He wouldn’t stop stepping on my feet. We were standing in the atrium of the Royal Horticultural Hall in Victoria,
waiting in packed quarters for the ushers to open the doors to the Kristian Aadnevik Spring 2007 fashion show.
When I finally took my seat 45 minutes later, he sat beside me – and after apologizing for his clumsiness and commenting on the annoyingly long wait to enter the show, the conversation innocently proceeded from there.
He introduced himself as Ben Love, the founder and choreographer of the London dance academy, Ballet Soul. He was at the show because he wanted to hire Aadnevik to design his dancers’ costumes. Needless to say, he had G-A-Y written all over him. A mix of Kenyan and Brazilian heritage, he had lived in Kenya until he was 12, moving to Nottingham, England to attend an all-boys boarding school before studying dance in New York City in the late 90s.
His dancer’s body still evident beneath his pinstripe suit and fedora hat, I figured he was a year or two shy of 30. Conversation bounced from the models on the catwalk to my studies in London to the fact that the Prince of Norway was sitting two rows in front of us.
Ben Love was an easygoing gentleman, and I was happy to have met and conversed freely with a Londoner.
After the show, he passed me his business card and suggested we get a drink that weekend. He had laughed when I told him the names of clubs I had been to in London – it turns out I had been hitting every tourist trap in the city. He wanted to show me the real party scene of London; “members only” clubs where you pay an annual fee just to step foot in the door.
That Saturday night I met Mr. Love for a whirlwind tour of three “members only” clubs. We began the night with drinks at Sketch, where bartenders take drink orders via moving platform from the club’s underground bar.
The Brazilian-themed Moma was next, one of Madonna’s favorite spots for a good time away from the public eye. A few more glasses of champagne later, we left Moma for Hedges and Butler, a library-themed after hours spot where I met the designer, Aadnevik himself.
Around 6 a.m., Mr. Love let loose his love for me by pulling me into a corner of the club for a good old fashioned “snog” (kiss). Turns out this ballet dancer wasn’t gay – or, if he was, the mix of champagne, dancing and low lights were the perfect ingredients for a mix of female attraction.
One of the most interesting things about Ben was that while studying ballet in New York, he had danced in Madonna’s video for “Vogue.” I thought this was just “so great,” and in telling my friends about my date with a Londoner, emphasized his celebrity connection to the pop superstar.
When it comes to dating in London, I’m open to anything – a philosophy that explains why I accepted an invitation for drinks from a complete stranger in the first place. But it turns out that this time, I let my American naivete get the best of me.
“Vogue” is not a recent Madonna song. The video was actually shot in 1990, a fact I failed to realize when Mr. Love told me about his background in dance. My friends were quick to point out this discrepancy, and thanks to the power of Google, I soon learned that Ben had made his ballet debut in 1985, a mere year before my birth.
Do the math, and you’ll realize that Mr. Love was far from 28. I had, in the British sense of the word, snogged someone who was actually pushing 40.
Yet if I had known of our double-decade age difference, I would have let a great experience slip by and even worse, lost a good story to tell. Regardless of the humiliation of making out with a 40-year-old, my standards, or really lack thereof, still stand the same – I will go out with any Londoner, if even just for the experience. Except from now on, not before asking his true age.
So when it comes to dating in London, “just strike a pose,” cause there’s nothing to it.
Sammy Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.