First date. Well, this is awkw

First date. Well, this is awkward

Going on your first date can be uncomfortable, to say the least.

First date. Well, this is awkw

Following up on my earlier post about dating in Cape Town, you might have reached a stage and found someone other than your childhood friend you shared a bathtub with, and have qualified with your one-liners such as “Ya hey, your tanline is like, rad” or “nice weave!”. Congratulations, you are one step closer to having a first date. One of the more conventional things to do at this stage, and considering you haven’t been chatting on Mxit since 2006, is to take the lady out for dinner. In the Netherlands, one might have to mortgage one’s house before ordering a side salad. Dinner dates in Cape Town, however, are reasonably affordable. As this is as uncomfortable for both parties, let me elaborate on a few things you might come across.


Deciding on a venue of choice is a beginning worth taking the time for. Avoid any place that has unpronounceable food. No one is looking to dissect an octopus on a first date, or to have a camel ravioli on a coconut skin. Avoid fast food places too. Standing in a cue at Chicken Licken is anything but charming. Don’t assume she is going to be impressed going to Spur, as it is most likely not her birthday, and she is not 9 years old.

Once you found something, reserving an outside table mid-June in Cape Town is like throwing in the towel. You’ll either be blown into the Atlantic by a gale-force wind (and she may never find you), or crisp-fried by the nearby heater. Besides, no man looks masculine having dinner wearing a blanket.

Once you have settled on a place, you’ll probably be the first one there. This is the first test of patience. This is African Time. I once waited for 45 minutes for my date to arrive, by which time I had finished seven beers and started chewing on my menu. By the time she was there, I knew half the restaurant’s staff and could only mutter the word ‘falafel’. It didn’t go very well.

As soon as she arrives, make sure to recognize her. This is a particular challenge if you two met at 5am in an underlit Joburg, especially if her Whatsapp profile picture is that of a sunset. Or her dog. Or some inspirational quote. You know who I’m talking about. If she is a black girl she might have completely changed her hair for the occasion. So be prepared. Don’t make the mistake at waving at or even hugging a random person. This is not considered a good start.

When she does arrive, and you manage to recognize her, you could have the awkward moment of locking eyes from quite the distance. In this case, you can either wave for an uncomfortably long time and hold on to a creepy smile, act rude and look at your phone to check your latest newsfeed updates for the eighth time, or, in case of panic, fake a minor cardiac arrest and bury your face into your neighbors plate of spaghetti.

The Middle

Considering you made it this far, she will now be at your table. Smoothing yourself past the regular small talk (“How great are pants!” and “Why are clouds?”) and discussing your day, you might be getting hungry at this stage. Don’t get your hopes up just yet. Since you can most likely memorize the menu and have decided on the dish within a minute or two, she still has to make her decision. Some women tend to strategize their choice of food with the most peculiar reasoning. This is accompanied by asking themselves questions during this process. “Hmmm. Do I crave sushi? Do I want rice? But I had rice last Tuesday. How about pasta? This looks nice! Not sure if I want meat though.” By the time the waiter arrives, she will happily listen to all the specials and “give us a few more minutes to decide”. By this stage, you have secretly devoured the tablecloth and started chewing your own hand.
You can decide to provide her with a few recommendations. This is high risk, as you might recommend the fish that poisons her into a coma. Come to think of it, I’d avoid doing that at all costs.

Always try and be careful what you order yourself. There are a few foods that are just a no-go for first dates. You can decide to order ribs, but unless you are dating a velociraptor, you are not going to get away with it. I once had ribs and still found some of the basting in my beard, two weeks later. Burgers are not a good idea either. These days, burgers are enormous and I yet have to find someone who can eat them by hand without pulling a face-muscle, or with cutlery without stabbing the waiter in the thigh. Spicy food is also not a good idea, as much as you like to brag that you eat “chilies for breakfast”. I once ordered the beef vindaloo and wept for the whole main course whilst sweating out a swimming pool. Ended up just having plain yoghurt and drinking four liters of milk. I went home alone that night.

Since people say I talk a lot, I have yet to experience the common first date experience of the awkward silence. Before turning into the dining dead, there are apparently two things you can do. The first involves pointing at food and describing them (“This is a potato” or “Look at that parsnip”), the other is the toilet break. This will give you time to compose yourself. But don’t take too long, as she will probably think you are having a number two. Women, on the other hand, feel comfortable taking much longer toilet breaks. They have some unwritten code that turns toilets into social hang-outs. For all we know, they could be learning a language in there, or knitting a bra.

The End

You have now resisted a mental breakdown and are still with the woman you initially started the date with, it is time to ask for the bill and get going. You’ll probably notice that her plate of food is not finished, which can be either blamed on South African portions or your date trying to avoid the impression she eats a lot. After you covered the bill, you gentleman, make sure to both walk to her or your mode of transport reminiscing the amazing dinner you just had (“Great rice” or “There is a rib in your hair”), and prepare for further awkwardness. The goodbye will perhaps be a semi-hug at the cab where you either wave at a driving car or smoothly drive her home where you do an in-car seatbelt-strangle hug because you don’t want to fill out a whole visitors form at her complex’ security guard.

And as you find yourself in fetal-position hugging your pillow, you may tap yourself on the shoulder for passing a rite of passage and conquer yourself beyond the uncomfortability of the first date. And don’t worry, she most likely experienced exactly the same thing.