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Why First Dates Don't Work And More...


Kathleen O'grady is a Canadian Journeywoman, an academic and freelance writer; she has written for The Chicago Tribune, Canada's Globe and Mail, The Women's Review of Books, BUST magazine, among other publications. At the time of writing she was the Bank of Montreal Visiting Scholar at the Women's Studies Institute, University of Ottawa. Kathleen writes...

Recently I attended an academic conference in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Its quiet urban landscape is tucked neatly on the Holland-German border. Rebuilt almost entirely after the devastations of World War II, this European centre resembles a bland, North American city-scape and so receives little tourist traffic...

A Dutch "boy-man"...

One late night, after a long day of conferencing, I decided to skip the evening's socializing and settle into my hotel room to watch some Dutch television. It felt a little like playing hooky, so I opted for a take-away meal that I could eat in my hotel room rather than a long, drawn out solo-dinner in one of the many local cafes.

I spotted a Gyros sandwich stand across from my hotel and laziness, more than culinary craving, made my decision for me. After placing my order the young Dutch "boy-man" behind the counter (he could not have been a day over 17) asked me where I was from. My accent had given me away and he was curious to know what could bring a middle-aged Canadian woman to Nijmegen.


He turns pink...

We chatted - him with halting but accurate English - for a brief time while he prepared my order. He was friendly, relaxed. He rightly chastised me for eating fast food and not taking the time to enjoy some of the fine dining available in his city. I explained about wanting to go directly to my hotel room, and pointed to it, by way of explanation, across the street.

Just before my sandwich was ready, I kept the small talk going and said to him in a friendly, inquiring way: "So has it been a busy night?". There was this long, awkward pause while he looked at me blankly. Knowing English was his second language, I re-phrased the question: "So, have you been busy tonight?"

Again: there was a long pause. I tried a third time ver-r-ry slowly.

"Were ... you ...busy ... tonight?"

Now my young server's eyes widened. He turned pink; a look that I can only describe as simultaneous horror and pride crossed his features.


I am confused...

Some of you are already laughing, but I must admit that I was confused and had no idea what could cause this sudden shift in attitude. He seemed embarrassed when the conversation had been so carefree and casual up until now. Finally, after a long, difficult silence he handed me my sandwich and looked into my eyes. Shyly even apologetic, he said to me, rather softly: " I just started work and I have to work all the night."

I had no idea what he was talking about, so I simply nodded by way of response. I thanked him for the sandwich and headed to my hotel room wondering what on earth had happened between the friendly banter and the crimson blush.


I realize too late...

I could not help but play what I had said to him over and over again in my head to determine a cause. And then -- illumination. I understood!

I realized (all too late) that a non-native English speaker would have heard, from my most innocent query, the following key words:


So it was that I both propositioned -- and was turned down -- by a boy almost half my age.

And the Dutch thought they were forthright and liberal in all things sexual. Not so! I do believe I just gave Canada ( one boy's view, anyway) a new reputation.


Why first dates don't work...

I figured out why first dates don't work any better than they do. It's because they take place in restaurants. Women are weird and confused and unhappy about food, and men are weird and confused and unhappy about money, yet off they go, the minute they meet, to where you use money to buy food.

Source: Adair Lara, Welcome to Earth, Mom, (1992)


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