Last week, I had my first date with the Chilean Lecturer.
Of the recent batch, he was the one I was second-most enthusiastic about, after Salsa Cop. I was enthusiastic because it seemed like we had loads in common. He was in second place, just because he wasn’t as good as messaging.
I was already in central London that day, on a course. I had an early dinner with a friend, before heading to meet him at 7:30pm. He had suggested a pub in Holborn where they ‘have nice Chilean wine’.
After saying goodbye to my friend, I looked at google maps and realised I was going to be a bit early. Never mind. I started walking.
Then he texted me saying he was really sorry but he wouldn’t be there until 8pm.
As I walked to Holborn, I listened to that day’s instalment of ‘Mend’, the heartbreak self-help app I’ve been using since the Whippersnapper.
The Mend lady said today’s task was to phone someone I haven’t spoken to for a while, as breakups can make us a bit more insular.
I decided it was a good idea. I tried to call Faith, but she was having a nightmare trying to get her toddler into bed.
Then I called another of my favourite people, a CBT therapist friend.
We had a great chat while I did laps of Holborn. It was bitterly cold, and even snowed in some parts of London that day. I was wearing purple fingerless mittens a friend knitted for me. As I walked, I was trying to put the icy fingers of each hand into the opposite mitten.
When I realised it was 8pm, I ended the call and went into the pub. We had said we would meet outside, but it was too cold, so I found a table.
I went into the toilet to apply some last minute makeup. As I looked in the mirror, I thought my smile grooves looked a bit more deeply etched than usual.
Fuck it. I look like I’m 33 because I am 33.
He’s in his late 30s. In his photos, he looked handsome but also the age that he is. It was nice to know I would be meeting someone older than me, rather than a baby-faced embryo, for a change.
After sitting back down at the table, I didn’t buy a drink yet, but sat and read things on my phone.
“You’re made of gold.” He had texted me. “I owe you a drink.”
He still hadn’t arrived at 8:25pm. I was started to get a bit pissed off, and considered leaving.
When he finally arrived, he was so incredibly apologetic about being late, I quickly forgave him.
“Can I rant?” He asked. I nodded. “Can I… swear a little?”
This made me like him a bit more – I love swearing, I’m a bit ranty and let’s face it, I’m not that punctual.
“I fucking hate bureaucracy and I fucking hate people who worry about minor details…” he ranted. I laughed. It was fun ranting, rather than stressful.
It seemed that he had been held up by a meeting overrunning, due to bureaucracy.
He bought us glasses of wine, and sat down.
He looked just like his photos. He looked smart but also casual.
He apologised again for his lateness. “I’m from a Catholic country – we’re good at feeling guilty.”
“Catholic?” I asked. I knew Chile had been Communist, but forgot it had been Catholic. I wondered what happened to the Catholicism when it was communist. “What about communism?”
“Yes, it was communist as well.”
Probably a bit soon to bring up communism, five minutes in.
We talked a bit South American politics.
“Well, we’ve covered religion and politics in the first few minutes!” I joked.
“Now I need to tell you my salary.” He said.
“Don’t even joke about it!” I said in horror.
We started asking each other about ourselves. He asked where I’m from, so I told him where I grew up, and which cities I’ve lived in.
“What about you?” I asked.
I meant where has he lived, but he started telling me his life story. It was surprisingly lovely and soothing. I listened with rapt attention as he told me how many brothers and sisters he had, and what his parents jobs were.
We moved onto our jobs. He is a lecturer in Science. He told me about something he had worked on recently.
It sounded familiar.
“Oh my god, I read that!” I said. I couldn’t believe it. My underwear metaphorically fell off a bit.
Somehow we got onto the novel I’m writing. He seemed impressed, and said “I love that!”
He said “I hope this is OK to say…” and he took a deep breath. “You’re even more attractive than your photos!”
“Yes, that is OK to say!” I said, smiling. “And you’re quite well put together, yourself.”
He insisted on paying for the second drinks, to make up for being late.
When he came back from the bar, we talked about Chile and General Pinochet. I told him more about the book I read at school (Talking in Whispers by James Watson). He told me what it was like living under a dictator. It was really interesting.
We got onto the Canary Islands. I said I liked trying to speak Spanish there, but it was also nice knowing everyone spoke English, so in an emergency, you wouldn’t end up miming anything at a hospital.
He asked me what Spanish I knew.
