Date #23

This was by far the easiest date to arrange. A woman contacted me on Facebook in response to the blog. We quickly arranged a dinner date in Via Via which is very close to my house. I wish it would always go this smooth.

When I arrive my date is already seated and we get to talking. She is confident and very open and the atmosphere is relaxed. We talk about dating and the project. She is a single mother who is raising two children on her own. She has a job that pays well but wants to start something on her own.

I can’t help but admire her ambition and drive. Combining a full time job with being a single mother for two young children sounds hard enough. She seems to find time for it while also preparing for that job switch and finds time to be here with me.

We end up having a very nice dinner and I agree to take her dancing at some point. I keep meeting all kinds of interesting people through this project. I hope that lucky streak lasts until the end!

Food: Dinner at Via Via in Heverlee. It was around €13 for the food. They tend to have very exotic dishes from all over the world. The selection is very limited but they rotate dishes a lot and the food is always very tasty.

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Date #22

I have been experimenting a bit with different date formats. I took someone to see a play and I tried asking my dates what they wanted to do. This resulted in interesting experiences and fun activities. None could qualify as dates since I did not get to know the other party very well. I am going to stick to dinner dates for the remainder of the project. I will plan other activities for followup dates if and when they happen.

I agreed to meet my date in Brussels for drinks. She turned out to be a very interesting person. She has lived abroad for years, volunteering for different organisations in different countries. We walk around Brussels and soak up the atmosphere and the lovely weather. There is a jazz festival happening and we try and pick up some of that as well. Eventually we settle down for drinks and get to talking.

She seems bored with life in Brussels. She has been teaching dutch to expats in Brussels for years and she feels she has been tied down too long here. She wants to move on to something exciting and new. She is clearly an adventurous person with a very interesting life.

We end up going for food and sit down to talk. We end up discussing the usual topics. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed. We have mutual friends and some common interests. I dance Bachata which originated in the Dominican Republic and she has actually lived there and danced it with the locals. We also discuss Belgian mentality versus the mentality of people who were not born here. I need to run because I am running late for a dance class.

The date itself was fairly short but a lot of fun. I guess I am lucky: I keep running into cool people with rich lives.

Food: Things I grabbed at the Exki buffet. I forgot what the price exact price was, sorry. Exki is a healthy/organic fast food place. It is a very popular and trendy place that sells organic and healthy fast food. It caters to hipsters and is fairly expensive. The food is premade but pretty tasty and we got some very nice seats with a good view on the top floor.

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Another milestone down: twenty dates!

I have been trying a lot of different channels to meet new people. I have tried bars. I have tried Tinder (which I still hate with a passion). I have tried picking up a few new hobbies to widen my horizons and meet new people. The project requires a steady influx of new acquaintances. I met this woman on Tinder and she expressed interest in dinner and dancing and we decided to meet up to do just that.

Tinder dates are different from my traditional ones. When I ask someone face-to-face I can explain the project a whole lot better. Communication through texts feels stunted in comparison.

She arrives and we get stuck in the awkward “getting to know you” phase. She seems a bit nervous and insecure, probably because she doesn’t know what to expect. I can’t really blame her. I do not know what to expect from her either.

I am nervous myself because I am trying to change the format. I intend to take her dancing and I still have no idea if that will be fun for both of us. I know she arranged a babysitter just so she could be here and I would feel terrible if she does not have a good time tonight.

The restaurant I picked out is not helping either. It is a pasta place and they have pasta and wine and not much else. The dish itself is quite good but the atmosphere is not. We agree to go for drinks before dancing so we try a café close to the dance place.

It turns out to be an incredibly weird place: it is crammed into a small street corner with room for barely a dozen people. I think there are 3 tables in total and the entire thing is decorated like someone’s living room in the 50s. We continue the conversation and I finally manage to get her guard down so we can open up and connect. She has had an interesting life so far and she is making the best out of the situation. It turns out I forgot to tell her about the blog. I offer to skip the report this time but she is a good sport about the whole thing.

I take her dancing and teach her how to dance Bachata. It takes her very little time to grasp the concepts and make it work. I am impressed. It took me tons of classes to get there and it took her like three dances. Eventually we move to a regular dance and spend the rest of the night dancing. I can see why she wanted to come and do this: she is good at it and she clearly loves to dance. We definitely will be doing this again some time.

Food: Il pastaio. The service was quite nice but they only have pasta and wine. The price was around €20.

Date #19

This is the first time I go on a date with a Mexican woman! I had selected a restaurant in advance but they did not take reservations and were full so we ended up walking through Leuven to find us a good place to eat. We end up at a Morrocan restaurant and get to talking. She asks about the project and wants to know how relationships work in Europe versus Latin culture. We end up discussing relationships across cultural boundaries and the differences in courting and expectations. It is quite insightful. Her experience with Leuven is completely different from what my previous dates told me. She feels completely safe and secure around here. Then again when you come from a city with actual drug cartel violence, you probably have a bit of a different perspective.

