A few years ago, for a dare, I went Speed Dating once (ok twice, shhh).
Somebody challenged me to go, therefore in my mind it felt socially acceptable. If anybody else subsequently found out and mocked me, I had a ready excuse: “Oh, it’s not what you think, I’m not that sad, I just went for a bet.”
The person that dared me … was me. The wag.
Women 23-35, Men 24-36. I applied online, and without any CRB checks and a brief exchange of monies, they invited me along.
I was to become a speed dater. A dream realised.
There was no way I was turning up by myself however, so I ‘dragged’ along a friend, whose Bill Ross shall remain nameless. It gave us a safety and credence together – we’re not loners, we’re not desperate, and if you all turn us down then we’ll still have each other.
“Don’t be nervous,” the booking email said. “Jeans, shirts and pretty tops,” the email said. “Be yourself and relax,” it said. And so relax we did, booking the afternoon off work, heading straight to the pub, and drinking pints of relaxing, frothy juice in our jeans and pretty tops.
At 7pm, 20 keen ladies were awaiting us in Tantra, a boutique club in Nottingham, which described itself as “sassy, classy, passionate and intimate”. It was billed as the place to be seen … if you were trying too hard to be seen, that is.
Hmmm, sounded right up me and Billynonymous’ street.
Upon arrival we were greeted by an excitable middle-aged woman, who presented us each with a name badge (lol) and a ‘Speeding Ticket’ (double lol). We grabbed a drink, awkwardly mingled without wasting any valuable conversation topics, and awaited the bell to be rung.
The ladies were then invited to sprawl themselves out numerically on beds strewn around the dance floor (sexy boudoir club, remember), while the DJ spun some laced beats, and incense was pumped into the air. No joke! Apparently it made the “sexual energy beautiful”. No joke!
Being number 20, I started with my opposite number, had 4 minutes of sophisticated chat, then moved in rotation on to the next number. As you moved around the room, you filled in your Speeding Ticket (stop it) with snippets of first-impressions, to read back later and wonder WTF.
Within 2 hours, I’d had 20 dates, 4 more beers … and, honestly, kinda a good time. Breaking the ice each time was easy, because we all had something in common. “My friend dared me to come” … “Oh snap, mine too!” … “Wow, we are so compatible! So marmite, love it or hate it?” …
And so it went on. Brief, random conversations with brief, random women, until the little bell rang and off you rolled to the next bed. Shoeless, of course, we weren’t animals (that wear shoes).
At the end of the allotted time, my stranger danger was gone, my vision was rather hazy (probably the incense), and my Speeding Ticket was utter nonsense. A series of ticks and crosses and useless characteristic morsels such as: ‘likes turtles’, ‘lesbian?’, ‘colour-blind’ and ‘hungry’. Nothing there of any value to possibly remind me of who they might have been … except perhaps the last one.
Which actually wasn’t bothering me at the time, because I had my eye solely on a pretty, dark-haired girl called Emma. Or No.10, as I affectionately knew her.
When the event ended, Emma had left to get back to Coventry, so all I could do was hope that we were a ‘4 minute match’. That I’d stood out to her amongst 19 other males on the roundabout. That my Essex charm had bewitched her, or at least that she’d understood my accent.
Some of us stayed on in the club afterwards, socialising without the bell, whimsically wearing our shoes, now inwardly ticking or crossing each others faces, cos it would’ve been rude to do it with a pen.
By the end of the night I found myself holding hands [snarf, snarf] with a girl called Lucy, who I now see on Facebook is married and just had a baby. Congratulations all round!
The next morning, bleary eyed, I logged into the website, confirmed all the girls that I’d ticked … and then also selected some of the girls I hadn’t, you know, just in case. The internet whirred, churned up the numbers, then popped up that I had 3 instant matches.
3, out of 20. 15%. Not bad odds I thought, that 15% of the female population found me instantly attractive. That’s one in 6 of you. That’s probably you. Hey, how you doin’?
No.3, Layla … nah. No.19, Jillian … nah. I moved to the third selection. All my eggs were in one basket … and what a basket she was, as I was informed that No.10, Emma had indeed ticked me too.
It got better than that. She wasn’t just Emma. She was Emma-Jane Peabody. What a fantastic name! I whisked off an email to her, we arranged to meet, and … well the rest is history.
Matches kept coming through. I think I finished on 9. Practically 50%. That’s 1 in 2 of you. And one of you ladies reading this is probably my sister, so it’s you. It’s definitely you!
I’m just a man though, please, contain yourselves.
And so, I guess you’re wondering what happened to me and Miss Peabody. My kids, maybe reading this in the future, might be wondering if this is How I Met Your Mother …
Well it’s not, cos Emma decided to get back with her ex-boyfriend, pretty much straight after our first date haha.
I did, however, meet your Mother later on that year. Lose some, win some.
So to anybody out there considering giving Speed Dating a go? I say do it, go on, I dare you …
[Bill Ross is available from all good dating websites, and some dodgy ones as well]