Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are we gonna make it?

When Designer first asked about having dinner, I suggested we split the difference on the distance we live from each other. I thought it a fair way to start. We decided to meet up for dinner at popular little noodle restaurant. It's such a popular place that lines are a frequent site. The hours are limited as is the seating. If you talk to anyone who frequents the place, you'll get all sorts of strategies on how to secure a seat without a long wait.

We agreed to meet up a little before they opened. Thinking I'd enjoy a bit of window shopping, I left home early. When I reached the main streets, I found I only had about 20 minutes and decided to head directly to the restaurant and wait a bit in my car. But as I pulled into a parking spot, I looked down the street to see a substantial line had already formed outside the restaurant. No one in the line looked like Designer, but I thought I'd better get in line as soon as possible. I grabbed on unread magazine from the car to pass the time in line.

A group behind me was discussing their chance at getting seated. One of them counted 26 people ahead of them. The big question was how many people could be seated inside. I knew we'd be right on the cusp of the capacity limit. I was a little nervous when it was five minutes until opening and Designer had yet to appear. Would they allow me to take two seats without the second person?

Fortunately Deisgner arrive with minutes to spare. As he approached the line, he anxiously scanned the crowd, obviously looking for me. He must have known he was a little late. Our eyes met, and he came over to me. I think he looked a little better than his photos. In his photos, he looks serious and a bit stodgy holding a wine glass dressed in a sweater over a white dress shirt. In person, Designer seemed more like a regular person. He barely felt taller than me as I was wearing two-inch heels. For a moment, with the way he looked at me, I wondered if maybe I was wearing too much makeup. It's so tough to know how girly to look for a guy. Nervous about the silence, I explained that I reasoned it best to stand in line given the line. I spoke to him as if he were a friend. He said he'd meant to get there earlier but underestimated traffic. He thanked me for getting in line.

The doors opened a couple minutes later. Everyone at our distance in the line was wondering what we'd see once we were able to lean our heads around the entrance. As we approached the door I saw the sign posted read, "Maximum Capacity: 29 persons." The hostess pointed us towards the bar. Phew! I think two more groups behind us were able to be seated. Designer made a beeline for the far end of the counter.

Service was a bit slow to start up. It seemed like everyone at the bar had been greeted with orders taken except us by the site of the cups all around. Normally when I've meet someone for dinner, the conversation tends to hinder our ability to order. This time, we seemed to sit there quietly, watching and waiting for one of the women scurrying in and out of the counter area to take our order. They didn't seem very organized. Our waitress forgot about our waters until another waitress asked if our orders had been taken yet.

Overall, the date went okay. We asked each other questions in between bites of yummy noodles. We chatted here and there about family, good eats, work (though I don't remember ever being asked about mine), and where we each have lived. There were smiles but not too many big laughs. There were a lot of pauses. At times, it made me nervous to have gaps in conversation. I felt like we were both struggling a bit to keep the conversation running. Every question was answered but never seemed to spark a more in-depth discussion. I did my best to keep calm during the pauses and not force the conversation. Things were more awkward since we weren't facing each other. I had a hard time determining what kind of mood he was in.

Unlike with G, I found nothing unappealing about Designer. He seems like a decent person. I wanted to get to know him but found myself at a loss for anything to ask that wasn't mundane or not appropriate for a first date (like what do you think of the "consultant" so far or why are you single). In that sense, you might say that my date with G went better because he kept the conversation flowing.

Designer finished his meal much faster than me. He reassured me not to rush. When the bill came, he immediately slid the tray towards him and put down his credit card. I must say that's the fastest I've ever seen any date take care of the bill. I liked that it removed any ambiguity about whether this was a date. Once he signed the bill, I thanked him for dinner. We'd been at the restaurant for a little over an hour. Given there were still people standing outside waiting to eat, we agreed that it would be impolite to linger.

