And a late addition – Bachata!

I had promised to post a movie of a Bachata dance during a date. Mind you, this was the first time I heard this song, and the floor was quite slippery. You can even see me stumble when trying to turn. My date had agreed to be filmed but did not realize that it was happening at that moment. Halfway through the dance she turned to me and said “did you know that guy is recording us?”. Video can be found here. It wasn’t the best dance I ever danced but it was a lot of fun.

It has been a couple of weeks now and I have had time to let everything sink in. I am still planning the occasional date but I won’t blog about those any more. My main focus is on getting back in shape. Unfortunately I can’t hit the gym until my shoulder heals. Physiotherapy (dutch: Kinesitherapie) is working and it is getting better but it will take at least a couple of weeks before I can start working out. In the mean time I will stick to jogging, dancing and eating healthy. After all those restaurant visit I had gained some weight.

Thanks for reading my blog, everyone! I will leave it up for now, but I consider the project finished and will not update it any more.

Final post – retrospective

It has been a crazy couple of months and a lot of dates! It has been an amazing journey and I still can’t believe that it is over and that I made it. I want to thank everyone who participated or showed me support. Thanks to all of you who told me you liked the project or the blog. I really appreciate it.

I will try and address the most common questions I got.

What will you do next?
I have no idea yet. For now I will chill out a bit. I have been postponing a few tasks because I was too busy with the project. It is time for me to catch up.

Did it go the way you expected it to?
Not at all. Most of the time I had no idea if I would get another date in time. I had to constantly try new activities and find new ways of meeting people. It was fun but also exhausting.

I had anticipated I would invite people over to cook for them but that turned out to not be very practical. I ended up mostly doing restaurant dates because it provides a nice neutral place to meet a relative stranger.

The blog was also a lot more popular than I anticipated. I almost reached 2000 unique visitors in total. I guess I underestimated people’s curiosity. I tried really hard to keep the content fresh which is harder than it sounds when you are essentially doing the same thing thirty times and then writing about it. Thank you for reading, every one of you.

What did you learn?
I learned that it definitely pays to get out of your comfort zone and explore other ways of doing things. I had a lot of fun, met a lot of interesting people and made plenty of new friends.

Where did you meet these women?

Roughly:

  • Through Salsa: 12
  • Through Tinder: 8
  • Through friends: 6
  • Others (bars, Facebook): 4

How long did it take?
It took me exactly 5 months, so about twenty weeks. I did miss one week due to someone cancelling on a Sunday, but other than that I reached my target of “at least one every week”.

Where there any second dates? Do you stay in touch?

Yes, plenty. They weren’t part of the project so I did not write about them but I have tried to keep in touch with a lot of my dates.

Out of 30 dates:

  • Friends (made followup plans or stayed in touch otherwise): 12
  • Casual friends (Exchanged contact info): 11
  • No longer in touch: 7

Date #30!

I still can’t believe I made it. Obviously after twenty dates or so I had the feeling I would, yet most of the time I had no idea if I would be able to get a date for the next week. I will write a full retrospective later.

I met my last date in Bachata class. We have danced on occasion but never got past the occasional chit-chat. I told her about the project and she agreed to be my 30th date. I wanted to do something special for this one, so I invited her over and cooked us some food. I usually don’t invite my dates over to my place because most women will think twice before accepting an invite to a stranger’s home like that. Fortunately we have gotten to know each other a bit since I asked her and we get along pretty well so I figured this would be a nice way of ending the project in style.

This was also the weekend of the outdoor salsa party in Leuven, which was pretty amazing. The weather was great and loads of excellent dancers showed up. Both me and her where there and stayed until it closed. It was a lot of fun but also terribly exhausting. I still have insomnia and I was coming down with some kind of allergy or a cold. As a result I only managed to get a couple of hours of sleep in. By noon I felt terrible. I managed to get a quick nap in, which kind of helped. Unfortunately I overslept so I spent the last hour fixing the dish and throwing it into the oven and cleaning up my kitchen, which looked like a war zone at this point. It had been a while since I cooked for more than one person.

My date arrives just a few minutes late (which allows me to get some extra cleaning in). The weather is lovely and I decide to serve the food in the garden. She texts me that she has arrived and I go outside to point her to my parking spot. As I am waiting for her to park, the wind causes the front door to close, locking me out. Well it is typically me to start off a date like that.

I end up going around the back and retrieving my spare key. We start off with sodas and get to know each other a bit. She recently got out of a relationship and is trying to get back out there. I can relate to that. I serve the food but neither of us are very hungry. The dish turned out all right: I went for a casserole with sweet potatoes and a lot of veggies, topped with cheese and sausage. In retrospect it would probably have benefited from a few more minutes in the oven. Maybe next time I will get it exactly right.

