Popping my speed dating cherry was a whole lot less painful than I had imagined. Garish lights, cheesy music, generic questions and overly enthusiastic singles were nowhere to be seen at The Book Club in Shoreditch last Monday night.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel I know what someone’s about, within the first few seconds of meeting them. I also like to think, that my judgement is basically good, especially when it comes to guys.
Studies have shown that in fact, we don’t even need a few seconds to judge a person when we see them for the first time. It turns out a tenth of a second is all we need to mentally swipe right, left, or run for the hills! So three minutes per date on a night of speed dating should equate to almost a lifetime of getting to know someone. Right?
The guys behind ‘Last Night A Speed Date Changed My Life’ (LNASDCML) have been dubbed, by some as, ‘The Hipsters of Speed Dating’. So I decided to try extra hard down at 'The Book Club' and pretend to be cool, confident and all the other things you’re supposed to be when you either find yourself on a first date, or in Shoreditch. And, I would try to do this 20 times over.
Because the experience is so different for men and women: Girls largely controlling the environment, as they inhabit a table all evening, setting the tone and the pace for each new visitor. With the boys bravely entering each new date, boldly renewing their ‘A Game’, and a list of questions. I decided I had to bring a wingman to get the full story.
The Wingman I chose was actually a guy I had met on Tinder. We had quickly and madly fallen into a complete whirlwind… friendship.
Smart, witty, good looking, funny and definitely reading this with an ever-expanding ego, he was the perfect non-date for a speed date. He’s a catch, Ladies. You’re welcome.
Before the event could begin our host for the evening, Nitsan, had to lay down the rules of engagement. Whilst we singles stood awkwardly shoulder-to-shoulder I tried to subtly suss out the guys around me. Anything to prepare for the current of men I was about to be swept up in. Nitsan regaled us with stories of previous speed dating nights: Funny faux pas, lust at first sight and the odd relationship, which had blossomed. By the time the stories were over I felt far more at ease wandering off to take my seat.
Here’s a tip for you. If you’re girl go for one of the isolated spots in the room. There’s a long dining table in the middle of the basement at The Book Club, which I advise avoiding, if possible. Otherwise, you will spend the night eavesdropping and attention wandering. Wondering whether, the girl next you is making a better connection than you did with that guy you like, even though you both loved that same Woody Allen film when you were teenagers.
Choose a table in the corner, the sofa with the coffee table, somewhere on the edge. As I found out by the end of the night the guys very much seem to form a little union. Following each other around, occasionally finding moments to chat. But I’m sorry Girls. Most of us are just going to see each other as competition and I certainly don’t want to sit right next to mine.
For me, I knew the process would be fairly simple. Sit and wait for the conveyer belt of men to revolve past. Avoid the words dating blog, 20 times, say in which part of London I live, 20 times, confirm that this is my first time speed dating, 20 times. These were answers to questions I expected, and braced myself for, and on most occasions did pop up in conversation.
Although almost every guy approached in the same way; a little timidly with a handshake and the classic ‘I’m not peering at your breast I’m just reading your name badge’ look, each new date was different. Each gave way to it’s own level of nervous energy and varying degree of intrigue.
Once things got going, on each table was placed: Romantic candlelight, a bowl of sweets, and a pen and paper to keep notes on your dates. Actually for me these translated to; fire hazard, food I was too nervous to eat in front of boys I liked, which also took up nearly all my table and lastly, vital kit to make sure I remembered the name of the guy with the good hair and anecdotes with whom I wanted to match.
I really hadn’t realised quite how essential taking notes would be. I have a good memory, I’m attentive, I’m a good listener, I recognise faces… I have no idea who I just dated!
Three minutes is fast. 20 dates is a lot. My first ten whizzed by, although some admittedly feeling longer than others.
1. Possibly a bit racist
2. Good hair
3. Runs a Start up
5. We talked Politics
6. Looked like the actor in God Help the Girl
7. Loud and Scottish
9. Funny failed writer
10. No questions guy
11. Generic hipster
12. Animal lover
13. Made an app
14. Just got dumped
15. Talked mainly in puns
16. Charity worker
17. Good listener
18. Likes sailing
20. Wore a suit
And, from those rushed descriptions and hastily made judgements I just about managed to keep up.
