Posted on 2021.01.29
I once had a Client who always structured our dates the exact same way. Once a month, on a Friday, he’d fly in from I don’t know where (didn’t ask) and spend the weekend with me.
Dinner at 8 pm and always at the same hotel restaurant, brunch 12:30 at the same cafe, and drinks at 10 pm at the same bar. I could set my watch to it. He had a degree in engineering that he didn’t use, but you could tell why he studied it in the first place. I used to play a little game in my head where I would try to guess the pocket square/tie combination he would be wearing at dinner.
I appreciated his monk-like dedication to consistency and structure, but it made me wonder if this is what life was like for him when he was at home. After nearly a year, I worked up the nerve to ask him before dessert arrived at 9:35 – cheesecake.
“Have you ever thought about trying something else on the menu? I was here with friends a few weeks ago and tried the spicy crab cakes. They were really good.”
He paused as he was about to put in the second raw sugar cube into his americano, and looked at me as if I had proposed we go skydiving. He quickly regained his composure and said softly, “you were here with someone else?”
I felt horrible when I realized what I had done. For him this was our spot for our dates and here I brought someone else. I could tell by the look on his face that he thought it was another Client, and I explained that I had brought another Companion to the restaurant because of all the wonderful dinners I had enjoyed with him. I even (truthfully) explained that I had even ordered the same meal that I have on our dates, but that my friend had ordered the spicy crab cakes.
The disappointment faded from his face as our dessert arrived and he was able to focus on my original question.
He took a few thoughtful bites of the cheesecake and sipped his coffee (now that it had cooled down to the right temperature) and replied “I have never thought about that.”
That answer answered all my other questions. I was fascinated and I almost felt a little sorry for him and I worried that he was missing out on so many things simply because he hadn’t thought about them. The way he responded made me think that he wasn’t against the idea of trying something new or that switching things up would be horrible for him. I think he just needed some guidance.
I reached across the table and gave his hand a gentle stroke and said, “I have an idea. Let’s come here tomorrow. Let’s try the crab cakes together and see what happens? We can still have brunch when we wake up tomorrow and go for a walk. But then instead of room service for dinner, we come back down here.”
He removed his hand from mine and took a larger than usual gulp of his coffee. Settling the cup back into the saucer, he reached for my hand and smiled. Saying nothing, he smiled and let out a soft sigh. I took this as my cue.
“Just once. If you don’t like it, we never speak of it again. But I would like to see you try it and learn whether or not you like it instead of never knowing what it’s like. Will you trust me?”
He smiled a little wider and I had my answer.
The next day, I realized that I had only packed the type of clothes I knew he liked seeing me in, and thought that since we were going to switch things up, we should really make the effort to switch things up. After brunch, we usually take a walk and catch up on what’s been happening since we saw each other last, and then I have some time at the spa while he checks in with work – yes, he even works for three hours on a Saturday, but it’s only for three hours and he always comes to a hard stop. While we were walking, I decided to press my luck and make another wild suggestion: I was going to go shopping and buy a new outfit. I half expected him to fall over, but without missing a step he suggested that I go to a particular store where he’d be able to pay for my purchase over the phone. Now that was something I didn’t expect! He was a generous tipper and I was hoping to do this little thing for him. So we agreed that I would surprise him with my outfit choice and if he liked what he saw, he could tip accordingly.
I knew from the look on his face later that I had made the right outfit choice. We spent the rest of our Saturday switching things up and the next time we meet, he’s already decided that we’ll be having the spicy crab cakes.
Photo by Unsplash