Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Rachel Wada/Rachel Wada/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

This week, First Person looks at the ups and downs of love.

We met the good, old-fashioned way. In a bar. It was a time when Tinder was inconceivable and computer dating not yet invented. I’m grateful our courtship was void of technology because at least no one could record our first date. It was an event ripe to become a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

Story continues below advertisement

It was 1983 in the dead of an Alberta winter. My date picked me up in a van I thought was the colour of rust. When in fact, the rust was what was holding this clunker together. The interior was covered with a sickly orange-brown shag carpet. A dye-lot of which I had never seen. Straight out of a seventies thriller, it boasted interior design elements one might see in a kidnapping movie, and yet I was immune to all of it. Considering the severely frigid temperatures, as long as there was heat, I was fine. I typically dated guys who drove shoddy vehicles. My experience was that they were kinder and gentler, confident and sweet – not needing a shiny fast car to impress or define who they were. This thing on wheels was the absolute worst car yet. According to my reasoning, this guy had the potential of being a gem.

The best marriages are a lot like compost heaps, and this is why

We arrived at what was the only authentic Italian restaurant in Calgary at the time, Mamma’s Ristorante. Once seated I placed my favourite shoulder bag underneath my chair unaware that the strap was sticking out like a lasso. Shortly after the drinks arrived, my seat suddenly jerked backward. I could hear a sizable commotion behind me with plates smashing and hysteria transpiring but I didn’t want to detach from our intimate conversation. My date would tell me later that he witnessed a massive tray of food launch over the table behind me onto other diners and then crash to the floor. His expression was stunned but calm. But I paid no attention. I sat with my back to the pandemonium, utterly fixated on him with no room for distractions. As the drama ensued, Italian profanity spoken at high decibels surrounded me. I sat oblivious, mesmerized by this man’s presence. I was blind to the fact that my handbag was the culprit of the chaos. A waiter tersely pushed my chair out of the way and adjusted the strap of my purse. Completely unaware, I was taken aback by the rude behaviour displayed toward me.

The evening continued as my soft-spoken date held me captivated with stories about his travels and work. I listened intently, the weight of my head nestled in the palm of my hand, my head gently cocked, my elbow anchored on the table. So entranced was I, that I did not realize I was slowly pulling the crisp white tablecloth toward me. When suddenly my elbow slipped, I smacked the right side of my face on the table while simultaneously knocking the wind out of me. To this day I am unable to comprehend how I did it.

Feeling like a cartoon character with stars spinning around me, I shook my head and giggled while feeling like a full-on jackass. I was committed to salvaging what had transpired as our food arrived. I ordered bite-sized gnocchi, the most ladylike dish on the menu. By the third bite, one little gnocchi fell from my fork back into the sauce. My face and crisp white shirt were splashed with pasta sauce. My skin was burning. I calmly stood, excused myself, napkin in hand and went to the bathroom to clean up and gently weep. The evening was a disaster, and worse yet I liked him.

I returned with some sense of composure, or at least I believed so: the evidence, spattered all over my white shirt and blazer, refused to be wiped clean. My date was gentle and reassuring as I sat there feeling defeated and hugely embarrassed. I didn’t want to get attached, and yet this man was endearing. The waiter showed up to top up our wine, which I accidentally knocked over moments later. It dripped off the tablecloth, like grape-infused tears, into my lap, soaking through my pants. My date struggled not to laugh while I sat in surrender wondering how it could get any worse.

The bill arrived sooner than I expected accompanied by two Italian chocolates called Baci, or kiss in Italian. Something I was sure was not in my future. We both reached for the bill. I believed I was asserting my female financial independence, and tugged at the cheque just as the sleeve of my blazer caught fire from the candle below. I smacked the arm of my (borrowed) jacket repeatedly and aggressively on the tablecloth to extinguish the flame. Delighted and yet speechless, my date grabbed the bill and handed me the pitcher of water. The evening had officially gone up in flames.

To console myself, I unwrapped the chocolate and popped it into my mouth, quietly asking for a truce from the universe. But the candy immediately lodged in my throat. Red in the face, hunched over, the waiter grabbed me and performed the Heimlich manoeuvre. Utterly humiliated, with the entire restaurant now looking on, my eyes welled with tears. I expelled the chocolate and struggled to catch my breath as mascara ran down my face.

Story continues below advertisement

We married six months later.

Djanka Gajdel lives in Toronto.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies