Tag Archives: awkward

The Set Up

438229660_640I’ve had a tummy bug for four and a half days now. This means I’m generally nauseous and irritable. And it just so happens that today was my first Set Up. I almost didn’t make it because I couldn’t bear to leap out of bed and be bright and perky while feeling bland and sort of like the flat Coca Cola I’ve been drinking all this while. But the Set-Up coordinators insisted.

Now, perhaps my entire experience has been tainted by my virus-plagued, plain-toast-overloaded, lame and feverish state of being. And the fact that Mr Match was made aware of my tummy bug. Sexy. Very sexy.

So I go to the event which is a braai. And luckily I’m vegetarian because that makes for great opening remarks around chops and chicken sausages. Apple juice in my glass looks like whiskey and I’m okay. My lovely friend sells me unabashedly to Mr Match. And we go about the afternoon in general chitchat and jovial banter.

Just as I start to think this is not entirely unpleasant, the conversation turns to me. I feel instantly nauseous and a gas bubble rises in my chest making me want to burp loudly. Either this is gastro-bug related or I’m beginning to feel that this social encounter suddenly resembles work and looming deadlines. And this is the problem with The Set Up.

It is too conscious for my liking. The threat of disappointment lingers in the entry hall. The pressure wafts around your face like braai smoke. I know why he is there. He knows why I am there. Every word I utter will be analysed as will his. A thousand and fifty mental notes are being taken. And nothing feels like a chance encounter. One feels like a game player and a strategist and a tap dancer rolled into a massive ball of “Hey look at me!” And while there is nothing wrong with Mr Match (or me) the whole scenario feels A-W-K-W-A-R-D. You feel like you’re in the midst of bricklaying the path to your future and treading with utter precision is required.  (Of course, when one’s gut is not in a state of conviviality it makes everything seem worse).

I’ve been pondering it all from the safety of my Shoebox this evening and this is what I’ve decided: Set ups are well meaning and the people that want to set you up love you dearly. They can be harmless encounters and if anything, the opportunity to meet someone new and interesting. But they’re hard work.

It’s starts with deciding what to wear. You think – what if this is the guy? Then I have to think hard about what I wear so that one day when we we’re together for 40 years he can say: “I remember your mother the first day I saw her – she was wearing a blue blah blah”  Also, you don’t want to make too much of an effort because then you set the bar way too high and there’s no coming down from that. So you go as you normally go hoping they like you just the way you are. (Thank you Bridget Jones’ Diary for making all women believe that it is possible for men to like you just the way you are!)

Conversation is tough because it feels prompted and much like wearing a CV on your head. Searching for commonality feels like the mission of the day and is overrated really. Being aware that you’re being observed makes you feel like a house on show day or the hamster at the petting zoo and saying goodbye is AWKWARD – do you wave, shake hands or hug?

Nonetheless, I survived my first Set Up, despite the fact that Mr Match probably will forever remember me as gastro girl. But one has to be open to these things I hear my inner school principal saying, especially if there aren’t dozens of men banging down your door, dear!

But, hello? How can life be so business-like and….and…ordinary?

I blame Hollywood and Bollywood for building up my perceptions of the first encounter as sweeping, epic and swooning. Yes, yes, that’s naïve but hell, even a Tarantino-esque encounter would do! I just want it to be somewhat memorable, heart-stopping perhaps, unique maybe, puzzling and strange even. Just something that, for a moment, unsettles the mundane beat of my heart.

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Speed Dating: Slow Torture

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My face is sore. My sparkling water has lost its sparkle. And if one more guy asks me, “So…what do you do for fun?” as if it was rated the number one pick-up line of all time, I might just die, slowly and painfully. This is Speed Dating. And it’s not for the strong hearted.

As you walk in, you get offered an Apple Sours – appropriate considering that what follows is some sickly sweet lack of intoxication. You get a form where you have to write your name on the front and at the back, the names of all the ‘candidates’ and a short descriptor. There are 10 tables – the girls remain seated and the guys rock up for their interviews one by one.

