About seven or eight years ago, I was preparing to go on my second date with a guy I had met through Tinder — when it didn’t have a complete reputation as the dating app for hook-ups.
Initially, neither of us had messaged. And then one afternoon at the hairdressers, I found myself looking in the mirror at a guy behind me also getting his hair done, who looked remarkably like someone I had met on…
I messaged him afterwards and, sure enough, it was the same guy.
I don’t remember where we went on our first date (clearly a sign of a good first impression), but what I do remember is our second date — at nandos.
Don’t get me wrong, I love fine-dining, stunning service and silverware, but I also don’t mind the conveyor belt busyness of table numbers and ordering your own — so I suggested getting to know each other better over some chicken and chips.
I arrived on time and waited — for ten minutes. And then another ten minutes — with no message. Had I been stood up? Of course, I know now that after the first ten minutes, I should have picked up my things and left without a moment’s pause. What am I doing letting ten minutes of my life dribble away? But I was relatively new to dating and thus all about giving people second and third chances, even when they didn’t deserve them and red flags popped up like spots on a teenager— so I waited longer.
A full half an hour passed before he positively strolled through the door
‘Sorry I’m late — I was at my relative’s house with my mum and it ran over.’
I’m sorry, what? You were passively sitting on a sofa discussing neighbours and weekend plans with your mum while I’ve practically made myself at home at table 47, without even sending over a few words to let me know that you would be late?
I looked at him, waiting for more, but that was all. He had nothing else to say and I wasn’t about to argue in nandos — not least because I knew I was already hangry. I had waited half an hour — I would at least get a meal out of this.
We sat down and he quickly decided his order — I had of course already considered the entire menu. Making as if to get up, I stopped him and said that I would go order because I had allergies. Unlike other restaurants, every branch of nandos has an allergy book that details the full list of ingredients in every meal. He agreed and sat back down. I hovered for a second or two while he dug around in his back pocket for cash to pay his part — to be honest, I was hoping that he would pay for my side too, as a flimsy apology for his lateness.
He pulled out his phone.
Ok, so he’ll probably pay me once I come back to the table, I thought.
Five minutes later and I rejoined the table, placing the receipt in the middle so that he wouldn’t have to ask. Still captivated by messages on his phone, he hadn’t moved since I left, so I got up again to fetch the cutlery and sauces too. He had come to eat it seemed, and I had come to serve — charming.
Our food arrived
Meanwhile, we were hopping on and off one topic after another like a game of hopscotch in shallow water. And then, somehow, the conversation turned to marriage. Apparently, while I had been waiting out my hunger, his relatives had been engaged in a discussion about weddings.
He spoke about the weddings in his family and the number he was attending this year. And then I asked about his own thoughts:
‘What if your girlfriend said that she didn’t want to change her last name? How would you feel about that?’
He looked at me as though I’d just devoured a whole chicken.
‘Ah nah,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t have that — that would show that I’m whipped init.’
I mean, it didn’t need another nail in the coffin — the coffin was already locked when he showed up half an hour late and then also didn’t pay (yep that receipt was ignored). But if you did ever need a final nail to firmly shut whatever this was for good, this was most definitely it.
You wouldn’t have what, exactly? You wouldn’t give your girlfriend permission to keep her own name? As though you somehow own her? There are not enough question marks in the world.
I don’t believe that I, or any other woman out there and about to get married, has to change her surname for anyone, ever. My name has sentimental value — I’ve built a whole life on it, I’ve developed my writing skills under it, signing every short story, poem and essay with a two-part name that is associated with my whole history.
However, while valued, I also don’t mind changing it for the right person. But if it happens, it will be because I want to and never because I must. No one should feel entitled to have your surname — I felt like telling my date that a spouse isn’t your property, waiting to be branded. And if that makes you feel weak or ‘whipped’ as he so eloquently phrased, then work on taking down your ego. Unaddressed, it’s something that will live to feed itself and damage your relationships along the way.
After all, the mark of a confident man isn’t to show the world that your spouse now bears the family name, it’s loving them for who they are, wanting them to be happy and actually, that goes way beyond the syllabic limits of a name.
In freedom we come together, in force we break apart
There was so much that I could have said to my date, as I sat there finishing off my food. But really, I knew the mental space between us was so great that there really wasn’t any point. So, I just got up, left and made sure to schedule all future hairdressing appointments with a little extra care.