Good for you! You’ve taken the plunge and decided to meet your online flirtation. Sure, his photo looks suspiciously dated (when were mullets in again?) but then your pics probably aren’t so recent either (you haven’t worn those jeans in years). He seems quite sweet, even though he does say LOL a little too much, but he appears to have a full set of teeth, he has a good job and you haven’t had a date in six months. So what have you got to lose? It’s time to rip that band-aid off and see what lurks beneath–festering boil or a slight battle scar.
It’s important to inch your toe in slowly, no matter how much your gut is telling you he’s the one. In my experience, those sultry brown bedroom eyes of the online pic are just a trick of the light. It’s likely he left his bifocals off for that shot and one of those eyes is a little lazy. His written word may be lyrical, entertaining and witty but do not be fooled. Those words may come a little slower without the help of an online dictionary. And don’t be surprised if the deep throaty drawl you are expecting sounds more like George Costanza than George Clooney. It cannot be overstated that a life-size man bears no resemblance to a four centimetre digital image. That chiseled jaw that so seduced you in his profile pic won’t count for zip when you find out his belt is buckled somewhere just under his nipples.
My advice for meeting your online Romeo for the first time is the mid-morning or late afternoon coffee date. If things go well, you can always draw it out and move on to lunch or dinner but if you find yourself running out of tissues mopping up his tears of abandonment from his heartless ex, then it’s a simple “Oh! Is that the time?” and away you go, back to your computer to check RSVP for new prospects.
Here are my tried and tested suggestions around Canberra for that crazy awkward first meeting:
Bookplate – The National Library
Bookplate has many advantages for that fateful first online date. The beautiful foyer of the Library allows ample room to loiter unsuspectingly. Be the first to arrive and choose your vantage point to allow maximum viewing opportunity. If your date turns out to be the guy wearing acid-wash jeans and matching denim jacket, you at least want a little warning. Another great thing about Bookplate, aside from the stunning stained-glass windows, is the spacious outdoor area. On a nice day, having a coffee in the Bookplate courtyard is simply a lovely thing to do, with or without a potential new romance. If your companion turns out to be a dud, you at least get a great view and a good coffee. The lack of table service means lining up to order, making chit-chat in a food line up with a virtual stranger can be a tad awkward. Make sure you choose a table together and get the formalities out of the way. For your next move, try this little psychological dating test I’ve devised. Offer to get the coffees while he guards the table. If he agrees, then you’ll be the power player in the relationship. If he overrides you so he can order and pay, then he’ll be the decision-maker. Wherever your preference lies in that area, this is a good gauge of the future direction of your relationship. If he suggests that you line up together, then the date is over and you can pop into the Library bookshop and spend some quality browsing time on your own.
Caphs – Manuka
Caphs runs a close second for my preferred venue for the dreaded first time meeting. Smack bang in the middle of Manuka, there are no excuses for being late or lost. Avoid the tables on the footpath as they are generally too crowded and too cramped. You don’t want to be within earshot of eager diners stifling their guffaws at your delicate situation. Head toward the back of the restaurant for a darkish nook and peer through the fronds of a strategically placed potted fern. Don’t forget, you should be the first to arrive to prepare yourself for nasty surprises. He may tell you he’ll be wearing a blue jacket but please don’t let your imagination raise your expectations. Guaranteed your online man will be wearing a sky-blue PVC Parka circa 1988 and walking directly behind the guy in the tailored navy blazer who sadly strides straight past your hopeful gaze. Once settled, you and Parka are guaranteed fast, friendly table service and my most favourite of menu options, the all day breakfast. Great eggs, great coffee, great service and once again, right next door to a great book shop should the need arise. (Yes I’m aware of a theme emerging).
Hudson’s – Dickson
Hudson’s in Dickson is a wonderful space for a late afternoon coffee, being careful to avoid the throng of brunch diners. The spacious outdoor table area is bathed in sunlight and offers loads of unobstructed viewing to assist in your early observational tactics. It also lends itself to another favourite pastime of mine, given the lack of bookshops nearby–people watching. A veritable feast of Canberra individuals crisscross this little patch of Dickson, making your wait for Mister Right both entertaining and nerve-racking at the same time. Kind of like jumping out of an airplane but enjoying the view of the mountains as you plummet downward in nail-biting terror. Don’t live in Dickson or anywhere even remotely near Dickson? Exactly! You don’t want to run into your local acquaintances and be forced to introduce your companion. Polite nods and smiles won’t mask your nervous posturing as you stutter “Uh-um this is an old friend from Uni,” the obvious lie hanging in the air uglier than Sky Whale on a bright Canberra day.
A Bite To Eat – Chifley
Sticking to the suburbs for your clandestine rendezvous, A Bite To Eat at Chifley shops is right next-door to Woden but far from the madding shopping crowd. The shabby, chic interior is reminiscent of Central Perk from Friends, helping you to feel at home as you pretend to flick through a magazine on the comfy sofa whilst anticipating the arrival of Him. Of course there will be occasions where you haven’t managed to be the first to arrive. I should have mentioned this earlier but I didn’t want to put you off. He will also be angling for this advantage so without careful planning, you’re going to be the one on display, desperately scanning the dim interior of the cafe with a nervous glazed look in your eye, hoping that your Prince will be so charmingly obvious that you will lock eyes in immediate recognition and for one perfect moment, the world will stand still and the two of you will be the only people in the room. More than likely, you will spend an anxious few minutes at the threshold seeing not a single soul who bears a vague resemblance to your suitor. And then it will hit you. Like a punch in the throat. The chubby, turtleneck-wearing hobbit with a pony-tail and a cross dangling from his sleeper, a shy smile spreading slowly across his pock-marked face, is waiting for you. Order the double-shot espresso and let the ambiance of the cafe be your consolation.
The first meeting of your online Romeo can be nerve-racking but in my vast experience, it’s definitely worth the effort. You’ll meet some nice people, have good coffee, explore some new cafes in this gorgeous town, sometimes make a new friend and maybe, if you are very very lucky, the man that turns up will be more fabulous than all your online conversations could have prepared you for. Take the plunge Canberra ladies and while you’re out there looking for the one, don’t forget to be sensitive to the other party, who is also, just like you, on that same scary journey.