Date #1

I had been to Soul de Cuba on a date once before, but not with a stranger. After my date introduced herself as Rose, we eased into the usual small talk of colleges, classes, and life goals. Rose stopped me when I mentioned my philosophy lecture — she was also in the class! So it turns out that my second date at Soul de Cuba wasn’t with a stranger, either. Because I sit in the back row of the lecture hall, I know the procrastination habits of my classmates well. “You’re the girl who plays solitaire!” I exclaimed. She nodded shyly and proceeded to assure me that she still listens to our professor intently — not that I was judging.

Rose is a Computer Science major (looking to make that a double major alongside Linguistics) and plays trumpet in the Yale Precision Marching Band, although she doesn’t do it for her love of sports. Discussing one of her classes that I’m not in, “Science Fiction,” got us chatting about our favorite books, and then onto our favorite movies and television shows; Rose got hooked on “Buffy” while at public boarding school in Illinois and cited her all-time favorite novel as “Pride and Prejudice.” After having overanalyzed Jane Austen in AP Lit, I couldn’t agree quite so whole-heartedly. (If any readers happen to be interested in my own reading habits, I recommend my personal favorite, Marcus Zusak’s “I Am the Messenger.”)

I found myself struggling to think of more questions in order to keep our conversation flowing. I learned about sleep-away math camps and how much colder Chicago is than New Haven, something I cannot begin to fathom, since I’m from California. As we enjoyed our respective delicious dinners — a meat dish for her, the eggplant milanesa for me and flan for dessert — I found myself relaxing into the conversation more. After all, blind dates are scary. Even when you kind of know the person!

I had figured that I would recognize my date (since I’m so popular), but I truly enjoyed getting to know someone whom, in other circumstances, I could have spent the semester just sitting behind without ever holding a real conversation. I don’t know if I’ll see Rose around campus much (except in lecture), but at the end of our walk back I gave her a genuine hug! I was happy to spend evening with good food and a new friend.

Contact Genevieve Simmons at .

You would think that, having grown up in Chicago, I would either know how to walk on icy sidewalks in ballet flats or have enough judgment not to wear ballet flats on icy sidewalks. However, based on the number of times I almost slipped and fell while walking from Silliman to Soul de Cuba last Sunday, you would be wrong.

Needless to say, I was the second to enter the restaurant. At least I wasn’t wearing heels. Then I might not have made it there at all.

As I sat down at the table, Genevieve told me that she’d never done anything like this before, and I said that I hadn’t either. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this date. I had technically been on a blind date before, Freshman Screw, but then my friends and my date’s friends had served as a buffer between the two of us.

We started by asking each other the standard questions: name, year, major and so on. When she said that she was a Cognitive Science major, I mentioned a class I had taken on the cognitive science of language. We then began to discuss this semester’s courses and discovered that, in a way, we had met before, since we are both currently taking “Philosophy of Language.”

In fact, it turned out that Genevieve and I share a love of language, and we found plenty to talk about, from language to food to books. We swapped movie recommendations, discussed the oddities of the public boarding school I attended and agreed that the plot of “How To Get Away With Murder” was completely implausible. (How could a law professor constantly abandon her class to work on her own cases and always call on the same five students? The world will never know.) The differences between our home states, Illinois and California, provided a jumping-off point for a number of discussions. I was more or less accustomed to the temperature that night (around freezing), and Genevieve was not. In fact, she was shocked to hear that during last year’s winter break, Chicago had a wind chill of -40 degrees, a temperature we agreed was horrifyingly cold. In turn, I was surprised that she didn’t consider Science Hill a “real hill”, as it was significantly larger than the largest hill in my hometown: an artificial hill built for the train.

While there were occasional awkward pauses in the conversation, for the most part, we spent an enjoyable evening. The food was excellent, and the conversation was interesting, even if we did wind up talking about our difficulties with the latest philosophy paper. By dessert, we were discussing the lack of visibility of queer women at Yale and joking about her brave struggle to reach the plantains at the bottom of her flan dish. We left the restaurant happy, even though she was shivering in the cold, and I was slipping on the ice in my flats. As we parted ways — she was attending a friend’s Oscar party and I had to finish an English paper — we hugged and said we’d see each other in class.

Contact Rose Sloan at .

Date #2

It was nearing 7pm. As is depressingly common this winter, it was bitterly cold outside. Despite the fact that (as my trusty iPhone informed me) Rubamba is roughly six minutes and 0.3 miles away from Pierson, I’d never actually been before. In flagrant violation of the unspoken conventions of Yale Standard Time, I got there a few minutes early and was greeted by a waitress and promptly shown to my seat. For a few minutes, I had the run of the restaurant -— no one was there on a Sunday night at 7 — and then Skyler, my date, arrived. Contrary to all those popular stereotypes about gay men, my fashion sense is pretty atrocious (no doubt exacerbated by my colorblindness), but Skyler was dressed sharply, with a nice tie and snazzy shirt. Don’t ask me what color they were, because I can’t tell the difference between blue and purple, and I was honestly too focused on not making a total fool of myself to fulfill my reportorial duties to the fullest.