The temperature was wonderfully mild as we stepped outside. There's not much immediately nearby the restaurant. The city downtown is another couple blocks down the street. I thought maybe he'd suggest we walk given the good weather and that it was barely 7pm. Designer asked where I parked my car. I pointed towards cars one block down and across the street. He said he'd walk me to my car.

Well, I guess that was a clear sign the evening was ending. Part of me wanted to go home since it was a school night, but I would have been open to a hot chocolate or dessert extension.

A car was parallel parking into a spot in front of my car. When I pointed to my car, part of me wondered what was going through his mind at the site of it. (Maybe "whoa, why the heck does she drive this?" or "I wouldn't have guessed this." You know how it's been an entertaining subject in the past.) Then there was that awkward split second when it was time to say goodnight. Out of the corner of my eye, I sensed his right arm lifting up. I moved in and completed the friendly hug. As we pulled back, he said he'd give me a call and I said, "okay." For whatever reason, it did feel nice to have my head over his shoulder. I can't even remember his face, but I think he seemed content. We both turned our separate ways, I quickly turned back and added, "have a good week."

Driving home, I assumed things ended well, though I can't be sure because of my concerns about our choppy conversation. Maybe it's just my imagination. You know how much I have a tendency to overanalyze... so here are my theories:

1) Given the hug, he had a good time but felt this hour was a good enough start given it was a school night. Reasonable explanation

2) He was totally disappointed from the beginning and was trying to speed things along so he could get out of there. The "I'll call you" was just a meaningless gesture. Sure, but why would he bother hugging me?

3) He enjoyed my company but didn't know the area well enough to think of how to follow up dinner. Maybe that's why earlier he had asked, "so what is there to do in Teo?"

4) He's shy and was as concerned as I was about whether things were going okay. A possibility... that we're both dating challenged

5) He double-booked himself and needed to meet up with his next date. He doesn't seem like the player type, but what do I really know about him?

I guess I'll just have to listen for my phone to ring. Maybe I should send him a quick e-mail saying that I had a nice time.

In the mean time, maybe I need to go pick up a book on "How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends" or "Flirting 101." I don't recall having such issues with KT or Limey. My co-worker says I need to probe more and get the guy talking about things they know to make them comfortable (e.g. ask them about their projects at work, talk about sports).

I guess somehow, somewhere, I came up with the notion that people don't want to talk about their jobs during a date. I mean, it already consumes 40+ hours of your week, why spend more time on it? But, okay, I'll give that a try next time. In regards to sports, I guess I'm worried about being perceived more as a buddy than a date if we got too much into sports. Compared to most women, I can talk about enough sports to keep up with the boys, but not enough to get into stats or strategy. I still have no clue about game play like a nickel defense, a 3-4 defense, or option offense. I suppose I fear setting some expectation that I'm going to spend every Sunday watching football. Sports are fun, but I don't need to it to be regular part of my life.

She also suggested asking "have you ever been married" or "how many long-term relationships have you had" at this stage of getting to know each other. That just seems way too personal. Aren't there better topics to bring up? Would it have been too heavy to ask him his thoughts on being a 4th-generation Asian-American? (I often wonder how different it is from being 1st or 2nd generation where you theoretically still have some connections with your ethinic origins.) What is fair game and what is too personal to ask in early dating?

Ugh, I'm so awful at dating. I just gotta keep working at it.

1 comment:

Nicky said...

Yes, keep at it.

And also, my discovery with people in general, dates included, that helps me get over initial shyness, is that people want to be known. You can take risks and ask people questions that are more personal than you might think, if you are genuinely interested and aren't judgmental about them. In other words, if you can provide a safe place to be honest, people want to open up to you and have deeper conversations than you might think.

Plus, on these dates, why not take risks that you wouldn't have otherwise? What's the harm? It's not like you're offending a friend. If it goes well, you've learned something and made a deep connection. And if not, what's the loss? A stranger remains a stranger.