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Romantic Dinner

Checking It Twice

(c) Linda Hutchison July 2019

I really don’t like confrontation. And for that matter, I really don’t like meeting new people. I’d rather stay home, in my Ugg boots, binge watching reruns of McLeod’s Daughters. There’s safety in a familiar story line. But my best friend had challenged me to step out of my sheepskin-lined comfort zone and try speed-dating.

“You’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Except my peace of mind,” I grumbled, sotto voce.

She stood facing me as I slouched in my cushion-laden heaven, her hands on her hips and a cheeky but firm expression on her face.

“You need to get out. You need a life.”

“I’m supporting the Australian farmer. And the production companies.” The pitch of my whining had started to rise and she could see my resistance waning.

“You’re supporting your most terrible habits. You’re nearly a hermit. Get changed. It starts in two hours and you’ve got to allow half an hour for the bus.”

“Bossy, bossy, bossy…” I poked my tongue out as I dragged myself out of the couch and off towards my creatively organised bedroom. It was functional for me. She was following.

“Oh my gosh! Is everything you own on the floor?” It’s true that my extended lack of effort had surprised even her.

I opened the cupboard to reveal three dresses and a winter coat still hanging up, along with my dusty hiking mattress that hadn’t seen fresh air for at least five years. The empty coat hangers mocked me.

“Okay, so it all migrated vertically.” I shrugged. She reached in and pulled out one of the dresses. It was a little black number which I considered ‘prowl-wear’.

“Absolutely not. No way. I’m not presenting myself for a slave auction.”

She reached for the navy-blue a-line with a pearled white collar.

“No – it screams old-fashioned. They’ll expect me to be their housekeeper.”

We settled on the final dress – a pretty, dark green floral number with a soft drape. All I could think was that it went well with my most comfortable shoes. A win for me.

After I meekly accepted her ministrations with my hair and makeup, she gestured to my dining table.


I looked at her with curiosity.

“You need to decide what you’re looking for. What your deal-breakers are.”

I frowned at her, defiantly staying silent. She wagged her finger at me.

“You have five minutes. Five minutes! You need to be able to assess them quickly. Accept or reject.”

“What, like when I’m choosing carrots?”

“Oh, really,” she paused with exasperation, then grinned. “At least you didn’t say avocados.”

“Absolutely. I won’t be giving the blokes a squeeze test.” We laughed at each other. After tossing around a few thoughts about what I did and didn’t look for, I made a list and stuffed it in my pocket.

“Wish me luck.”

“You’ll be fine. Call me the minute it ends though. I’ll need a detailed account of each one. Perhaps you’d better take notes…”

I could see her mind ticking. I pushed her towards the door. “Get out of here.”

She waved her farewell and headed to her car.

After a tense bus ride during which I attempted to fall asleep so that I’d miss my stop, I found myself reluctantly walking into the venue. I chose a place in the middle of the row of tables, figuring that I’d be less memorable that way – buried, as it were, amongst a sea of choices. Our host, sensing an atmosphere of hopeless desperation, tried to inject a good dose of enthusiasm, but most of us just smiled politely and looked at the floor. The exceptions were the obligatory loud woman at the far table and the delusional lothario posing in the centre of the room so everyone could admire him. Amazing how quickly I could pigeon-hole them. I wondered if I’d been picked as the stereo-typical bookish girl who would spend an inordinate portion of the evening studying her shoes or the wallpaper, secretly wishing that she was speed-dating novels instead of men. We were ushered to our seats and the dates began.

Date 1 was a tall, lanky character who toured the country leading walking expeditions. He was nice enough, but crashed and burned when I found out he had no fixed address. Rule 6. Don’t date hobos.

Date 2 was at least ten years older than he pretended and broke the Peter Pan code. Rule 3. Don’t date men who dye their hair because they wish they were younger. I need to be with someone who accepts themselves for who they are. You’re old – live with it!

Date 3 was cheerful and jovial and talkative and overly positive. He was either trying too hard, or he just didn’t do melancholy. Rule 4. Don’t date someone who could be a Morning Breakfast Show host.

Date 4 was clearly besotted with the girl two seats away from me. His eyes kept wandering back to her even when he was answering my questions. Rule 7 with an exclamation mark. Don’t date anyone you need to keep on a short leash.

Date 5 was clearly devoted to his family. He had personal Instagram accounts for his mother and dog, and proudly showed me the dozen or so posts he’d made that day of his mother having her morning cuppa and the dog sleeping on his mother’s bed. Rule 2 kicked in. Don’t date anyone who’s failed to launch.

Date 6 was a macho guy who described his perfect weekend as one where he denuded the bush on his dirt bike and shot a bevy of kangaroos just for fun. Ba baaaa! Rule 5. Don’t date men with guns and a lack of empathy.

Date 7 was the delusional lothario who turned out to be just as vain as I expected. He told me that he would consider taking me out if I’d fix my clothing, my hair and lost 10kg. I stared him straight in the eyes and downed a massive chunk of chocolate mud cake, not worrying that I probably sprayed crumbs over him in the process. Rule 8. Don’t date anyone who wants to change me.

Date 8 was going really well until he unwittingly stumbled over Rule 1. Surely looking at me he’d realise that a bookish girl like myself needs company. Company that never asks for more than a lap or bookshelf to sit on, a pat now and then, and finely diced whiting. How could I date anyone who doesn’t like cats? I mean, really?

So there it was. I’d survived an epic night of speed-date failure. I didn’t have the energy to relive it just yet with my bestie, so I downed the dregs of my coffee and headed to the bus stop. I was standing there waiting, innocently blowing my nose, when I realised that my list had followed my tissue out of my pocket and was fluttering slowly down to the pavement. I reached for it just as a smartly polished leather shoe pinned it to the ground. A neatly manicured hand in a stylish suit jacket seized the list. We both stood up. I stared at a handsome, immaculately dressed man who was handing over my note until he glanced at it and saw the contents. He smiled. Then to my extreme embarrassment he read out each of the rules, including Rules 9 and 10 about not dating ex’s and not dating illegal immigrants. My face deepened in colour with every line.

“I didn’t break any of your rules, you know.” He’d finished the list and was looking down at me from his commanding height of six foot three.

“I know,” I sighed, “but now you would. Rule 9. Thanks Sean, but you just weren’t the one.”

“More’s the pity.”

“So much more.” I fondly remembered his cooking skills and enormous collection of travel books.

“Let me drive you home and we can compare lists.”

I felt my shoulders relax. He was familiar and safe. Not the one, but then again…

“Sounds like a plan.”


Checking It Twice: Work
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