Picture-perfect? Belly dancing around the issues

The Background

For anyone who questions the power of personal ads, Belinda's story may prove inspirational. Thirteen years ago she met a man through the personals of a local weekly, and he soon became her husband. They were happily married for 10 years and had two children, but in 2002 her husband died.

As a young widow, Belinda, 42, who works as a graphic designer, says the idea of getting back into the dating scene is intimidating. "I'm an interesting and warm person," she says, "but it seems to me the field for over-40's with kids is slim!"

Matchmaker felt certain finding a date for Belinda wouldn't be too hard, and sure enough, a man who seemed suitable soon appeared in 39- year-old Mark, a divorced photographer with two kids of his own.

It all seemed picture-perfect, but, to put a twist on an old adage, a Blind Date Challenge speaks a thousand words

The Date

Belinda and Mark met at Bashir's at the east end of the Downtown Mall for Middle Eastern fare and some unusual entertainment.

How did you get ready for the date?

Mark: I cleaned my car (inside and out). And I found an inspirational quote and laminated it to bring as a little gift.

Belinda: I talked with some friends about it. A male friend gave me a great pep talk, and a female friend came over and helped me pick out my clothes. Another pal called just as I was headed out the door to wish me a fun time.

Who got there first?

Mark: I was first. I wanted to check out the place and get a good table.

Belinda: I arrived second, though I don't think I was late. The restaurant put us at a nice private table for two that was well-located so our conversation would not be overheard, and that was great.

Were you nervous?

Mark: Yes, a little. The last time I went on a blind date it was really bad. I was realizing how very little I knew about my date.

Belinda: A little, but not very. I figured I could have a pleasant time getting to know a new person. I had gone and looked up his website, seen some of his photos, seen his picture. That was helpful. His photos were good, and his picture showed him to be a nice-looking man.

First impression?

Mark: She seemed very down-to-earth and comfortable with herself.

Belinda: Good eye contact, handsome face, warm demeanor. He seemed a little nervous, and that was heartening.

At Bashir's

Mark: I had scanned the menu and asked if she was open to sharing. She agreed. So we ordered the chicken dish and a vegetarian medley (Hummus, rice, a lentil mixture, sautéed peppers.) Everything was delicious, perfectly spiced, flavorful, and very fresh.

Belinda: We ordered wine with the meal. They had two kinds of Moroccan red and let us try each. We both preferred the fruitier one– it was very nice.

Mark: The server was attentive and friendly. Bashir came over a few times as well to check on us and be sure that everything was okay.

Belinda: For dessert, we had the most sumptuous baklava with a rose-water flavored syrup that made me a little ecstatic. I spent five years of my childhood in Istanbul, so this was all like a homecoming to me.

How about the unusual entertainment?

Mark: A belly dancer came out just as our food did. We wanted to eat and enjoy the food, but we were captivated and interested in watching the belly dancer. She was really experienced. Belinda told me she had taken some belly dancing lessons. At one point the belly dancer came over and invited Belinda to get up and dance with her. It was fun to see her get up and join in. I was impressed.

Belinda: I know just a little bit about belly dancing, both because I once took a few lessons and because one of my friends has been taking classes for a few years now. It's a real art form, and yes, very sexy, but involves a lot of athleticism and technique– most of which is hidden when it's done really well and someone makes it look almost easy. The belly dancer was terrific– very skilled. I loved watching. It was quite mesmerizing.

And the conversation?

Mark: We talked about lots of things– our jobs, our children, the community where she lives, our extended families, where we grew up.... There was one moment when she said something that reminded me of the laminated quote I had in my pocket– it was a perfect opportunity to present it to her. [That quote was by Howard Thurman and said: "Don't worry what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive."]

Belinda: It seemed like a good give and take– and a good balance of asking and answering questions. We had some things in common, especially our focus on our children, and interests in spiritual practices, movie going, theater, alternative lifestyle choices, secret interest in the banjo! He's maybe a little low on the sarcasm, teasing, cynicism plane. I'm a romantic who also enjoys a good shot of cynicism from time to time.

Anything particularly interesting?

Mark: Her dad's job had her visit many countries as she grew up. She even could say a few words in foreign languages. (Bashir had told us that the belly dancer was from Turkey so when she came over to say hello to us Belinda said something to her in Turkish.)

Belinda: I liked that he's learning to play the banjo.

How did it end?

Mark: We got back to the parking garage and said "good night." A quick hug goodbye before we parted.

Belinda: He gave me a hug. I liked that he kind of announced it so I knew what was happening. He didn't ask for my number, though.

Did you have fun and would you go out again?

Mark: It was enjoyable to meet– and fun to be on a blind date– but I did not feel a connection for another date. While I think she's a pretty woman, she's simply not my type.

Belinda: Yes and yes.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the date?

Mark: 6

Belinda: 7

Both Mark and Belinda say that though a second date is unlikely, each is willing to give the old BDC a second try.