Picture this: a giant pineapple, some live Jazz music, Salsa dancing, and a couple of Europeans; Alex from Spain and Anna from Sweden.
I was out sipping an incredibly overpriced Mojito, (if I paid $15 for one damn drink, you know I’m gonna maximize the evening), at a quaint Cuban lounge called Ball & Chain in Miami when the world stopped for a few moments so I could appreciate every little thing the night had to offer.
Let me backtrack for a second.
This was my first time in Miami, and although I wasn’t solo, Damon and I split up at night after we we were done exploring to do our own things. Let’s face it, going “Kale hunting” isn’t exactly my go-to activity when traveling, and finding the best live Salsa music to bailar isn’t his. After five years of traveling together we’ve acknowledged that it’s critical to “do you” every now and then.
I spared no moment doin’ me during this Miami trip. On our last night, Thirsty Thurzzz, I made it a goal to dance and mingle with strangers in Mr. 305’s favorite street: Calle Ocho in Little Havana.
Despite preaching the whole “Going Out Solo” concept, I admit that I haven’t done the most adventurous things on my own in the last few months. After moving to LA, I got too excited with having my own room for the first time in legitimately 10 years. Confession: I consider snuggling up with a teddy bear in bed on weekends and watching Spongebob the best time ever, *doing that exact activity right this minute.*
But, since I didn’t pack Jiggly, my beloved teddy bear, I challenged myself to be a big girl and strut out the door into the mystery of Miami. And come on, when will I ever have the opportunity to Salsa dance as close to Cuba as you can get without leaving U.S. soil? Exactly, never. I put on strappy Salsa-proof wedges, and the most Rico Suave looking shirt I owned. I flung my purse on my shoulders and felt a tingle of confidence, empowerment and even nervousness for my “Me date in Miami.” The only difference between this and a date with someone else is that I knew the evening wouldn’t end with the sour taste of crappy conversation, or an awkward attempt of a kiss Goodnight.
I know how to treat myself right.
And apparently, the universe wanted to spoil me too. I requested an Uber, seriously, it was a splurge kind of a night. I see a little car coming my way on the GPS map; “Alberto” in a Toyota Corolla. All of a sudden, his car disappears. Great, homie canceled my ride. But before I could even request another car, I see that a BMW X10 was 3 minutes away, Gilbert was on his way to pick me up. I don’t know much about cars, but I couldn’t deny that this one was fiooonnnnne. I thought it was a mistake, this can’t be for lil ol’ me. But no, it was. To look the part, I fiercely strutted down Collins Avenue to Gilbert’s car, and opened the most expensive door I’ve opened thus far. Das right, my solo date started with a BMW kind of a bang.
As if his car wasn’t already amazing, Gilbert himself turned out to be the sweetest man! Accountant by day, Uber driver by night. And because it was my first time in a while on a “Me Date” I had to warm up my vocals with a mini interview.
“So where you from Gilbert?”
“I come from Montreal”
We chatted for 20 minutes in a non-stop French conversation about life, his daughter going to school, and how I make YouTube videos for a living. He turns around and says “You are one nice girl.” I chuckled and told him he was “pas mal” himself. It was the perfect pre-game conversation I needed to remind myself that “Me Dates” are all about being as present as possible.
I walked into Ball & Chain; number one on Yelp for salsa dancing in Little Havana, but also number one recommendation when I was asking Cuban locals earlier that day where to go for a good time. You know they weren’t going to play games with their recommendations if I asked in Español.
$0 cover for not one, but two live music performances in different areas of the lounge. I originally came for the dancing, but since the Salsa band still had an hour to start performing, I decided to buy myself a little drank and sit in their outside patio where live Jazz music was playing. Five minutes later and I was $15 broker with a tiny (it was seriously puny), but strong Mojito in hand.
I found a seat as the only loner in the entire patio, soaking in the darkness and the warmth of the evening. The instant the bass notes and a “spangalang” drum beat filled my ears, an uncontrollable smile grew on my face. Within the first few notes, I was entranced, feeling like the instruments were speaking to me. I responded with sways and smiles.
When I broke out of my trance I reflected on how solo dates have a way of allowing you to really enjoy things without having to please anyone, babysit, or concern yourself if the other person isn’t having a good time. It’s all about you boo and I sure as hell was enjoying my selfish moments. I was that person clapping extremely loud to show my appreciation to the band; livin’ my life.
After a few songs, I decided it was time for a drink refill. Except this time I was going for the much cheaper beer option.
Of course, I made conversation with the bartenders; Victor and José, who proceeded to comp the next drink so I quickly switched my order to Mojito #2 allowing me to reason with myself for having bought such a stupidly expensive drink in the first place. I walked towards my loner chair only to see that it was taken by a couple on date night also, ugh. I scanned the room and noticed everyone was in pairs or groups, so I had no choice but to pop their merry “together” bubble with my lonely pride.
“Is anyone sitting here?” I boldly ask a guy and girl sitting as close to the pineapple stage as you could get.
“Yeah, you are.” The guy responds with a smile. I sit and introduce myself, because, why the eff not? That’s when I made my newfound Spanish and Swedish buds, Alex and Anna, who were also there for Salsa, but wound up in the back patio for Jazz. After the quick intros I went back to my Jazz trance; again, another perk of going places alone, you don’t feel obligated to have a conversation. But, it’s always nice to make random strangers your posse for the night. We’d all flow in and out of conversation on why they moved to Miami, and with extreme justification they responded “where else can you where a T-shirt outside sipping a drink in November with a pineapple stage watching awesome free live music?” Good point.
Time passed and the Cuban Salsa band finally started performing. It was bumpin in this place; and this is coming from a former New York City party girl. The energy was amazing, everyone was dancing and nothing disrespectful either, just smooth Latin dancing. Naturally, my body swayed back and forth with the clavé and the keys. Once again, I was that person dancing alone; livin’ my life. Men looked, women looked, and I would politely decline offers to dance just so I could continue swaying solo. After about two declines from the same guy, I decided I’d give him a try and danced to what seemed like the longest song in the universe. He was extremely Latino, and aggressive with his spins, dips, and twists. The music came to an end perfectly with his ferocious dip of my entire body and all I could do was laugh and smile at the comedy of the situation.
Just the thought that a few hours prior I had no idea that any of those people or scenarios were possible kept my eyes wide and my smile massive.
And then I exercised the absolute sweetest part of going out alone; I requested another Uber to take my sore feet home when fatigue hit. Gave my couple of goodbyes to the strangers-turned-pals and went outside to meet another comical and interesting driver; Luis, the horse trainer by day, Uber driver by night who’s accent sounded just like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He asked me about my night, I told him I was on a solo date and that I had the time of my life. He commended me for my bravery and commented that more people should go out alone.
I, of course, agreed.
I told him that I feel alive when I’m in the middle of a crowd of strangers and the nerves make my even more excited about solo adventures. He smiled and turned around saying that’s exactly why he left everything he knew and moved to Miami from Venezuela alone. Next level solo status and I respected him for it.
The perfect conversation to wrap up my memorable “Me Date” in Miami.