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 Sara and Eric had to say about their date at dinner and the opera.
Sara is a 29-year-old graduate student who lives in Bloor West Village. She says, “My style tends towards a classic or vintage look, but with something funky or brightly coloured thrown in for fun. I’m known for wearing flowers in my hair.” She says she is an “awesome listener” and considerate, but adds, “I suspect that I can come off like a bit of a know-it-all, although I’m actively trying to curb this.” Sara likes to “play or listen to music, swing dance, and go on walks with friends.”
Eric is a 29-year-old systems administrator who lives in Cabbagetown. Eric describes his style as “classic and unobtrusive” and himself as “intelligent, with a sharp, dry wit that comes out once I get comfortable. I have a really broad knowledge base, so I’m willing to discuss almost anything. I’m pretty laid-back and open-minded. I juggle.” He adds, “I’m an introvert who doesn’t really like crowds or talking to strangers; conversation is always a conscious effort.” Eric likes to read a lot (“mostly the internet”), play the violin, and ride his bike.
Sara on Eric
“When I arrived at the restaurant, Eric was just being seated by the hostess. Having accidentally introduced myself to the wrong person before—my actual date went to the wrong coffee shop and stood me up by mistake—I decided not to say ‘hello’ right away, just in case he was there meeting someone else. This gave us something to laugh about when the hostess seated me with him only 30 seconds later, which broke the ice nicely.
“My first impression was that Eric seemed like a pretty nice, happy guy, with a genuine smile. He was dressed a bit more casually than I expected for an opera date, and I felt a bit overdressed in comparison. This may be partly due to having had a minor freak-out about my wardrobe choices with less than 10 minutes to go before I had to leave the house. He was wearing a light-blue button-up shirt, a red tie, a tan jacket, and light pants.
“Although Eric wasn’t my usual type, I did think he was sort of cute. The beard was working for him. I could imagine us meeting another way and deciding to go out, since we do have a lot in common. He definitely has the nice-guy vibe, which I really appreciate. I’ve never really been attracted to jerks.
“After our introductions, I opened with ‘So, how’s it going?’ I never claimed to be smooth. He told me about his work as a systems administrator—and explained what that was using plumbing as an illustration—and about a recent road-trip in California. I followed up by telling him a bit about my recent travels to conferences and what my research is about. I appreciated that he didn’t seem daunted by the fact that I’m in the middle of a Ph.D. It sometimes freaks guys out, and I’d rather know straight-up if that’s going to be an issue. But Eric didn’t seem thrown off by it at all. I was surprised that he didn’t ask many questions, though.
“I didn’t want to monopolize the conversation, so I asked him about his hobbies, and we discovered that we have quite a few interests in common. We both play the violin, have been involved in theatre—on stage and doing technical roles for him; pit orchestra and a bit of acting for me—and have done improv. I can see why we got matched together. He also told me that he recently did a cooking class and enjoys archery. We had a few good laughs at the restaurant. Even though I was nervous at first, meeting a complete stranger, I was able to shake [it] off fairly quickly and relax.
“After dinner, we headed over to the opera. It was raining a bit and Eric offered me his arm to share his umbrella. When we got there, we grabbed a drink in the theatre’s lounge and talked about opera. He seemed very knowledgeable on the subject, and he did manage to spoil part of the plot for me, which I teased him a bit about.
“We headed back to the lounge during the intermission and it was totally packed. Naturally, we did the anywhere-I-stand-I’m-in-someone’s-way dance and, because of the crowd, we were standing a little too close for comfort. It was at this point that the conversation started to slow down. Eric asked almost no questions, and I started to feel like I was primarily responsible for keeping the conversational ball rolling and breaking awkward silences. I’m assuming this was just nerves on his part, but I was definitely feeling the pressure to keep things fun and upbeat for the both of us.