I thought for a moment. My mind went blank, except for “Agua”, “Naranja” and “Donde esta…”
“I love that!” He said.
We talked about whereabouts in London we had lived. I mentioned moving because of a relationship break-up, and he wanted to know all about that.
I kept saying “I’m not sure it’s first date material…” but then answering his questions about my ex-boyfriends.
Then he told me he had broken up with his last girlfriend because she had MS.
Underwear back on.
He said “Then I spent several months not wanting to be with anyone, because I wasn’t sure what kind of person I was, to do that to someone…”
We talked about this for a bit. He had realised he didn’t really love her. He thought if he had, he would’ve been able to support her. He also knew another, older couple where one of them had a degenerative condition, and he had seen the impact.
He seemed really haunted by his decision.
I kind of thought telling me all of this on a first date was like speeding in your driving test. But I also liked the fact he was so honest, and the way he had thought about it.
The night was going well. When we were talking, we were talking quite fast, and it reminded me of how I talk when I see my best friends, when I haven’t seen them for ages – the way I keep thinking oh my god, in a minute I must remember to tell them that! and permanently have 3 or 4 things in mind that I want to say.
It seemed like we were really clicking. We both smiled a lot and I felt comfortable.
Fingers crossed I don’t get a wasting disease.
The pub was closing, so we decided to go somewhere else. When we got outside, he asked if we could link arms.
“Sure!” I said, linking arms.
“Just because it’s cold!” He added.
We went to a Wetherspoons pub near Holborn station. It seemed really busy but I got served quickly.
We found a free table and sat down. We talked more about music, and about tea.
He kept accidentally touching my hand for a second with his, when we were both gesticulating. He kept apologising, while I tried to convey that touching my hand was very much OK.
I asked if everyone drinks coffee in Chile, as I knew the posh coffee in supermarkets always seems to be from South America.
He said “No, we just drink… have you heard of ‘Nescafe’?”
I laughed and said yes.
He said people drink a lot of tea in Chile. He said they only put milk in when it’s a special occasion, so sometimes when he has tea in England (we always put milk in) he feels like it’s his birthday.
He told me when he was younger and still in Chile, he loved Britain and always wanted to move here. He told me about a club he used to go to where they would play British music and the odd person would have Union Jack t-shirt.
I said I don’t think of myself as patriotic, because I’m not passionate about things like the Royal Family, the Armed Forces and the National Anthem.
However, I said, deep down, I am really patriotic. I love going to other countries and experiencing other cultures, but I could never emigrate. Whenever I go away, when I come home, I always have a small smile about being home, as I walk through Gatwick or Heathrow. I love queuing and talking about the weather and being awkwardly self-deprecating. I love tea and British bands and the NHS and BBC.
He said he still loves Britain. I said “you know what you should read – ‘Watching the English’…”
“… by Kate Fox? I’ve got it! I love that book.” He replied.
I couldn’t believe it! I love that book. It’s written by an anthropologist, and is about the unwritten rules of English culture. It’s clever but also really funny. I’ve talked about it to loads of people over the years, but no one has ever heard of it.
He said he really fancied me from my photos, and then when we started texting, he liked my Whatsapp picture, and was really looking forward to meeting me.
It was nearly time for my train home, so we walked back to the tube.
I hoped we might kiss, but it was only a very short walk.
“Can I give a respectful hug and kiss?” He asked, outside the station.
“You can give me an unrespectful kiss if you like.” I replied.
We kissed, quite passionately.
Some people walking past shouted “Oi get a room!” and made noises.
“Brits eh?” I said, as the kiss ended.
We talked about potentially doing something on Sunday, although I was supposed to be seeing Salsa Cop. I started to turn around to the ticket barriers, but he said “sorry, can we kiss one more time?”
We kissed again. He groped my bum and afterwards said he really it.
I turned to go again, and he said “Sorry, can we just kiss one more time?”
I was really enjoying kissing him.
When I was on the train home, he texted me.
The ‘house party’ thing was because he said he approaches dating like going to a house party – if your aim is to have a nice evening and possibly meet people you enjoy chatting to, it’s easy enough to achieve that goal (compared to aiming to meet the love of your life).
The next morning, I was excitedly telling Flatmate Joe about it. I told him about the paper he had written which I had read, and the fact he loved my favourite book.
“I think he might just be your dream guy!” Joe said.
Then, because Joe is quite a bit more international in his range of gentleman callers than I am, he said “and welcome to the world of boning South Americans.”