Cao Fei, Nova

I went on three dates in one night.

I was in Shanghai for New Year’s Eve with a group of friends. I’d decided that I wasn’t going to check the apps while I was there, but a few things happened:

  1. Toward the end of the trip, people left on different flights until just three of us remained.
  2. M and B had been checking the apps, and were going on dates that final evening.
  3. I’d lost my voice the night before, and I was curious to see how far I could get on a date without it.

I sent messages to as many people as I could, explaining that I was leaving tomorrow, I’d lost my voice, and would they be interested in going on a date with someone who couldn’t speak?

This somehow worked way better than whatever my usual approach was (is), and I ended up with three dates for 6:00PM, 7:30PM, and 9:00PM.

My voice actually came back as I was getting ready, but I committed to staying silent. I bought some envelopes and a pen from a 7-11 outside the Shanghai metro. For each date, I would write down anything I failed to convey through lip movements and hand gestures on an envelope, and give it to my date at the end.

It was raining that day.

Some notes from then:

  • On the first date we talked about love and spirituality
  • About reincarnation, growing things, her friend dying in a car accident
  • About creating meaningful experiences
  • I learned a new word, and I’ve already forgotten what it was
  • I committed to the character and stayed silent the whole date
  • When we were done with dinner, I grabbed the bill and my cash but she scanned a QR code on the table before I could do anything
  • “You ask difficult questions. Now I know what it’s like to talk to myself.”
  • She skipped a dance class for me
  • She said she’ll visit California this year

  • On the second date I met her friends — all in their 30s and 40s leaving me feeling like a sugar baby
  • “I told them you lost your voice because you 玩太多了 but it sounds like I said you lost your virginity.”
  • We went to one of the fanciest hotel bars I’d ever been to
  • We talked about classical music and drugs
  • About cocktails and beach clubs
  • “We only want it if it’s super expensive or free! Nothing in between.”
  • She visits California occasionally and said she would bring her own strawberries if I agree to make her drinks next time
  • She invited me to her birthday next weekend (in Bali) – I think I’ll go

  • On the third date we met in a dead empty bar an hour after we were supposed to meet (100% my fault after letting the first two dates run long)
  • She spent a semester in California a couple years ago and traveled to a different American city every weekend
  • “God created France to be the most beautiful place on earth, and then He created French people to balance it out.”
  • When I finally started talking again she liked my voice a lot
  • We walked in the rain for half an hour to her place, which was the second wildest living space I’d ever seen, full of odd furniture, staircases, and doors to nowhere
  • We re-enacted the second and third acts of Before Sunset, right down to the plans to meet in Shanghai again one year from today

I traveled across what felt like all of Shanghai that night, but when I was done and texted M it turned out I was an 11 minute walk from where he’d ended his date.

I ended up meeting two of my three dates again.

One in San Francisco, where we grabbed a meal at SFO an hour before her flight out.

Another in that Bali villa for her birthday, then again in Local Edition six months later (a real downgrade, I know).

I haven’t been back to Shanghai since.