“After the show, we headed upstairs to grab our coats. I tried to get us talking about hockey, since I figured it was a pretty safe topic, and I’m totally capable of launching into an extended rant about the Canucks’ season, but Eric wasn’t too into it and said he wasn’t really a hockey fan. I got the feeling that Eric is a shy, introverted guy. He probably did want to get to know me better, but just didn’t know what to ask. By the end of the date, it was frustrating feeling like I was the one who had to move the conversation forward.
“After we collected our things, we chatted for a few minutes. He said he had a good time and would like to see me again. I told him that I would possibly be interested in that and gave him my phone number.”
SARA RATES THE DATE (OUT OF 10):
Eric’s style: 8 (“All in all, he was dressed pretty well”)
Eric’s manners: 9
Eric’s tip handling: 7
Eric on Sara
“I was hoping to be a little early for our reservation but, in the end, I found myself walking in right on time. I didn’t know Sara was going to be my date until the maître d escorted her over to the table; it turns out she was right behind me when I was asking to be seated. This worked out really nicely, since it saved me the awkward tenterhooks of waiting.
“We were going to the opera, so I wasn’t sure how formal to dress. I finally settled on a jacket and tie, figuring I could jettison them both and roll up my sleeves if it turned out I was overdoing it compared to my mystery date, but it seemed that I had guessed correctly.
“My first impression of Sara was that she was easy to talk to. I would say that we hit it off at a casual level without much initial awkwardness. Sara’s working on her Ph.D., and I used to work supporting graduate students, so we were able to establish a rapport over our experiences in academia, from the quality of teaching to developing a nose for which events come with refreshments. A cute smile and a sharp mind goes far in my books, and I definitely became more attracted to Sara as the night went on.
“When it came time to order, Sara had the Cornish hen, and I went for foie gras and lamb. When I eat out, I like to try things that I probably wouldn’t make at home and, based on my plate, there’s still plenty of stuff I’m happy to leave to the professionals. We split what we hoped was a generous tip based on our guess of the total. [Editor’s note: the first $200 of this date’s bill was covered by the restaurant.]
“Sara and I are both amateur violinists, which was a nice bit of common ground to discover. I was worried that I might get matched with someone that had no background in classical music, but Sara plays in an orchestra so, if anything, I was outclassed on this front.
“On our way from the restaurant to the Four Seasons Centre, it was still raining a bit, so I offered Sara my elbow so we could share my umbrella. It seemed less awkward than trying to continue our conversation from side-by-side canopies.
“I had been to the Four Seasons Centre before, and it was Sara’s first time at the venue. I think we were both amazed by the scale of the hall from our vantage point on the floor. We had great seats, too, just a few rows back from the pit. The opera itself was pretty amazing. I really enjoyed it.
“After we collected our coats, I took a step over to a less crowded section of the lobby. I told Sara I had a great time—because I did!—and asked her for her number so we could see each other again sometime. She seemed nervous about parting, and combined with her slightly turned-away body language, I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, so I said good night with just a touch on the arm. I would say the overall vibe was ‘polite but reserved,’ which suited me just fine, since it’s my usual M.O. when dealing with strangers. Things were pretty positive throughout; I don’t think we ever hit an awkward lull in conversation.
“Insofar as I have a ‘type,’ I would say that Sara fits the mold: a smart lady with a patient demeanour and hobbies outside of work. I think it will take another date or two to see if we have any serious chemistry; I suspect that Sara is a little like me, in that the guard only comes down once a little familiarity is established. It’ll take probably at least one more date before I’ll be able to say for sure. Or maybe Sara just doesn’t go for guys with beards. That’s OK, too.”
ERIC RATES THE DATE (OUT OF 10):
Sara’s style: 7
Sara’s manners: 10
Sara’s glasses: 6
Special thanks to Tundra, 145 Richmond St. W., 416-860-6800. Special thanks to the Canadian Opera Company at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W. 416-363-8231, Follow @canadianopera and Like Facebook.com/canadianoperacompany.
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