Annie Meikle, 34, agreed to a blind date (in the dark) and surprised herself
I have to admit, I was pretty nervous prior to the date. Mostly because everyone I told about it would grab my arm and say ‘Aren’t you nervous?’ – which, of course, made me feel anxious.
Also, by that point the venue had been confirmed – we were going to Noire at Fairmont Dubai, the famous ‘dining in the dark’ restaurant, meaning I’d now be meeting a total stranger in pitch blackness, which made me edgy.
I kept thinking about what would happen if we got along really well in the dark, but then he rejected me based on my looks. I know that I’m pretty funny, so I do well in a conversation. But Dubai is a judgemental place and the looks part really grated on my nerves in the lead-up to the date night.
Flash-forward to me sitting outside the restaurant, alone, sipping on my welcome drink, while couples and groups laughed merrily around me. I felt like standing up and saying ‘I’m on a blind date! He’s coming later!’ to quell the pitying looks I was getting.
I entered the restaurant, guided by the waiter (the staff wear night-vision goggles) and sat expectantly in the dark.
When my date arrived, I picked up on two things – that he had a British accent (I’m Canadian), and that he had trouble getting into his chair. We started chatting and were kept busy trying to figure out how to actually get our utensils to connect with something that could be food. The conversation flowed though, and my date – Dan – was super-nice. But ultimately it felt like having dinner with a friend or a brother, in the sense that it was pleasant and easy but not super-flirtatious.
After dessert, we were led back out into the light. After my eyes adjusted, I took a sneaky look at Dan and realised he was sort of checking me out too. And that, I think, was the most awkward part. Dan was more handsome than I would have thought and way taller too. I had pictured him being shorter and maybe older looking – I have no idea why I imagined that.
We then checked out the food, which the Noire chef arranged on different tables, and I felt a little sick when I realised I’d eaten rabbit because we used to have guinea pigs as pets, but hey, it was tasty.
After we’d correctly identified our meal, we had a quick drink and parted ways. Although I didn’t look deep into Dan’s eyes and fall madly in love, I still had a good – albeit weird – evening. But then, eating in the dark is never going to be normal. And, although I was dreading it, dining in the dark is actually a good idea for a first date because you really get a sense of the other person’s personality before you start judging them on their looks.
I would definitely do a blind date again... even in the dark.
Model for a day
Christina Curran, 34, glammed up and faced the cameras for a nerve-wracking experience
The panic set in when I got home that night. I thought about how it would look to my sisters, my family, my colleagues, people I’d never meet in my entire life, people I would meet, the kitchen sink.
Rationality left me as the tears welled up. Who did I think I was to be in a magazine acting like a model? The thought terrified and embarrassed me. When I was asked if I wanted to live out a secret desire as part of a series of bucket list experiences, I have to admit, being a model was not one of them. Having pictures taken for pure vanity seemed ludicrous to me. And as make-up was being shovelled on to my face, my mind yelled ‘I should have gone on a blind date instead!’.
But part of me was curious to see if plain old me could be transformed into ‘beautiful’. She was in there somewhere, wading through my insecure thoughts and fears and waiting to be set free. Plus, I’d have the pictures to prove it. After all, none of us is getting any younger, and if I could have some proof that I used to be young and beautiful, then this was my chance. I could even carry the photo around with me and show unbelievers. I could see the 69-year-old me thrusting the pictures in tired-looking faces and bellowing “See what I used to look like!” as my teeth dropped into my lap. I could hang it round my neck, right next to my panic button.
When the day arrived, the girls who did my make-up, hair and clothes were amazing and really kind to me, helping to put what must have seemed like a shell-shocked victim at an acceptable level of ease. I couldn’t believe how much make-up was put on my face. Even my eyebrows didn’t escape a makeover. I thought, “Is it normal to put make-up on eyebrows to make them bigger? Are my eyebrows holding me back from world domination?” Maybe. The photographer was equally great.I never thought I’d get posing tips from a man, but here he was, telling me how to stand. Is this where I’d gone wrong my entire life? Another bombshell dropped.
I had palpitations that night after it was all done. A full-length picture in a glossy magazine. People would look directly at my knees and think, ‘I’m glad I don’t have knees like that’. Or they’d look at my big hips, or think that I’m overweight.
Every little thing I feel is, shall we say, lacking about my body was magnified when I looked at the pictures. “Wow,” I thought as I looked at this beautiful woman in front of me. “What’s that weird thing on my arm?” My obsession with my faults obstructed my view.
But I’m so glad that I plucked up the courage to be ‘exposed’ in this way and to celebrate what makes me beautiful. It’s not make-up or clothes, but a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to do something that is scary. OK, maybe it is the make-up and clothes.
