Date: 5th Jul 03
At speed dater events, there are 30 men and 30 women. Each date lasts three minutes.
You write down any dates you’d like to see again on a scorecard. If there are any mutual matches, you get an email to let you know.
Speed dating is the biggest matchmaking game around at the moment – giving lonely heats the chance to chat up 30 different partners in just one mad, frantic evening. Now’s Chris White and Amy Bratley went along to see if they could spot their soul mates.
A disastrous blind date is enough to put you off dating for life. The mindless chitchat, awkward silences and the tedium of dinner with an unattractive bore can give you nightmares. But imagine if that geek you had to spend hours talking to was only in your life for three minutes – and you had 30 partners to choose from in one night. Sounds a lot more appealing doesn’t it? That’s why speed dating is now the fastest going matchmaking phenomenon in the UK – and the format of each event is simple.
As ‘Now’ Party Animal, I thought speed dating would be a walk in the park. I reasoned that it couldn’t be nearly as difficult or nerve-racking as some show bizz parties I’ve attended. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
At Tiger Tiger in London’s Piccadilly – on my very first date with Gemma – I picked up my shovel and began digging my own grave. Surely she too would have consumed a few drinks to settle the nerves?
Surely, if I slurred the odd word, it was all in the name of dutch courage and she’d understand? Sadly no.
After deciphering that she didn’t like alcohol, never went out and had the riveting job checking trucks for faults, we counted 120 seconds in virtual silence.
It also quickly became clear that asking the bog-standard pulling questions (What are you doing here? Where do you live? What job do you do? was never going to work.
On the first five or six dates, I gained the impression from the girls glazed eyes, nodding heads and stifled yawns that they’d rather have been pulling their teeth out than speaking to me. Then I copied a nifty trick from one date. She asked me less obvious questions, such as what’s your idea of the perfect weekend? After that, the ladies seemed to enjoy my originality until one girl said she’d already heard me try it on another date.
After about 20 partners, the patter was definitely improving and so was my ability to make a fool of myself. The drink was clearly taking effect and by the last few potential matches, I’d forgotten which date was which.
I spent three minutes working out that I should have been with number 28, Georgina – and not number 6, Emma who I‘d somehow stumbled upon for the second time.
Overall, I thought I’d gone from bad to rather good, then back to bad. This proved to be a bit optimistic. When I received my email update from the organizers the next day, it was obvious that all the girls I’d tried to charm had thought I was just downright bad. My message read; ‘Thanks for coming to the Speed Dater event. Despite ticking eight dates, this time you had no matches’. Terrific.
When I first saw my fellow speed daters, I thought I’d stumbled upon a care in the community barn dance. There stood a gaggled of men who made my heart and soul sink into my boots. But before I could flee the throng of Mr Wrongs, the event organizer handed me a glass of champagne and gave me a badge. I necked my drink before shuffling reluctantly to my table, where the conveyor belt of dates took place. Out of the first round of gentlemen callers, I can only remember the bloke whose armpits reeked. As he talked about his interest in sci-fi, I was tempted to just sit there and hold my nose.
Next was man in his forties, sporting shiny trousers that hung above his white socks. When I asked him what he was looking for in a woman, he said; ‘A shag.’ I suggested he took a trip to Soho. Then there was a blur of suited men whom I had nothing in common, other than that we both had arms and leg. But suddenly things started to pick up.
Out of nowhere, appeared three interesting and good looking guys. There was James a friendly psychologist; David a solicitor writing a book and Alan who made me laugh.
After that I stopped being so uptight and realized that with the exception of Mr Armpits and Mr Short Trousers the blokes were OK. Speed dating definitely attracts a few loonies and nerdy types, but if you can treat it as a laugh, you can have a good night. By the end of the evening I’d ticked three ‘Yes’ boxes and two days later, I got an email saying that the guys I liked had ticked me too. Phew. What the hell? I might just meet up with them.