides on a card, the waitress brings card machine and flashes me a huge, game show girl grin. “Wow, this is so much. I really didn’t expect it to be this much. In Cape Town?” he exclaims. I shrug. “French cuisine”
As if a second wind has possessed him, dude excitedly asks “So where to after this?”. Amazing. I inform him I have a hip hop gig to attend, he wants to tag along. Might as well, I think. I’ve BEEN drinking. He could drive until I link with the rest of the gang. “Fine”.
I agree, he can accompany me. We get to the car, he reckons “So don’t I get a thank-you hug?” Imagine. A ‘Thank You Hug’ FOH.
At this point I’m over his life in general.
Get to club. Found my friends and dashed. Went to the rooftop and told my calamity to Mary-Jane. Paul came to find me after an hour, announced he’s leaving. Final words to me: “I knew you would disappear once we were around other people” What is this?? Was I being Punk’d? Never. Again.
Two weeks after the shenanigans, he texted to ask me for drinks. Can you guess what my reply was?
Moral of the story? Don’t judge the few of us who prefer not to navigate the dating wilderness. It’s a fucking jungle out there.
*names have been changed to protect the innocent.