After a while the insects cause us to move back inside. Both of us are still in a post-party high from yesterday: we are tired but eager for more dancing and the atmosphere is relaxed. I have no trouble putting her at ease and we get to know each other some more. She is stunningly beautiful with a good sense of humor. She is a lot of fun to hang with and I am having a great time.

It is time to leave for the party in Brussels and we decide to take the free class that is included in the entry fee. It turns out to be a beginner salsa class which is a bit basic but fun nonetheless. The party is fun and we end up dancing for hours. She is a lot of fun to dance with and as we are on the floor together I realize that this journey is almost over and I could not have found a better way to end it. I am clearly not the only one who thinks my date is beautiful. Men keep walking up to her and asking her to dance. This is a common thing at salsa parties but in this place I have never had a guy walk up to us and ask my partner when we were sitting and talking. I have been here before with a fair bunch of other women but this is a first for me.

As the evening progresses both of us are getting tired and we call it a night. I spent almost twenty hours dancing this weekend and am exhausted but very satisfied. It has been a great weekend that culminated in an awesome date.

Untitled
Food: Homemade oven casserole with a mix of veggies and sausage. Cost was around €25. It serves five, because I suck at estimating reasonable portion sizes from an ingredient list.

Dancing: La Tentation again. The level of the dancers was noticeably lower this time. It is still a great place to dance: the atmosphere and the music were very good.

Date 29

My last Tinder date and the penultimate date in the series! After a short back and forth on Tinder we agreed on dinner in a Japanese restaurant in Brussels. My date is a filipino expat who lives in Brussels because she works for an international company.

She tells me that she almost didn’t show up for this date. On her previous (and first) Tinder date she accepted a drink from her date and later started feeling dizzy. When she went home she passed out in the subway. It is pretty ballsy of her to actually come to this one. Even though I took all the basic precautions to make her feel safe, like meeting in a public place that she chose and not asking for her phone number (but giving mine instead in case of emergency), she is understandably a bit nervous.

Now I can’t be sure that the guy put something in her drink but it seems by far the most likely explanation. She has never passed out like that before. For it to happen spontaneously right after meeting a stranger for drinks seems way too much of a coincidence. She is lucky she is okay.

I am lucky I am a man. I can meet up with twenty-nine women for drinks and dinner and not feel unsafe at any point. I never have to make a risk assessment before I accept a drink or an invite of any kind. It must be weird, having to live like that.

We move the conversation away from this touchy subject and talk about Filipino culture. She seems to have a bit of trouble getting integrated. Living in Brussels without speaking french must be quite alienating. She seems to have a few friends here. It must be hard to get to know people when most people don’t speak your language.

I know fairly little about the Philippines: they are literally on the other side of the globe. Its people take their catholicism pretty seriously, a remnant of the Spanish colonisation, and filipino expats seem to find each other in church. They attend services regularly.

We end up going for drinks in a nearby café. We chat some more about the cultural differences and about meeting new people here. She attends meetups and other social gatherings here in Brussels on occasion but she felt a bit out of place there too because of the age difference and because they met up at a noisy club where she could not understand anyone. I do my best to put her at ease and just have a casual conversation but she remains nervous. My date keeps an eye on her cup of tea at all times. We chat some more and call it a night.

When we say goodnight she starts walking off. I take out my GPS and realise I have to head in that direction too. I decide to take a detour and walk in the other direction so she doesn’t think I am following her. A fitting ending to an interesting date.

Food: Hinodeya, Brussels. Japanese cuisine at a reasonable price. I wanted to try something other than sushi but was not terribly impressed with the food.

Date #28

This is another Tinder date. I read on her profile that she enjoys dancing and we had a conversation about it. She invited me to come to La Tentation that evening, a salsa club in Brussels which was a bit awkward because I already planned on going there that day with someone else. I did end up seeing her there and I asked her out for drinks and dancing in Brussels the week after.

I arrive early and take some time walking the streets there and enjoying the view. Brussels is a bit of an enigma to me. It is a mix of old and new and it is terribly disorienting to walk through its streets. Every time you turn a corner you have no idea what to expect. It combines large streets with small alleys and every type of architecture imaginable.

I find her and we start talking. She works at the EU and has traveled a lot. She loves to dance and has a lot of experience in different styles. We talk a lot about dancing etiquette and the difference between dancing Brussels and Leuven. When I dance I always make my partner’s comfort and safety a priority: I am leading so I decide where she goes. From that it follows that it is my responsibility if she bumps into someone or something. She has noticed that when we danced the week before and mentions that is not as common as I thought it was. I am sad to say she is right. There are plenty of leaders who will grab a partner and push people aside to make room for them on the dance floor and then pay no heed to their surroundings. I have seen leaders who will just lead their partner into tables or other couples without even a single “sorry”.

