raw zucchini noodles – and rules of dating

as a consequence to my ‘on love’ post, i think it’s only fair to drop a few words on the matter of ‘dating’, too. not that i’m anything like an expert on the matter, mind (see: my inexistent success rate). but the couple of dates on which i’ve been throughout the last decade sure make me – if not a successful then at least somewhat of an experienced dater. there are really some things to say on the matter; either for your education or for your entertainment (i guess the latter, mainly). like, firstly, dates are generally and without exception nauseating. i mean, the word ‘date’ alone is bad. it implies ‘girl who wants to get married meets boy who has commitment issues’, all along. doesn’t it?
there was this brief series on the blog called ‘letter to men’, and the response – even back then when i thought i had only two readers (my mom and, well, me) – was somewhat overwhelming (i think quite a few of my male ‘friends’ defriended me after it, ahem… though i still don’t know why). but what’s the fun about life if you do not polarise, now and again, and make it a bit uncomfortable for everyone else, yourself included? so here goes: my dating rules for singles and non-singles (because you never know, it might come in handy again some time) as follows.
rules of dating
1. forget blind dates. they’re unrelaxed, unreal and very unromantic… and basically everything un-. you live way better if you just forget a thing like blind dates even exist. trust me. it’s not the way to go. yes, this does imply you should forget about online dating, altogether. yes, yes, you should.
2. believe in match making. rule no. 1 does, however, not mean you should not consider being match made, either. that is if the source (the match maker) is someone who knows you well (enough) and whom you trust (enough). then that’s a different thing. match making makes the blind date only sort of blind, maybe only half blind, and that’s kind of a-okay.
3. trust in cupid. also, rule no. 1 and no. 2 sort of imply that it’s vital to believe in the power of fate. or some call it cupid. it’s like the ‘sine qua non’ to believe in love and to believ ein chances and in happiness together. no good thing comes from not trusting in the power of love and the moment. fate, yes. brave people trust in fate. period.
4. expect nothing. this has got to be the single most annoying thing you keep hearing as a single: ‘it happens when you least expect it’. yeah, right, and you know what i think about you who tells me this? ‘people who are annoying are most likely to stay annoying, no big surprises coming from that end’ – is what i think. so leave them and their bloody horrid sense of warehouse wisdom be. but – and it hurts to admit – a tiny aspect of it is also true. namely that you should absolutely, before a date, manage your expectations. i.e: expect nothing. most of all, expect no prince on a white horse. that way, you can still be positively surprised, as opposed to being totally devastated because the date was a j- ending with an -erk (to spell it out for you). so much more enlighting to be surprised for the better!
5. dress to feel good. i’m a firm believer that there is no proper rule or dress code when it comes to dating attire. it should be something you feel comfortable in. if that’s your pjs (hello, soulmate!) then fine, but maybe save it for the second date? for the first date, go with something a bit preppy but not overly stuffy. i think casual business works well for both, girls and boys, for most (weeknight) dates. girls, make your lips look kissable (i.e. no sticky lipglosses and no cement-ey lipsticks, either), make your eyes pop (for me, only mascara with a bit of shimmer highlighter works best) and pinch your cheeks for a rosey look. done! it’s not hard.
6. be kind (also to yourself). i feel like this shouldn’t really have to be a rule on itself, because it’s pretty obvious, right? but then again, i’ve experienced quite a few grudgy dates, and we don’t want that. we don’t want to be the grudgy person – but we most of all don’t want a grudgy date. so, it’s a lesson i’ve learned in life: if you want to be treated nicely, then be nice yourself. even if the date doesn’t turn out to be what you want it to be, it’s still okay to keep your ladymanners intact. only show your teeth if you must (which might happen, so be prepared for that, too). it’s kind of like in business: if it turns out you don’t like the other one, you are still adequatly nice. and do not ever start to have self-doubt because of a date… so, okay, he’s bloody mister perfect, and you’ve accidentally got a spot, on your forehead, that’s as big as sri lanka? bloody hell, he might have herpes somewhere where you don’t want it to be (i.e. anywhere). so your spot is kind of like the minor problem here, right? if all else fails, imagine everyone around you being naked. gives you more comfidence – plus it adds that super sneery, cheeky smile to your face. bonus!
7. sharing is caring. you can absolutely be on a date with someone who’s not the least interested in you, but it’s still fun. and i’d take ‘fun’ over ‘exhausting’ and ‘awkward’ any day. but then again, it’s the decent thing to show some interest in the other person. i mean, it’s kind of the purpose of dating to find out more about the other, right? some people don’t get that though. hasn’t your mom taught you anything? pay attention. and then don’t forget to share something from yourself. it would be better if the other person would prompt you to, but you cannot always rely on that (gallows humour). so, when the time is right, just share some things about yourself. like what your favorite food is, or an anecdote about your last holiday. something from the heart, something meaningful and relatable.
8. drinks over dinner. i’ve been on a couple of awkward dates where you realise after 3 minutes that nope, this is probably not going to work out for you. it’s fine to give it a chance until after the first (or second, even) drink (prospects might be brighter now) – after all we’re not cruella de vile. but if it still looks gloomy after two drinks, then you should pack your lipgloss and iphone and teeter off on your high heels and make a cross on your chest and delete his or her number forever and send him to facebook graveyard. in other words: clear the field. if, however, you’ve arranged dinner, then it’s so much more difficult to escape. so my advice is to opt for just drinks, first, and then see where the evening leads you. there is always mcdonalds!
9. ex-files are ex-files. and therefore not to be opened. ever. because no one wants to feel awkward or second best on a first date, right? honestly, so many other topics to tap into! like, what do you love most about the city you live in? would you ever consider moving somewhere else? what was your most perfect holiday? but you’re fabulous and witty like that, you don’t need my advice, friends.

