Each week in The Hook-Up, we set up single readers of The Grid and send them on blind dates around Toronto. Here’s what Grace and Brandon had to say about their date at the AGO and Frank.
Grace is a 24-year-old regulatory and government-relations employee who lives in Parkdale. Her style is “classic with a twist. I aim for a combination of modern and 1950s, and, as a result, I own quite a lot of dresses. I don’t think I actually own pants, aside from jeans and yoga gear.” Grace says she is “happy; a history, art-and-culture nerd; and I’m always open to trying new things.” Grace “can also be a bit shy and awkward… I’m great at embarrassing myself in public.” Grace likes to volunteer, “wander aimlessly,” cook, go to classical concerts and free lectures, and travel.
Brandon is a 24-year-old travel writer and communications professional who lives in both Scarborough and Dundas and Ossington. He describes his style as “preppy—imagine a J. Crew catalogue threw up.” Brandon is “personable, and always looking to put a smile on someone’s face” but also “too busy, too flirtatious, and critical.” He likes “sightseeing, especially in my own city; spending time with my uniquely crazy Portuguese family; and searching for the perfect beer.” Brandon recently took a 10-day trip to Hong Kong and the Philippines for “a travel piece/personal adventure.”
Grace on Brandon
“I got off the streetcar at Spadina and Dundas and walked over to the AGO, nervous about how my date would go. I was thinking about the likelihood of making an ass of myself, or saying something unintentionally offensive, when suddenly an interestingly mustachioed stranger came up to me, shook my hand, and told me I looked nice in my dress. Having gained [a bit] of confidence from this moment, I felt less awkward entering the gallery to meet my date.
“My first impression of Brandon was that he seemed quite friendly and confident, and was dressed nicely. He was great at steering the conversation and asking questions when needed, a talent I wish I had. I can be pretty guarded when I first meet someone. I can’t say I felt an intense spark of attraction, but Brandon seemed very fun and interesting.
“We spent the first part of our date perusing the Francis Bacon/Henry Moore exhibit, and talking about our jobs, our goals, and our respective artistic pursuits. His musical talents sound quite admirable. He appreciates and purchases art, but can’t paint. I, on the other hand, paint quite often, and attend as many TSO and COC performances as I can, but I can’t play an instrument to save my life.
“Brandon mentioned that, in high school, he wasn’t good at sports and was more interested in politics, which was the same for me. However, he seemed to actually attend events, whereas I find it more interesting to learn about that world and poke fun at it, rather than immerse myself in it.
“Brandon then asked a few questions intended to be more intense to draw [me] out, to which I made an effort to not immediately put up [a wall]. I probably should’ve asked him those kinds of questions as well, but when I asked him about what kinds of regrets he had, he mentioned that that was a ‘second date’ sort of question. Okay.
“I felt fairly comfortable around him, although nervous at times, because I’m a naturally nervous person. He had a way of joking and teasing to put people at ease, [and] it seemed like he had a lot of experience speaking that way. Because of that, I didn’t feel as though there were too many moments when he showed vulnerability.
“We went to the restaurant attached to the gallery, Frank, and were given some sparkling wine—how nice! I ordered the kale and watermelon salad and roast duck, and Brandon ordered the prix fixe. Brandon was very into sharing plates at dinner, which I’m completely comfortable with. Food envy is not something I’d wish on anyone.
“At dinner, we talked a lot about our mutual love of travelling. I told him about being asked out by a security guard at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris who promised to show me the backrooms of the museum; Brandon talked about his Eat, Pray, Love-esque European tour and being a celebrity guest at a Hong Kong beer festival. Collectively, we seem to have covered a good portion of the globe. I think wanderlust is a good quality in a person.
“At one point, Brandon mentioned that he’s a travel writer on the side, and I commented that my aunt is as well. It turned out that he’s attended one of her talks, has a signed copy of her book, and has a picture of her with him in his phone. I thought that was quite hilarious, and felt that my aunt was rather cool.
“After agreeing that eating steak rare is quite delicious and trying new foods when in different countries is important, I mentioned that he should read Anthony Bourdain’s fabulous book A Cook’s Tour, and talked about a particular chapter where Bourdain describes how weirded out he was by Japanese pornography. I think that discussion might’ve caught Brandon off guard a little, and he was a bit weirded out. I was bound to make an ass of myself at some point, so I wasn’t surprised.
“I may have told too many embarrassing stories about myself. Brandon seemed particularly interested in my attempt to sing a Shakira song for a talent contest completely in Spanish, a language I cannot speak. I don’t know why I do these things.
“At the end of the evening, the total cost of the dinner came to around $150 and Brandon kindly offered to pay for the remainder. [Editor’s note: the first $100 of a Hook-Up date’s bill is covered by the host venue.] Afterwards, he gave me his number on a postcard from the AGO gift shop, which I thought was very suave. I responded by giving him my Twitter handle. When we hugged goodbye, his attempted cheek-kiss met my ear instead, which was odd. I’d have to put more thought into it before deciding to go on another date [with Brandon].”