Either way, the experience has made me adamant that this year I will not shirk away from experiences that strike terror into my heart. I’ll at least think about it. After all, 69-year-old me is going to need more conversation starters.
The ‘Julia Roberts’ date night
Jenny Bufton, 33, mum of two, swapped her normal weekend plans for a night at the opera
Due to a very busy day of working motherhood, the lead up to our pretty woman date night wasn’t as glamorous as I would have liked. I was chasing time and left with a distracted dress decision while balancing getting ready with the daily routine of my children’s bath and bedtime. Not the best start to a romantic evening, but one that comes hand in hand with being a parent.
My husband and I have been married six years and we’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with two beautiful children. So this harried preparation for an evening out is not unusual. We laugh, we love and we most definitely don’t take life too seriously. However, if we’re honest, we overlook the big ‘R’ from time to time. Is any marriage not guilty of this after six years and two children?
After discussing this with my married friends before our evening out, I discovered that many of us become complacent in our comfortableness and end up taking our partners for granted. The day-to-day running of life can make you forget the importance of simple romantic gestures and how special a bunch of flowers, or an unexpected evening out can be every now and again. And what ever happened to spontaneity?
La Bohème is a famous Italian opera and is known as one of the most romantic love stories of all time. Neither of us had attended an opera before so we were both looking forward to a new cultured experience. But I was more excited about the romantic prospect of what felt like a traditional, 1950s-style date night.
After the performance we made our way to the Marco Pierre White Grill at the Conrad Dubai. When we arrived, we were greeted like royalty and shown to a private little spot in the corner of the restaurant. The sound of the live pianist and the mood lighting created a romantic setting that Julia Roberts and Richard Gere would have been proud of.
We took our time, chatting over a delicious dinner of perfectly cooked truffle steaks, scallops and foie gras, followed by desserts and a perfect selection of beverages, until we were the last romantics in the restaurant.
With the opera and the five-star meal, it was certainly a fantasy evening. And you don’t have the feeling of being spoilt like that many times in your lifetime. Who knows – maybe the romantic seed has been planted in my husband’s head now? Hopefully, I won’t have to wait another six years for my next Julia Roberts Date Night...
Nadia Wallett, 40, mum of two, packed her bags and drove off into the sunset for some solo exploring
Going away by myself Is a thought that has crossed my mind on occasion. Especially at moments when the constant balancing act of juggling family and work gets too much. So two nights on my own in a posh hotel in Abu Dhabi sounded like a great way to cross travelling alone off my bucket list.
I arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal Hotel on the first day of my getaway and it didn’t disappoint. In fact I wished I had made the effort to wash my car and found myself mumbling excuses to the valet.
Having had a rest, I made my way to the hotel’s Li Jiang restaurant, where I was escorted to a table for four. When I explained I was on my own, the waiter’s response was: “Ahhhh, you are on your own!” – which made my heart sink a little bit but he smiled and assured me it would not be a problem.
I found the whole prospect of having dinner on my own a bit intimidating until an inner voice told me to get a grip. I reminded myself of a funny post I saw on the Desert Wives’ Facebook page with the caption: ‘Dance all you can, they are all on their phones’. It was so true – I was amazed that, even if people had companions, they were on their mobiles.
Determined not to do the same I decided to be an avid people-watcher and take in the atmosphere. It made me wonder if, with mobiles and social media, we are ever really on our own? Not wanting to waste a minute of my alone time I decided to cram in as many activities as possible. I started off by visiting Shaikh Zayed Mosque.
It wasn’t my first visit there but I always find it very peaceful and calming. It was my lucky day – the mosque was hosting a photography exhibition. The last time I went to an exhibition was before my kids were born. What has happened to me? Why have I stopped doing things I really enjoy? There is no reason, I realised. And nobody to blame but me.
I had booked a mangrove kayak tour in the afternoon, which was very relaxing. You needed a minimum of four people so I was lucky that there was a booking I could tag along with.
I spent my second night ‘alone’ in the company of eight wonderful strangers at an event organised by a French networking group. No matter where you are, it’s easy to meet people if you are willing to put yourself out there.
For the last day of my trip, I had planned to do some more sight-seeing. But the chance encounter with the photography exhibition at the mosque had rekindled my dormant passion for art. So I ditched my plans and went to Saadiyat Cultural District for another exhibition fix and promised myself to do more of this sort of thing when I got home.
The whole experience was very enlightening. It made me realise that any guilt about spending time alone at the expense of family time is totally unfounded. In fact it prompted me to rediscover some of the things I used to like doing that got put on the back-burner. I have already warned my better half that I will be off next year for a few days on my own... Perhaps a yoga retreat, or a cooking course. The bucket list is endless.