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First, love yourself. First love, yourself.

The most important first-date you'll ever have

There's a difference between loneliness and solitude. Setting dates to enjoy sweet solitude means you'll never be lonely again.

“I cannot believe I am doing this, it’s weird,” I said to Beyoncé as I sat on my couch staring at the queen herself on TV. She waved her middle fingers in the air while a very attractive dancer gyrated around her. Hail!

I looked down at my planner on my lap. The day was circled by me a couple of weeks ago to indicate THIS IS A BIG DAY, and to make sure I kept my promise to finally go on a date that was long overdue.

A couple of weeks prior, I committed to going out to dinner with someone that I had known all my life, but fell out of touch with — like, really out of touch. After going through some heavy stuff and consulting with my YouTube and bookshelf mentors (i.e. Susan Hayes, Oprah, Jennifer Sincero), I decided it was time to rekindle the relationship. Some back-and-forth, some hemming and hawing, eventually lead me to set up a date night. I circled the date in my calendar and forgot about it until the morning of.

“Who does this? Am I crazy?” I asked out loud to … my dying basil plant. In the days leading up to it, I asked my girlfriends if they had ever intentionally gone a date like the one I set up. None of them had or had even thought about it. “I just didn’t really think I needed to?!” they answer-asked. “But since you are, maybe I should?! Let me know how it goes, enjoy mama!”

I was nervous. It had been years since I had a good chat with my date and it felt like decades since we spent one-on-one time. Surely there would be silence during dinner, how would I break the ice? How would I explain my absence? How do I justify why I went away and disconnected for so long? What excuse could I conjure up for not checking in? All of these deep questions entered my mind and I sat still in my condo working through them as my breakfast went stale with Beyonce in the background hollering at me to get in Formation. Yeah, girl, I heard ya.

An hour before “take-off,” I stood in front of my bathroom mirror and examined myself and proceeded to have what felt like an out-of-body experience, taking on the role of hair stylist, make-up artist, and wardrobe consultant. “Hair is healthy-looking. Well done sweetie, but it needs a trim and some volume. Let’s give it some umph!” said the hairstylist. The make-up artist chimed in, “we’re going to fill in those brows, and make your lashes pop.” Then, I turned sideways to give my figure a look. “The little black one babe, with new nude pumps — keep it simple” advised the wardrobe consultant.

About an hour and half later I emerged from my smoky bathroom (thank you high-powered blow dryer) looking and feeling my sexiest ever. I always took time to ‘look presentable’ for work and the grocery store, but it had been some time since I put some real care and effort into it…for me.

I took a look at my condo and decided to tidy up a bit (i.e. load the dishwasher). “You never know!” I chuckled to myself.

By the time I was done getting ready, it was 7:15 p.m. and my date was set for 8:30 p.m. I got up and announced, “let’s start this date early.” Threw my jacket on and called an Uber.

During the ride, I busied myself with my phone, thumb-flicking my way through Instagram. “No phone at dinner,” I promised myself and tucked it away as my Uber driver pulled up to the restaurant. My heartbeat increased a bit as I got out of the car and I felt it continue to thud faster and louder as I made my way to the restaurant door.

“Hi there, reservation for Maricel. I am a bit early,” I said as I walked into one my favourite restaurants in the city.

“Yes, reservation for one under Maricel, right this way miss,” said the hostess. I could tell she was kind of weirded out by the date too, but I had already moved to OWN IT mode by this point so, I didn’t care.

As I made my way to my table, I caught a glimpse of my date in the mirror and smiled. She looked stunning and it wasn’t because her make-up was ‘on-point’ or that her ass looked great in the new dress she bought just for this evening. It wasn’t the shoes she had on that made her legs look like they went up to her neck or the perfect manicure she waited three hours for. No, it was just … her. I hadn’t seen her (happy and feeling like herself) for so long. I had forgotten how she really looked. Her smile was unrecognizable and she looked youthful, not worn down by work, break-ups, and … life. After years, I finally saw her and she was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined or remembered.

“Looking hot, I love you,” I whispered to myself as I walked past the mirror to my seat.

“Hi, my name is Michael and I’ll be your server this evening. Are we waiting for someone else to arrive?”

Time to start this date I thought. “Hey, Michael, guest of honour is already here and I’ll have a glass of champagne to start. Celebrating a few things tonight, thank you.”

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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