“You can do this. You just put yourself out there. See what happens. Just don’t drink too much…”
The opening credits of Man Up roll into a party, but it’s not just any party, it’s a Hawaiian themed party. Oh and it’s gets better, it’s a themed Hawaiian engagement party to which, our wonderfully witty, slightly cynically, tragically awkward heroine, Nancy Patterson is being forced to attend. Oh and also she’s being set up on a blind date, did I mention that part? It’s the very best part, I think… (Does sarcasm translate in blog form? Comment below!)
But now it’s my turn to Man Up.
“Quid pro quo.”
I’m standing outside sniffing back the tale end of, what I don’t think is too dramatic to describe as, the flu. Taking a deep breath in, the freezing London air hurts my chest. I roll my eyes in the direction of the All Star Lanes bowling alley: Another dating event. Another chance for awkward small talk, bumbling single losers, watered down cocktails and this time I wouldn’t even be allowed to do it wearing my own shoes.
But it’s the eHarmony Big Man Up Date Night, and at least, just like the character Nancy, I love bowling. Or at least I loved it the last time I bowled at my best friend’s birthday party when we were both turning nine-years-old….
I breeze into the private bowling lanes, fake confidence a-flow, surveying the room especially reserved for those of us who are more romantically challenged.
I’m definitely in the right place, although sinfully early, as the room is still pretty quiet. Through the smattering of gathering singles I can spy a well stocked bar, a photo booth, of course the bowling lanes and oh god, is that karaoke?
But then before I have the chance to feel lost I’m met by a bright and sparky eHarmony representative. Bright and Sparky welcomes me handing over a red wrist band explaining that not only will there be a free glass of prosecco at the bar, but there are no less than five (Yes Five!) free drinks in the form of tear off strips attached to the wristband for afterwards. Bright and Sparky tells me to have a good night completely oblivious to the fact that she’s just handed me a hangover in waiting to wrap around my wrist. So much for not drinking too much.
Collecting a glass of bubbly from the bar and smiling at the very handsome waiter I turn around to the room finding myself suddenly standing with a small group of excited eHarmony guests.
It’s at this point I remind myself of Man Up’s <<< mantras or ‘Nantras’
“Have you met Hayley?”
Lauren, one of eHarmony’s marketing team wasted no time in introducing me to a few eHarmony members and fellow bloggers, forcing us quickly into groups for a round of bowling.
I say forced but actually I’m pretty grateful to suddenly find myself having to summon small talk. As a bit of a veteran to dating events there’s one thing I’ve come to learn:
People love an activity
Yes you can bring together a group under the guise of common interest (loneliness doesn’t count) but, and this is crucial, you have to give people a real reason to have to interact.
Ping-pong tables, pub quizzes and even board games have worked at past events. But if a loaded bar and darkened room hasn’t worked in the real world there’s no reason why a wrist full of free booze and a private room would work now at a dating event. A place where we’re even more ‘on show’ admitting that ‘Yes! I would like a date, please...?’
But eHarmoy and Lauren thankfully also knew this so I was happy to fall in line and let the Man Up Date Night do as it was intended.
**Spoiler alert I got very drunk!**
Five minutes later I’m on the lanes, drink in hand, a ball in the other (Not a pun. Stop it!), snazzy new footwear and to my great surprise I’m laughing. In record time I seem to have accrued new friends, found a gang and thrown caution (along with my flu) to the wind picking up my second free drink of the night.
The bowling was definitely a great icebreaker and although eHarmony daters, who had brought real dates from online into the real world of All Star Lanes, did begin to fill the room, the party remained small. Small, but in no way, low key. With less people in the room everyone seemed to hold on to less inhibitions. Networking became the order of the day amongst bloggers and press and this seemed to be done with a heavy dose of flirting and even more inspiration was taken from the bar.
As the event rolled on I found I felt more as though I was at a cheeky office party than a cheesy dating event.
I often find dating events are kind of like the equivalent of shopping in Lidl. Sure it’s less of a taboo now, but you feel that secret shame, which is only consolable by the fact that no one else in there can judge you, because they’re also well… in there!
But I didn’t meet a single ‘single loser’, didn’t taste one watered down drink, small talk quickly turned into laughter and I considered stealing the shoes.
No I didn’t really meet anyone I wanted to date, unfortunately the numbers possibly just weren’t high enough for that and, of the few eHarmony members who came along, most had bought dates from the site as the event had suggested.
However I did meet huge crush.
She was standing at the bar, I vowed not to bother her and disturb her fun, because also just like the character Nancy it looked as though she really did love bowling. But because people need an actually reason to say hi and talk Lauren of eHarmony once again stepped in. (I really like Lauren.)
“Hi! You won’t remember this but I wrote a review about Man Up and tweeted about it and then you favourite the tweet! And I was like wow! Wow! This is awesome, actually I did a little dance at work, but yeah, you favourite my tweet about my review about your film once so yeah…. Thanks.”
Thankfully Tess Morris the writer of Man Up is not only very cool and good at bowling she’s also lovely! She totally pretended to remember (or possibly actually remembered) my review and then we chatted casually about writing, both then pretending that I was a real writer too.
Ten or so minutes later and Tess was being dragged into the photo booth with the gang from Total Film, but that was totally fine, I had my own gang.
We danced, we selfied, we stole other people’s ‘gos’ on the bowling lanes and then we seemed to go into hiding in the photo booth. Then briefly I was Lena Dunham…
So the Big Man Up Date Night, was it a success?
Well I manned up. I certainly didn’t have the flu by the end of the night. I took chances and I was certainly more deviant than I have been at any other dating event.
For me the night was a great success as a party and as the launch of the DVD release of Man Up. eHarmony did a great job recreating the movie’s charm, with copious alcohol reflecting the tipsy feel to the rom-com itself. Tess Morris is a total babe and if you haven’t you should definitely check out her first feature on DVD or Blu-ray (if you're fancy), which already feels like a classic London rom-com.
As a dating event the night didn’t really feel so big, but it certainly put me in the mood to flirt, and to anybody considering eHarmony, I’d say give them a shot. The team definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to finding matches and bringing people together and they’ve proven they can throw one hell of a party! They just need a few more of you daters, to be coaxed away from online and into the almost real world of dating events, which honestly, was nowhere near as scary or contrived as usual!
So I didn’t come away with a date but instead made a gang of new friends, picked up a goody bag full of treats including the Man Up DVD and, as suspected, woke up with a hangover to rival that from any of the free bar’s to have come before.