Recently I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. The friend, newly single after coming out of a five-year relationship, was lamenting how difficult it was to have a great first date. They had been making the rounds on Tinder and with each new meet up had tried to find something unique to do. Aquariums. Neo-Speakeasies with $20 cocktails. Adult colouring books. After a couple of months on the scene they were broke, bored, and no closer to finding a girlfriend.
A great date is a combination of a bunch of different factors. While ambiance is definitely part of it, there are dozens of unique combinations that determine whether or not people click—though I’m not sure I could really tell you what they are. After speaking with my friend I got to thinking: what did a great date look like? What makes a particular date stand out from the rest? To find out I decided to ask people about the best date they ever had. You can read their answers below.
Odario Williams , Rapper Extraordinaire with Grand Analog
Let me start by saying I don't formally date. I hate the idea of dating… I tend to refer to it as a social interview that’s wound up a bit too tight. Aside from that, I've never used Tinder and I never will. I've been fortunate enough to stumble upon interesting impromptu dates over the years. This usually occurs during hot sticky summer days in the city, with nothing to do once you leave the apartment. The best so-called date I ever had started in Soundscapes record store in Toronto. Back when the CD listening station was hot real estate, and we’d spend hours in that corner listening. Well, Miss Thing walked into the store and started listening to an electronica album. Right beside me. Shoulder to shoulder. She had tight curls. I’d just wrote a song about girls with curls and found it fitting that Miss Thing showed up out of nowhere. Let’s just say the listening station quickly became our intimate zone. Both of us were quite infatuated. Things got cheesy the minute we traded headphones and gazed into each other’s eyes. I remember there was a long line developing behind us at the ol’ listening station, but we didn’t care. It was a movie happening in real life. I just wanted to listen to her electronica and admire her mini cut-off denim shorts. We eventually left Soundscapes and went to her hot little apartment to, umm, burn a few CDs. Miss Thing’s bachelor apartment was extremely hot and stuffy due to the humidity. We were quite sweaty as the beats kept bumpin’. I asked if I could remove my shirt, as I burned just a couple more CDs. Eventually there were no clothes left alive. I don’t think I went home for three or four days. I love summers in Toronto.
The two of us were scheduled for this shoot. In the photos we were supposed to look like we were dating, so I figured we’d better meet up beforehand and try and get comfortable. I invited her to get a quick dinner, something casual. And at first I didn’t even clock it. I thought she was cis, which is a bad habit I'm trying to get out of, making that particular assumption—I was talking about testosterone and she starts talking about hormones too. I asked if she was also about to take T? And she’s like, no, estrogen. As we chatted there were immediate vibes. We made each other laugh. We had similar value systems.
Later that night at the shoot we are set up to look like a couple: boyfriend and girlfriend. So we get close. It didn't take long, soon we were acting. The chemistry was very palpable. We are looking into each other’s eyes. We are holding each other. I'm sure the photographer right beside us could tell how into each other we were. We finish the shoot. She knows a indie video game art party that a friend is throwing in their apartment. We go there but don't stay long, since we're more interested in continuing to get to know each other. We leave the party and take transit to a queer bar. At the bar we dance, but the music isn't our vibe but we end up intimate in a corner booth. We kiss. The kiss is great but we also don’t want to stop talking. We're riding a high, and it feels like a dream but she wants to go get late night Chinese food. Which is 100 percent one of my favourite things. We went on a nine-hour date without a second thought—we quickly made plans for a second date. We've been crazy passionate partners for about six months now. I feel very lucky. I'm so happy to have this warm memory to share.
Mark and Marichka Marczyk, Balaklava Blues
Mark: We didn’t really have traditional dates. We met during the 2014 protests in Ukraine and right away we just fell into revolution mode.
Marichka: Sometimes people have a weird reaction to that. They tell us that it’s romantic. Like, what? You think that is the best way to meet someone?
Mark: The thing that drew us to one another is that we were both inspired and excited by the heightened sense of humanity we felt during the protests. We wanted to keep digging and find out more about what was going on in our home country. We wanted to help. We wanted to share information and push for new ideas. So we would perform together, making music in the square, and volunteering where he could. But the revolution quickly became the annexation of Crimea and now the war. If I have to think about dates….the most date-like thing we did was a combat military training? We practiced CPR on plastic dolls and crawled on the ground during attack simulations.
Marichka: It was very romantic, obviously. The whole time we were holding these heavy guns. We weren’t allowed to put them down at any moment because in the real world that means you might get shot.
Mark: So I guess our first date was with automatic weapons. The next time we had a date was during a humanitarian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine. We bunked together in the middle of barracks surrounded by soldiers. In the evening we would sing songs for them and it was around that point—making music on the front of our home country—that I knew we were going to be together.
Ashley Grafe, artist/singer
I met Stephen when my band played Canadian Music Week one year. He was one of the show photographers. He introduced himself after the show but he was in a rush. We quickly shook hands, barely exchanged two words, and he split to shoot another band. To be honest I didn't really think anything of it.
A couple days later he posted the photos on Facebook and tagged my band. Underneath the photo was the caption: I only support hard rock when there are cute girls involved. Which, I know, but I also thought it was...interesting. I was the only girl in my band. So he definitely thought I was cute. We started chatting online and I invited him to my next show. Stephen is now adamant that this was our first date, though it definitely wasn't. Normally I would never call a sweaty post-set conversation over a beer or two a date, but I humour him.
During the "date" we were both incredibly clammy and awkward; I talked way too much about someone I had recently stopped seeing (whom he happened to be friends with). He had these very weird and very prominent tan lines on his face. At the time he wore a hard hat and goggles at work and they had left these tan lines that made him look like a Raccoon. It was all very bad, but for whatever reason we stuck it out and—surprise—it turns out he was the love of my life. So I have to say clammy post-set me and racoon construction worker him turned out to be the best date I could have. Because it brought us to now.
In my early 20s I frequently participated in the Toronto summer tradition of breaking into Christie Pits pool. My girlfriend Maggie and I met when I first moved to Toronto in 2010. Our first few months of being together were fucking crazy, and we’ve been together ever since. One particularly hot night, we dropped some ecstasy and polished off the better part of a box of wine, took off down Bloor Street together, and hopped the fence to the pool. The green water was so calm and still, like a pane of brittle glass. We each dived in, blissfully off the diving board, laughing hysterically and so totally in love with each other and young and wild and free.
I was standing nude on the diving board about to backflip and then with a great crashing sound, the pool was filled with bright, blinding light. Two police cars were stopped outside the fence, shining their headlights on us in a lawless ambush; a sneak attack. We ran across the slippery concrete towards our escape route, trying to hide in the bushes and outrun the cops as we got dressed. We got to the fence and she leapt on my shoulders, climbing over as their commanding voices echoed through the darkness of the park. Maggie jumped off the fence and as she landed she cried out in pain, clutching her foot in agony as the cops approached us, having long since given ourselves away. They wrote us up, two whopping $150 fines for trespassing, and Maggie’s foot was totally broken. She limped all the way home: the ecstasy and adrenaline had made the pain slightly bearable. Our “date” continued the next day when we paid a visit to Toronto Western Hospital, still laughing about the absurdity of it all and totally madly in love.
These responses have been edited for length/flow.
Graham Isador is a writer/photographer in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter.
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