Toby and I visited Dans le noir ( a restaurant in London that serves dinner in the dark, the pitch dark). We read their website beforehand so we were prepared to be guided to our table and cared for by blind waiters and for experiencing food in a new more sensory rich way. We were not however prepared to meet other people!
As we arrived at our table and ‘felt’ our way around our chair, we discovered we were next to a couple on a blind date. A real blind date. The man had arranged for them to meet in the dark and have an experience of meeting and talking first without the typical perceptions and judgements connected to how we look.
The night was fun, exciting and massively revealing to me. I listened in a whole new way. I reached a level of comfort and authenticity with them in moments that I would usually only find with close friends over a long time. Fuelled by the safety of darkness we decided to offer real feedback of what we ‘thought’ we each look liked based on our voices and mannerisms. Firstly treading lightly ‘tall’ ‘dark haired’ and then warming up to ‘I think you’re the kind of person you could really depend on, salt of the earth’. My perception was that this couple had been together for a long time. To me they sounded connected, rapportful and very much in love. I was so shocked to discover that they had only just met and had not even seen each other yet.
Once our meals were finished (not that we really knew if there was food left over or not…) we were guided back out into the lit bar and could suddenly ‘see’ our dining companions. We continued chatting about our experience over a drink but then slowly the conversation became slower and more difficult. To me, it was as if the visual perceptions and judgements kicked in. Something shifted now that we could see each other. I dislike the part of me that now felt the couple seemed a bit oddly matched. In what way was I now judging based on appearance? Having an hour and a half in the dark without this filter was liberating, but I don’t usually live in darkness – so I must therefore judge appearances all the time. An uncomfortable learning.
If you get the chance (or make the chance) I recommend going. The experience of being cared for and waited on by my waitress Lisa was also memorable. For a couple of hours she guided me safely around her world, in such a way that I felt privileged to be in the dark. It was a celebration of darkness not a ‘guilt trip’ as some may expect. Of course your experience may well vary from mine, but if you are interested in learning about yourself and how you experience and respond to different situations (and indeed how others do to) then this will be right up your street!
We left the restaurant on a high filled with questions – many of which remain unanswered. Who am I when the lights are off? and in what way does that vary to when they are on? Do I use my ability to see others as a way of judging them too? Do you?
As for the couple, he had arranged for ‘another’ surprise and they headed off into the west end. My hope for them is that they continue to have the insight that the darkness created.