I really enjoyed this way of meeting people. The event was a complete eye opener. The guys I wrote down at the end of the night, in the hopes of matching with, were not the names on the badges I had spied earlier in the evening and assumed I would hit it off with.
That’s the funny thing about first impressions. Apparently three minutes is a much better decider than the human tenth of a second.
The conversations were bolder and more cheeky than on a regular date. The face-to-face thing on a time limit made me brave and the atmosphere encouraged social and flirtatious behaviour.
The thing about singles events and especially at one like this, where all interactions are regimented into strict 1 on 1s, is that the type of person who would go to a forced romantic situation, is the kind of person who is usually quite good with people. All the dates were friendly and taking the attitude of 'lets give this a go' and 'not taking it too seriously'.
At the end of the night I wrote four names. A few days later I had three matches. Thanks very much, LNASDCML, I’ll take your 75%
A fun and almost addictive evening, with a feeling of endless possibility, as the dates begin and the moment when you relax into the night, is kind of exciting. Or, as exciting as I can handle, on a Monday night.
Once all the dates had been dated there was the promise of mingling at the bar. Unfortunately I think the Wingman and I deterred the advances from most of the singles we hoped to chat to. But it was fun to recap and exchange notes on the dates we’d just had.
If you’ve never tried Speed Dating, try LNASDCML and if you have, try LNASDCML. They’ve got something really good down at The Book Club. Throw yourself into it, let yourself lose your preconceptions and relax.
I’ve heard mixed things on LNASDCML events but I think they must have come a long way since the odd bad review. So, a speed date really hasn’t changed my life, and I’m a little dubious to the idea that ‘The One’ will appear in a three-minute interval. However, I chatted to some really interesting guys. Maybe half of whom I would never think to approach.
Our night speed dating in Shoreditch went smoothly and I was made to feel really looked after by the host and the bar staff. Classically most single’s nights seem to draw in more women than men, and at speed dating this is a usual problem. For LNASDCML the female tickets sell out almost as soon as they go public whilst men, classically seem to have trouble committing, waiting until the last minute to book. Although on this particular night we had a spare couple of guys joining our party. The dates moved on swiftly, the guys didn’t seem to mind the couple of minutes spent at the bar, whilst they acted as surplus, and The Wingman and I had a great night. Now it’s time to work out what to write in the subject bar of my first email to my first match…
What he said:
So Janey Dragged me along to Speed Dating last night. Actually that’s a complete lie. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to try so I jumped at the chance… I mean I said, yeah cool, whatever…
… The event combined my three favourite things about dating, alcohol, awkward conversations with a convenient three minute ‘get out clause’, and rigorous organisation.
It was like a school disco, although instead of being held back by teenage social anxiety, we were under strict but friendly orders to not move until instructed.
Once started, the event was genuinely quite fun. I had images beforehand of being made to drift listlessly past a series of disinterested women, like the plastic covered salad options on the conveyer belt of a sushi restaurant, but it turns out its actually much more difficult to crash and burn in three minutes than I imagined.
The girls were of course, all intimidatingly beautiful, and much more interesting than the allotted time would allow. They also seemed to hunt in packs at the event, with groups of friends occupying segments of the room, allowing them to coyly glance at each other and nod or shake their heads to show their approval whilst I awkwardly ignored the fact that I knew exactly what was going on.
Perhaps the part I wasn’t expecting was what a bonding experience you have with the other men in the room. You are assigned a person to follow around, taking each table as they leave it, and chatting to the woman he had been speaking to moments before. I felt quite fond of the man in front of me, we had spoken to all the same girls, sat awkwardly in the same seats and been judged through the eyes of the same strangers. Even though he was always late in leaving the table on time, meaning I had to stand awkwardly around waiting for him to finish, I couldn’t judge him. He was my wingman, even though I was playing at being Janey’s.
There were a few disasters, of course, the women who blankly refused to either talk about themselves, or offer any conversation topics. Or the time I made what I retroactively realise was a very unfunny joke about orchestras being intimidating to me due to all the 'sax and violins'… but mostly it was good natured fun, and certainly something I would try again.