The experience of being on a long-distance date was strange in some ways, yet surprisingly normal in others. I feared that it might feel somewhat lonely and plenty awkward. I imagined people staring at me, wondering what I was doing, or feeling pity for the girl who was on a date alone. In reality, once we sorted out a solution for the restaurant’s noise level (thank you, headphones), it was almost as if the rest of the bustling restaurant melted away. I stopped worrying about what other people were thinking. There was only me and him. In normal fashion, he told me about his day playing music for hundreds of young, aspiring musicians. I told him about the next culinary event I was planning at work. It was almost as if we really were together.
I watched the smile on his face as he enjoyed his french fries, his favorite guilty pleasure. We both excitedly tasted our oysters and held them up to the screen to compare. Unsurprisingly, he beat me on the oyster selection. Don’t get me wrong, mine were pretty good for a New York rendition of the NOLA favorite, but in the immortal words of Marvin and Tammi, “ain’t nothing like the real thing.“
As it turns out, the “char” in chargrilled oyster makes a real difference. While both oysters were grilled on the half shell, my Claw Daddy’s oysters were missing the subtle smokiness of oysters cooked on a charcoal grill. There were also differences in cooking time. Claw Daddy’s were lightly cooked, ever so slightly melting the cheese and leaving the oysters still juicy and semi-raw. Drago’s oysters were thoroughly cooked in their butter-herb topping until the oysters shrank and plumped up and the cheese began to bubble and brown. Very different takes on the same dish.
The evening unfolded pretty organically, save for one incident. You know that moment when it’s loud, so you speak a little louder, then suddenly the room falls silent while you’re shouting? I was in the middle of telling my husband that I didn’t feel as strange as I thought I would. Right at that moment, of course, the couple next to me, who I suppose had been listening, stopped and turned to look at me. Definitely an awkward moment, but I shrugged it off and continued my conversation. We each wrapped up our meals and prepared to go our separate ways. My date’s next stop was joining friends for pralines. I was headed home solo. This was perhaps the only moment that I found myself feeling alone.
All in all, I’m grateful for the experience and glad that we took a chance and tried something new. Would I prefer a dinner where I could reach across the table to hold my husband’s hand? Yes. But when that’s not possible, why not explore other ways to feel close, even if they’re unorthodox? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that love requires you to go the distance. Sometimes, you have to get creative about how you cover that distance.