When we go for drinks the waiter recognizes me and has my drink ready for me. He is clearly a bit baffled because he has seen me there with a lot of different women in the last month, including yesterday’s date. I make a mental note to take my next date here too, just to mess with him. A bunch of teenage girls is getting cocktails near us and they are clearly having fun. As time passes their voices get louder and higher pitched to the point where me and my date can’t even understand each other any more. We flee to a nearby café and get a drink there.

My date is very talented with a wide array of interests and an interesting career path. We talk about our careers and hobbies extensively. We are clearly enjoying each others company but I have to cut it short because I had promised a friend I would take her dancing so we end up walking together and then saying our goodbyes. Another fun date!

Food: Tajine at Koutoubiya at around €23. This is another Morrocan restaurant with a large selection of dishes. Both me and my date thought the dishes were a bit too meaty and would have preferred a bit more vegetables in the Tajine. The dish was still pretty good though. DSC_0037

Date #18

It had been a long day at work and I barely got any sleep. I only managed to get four hours in due to stress and the neighbors having some kind of late night party. I was tired and had a headache, clearly not the best state of mind for a date.

Yet as I cycle to the restaurant and the great weather invigorates me. I enter the restaurant to check on my reservation and proceed to go outside to catch some more sun while I wait for my date. A bit of fresh air and some sun can work wonders. I am already looking forward to this date. When she arrives we enter and start talking.

I know her from Salsa parties but have never had more than a passing conversation with her. It is the nature of those parties: you only have time for smalltalk between dances. Any serious conversation is impossible because women can get whisked away at any time for a dance. We discuss the usual: jobs and hobbies, present and past. She is a bit apprehensive at first but the atmosphere quickly settles on casual and relaxed.

We have danced together on occasion but never really took the time to get to know each other. She is tall, attractive and a bit shy. We get past the initial awkwardness pretty quickly, within minutes she is joking around. I forgot to take a picture of the food again, always a sign of an enthralling conversation.

It is always interesting how other people’s experiences of the same events differ from your own. Today is no exception. I know most of the women at Salsa parties because I dance with them, my interaction with most guys is usually limited to a respectful nod or a quick hi. For her it is the other way around. I find out a lot more about the men there. Most of it is not pretty.

I notice a pattern here. My last date also complained about men treating her with very little respect. This time it hits a bit closer to home: I know these guys. Or at least I thought I did. I believe there are not that many fundamental differences between men and women, but the way the world treats you depends an awful lot on your gender.

We talk about lots of other topics. The conversation flows well and times flies by. We ask for the check and finish up with drinks. We end up talking for hours without me even noticing. I offer to walk her home and we enjoy the great weather, strolling through the city center. I only realize how late it is when I get home: it is after midnight. I had a great time.

Food: Sushi – 2 man boat at Wabi Sabi Sushi in Munstraat. €27 each. No picture, sorry. One of the many excellent Sushi places in Leuven. Service was friendly but a bit slow.

Date #17

It had been a while since I had a blind date. I met this women through Facebook and she was looking to meet new people. I told her about my project and we quickly set something up.

I let her pick the place and we ended up at a more traditional Belgian family restaurant. We sit down and almost immediately hit it off. She recently ended a relationship and clearly is looking to expand her social circle as part of the “moving on” process. A casual non-romantic date is exactly what she was looking for. We talk a bit about jobs and hobbies. It turns out she runs a store that I occasionally have been to. She tells me some horror stories about dealing with customers. I used to run a cybercafé so I can relate.

We also discuss dating and my project, as usual. It is always striking how different the dating experience is for women and for men. Her post that made me ask her on a date also got her tons of creepy responses. One guy contacted her out of the blue and asked if she wanted a massage at his place. When she declined he told her something akin to “well it is weird that you do not like to be touched”, completely oblivious to how terribly inappropriate that was. I also posted a message about my project in that same group, asking for dates. I got zero responses.

In the dating world a woman gets tons of responses but has to have a really good filter in place to avoid the creeps. As a guy you are always the asking party and you have to get past those filters. She tells me she is happy to meet a normal man.  It takes a while for that statement to sink in. I take it to mean that “normal” means “does not act horribly inappropriate”. I start to wonder just how many of those guys are out there if her experiences have caused her to put the bar that low.

We are not done talking when we are done with the food so we go for drinks. She is a lot of fun to talk to and I am enjoying a casual and relaxed date. She mentions she never gets hit on in real life: I do not really get why that would be. She is young and attractive with a lovely smile. I spent most of the evening trying to make her laugh. I tell her I think she might be giving off a subconscious “do not mess with me” vibe that wards off strangers. She says I might be right, she has heard that from others as well.

I tell her more about myself and try to entertain her with some of my more amusing anecdotes (which will remain private, sorry readers). I had a long week and an intensive weekend and I start to get tired. We call it a night but agree to meet again sometime. Another very lovely evening spent in good company!

Food: Chicken fillet and fries at Domus (around €20). This is a large and very popular tavern with decent if somewhat traditional fare. After visiting so many other restaurants and cuisines I felt this place lacked intimacy and flavour. It is better suited for families and large groups than for a date because of the sheer size of the room. Maybe I finally am starting to become a bit more picky about where I eat.

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