i spy from behind a pillar, trying to ascertain the latest in the long line-up of potentials that my parents ceaselessly foist upon me. My eyes settle on a tall, similarly discomfited specimen in his mid-thirties, wearing (No! It can’t be) a cravat! Even as my brain is crawling towards accepting the futility of escape, we’re suddenly face-to-face.
Like two captains mid-pitch for a toss, we size each other up, each tentatively coming up with a distracted greeting. Perhaps it is just my fevered imagination, but my reluctance is mirrored in the stranger’s steady gaze. Yet he isn’t a complete stranger for we have had a few absorbing conversations on the phone, and he seemed nice enough to be spotted with in a frequently visited Barista by friends who would immediately recognise a parental hook-up.
And he does pass the early tests: holding the door open for me, waiting till i am seated comfortably, and then zealously whipping out his wallet to procure two steaming cappuccinos. i decline a bite, not wanting him to know right away my penchant for all things edible. Educational backgrounds are discussed, career choices debated, music notes exchanged, and with some well-needed investment advice from Mr. Why-would-a-man-wear-a-cravat-in May, the awkwardness of the moment is temporarily dispelled.
A pregnant silence follows while we each ponder the merits of chartered accountancy versus research, Dire Straits versus Megadeth, fat pay packets versus petty change (mine, obviously!) and the fact that, well, parents will be parents. Then, the inevitable happens. He leans in slightly and just as he loudly asks me what i am looking for in a “life partner”, the music stops and suddenly it seems that everyone around us is more interested in my reply than their cooling coffees, Scrabble squabbles and tuneless guitar-playing.
i mumble something about needing some fresh air and stumble out, nearly hyperventilating. Is this it, i wonder? So i throw the question back at him. And, after a small speech on values and compatibility, suddenly, deliverance! He asks, ‘hypothetically’ of course, if i am the kind of person who would be rebellious enough to go on a girls’ night out while he clocks a self-inflicted 90-hours week.
Three years later, i can still feel the warmth of self-righteous relief as I walked away after five more minutes of polite talk. Now as i look at my husband sleeping next to me, i’m sure that Mr. Cravat would be someone else’s perfect match. and just when i had thought i had finally found mine.....Ha..Hah!