First up is Ettiene*. Ettiene has one redeeming factor and that is his dimples. Other than that, he seems a little drunk. Ettiene likes wearing vests with little holes in them and enjoys pole vaulting in his garden. No he doesn’t. But that would have been more interesting. I write down “Bald. Stalkerish” because that’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Later on, there’s Theuns*. “Like tea – ns” he says. Theuns is wearing a newsboy cap and a turquoise shirt. He tells me that he likes massages in his spare time because he loves being touched. My hands are close to his and with stealth I move them away in case he feels the urge to suddenly stroke them. He enjoys the healing feeling of massage. “I’m not gay, I just love massages. You have such an open face, such open eyes,” he tells me. Now it’s my turn to be weird. He asks me what I do in my spare time, so I blurt, “I love anything physical.” Tea-ns giggles. Realising how it sounds, I quickly over-correct, “ I mean I love letting off steam…(even worse)…er…no – I mean, I love any form of exercise.” The bell – that sounds like the one priests ring during prayer in Hindu temples – rings and releases me from Awkward Hell. I quickly scribble “Hat, not gay, massage” before the next guy sits down.

His name is Dimitri*. I immediately want to say, “Spanakopita Spanakopita” but I bite my tongue. This guy leans back in his chair and says, “You ask me a question.” I throw him a light challenge and I say, “So…what would you do if you won the lotto? This is what follows:

Dimitri: “Well, how much?”
Su: “I don’t know…enough to never have to work a day in your li-”
Dimitri: “No, how much, give me a figure!”
Su: “Okay…about-”
Dimitri: “What, like 5 million or 20 million, give me a figure!!”
Su: “200 million”
Dimitri: “Shew, that’s a lot.”

Dimitri, who is not a greek god but more of a grumpy geek proceeds to give me a chartered-accountant report of how he would spend R200 million. My heart and soul let out a big, wide yawn.

The back page of my dating form contains words like: “Massage. Weirdo. Prudent. Touchy-feely. Scared to lean forward. Bald. Likes Ballet.” At the end, the Architects of Awkward Coupling then offer us all the chance to stay and mingle. My friend Max looks at me, widens her eyes and mumbles under her breath, “Please, let’s go!” We burst out the restaurant like bulls at a rodeo and take a breath of the fresh night air. Max and I bend over giggling as we compare notes. Never again, we both agree.

Perhaps one is not meant to apply a socio-anthropological analysis to an event like this but speed dating is just weird, man. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I feel fake. My cheeks collapse from over smiling. I hate the way I describe myself. I feel bad that the other person is nervous. I’m embarrassed for judging people and imagining what their lonely lives look like. I’m wondering if they’re fading off while I ramble. I miss awkward silences and I wonder where my Ryan Gosling is.

Playing out a potential romance like a series of job interviews gone wrong is not my cup of chino. I want a slice of Hollywood and to be airborne by that swept-of-my-feet feeling. I want to see the man who makes my heart giddy walk across the room at 60 frames per second (insert smoke machine here). It must be least expected. It must be a story worth telling for generations to come. And it must not begin and end with a prayer bell. Sorry Speed Dating, I’m just not that into you.


*Names have not been changed to protect the identities of the people mentioned.
You should know about them…and run like Bolt in the opposite direction if you ever see them.

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The Gym Scenario

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When you are single, any scenario provides the opportunity to meet a man – including the one where you’re lying on a gym mat crunching your holiday abs.
So there I was making abs of steel out of pudding when I noticed a lovely Frenchy looking guy next to me, somewhat resembling Hollywood actor, Bradley Cooper. Obviously, I check him out. He is doing push ups from that rope contraption that hangs from the wall. Impressive.

What’s not so impressive is that I immediately work a little harder, stretch a little further and linger a little longer. A good looking man provides simple motivation.
It is now time for me to take a swim, so I do, lamenting the fact that a girl’s Speedo, swimming cap and goggles is just the wrong side of athletically attractive. I notice in between my ailing breaststroke, that Frenchy Cooper is still in full view, this time doing pushups while balancing over four gym balls.

I get out the pool like a drenched rat, make my way to the changeroom, hurriedly throw on my clothes over my wet swimsuit and firmly decide that when I walk past Cooper, I will smile, slightly. I attempt that just-stepped-out-of-the-pool breeziness and as I walk past, I give the smallest, most inconspicuous glint of a smile.

Suddenly, he says, “Excuse me.” That’s it! Frenchy Cooper wants to talk to me. This is it…he has been waiting patiently for me through my entire gym session just to say hi. I’m delighted. Until I turn around and notice that my swimming cap is on the floor. Only…it’s not my swimming cap. It’s my panty.

In one single swoop, Frenchy innocently grabs it – not with his fingertips – and passes it on to me. I snatch it from him quickly, saying, “Well, that’s embarrassing!” and frantically stash my panty back in my gym bag where it should have been.

I am mortified. And shall forever remember this day as the day that I met Frenchy Cooper, who bent down and picked my panty off the floor. Not my sexy Victoria’s Secret panty but my hideous, hardworking, not-so-secret granny panty.

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