Remona Aly
Tuesday 14 February 2023 The Guardian

My most romantic moment

My most romantic moment: a former date bought me flowers – with no expectation of winning me over.

In the days prior to dating apps, an acquaintance set me up on a date with a friend of hers. He was a good guy, she said, and while he was quite different to me, she figured maybe opposites would attract.

We met for coffee and, as my date sauntered in, I had to crane my neck to give my salam to the tower-like man stood before me. “Hi!” he replied, casually.

But as the conversation unfolded, it became clear we were not suited. I prayed; he played poker. I wanted someone to share my passion for faith; he wasn’t that bothered. I wore a headscarf; he thought hijabis were no fun. After giving it a decent 40 minutes, I decided it was time to make my exit but he suggested that we have dinner, since we were both hungry, insisting that it would be on him.

Even though we were chalk and cheese, biryani and fish fingers, we decided to enjoy the evening. We were honest and open: I spoke of the excitement around my sister’s wedding plans and the fears we had for my dad’s health. He spoke of his love for golf and how he was ready to “be an old man” already. We compared our differences with ease and laughter.

I emailed a few days later to thank him for an enjoyable evening, acknowledging that we both knew romance was not on the cards. “Ouch, ouch and a big fat ouch!” was his response. To my total disbelief, he had thought the opposite. He told me he went home that night and woke his sleeping mother to tell her how wonderful I was. But with humour and good grace, he accepted my decision and we parted amicably, with newfound respect.

Only weeks later, my father was admitted to hospital again, but this time he would not come home. I had never felt so broken. On the day of the funeral, there was a delivery for me: beautiful white lilies with a note that read, “Remona, Deeply sorry for your loss. Praying for you all. If you need anything, no matter how major or mundane, I’ll be there. Please don’t feel awkward as I really do mean it.” It was from him.

I was touched beyond words. Having met this guy only once, and having not returned the feelings he had for me, here he was now, sharing in my grief.

My aunt, even while nursing her broken heart, was excited to see the flowers were from a man and keen to know more. I met him once, I told her, we weren’t right for each other, but he was funny and kind. She raised her eyebrows, teased me, and we giggled, even as tears were drying on our cheeks. The flowers were a moment of light relief amid the tragedy, a smile to ease the pain, a gesture of love with no expectations – I could tell he had no thoughts of winning me over. This was a pure move from a straightforward guy.

Even though we weren’t destined to be together, his selfless romantic act is something I will never forget.

This article was originally published in The Guardian on 14th February 2023. To view it click here.