When you grow up in a temperate (read: COLD) climate, a first date which includes watching a multicoloured sunset under palm trees, dinner (albeit top brass takeaway pizza) on a secluded white sand beach and a midnight swim is the stuff of your most unabashedly romantic fantasies and the holiday romances of your wildest dreams. They’re not actually real. And it’s unrealistic expectations like these that are the reason for the divorce stats they say. But when you are located in the tropics where palm trees abound, sunsets are breathtaking and you want to impress somebody, what else says ‘What you saaaaaaaaaaaying?’ or ‘Wha gwan rude girl’ with quite the same je ne sais quoi? And when pennies are not dropping out of those scene-setting palm trees, this is a cheap and cheerful night out.
However, the female recipient of such impressive first date overtures is suddenly caught in a bind the way I see it. If she’s used to a formulaic first drink in a public house/cool bar, which is trendy but not over-priced, nor trying too hard, nor in Shoreditch. Or a restaurant of similar criteria. Or (and it pains me to say it) the local of a cinema chain. And the evening (always evening) has pleasant enough conversation to confirm neither party is actually unhinged, with no major alarm bells ringing, and interesting enough to want to proceed to date two, and enticing enough that both parties are looking forward to it…and so on so forth with dating rules/life of a singleton in twentieth-first century London, I repeat, how does that dating animal respond to the new environment?
A dashing Frenchman’s use of the English language is always bound to cause hearts to flutter. Mine anyway. Their particular ways of expressing themselves are enchanting ‘I like the way you hold me’ and ‘j’aime être avec toi, est-ce que tu aime être avec moi?’ and their tendency to speak into a woman’s eyes (rather than her breasts) are just so refreshing, and, dare I say it, more poetic somehow. The last time an Englishman (admittedly a northerner via Nigeria, but an Englishman for the sake of this argument) tried chirpsing he explained how he liked that I was healthy. Fresh off a bout of long-term ill-health and 3 years at a disability charity my ‘see the cabability not the disability’ claws were out when I asked him to explain what he meant. Imagine my surprise when he giggled (to himself, I swear) ‘You’re fit innit.’ Lyrics, bredren. NOT.
But alas, I digress. My point was, when your first date is the stuff of your wildest dreams, surely date 2 can only be a disapointment? Or are there dreams to be fulfilled we have not yet begun to have? Tropical scenarios too romantic and far-removed from the temperate experience to be imagined. And what about the semiotics? Does a sunset/secluded beach/midnight swim actually mean that I’ve not been as highly regarded as I think the poetry indicates? Did I just get taken to Morley’s and I’ve been under the impression it was Claridge’s? Like, in the tropics, does a high-quality first date automatically include air-con? Does London’s juvenile cinema option have a different status here?
I wouldn’t of course know, (my mum’s reading this innit) but should the answers somehow be revealed to me, I’ll be sure to share. I should at this point point out that there are plenty of charming and sophisticated English gents who wouldn’t dream of taking a first date anywhere nearly as cliche and unoriginal as the brutes I and my small circle of friends have been subjected to. I am not swearing off English men, just remarking on how a Gallic penchance for romance, matched with Caribbean charm in a tropical setting makes for a heady seductive potion.