Date: 5th Jul 03
BRITAIN’S 11.5 million singles are trying newer and wackier ways to find love.
In Day Two of our special investigation into the nation’s dating and mating rituals in the 21st century, we reveal how speed dating has become big business.
We sent JANE BARNES to find out whether you can hurry love and what you are likely to get for your money.
Here she tells us how she got on and gives her verdict on the experience.
SEX experts say it takes less than a minute to decide if you fancy someone — I knew in ten seconds Jonathan wasn’t for me. His greasy hair, chewed nails and lack of conversation had killed his chances dead.
But there were still another 170 gruelling seconds to go.
Welcome to the world of three-minute speed dating, the UK’s fastest growing matchmaking phenomenon.
Made famous by Miranda in TV’s Sex And The City, speed dating was invented by a Rabbi in LA — where else? It proved so successful it has now been copied all over the world.
I joined an event run by Speed Dater, Britain’s biggest speed dating company. The venue was a plush bar in London’s Soho where 100 love-hungry singles were taking part.
Daters are given a badge with a number plus a scorecard. They put a tick against dates they want to see again.
The company compares cards and those who have ticked each other are sent contact details. What they do then is up to them.
At £25 a night, the service isn’t cheap. But the organisers say high prices keep timewasters away.
Before the dating began, organiser Emma read the rules.
She begged us not to tick “No” before our dates had even sat down — and ordered us NOT to talk about sex.
Three minutes isn’t long to find out all you can about the person sitting opposite. And at a big event you will not meet everyone.
But with the chance to chat to more than 30 possible partners you must keep moving when the bell rings to say time is up.
7.30pm: My first date was James, 24, a recruitment manager from Reigate, Surrey. He was funny and sexy. James said: “It makes it easier when you know a girl’s single. There’s less chance of getting rejected.”
7.33: Next was handsome Anthony, 24, an advertising salesman from West London. He had a good job and lots of dosh, but at 32 I was too old.
7.36: Then came Ant’s pal Phil. Tall and dark, he was fresh out of a relationship. Now my age was a bonus. He leaned over and drooled: “I like older women. They have more experience...” Next!
7.39: The bell sounded and Rob sat down. He was tanned from travelling in Thailand. Lots of girls had been eyeing him up and I was sure he’d get loads of ticks. But poor Rob revealed he was a speed date virgin — and “terrified”.
7.42: Chris, a chiropodist from Surrey. He was quiet but cute — and embarrassed to be speed dating. Chris said: “I came along as all my pals are married so I feel like the odd one out.”
7.45: Geoff spent his three minutes fondling my feet — a definite “No” on my scorecard.
7.48: My last date before the break was Jonathan — the gloomy IT manager I’d mentioned earlier. He’d been on several speed dating nights but hadn’t found a match.
I could see why, but he wasn’t a typical dater. Speed Dater founder Simon Proctor explained: “Occasionally we get the odd person who’s been looking for love for a long time. But daters can smell desperation.”
After a short break and more booze, we were back to the dating.
8pm: Sexy Sergio, 32, was a Latino hunk from Finchley, North London, who worked in catering.
He said: “I work long hours so it’s hard to meet people.” But he was so dishy he probably wouldn’t have long to wait.
8.03: BBC worker Chris was a real turn-on. Tall, dark and handsome, I was amazed he hadn’t been snapped up. Our three minutes flashed by.
8.06: Chris was replaced by randy Ross, 25, a marketing manger from Waterloo, South London, who said: “The girls all want to meet someone serious but guys come to get laid.”
Cheers ... teacher Michael jokes with Jane
8.09pm: Teacher Michael was a better bet. The 33- year-old from Wapping, East London, joked: “We can’t date the pupils or the mums so this is the best place to start.”
8.12pm: Hunky banker Simon, from Guildford, Surrey, agreed. “This is much better than a normal night out,” he said. “I’ve chatted up 30 girls in one go and it could take me months to do that.”
But it’s not just the blokes who rate speed dating.
City worker Joanne, from East London, said: “I’d definitely do it again.
You can tell in 30 seconds if you fancy a fella, so you’re not wasting time with boring blokes.”
By the end I’d met 30 fellas — I’d hardly done that in my life!
Simon, who set up Speed Dater last year, said: “All we do is maximise your chances of meeting someone — it’s like ten nights out rolled into one.
We won’t promise you’ll meet the love of your life but you will have fun.”
Simon, 33, met his partner Sue at an event and claims 80 per cent of his clients meet a match.
VERDICT: The event was exhausting but fast and fun. It certainly beats blind dates with awkward silences and Internet dates who lie about their age and looks.
I proudly ended up with 12 ticks — guys who wanted to see me again — I had ticked three of those.
OK, I didn’t meet Mr Right but I did find a few Mr Maybes.
PS. My non-participating pal, who was waiting for me at the bar, got off with a gorgeous guy who was waiting for his speed-dating friend.