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Dating While Southern (Belle) [Dating Ell-A]

Originally published 04/27/11

Los Angeles is – as expected – a bit of a challenging dating environment, particularly if you are from a culture two thousand miles away.   I grew up in a Southern city and compared to LA, my hometown feels a full century behind normal American cities, both in the dating realm and beyond.  So, after seven battle-worn years of trying most avenues to meet my perfect man in the City of Angels – including a plethora of dating websites and an “exclusive matchmaker” promising eternal love and bliss – I have thrown in the proverbial towel. But let’s talk about one of the dates that got me to this point:

It was during my 7 year mark that an unlikely matchmaker entered my world.  She was an enthusiastic businesswoman with a sexy husband of her own – a woman of good taste who described the potential partner she had chosen for me as smart (check one important criteria off my list), athletic (and another), and a business owner with a full head of hair (hair – definitely one of my most important criteria).  After her description of my perfect man, I thought I should dust off my best dating garb and set aside my dater’s doubt to see what this guy might have to offer.

There are “rules” to Southern life and especially, to Southern dating.  Rules #1 – always display a pristine set of manners, even when you don’t want to and especially if you don’t mean it.  Rule #2 -Smile a lot and tell those crazy stories about your Blanche Dubois-style mother.  People find that stuff funny.  Rule #3 which is not a Southern rule, but pertains to this story anyway -Open yourself to love.  This rule came compliments of my saucy French hairdresser who often doles out advice on love during Saturdays dedicated to good hair, lots of crazy talk with the inevitable conclusion of me leaving there feeling better than when I first came in .

Cut to meeting my potential partner.   I arrive at the local sports bar one Saturday right on time.  As I scan the room, I quickly see the table hosting my friends and the “guy of my dreams”.  He slides out of the booth to greet me.  She was right.  He is very attractive, although a little short for my 5’10” frame, but overall, all signs point to being off to a good start.  Conversation flows easily amongst the foursome.  I toss in a story about my rustic Southern upbringing and get a few laughs.  So far, so good, I think to myself.  As the night wears on, we discover a mutual interest in travel and running. “I just ran a seven minute mile today – my best time in years,”   he proclaims.  “I consider myself quite the athlete, how about you?”  “Well, I am not sure I would exactly describe myself in those terms,” I respond, Southern smile and rule #1 still firmly intact.

The table decides to order a few appetizers.  The dishes arrive and the wine continues to flow.  Moments after my dashing date begins to attack the chicken wings with a vengeance, I notice something unusual out of the corner of my eye.  The object was of a blob-like consistency, an aqua blue mound delicately placed on the side of his plate.  A more careful glance revealed exactly what this object was – a piece of sugarless chewing gum.  A thousand thoughts ran through my head at that moment– maybe there were no napkins nearby, maybe he didn’t want to disturb me by excusing himself from the booth or perhaps he went temporarily insane.  If he was interested in me, this was clearly not the time to temporarily suspend the manners.  There is but one question nagging me throughout the rest of this dinner – what plans might he have for that piece of used chewing gum?

Soon after contemplating my own questions about his chewing gum, the bill arrives at the table, and he quickly picks it up, thanking our gracious hosts for the evening and for the introduction.  Moments later, he deftly replaces his credit card in his wallet, slides his hand across the plate, snatches up the chewed mess, pops it into his mouth and begins to slide out of the booth.  (A total class-act move by the way, and clearly, a move well-practiced before meeting me tonight.)  As we exchange friendly hugs, he excuses himself momentarily and reaches into his pocket only to produce a toothpick.  “Sorry, I have a piece of that chicken stuck between my teeth. “  Object dislodged, he continues by saying, “So…. I had a great time.  What do you think about dinner next week?”

“It was such a pleasure meeting you too,” I say, eyes wide with shock and disbelief.  “Unfortunately, I will be out of town next week.” I am tempted to say, “And the week after that and the week after that.” However, I just smile coyly to conceal my utter amazement.

Word to the wise – if you are going to date a Southern belle, please, please read up on Southern manners, especially the part about chewing gum and lodged chicken bits.  Chewing gum or no chewing gum, chicken in the teeth or not, this guy was not the type I could bring home to my Blache Dubois mother!

featured image credit: Southern Lady’s Vintage