10. a healthy appetite is sexy. it’s the famous cliché: girls on dates never eat, they just fork around their salads. i, on the other hand, really need something in my stomach to ‘perform’ well (… meaningful pause here…). if we’re only going for drinks then i might want to remember that i need to eat, first (clearly, i always forget that part). besides, i don’t think it’s really indecent to actually order something. why stay abstinent? it’s social to eat, even the romans knew that. so order whatever you like (okay, scratch that: maybe steer clear of the burgers, drippy sauces, too much garlic and… you get the picture). ugh, what i can’t stand is a guy who gives me the impression i’m a greedy chick just because i’m hungry.  it’s dinner time? and i like to eat, period. okay?

11. offer to split the bill. okay so i might be a tad old-fashioned and rather traditional oriented (i make a habit of cooking for my boyfriends and i love it, heeelp!). but then again we also live in the 21st century, women have babies and go to work, we know how to use computers and stuff, we pay our own excesses. so, yes, of course i offer to split the bill! and it’s no biggie if the guy accepts. but… it’s still nice if he ends up inviting you. i’m just saying. we don’t expect it, boys, so relax! but it’s just really nice if he pays. accept, say your thank yous and flutter a bit with your eyelashes, that’s alright. of course, you can also invite the guy for a drink in return. a total romance killer for me is someone who’s stingy, overly controls the bill (2 bucks too many aren’t actually crisis-worthy…) or credit card problems. just a thing you don’t want on your first date. so pay cash, and make it quick. best unseen (you can always excuse yourself to the gentlemen’s and return with the payed bill).

12. charm is added bonus. same rule of thumb holds true for general manners: we like it a bit oldschool (i think i’m speaking for most of the women, now). we like to be picked up, we like to be escorted on a gentleman’s arm, we like to be helped into our sides of the car, we like to be seen to our doorsteps, we like it when a guy takes our coats, stands when we do and offers us an umbrella as we walk home. or his jacket when we’re cold (we’re always cold, might i add). we like flowers and chocolates, and it’s not a cliché (okay, so maybe not on valentines’ day, but there are 364 other days in the calendar worth coming up with chocolates). honestly, you can collect points so, so easily, guys! charming guys have such a bonus. just general attentiveness is the best way to win a girl’s heart, promise. and i admit, it’s totally my softspot. humour is pretty good as it goes – a funny guy can crack me up and i’ll be eternally grateful for him to break the ice when a date starts to feel awkward – but then, charm beats humour, definitely. if you want it to look and feel real, then better practice with your mother, sister, sister in law, schoolfriend or colleagues, even.