GRACE RATES THE DATE (OUT OF 10):
Brandon’s style: 8
Brandon’s tip handling: 10
Brandon’s wanderlust: 10
Brandon on Grace
“We sat down beside each other—staring at our phones—before our scheduled meeting time. The AGO representative spotted Grace first, which is understandable since she was wearing an eye-catching summer dress. Grace’s outfit suited her personality: refreshing and welcoming. Taller than I’d hoped, but she was wearing wedges—I was really hoping for a girl who loves flats, ha ha. She did look stunning in her dress, but her purse, in my opinion, didn’t suit her at all—it was a wooden, beaded purse; a little too bohemian for Grace’s polished personality.
“We covered the basics about ourselves as we headed into the Francis Bacon and Henry Moore exhibit: gainfully employed—check; educated—check; not a serial killer or kidnapper—check. Within the first 10 minutes of conversation, it was unquestionable that Grace was confident, self-aware, and cultured. Those three rare qualities combined were what I was most attracted to; it also didn’t hurt that she had a beautiful smile.
“As she shared her upbringing on classical music and her deep love for Chopin in high school, I refrained from telling Grace that the most frequently played CD on my Discman [back then] was Big Willie Style. Regardless, the conversation flowed effortlessly, filled with commentary about the tortured artist Bacon, and our [likely] far-off interpretations of Moore’s work.
“Sharing the condensed versions of our life stories, we found a number of parallels which directed a significant portion of the conversation. That is, until Grace talked about her love of the opera and symphony. I didn’t have much to add other than honestly admitting to having never attended an opera before. She mercifully let me redeem myself with my past foray into songwriting. I think she assumed proper musical compositions, when really they were just mediocre songs about break-ups, but I wasn’t about to correct her.
“I could tell I made her a bit nervous when I said, ‘Alright, I’m going to ask you some hard questions to get to know you better’ only to follow up with ‘What name were you supposed to be named if not Grace?’ Her response was ‘Bronwyn.’ I would’ve forgotten ‘Bronwyn’ within the first five minutes of conversation.
“Grace’s personality is a little more proper than what I’m usually comfortable with, so I made sure to be on my extra-best behaviour. There’s no question that Grace is one of the most cultured girls I’ve ever been on a date with. A fine-arts aficionado, with a passion for the symphony and opera, was a little too reminiscent of Emily Gilmore—yes, the grandmother from Gilmore Girls. It didn’t stop me from doing whatever it took to see her smile and laugh. If she was half as nervous as I was going into this, then she deserved that courtesy and effort.
“We sat down for dinner at Frank, starting off with a champagne toast. I will admit, I did ask our server for a substitution when ordering my meal, which could have been misconstrued as pretentious.
“Grace quizzed me a little on politics—I feel like I read somewhere that that should be a topic to avoid—but with a soft-spot for the farce that Toronto politics has become, I couldn’t help but dive in. I appreciated having a conversation with someone well-versed in [something] more than Hollywood gossip. Most dates I’ve gone on recently have [involved] very trivial conversation topics. It’s almost as if intelligent girls are afraid to showcase their intellect. Grace had no problem showcasing hers, and it was a very attractive quality. I wish I could find more girls with similar characteristics to Grace.
“We talked about my passion for travel, and I could feel my speech quicken its pace. After pausing to take a sip of my Negroni Fizz, I found out that Grace’s aunt is one of my favourite travel writers. Toronto is a lot smaller than it seems. Grace talked about her past travel experiences, [and] in multiple [instances] brought up her ex-boyfriend, who lived in France. Was I supposed to compete with that? Well, I did live in London… Ontario, for university, no big deal.
“Once we had finished our espresso and cappuccino, I took care of the remainder of the bill and tip. Grace did offer to pay, which I appreciated, but it wasn’t necessary. Before leaving and saying goodbye, I pulled out a postcard from the AGO gift shop I had picked up for her when I arrived early for the date. I thought it would be a cute little souvenir to remember this adventure, and a good spot to write my number down. It seemed like a creative way to make an impact. I figured if she’s meant to be my turtle dove, she’ll text me her number.
“Grace definitely wasn’t a hugger. On our good-bye hug, she stood a foot and a half away, leaned in, and turned her head more than 90 degrees. It felt like an obligatory hug between exes after an impromptu run-in. With [that] awkward hug and a kiss-on-the-cheek goodbye, we headed out in opposite directions.”
“Grace is a catch, and she has amazing qualities that reaffirm what I would love to see in a potential girlfriend. [But] my friends would eat Grace alive. They’re crazy, fun, and highly protective of me, especially my close female friends. I can’t picture Grace enjoying our dance marathons to Canadian one-hit-wonders from the ’90s. There’s a perfect guy out there for her, but I can guarantee he’s buried under an 80-hour work-week on Bay Street, which is why she hasn’t found him yet.”
BRANDON RATES THE DATE (OUT OF 10):
Grace’s style: 8
Grace’s manners: 10
Grace’s hair: 7
Special thanks to the Art Gallery of Ontario and FRANK, 317 Dundas St. W. 416-979-6648 for the AGO; 416-979-6688 for FRANK. Follow @AGOToronto and Like Facebook.com/AGOToronto.
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