Anyhow, Skyler sat down, and then we perused our menus. Skyler had been to Rubamba before and recommended the arepas, so I ordered a shrimp arepa. He ordered a chicken arepa. He also said that their horchatas were excellent, so I got a horchata too, because honestly, why not?

Having ordered our food, we started chatting in earnest. The conversation and food were both good -— the venue and context were welcome changes from the dining hall routine. We mostly focused on your basic Yale conversational standbys. Skyler is a junior in Morse and hails from Stamford, Connecticut, which is conveniently located quite close to Yale (although Yale’s proximity made it less attractive when he was choosing where to go to school). He’s a history major especially interested in material culture, and his classes this semester reflect that passion: he’s taking Beer in American History, The History of Food, Public Schools and Public Policy, Theory and Practice in American Education and Sondheim and American Musical Theater.

You wouldn’t think it, but beer is actually linked to a lot of labor relations issues. Skyler is interested in the relationship between different shapes of glasses and shifting patterns of economic and social organization. We take the things around us for granted, but, as Skyler explained, they’re contingent, reflecting the influence of specific historical trends and events. His education-related classes sounded fascinating, as did Sondheim and American Musical Theater. Skyler and his classmates actually got to meet Stephen Sondheim a few weeks ago, which Skyler considered a highlight of the class.

The Sondheim course, I discovered, dovetails well with Skyler’s interests. He’s extremely involved in the theater scene and acts on a regular basis. I actually saw him in “The Importance of Being Earnest” earlier this semester, and we discussed the wondrous abundance of drama (theatrical, not day-to-day) on campus.

I asked him a question that I’ve often puzzled over: What is the experience of being on stage like? Contrary to my expectations, Skyler said that acting isn’t about fully becoming a character and suppressing your self; rather, it’s all about maintaining your individuality while responding to situations on stage as if you were your character. Acting is an act (pun intended) of constant imagination, and repeated rehearsals help make the character’s responses natural to the actor. Skyler explained with eloquence why he loves acting and has acted since the age of seven, when he first performed at a summer camp. He views acting as a way of exploring the full depth and breadth of human emotion and cultivating empathy. Skyler said that he’d like to work as a theatrical producer in the future, although he’s potentially interested in law school, and we commiserated about the grad school grind hanging over our heads as juniors.

In addition to his acting and classwork, Skyler is a tour guide for the admissions office, does a fair bit with the mock trial team, and somehow finds the time to watch a very respectable amount of TV (he likes Game of Thrones, The Newsroom and Looking, among other shows). He says that he doesn’t get a lot of sleep, and I believe it! He’s a very interesting guy, and we had a pleasant evening. I’m not sure our paths would have crossed otherwise. Perhaps they’ll cross again.

Contact Scott Remer at .

Who needs Tinder when you have the YDN?

When I entered the Blindest Date contest for the third year in a row, I was expecting to end up empty-handed as in the previous two years. I didn’t even bother checking the list of possible bachelors that you, the YDN readership, could vote on to see if I was on it. I simply thought that an iPhone app (Friendsy, anyone?) would have to remain the best last resort for finding a date in the Dirty Have.

But I was wrong!

When I got the email on Saturday announcing that I had a date the following day, I freaked out a little bit. Who would it be with? What would I wear? What would we talk about? What if I knew him already?

Then I remembered that it was a blind date, meaning that the stakes were literally as low as they could possibly be. Except that I had to publish my thoughts in the YDN. Whoops.

I met Scott at Rubamba at precisely 7:01, thinking that I was so suave for arriving a minute late. He was there already, sitting at a table marked with a “Reserved” placard despite the restaurant being almost vacant. I sat down and we immediately got to the task of getting to know each other.

In retrospect, we did a pretty good job. We spent almost an hour and a half discussing theater (my possible vocation and his avocation), politics (his possible vocation and my avocation) and culture. We talked classes and majors, interests and hobbies, siblings and life at Yale. There were few awkward moments during our dinner together.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel like I was grasping for straws. The conversation proceeded like a checklist. Once one topic was exhausted, I would ask yet another question that two acquaintances might discuss on their way to becoming friends. As a result, the “date” felt more like “a meal” with one of the myriad people that I promise to reach out to each week. We rarely laughed and never flirted.

I certainly don’t blame Scott for the dullness of our dinner. He is perfectly nice and intelligent. He was well-dressed and seemed present and engaged. Perhaps we just have different energies; I am almost obnoxiously boisterous whereas he is a bit more taciturn. In any case, I didn’t feel the “spark” that I had hoped for.

I am not sure how to define “chemistry,” but I am confident that I will recognize it when I feel it. Until then, I guess I just have to keep swiping left!

Contact Skyler Ross at .