13. exchange bye bye pleasantries. even if you’re not interested after the first date, i insist on exchanging pleasantries and general, insignificant niceties when saying goodbye. it’s not about playing a game or getting someone’s hopes up. it’s about not making the other insecure. at this point, it’s the decent thing to ask a few questions about the future, maybe hint that you’re going to see each other somewhere, anywhere again (which, mind, is pretty likely if you live in the same city…). as opposed to wishing the other ‘a happy life’ (it has happened). a clear no-no to express a definite position at this stage. better to remain vague and polite. that way, you can sleep over things and make your mind up about how much exactly you like or don’t like the other person and about how to proceed – without any pressure.

14. on spare undies. will you bring your spare undies and a toothbrush to your first date…? gals, i leave that up to you. i think a girl shouldn’t really hop into bed with a guy on the first date. but then again, sometimes you might want to take what you can while you can get it (and i’m quoting a girlfriend of mine who’s really super in love with the perfect guy, here, mind). 

15. keep in touch. i’m a firm believer that communication has to be two-ways and, most importantly, well-balanced. like: message from you – message from him – message from you – message from him… and so forth. if you don’t get an answer or a reply to your last message, well then simply don’t write again! because no answer is kind of an answer, too (it’s called ‘communicating without communicating’ and i think watzlavick is the star of the matter, here). and guys, really, i’ve got so many girlfriends who do not like to be on the phone, okay? i don’t know whether this is such a big revelation to you (sometimes i feel like it is) – but we’re more comfortable to write in the beginning of things. maybe because it gives us more time to be witty? anyway: so any text message is much appreciated, promise. i know it’s hard, i know you don’t really fancy writing. but we melt when we hear from you! so, give it a go. it’s not that bad.

16. have fun. seriously! last but not least, it’s good to remind yourself that it’s not a game, it’s not a battle, and most of all it’s certainly not a championship. it’s not about having the best date and finding the best guy. okay, sometimes it is a championship… but it most definitely shouldn’t be! you’re doing it for you, and for no one else. you’re doing it to enjoy yourself. you’re doing it because you’re life loving and open and optimistic, and because you believe in hard work and fate. you’re doing it because you love getting to know new people. and if your date turns out not to be a date but a friend, instead, then that’s just as good, right?

okay, and now who am i to give you dating advice? i honestly don’t know what’s gotten into me. forget i ever mentioned it, okay? let’s move on to safer grounds, namely food. how about some raw zucchini noodles with lemon crème fraîche sauce, hmm?

raw zucchini noodles with lemon crème fraîche sauce

4 zucchini (i used 2 yellow and 2 green ones)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup crème fraîche
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 tsp. fleur de sel
1 bunch basil leaves
1 handful mint leaves
2 tbsp. olive oil

devices needed: a julienne peeler

wash the zucchini, because you’re going to use the peel, too. now slide a julienne peeler (yay, i’ve finally gotten myself one!) over the zucchini from one end to the other. the julienne peeler makes perfect, long, spaghetti-like stripes in one, easy swipe. of course, you can always cut it like that on your own, but it’s exhausting for this amount. anyway, so proceed with the zucchini, until the first seeds appear (the seeds break the stripes so i leave them out). now rotate the zucchini 90 degrees and continue to peel it on this side. continue until all of the zucchini (except for the bit with the seeds) is peeled / julienned. heat a large saucepan with salted water, and quickly blanch the zuchini stripes in it (we’re talking maybe 2 minutes here). drain them and cool them in the ice cold water. in the meantime, quickly heat the crème fraîche in a small saucepan, add the lemon juice and season with fleur de sel. arrange the zucchini stripes on a plate neatly (a fork works well to turn the ‘pasta’ into nice little nests), add a generous dollop of crème fraîche and decorate with tomato halves, basil leaves and mint leaves (note: i also added some leftover edible sour clover leaves, because they look so pretty, but i’m fully aware that most people don’t happen to have clover on hand, so just skip it).

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