Date: 15th Feb 04
A juddering nervous sigh clambered out of my overly constricted throat…
Soon I was going to be in a room with twenty nine other people… Half of them were going to be the opposite sex, and I was going to spend four minutes with each one of them, talking about ….. Oh my god! What?!!!
This was ‘Speed dating’… the new singles phenomenon sweeping the nation. ‘Speed dating’ . Right now my stomach was speed lurching!
I kept thinking about what I’d been told on the phone by the brilliantly helpful organizer of the ‘Ditch or Date’ speed dating events. “Everyone feels exactly like you do” she said, “and everyone always has a great time, I promise you!”
It would be so easy to run! said a little voice in my ear, you didn’t want to be here anyway, you know you’ll never get a date, what’s the point? And in my other ear- you so do want to be here! You know you’ll kick yourself if you chicken out now! Go on!
Remember, everyone feels the same way!
I gulped my way to the venue wondering who had sneaked the lead into my shoes, trying to remember what conversation skills I had, and then it came to me!
Hells bells, what was I doing here? Who was I kidding?
Remember, everyone feels the same way!
Ok, ok, right, just remember everyone is going to feel the same way- I could do this.
I walked slap bang into a friendly smile! Hello! Said a beaming bouncy lovely looking host! Welcome to Ditch or Date!
I returned her infectious smile and told her my name. In seconds my badge bearing the same was attached. A friendly assistant gave me the form on which I’d write my brief notes about who I talked to and instructed me on how it all worked, so far so good! I took a sneaky look around and noticed with a degree of relief that several people looked at least as nervous as I felt. One chap in particular looked ready to make a headway for the loo at any moment!
We were a little late starting; some people had obviously chickened out! A tiny bit of smugness started tip toeing around my bones, damn! I was hellishly brave!
I looked around at the set up, you know, it really was very nice! Low music, candlelit tables, nice atmosphere, hmm, I was off to the bar to get a small bottle of extra courage!
I tried to remember some of the excellent tips I’d seen on the Ditch or Date website about getting through the four minutes with a modicum of dignity, but my brain remained familiarly lethargic.. gulp! I noticed the smugness had tiptoed out of my bones in much the same way rats leave sinking ships.
We were ready to begin! I sat opposite my four minute date, imagining myself perhaps staring the way a rabbit does into oncoming headlights-
Then the strangest thing happened, they smiled! Smiled and asked me if I was nervous too! Was I! Well, it all came gushing out! Before I knew it we were talking about each others hobbies, jobs, likes and dislikes. As I chatted away I became vaguely aware there was a goose in the bar!
Then it hit me! Like a thunk on the head from cupids bow, it was the time up horn! But I wasn’t’ finished! I had loads to say! Oh my god! I’d done it! I’d chatted comfortably for four minutes to someone I’d never met before! A potential date no less! I glanced nervously side ways, could I do it again?
My newfound confidence scuttled off quicker than a heart surgeon from a hamburger bar. But then the strangest thing happened again! I smiled right back and asked what they’re hobbies were!
We were saying stuff, but we were also sending and picking up huge amounts of more subtle information through our body language, which would enable us to decide if we would like to see more of this person or not. Hence ‘Ditch or Date’ (later the host would take all our forms, collate all the ticks in the ditch or date section and send details of all the people who liked each other to their prospective dates)
Well, it just got better! The goose always appeared long before anyone ran out of things to say! I looked around during one of the ten minute breaks (boy do you need a breather!) everyone was positively beaming! All the nervous energy had turned to bubbly enthusiasm! Many people carried on chatting through the breaks!
This was rocking! After the newspapers, the computers, the brief and unpleasant foray into the world of singles bars, I’d finally found the ultimate way to meet potential partners! And at the very least build my confidence up!
I realized I wasn’t even worried if I didn’t get a date, I felt I’d come across genuinely as me, and that was the best I could do, if my future partner wasn’t here then I’d meet them at the next ditch or date, or the one after that!
Hell, I realized that wherever I met them I would now have the confidence to chat to them!
I left the venue walking on air, caught the hosts infectious smile again on the way out and carried it all the way home with me! I felt like I’d just climbed a mountain!
And guess what! I got a date!
In fact, I got four!!