There is also a huge difference between the dancers in Leuven and the ones in La Tentation. For example: plenty of women I have danced with there will look away from you while they are dancing. I don’t know why they do it but it definitely is a thing there and I have never seen it happen anywhere else. The high level dancers don’t, it is just the average ones. I find it very off-putting to dance with someone who is ostentatiously looking away from me and almost instantly regret asking them. I am not even sure why they do it. Maybe the guys there are really bad at taking “no” for an answer and women feel like they have to give me at least one dance. That would suck. Personally I would much prefer someone to decline so I can find someone who actually wants to dance with me.

We head to the club to dance and turns out to be a lot of fun. She knows plenty of people there so I leave her to it and ask other women to dance, coming back on occasion to ask her. I realise we have never gotten past the chit-chat and I have failed to really get to know her. I don’t mind that much: I am having fun dancing and we did have a nice conversation. After the last fiasco with Tinder this was refreshing. Another fun date down, only two to go!

Drinks: a few cafés in Brussels

Dancing: La Tentation, Brussels. Latin bar with a huge dance floor and a very nice atmosphere. The overall level of dancers varies a lot. There are plenty of beginners, some exceptional high level dancers and a lot of people in between. It’s Brussels so most people speak french only. Not that it matters much while dancing!

Date 27

Another Tinder date! After a bit of back-and-forth on Tinder I invited her to try Moroccan cuisine in Leuven. We met up nearby and made our way to the restaurant. I had a date here before so I know the food will be great.

As we sit down she mentions she has never tried Moroccan before and starts studying the menu. I ask about her hobbies and she tells me she has none. Usually she comes home and walks her dog. I inquire about her job but she is clearly not very passionate about that either. So I start talking about myself but she is not very interested in that either.

This is the first date were I have to struggle to keep a conversation going. Whenever I take a bite of my lovely food there is silence. I keep fishing for anything she actually cares about but come up empty. I consider breaking that fourth wall and asking her about the silence. Maybe I am not what she imagined? Maybe she had other expectations? I decide against it. If she is not comfortable with me now, I doubt asking her about her uncomfortableness is going to improve things at all. It also clearly seems like it is her problem because on my previous 26 dates this did not happen.

I am not sure what could cause a person to be this dispassionate and distant. The first thing that comes to mind is that she simply does not like me. It is definitely possible but not something I can fix. I consider other explanations like depression or a social disorder. None of them seem likely. After our meal we have a quick tea and call it a day. At least I still can make it to my dance class.

I guess I was lucky to have all those consecutive good dates. This was the first actual bad experience so far. It does makes me appreciate all the other ones so much more, so there is that. You can’t get lucky every time. I won’t be using Tinder again though. There are definitely interesting people on there but it is hard to filter correctly because they give you so little information.

Food: another meal at Touareg. Excellent food as always.

Date #26

I am skipping over #24 and #25 because they were rather short and not particularly writeup-worthy.

This date was in Aarschot. My date did not live close by and we agreed to meet there. It made for quite an interesting change of scenery.

I find my date at the restaurant and we order some food. It is a very cosy place with a nice view. After some initial trepidation on her side I manage to put her at ease and get to know her. She is a single mom with two kids that she has every other week. I have been meeting a lot of single moms recently. Most of them are courageous women who try to balance kids with work and finding some time for hobbies and a social life. My date is no exception. From the way she speaks you can tell she had been living on auto-pilot for a while until the illusion of happily-ever-after was no longer sustainable. I can definitely relate. She clearly regrets giving up her studies to work in her husband’s company when they both were young. Now in her mid-thirties she is going back to school to become a nurse.

I am impressed. As much as I like learning new skills, I don’t think I would want to go back and redo my education. We talk about relationships and kids and it is clear she loves hers a lot. She does mention that she loves her alone-time too. I can imagine, with a tiny apartment full of kids I would probably enjoy every bit of peace and quiet I could get.

She is also trying to reinvent herself a bit. The last few years her life was all work and raising kids and now she suddenly has time on her hands and needs to figure out what she wants to do with it. Her husband was the dominant kind and now that she gets to decide everything by herself she seems unused to it. I can definitely relate to that, too.

We end up taking a walk through the city in search of another bar for drinks. The weather is pretty good and we enjoy the scenery while we talk. She seems to prefer more adventurous experiences and I remember a bungee jump picture on her profile. That is definitely still on my bucket list, I might actually consider that for my last date if I can find it somewhere nearby.

Another lovely evening spent in good company!

Food: Hertogensmolens in Aarschot. Nice atmosphere, great view. The food was a bit weird: I had a steak that was excellent but it came with terrible undercooked fries and very little else. I don’t see how you can be able to cook an expensive steak to perfection but then mess up something as simple and ubiquitous as fries.