Slow being the operative word.
Tonight's speed dating event has seen me home before 11pm, a little dry for an evening promising flirtation and excitement.
I had high hopes for Slow Dating. A company who can boast of speed dating and singles events all over the country, they’re surely experts in their field, but when I turned up I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed.
The night was to be hosted at TigerTiger in Piccadilly. Ok, a far cry from last week’s ultra cool hipsters only venue in Shoreditch, but I was still amazed by the level of tack achieved so blatantly in the center of London.
Usually you know by instinct that if you're heading into the tourist trap portion of London you're heading into over priced hell, but I decided to give Slow Dating and TigerTiger a chance based on their well known brands and straight forward approach to speed dating. A dating concept, which I still like to think of as, the live version of Tinder. 'Nope'
When I arrived at TigerTiger I was greeted by... well I was greeted by no one. An empty reception desk baring only a 'Slow Dating' placard confirmed that I was in the right place. Looking around me, feeling and definitely giving off the vibe of being 'lost' (never an attractive quality in a potential date- the gaped mouth wide eyed stare) I wandered to the bar and waited rather a long time to finally be told what I hadn't been quite brave enough to do: 'Walk upstairs, Love!'
By this time a crowd had formed behind me. With an absent host I assumed the role of tour guide and nodded and smiled knowingly to girls and guys also projecting the 'lost vibe'. If only I had my umbrella with me, I thought as I marched off upstairs, the Pied Piper of dating.
Through the maze of TigerTiger upstairs the music and atmosphere died away behind me as we entered what felt like the singles enclosure.
I finally found both of our hosts, tucked cosily away in a corner, guarding our name badges next to a closed bar. They were friendly enough and gave me my name badge, they even offered me a spot to leave my coat and... Hold on, a closed bar?!
If there's one thing essential to speed dating other than that little bell which signifies the end to either the longest four minutes of your life, or the disappointment that your date has to move on already, it’s a gin and tonic. It's the only thing I hope not to be single on a speed date. (It feels like a ‘Dad Joke’ kind of night, I’m sorry)
Back downstairs I trot, this time without the tour group, subtly I peel off my name tag as I go, sticking it to the inside of my jeans pocket. I hadn’t expected to have to return to 'normal' society so soon.
I notice as I reach the bar that there are guys down here I wouldn't mind having four minutes of... conversation with. But alas I have to go back to the quiet slow slow world of Slow Dating upstairs.
When I return it's time for kick off, but we're classically still waiting for a few latecomers. This seems to be a usual story at speed dating events. Usually however there's a bar so... But on this occasion I find myself sitting awkwardly on my assigned sofa. I try to make friends with one of the other girls, but past her tight lipped smile there isn't much else, so I turn sinfully to my phone and happily discover I have a work email to which I should or could reply.
Finally the bell rings. Our hosts get to their feet for the first time in the evening and explain the rules of the game. Just like the last speed dating event, there's a 'speeding ticket' (this pun is the most amusing thing about the entire event) to write yourself date reminders, so that in the midst of 20 or so dates you don't lose track of who you like. Then they explain we'll all get an email the next day with login details to the website where we can enter the names of people we hope to match with. Then we have to wait for those people to do the same, before being notified again by the office, of who we matched with.
Is it just me or does this seem long winded? Last week at 'Last Night A Speed Date Changed My Life' myself and 'The Wingman' had just simply written on a piece of card the names of the speed daters we liked and handed it in. 'LNASDCML' had then sent us our matches within the next couple of days. Easy. Isn't that just how everyone does it?
The bell rang again and my first date came over to sit with me on my sofa. Thankfully and surprisingly once the dates kicked off and I got into conversation with my first four minutes the atmosphere of the room lifted.
The dates that followed were fun and I enjoyed actively trying to bring my most upbeat, bubbly self to every new four minutes. No, I can't say I fancied any of my dates, but I have an odd perversion for potentially awkward situations and talking to strangers... This is possibly why I write a dating blog...
Most of the guys I dated seemed to fall near the top of the 23 - 34 age bracket. Not a problem, as I consider myself to be of the upmost sophistiossimy, actually. But I found there were quite a few Nervous Nigels in the bunch. Mostly speed dating virgins, possibly some actual virgins and most likely many who were new to hanging out in a bar at all.
I talked to some genuinely interesting guys. An eye surgeon who was fascinating and funny, his brother who… I actually never found out what he did, but was also a lot of fun. There were a few investment bankers who stressed their love of extreme sports so as not to look dull. Then there was the guy who worked at Ann Summers, who proved, four minutes will never be long enough to find out everything you can inappropriately ask a stranger about sex toys.
Then there were the question guys. Sure questions are good, but some men got so hung up on the asking they forgot to wait for the answers.
One guy told me that he had no friends in London and regularly went to speed dating events looking for a girl so that he didn't have to make too many friends. I can't understand why he's not been snapped up yet.
During the break I mostly hid in the loo and used the downstairs bar to escape a man who apparently made a short film but also had very apparent halitosis.
When I returned to the upstairs singles enclosure I stood and gabbed quite happily with the sex toy expert and then the sibling speed daters. Knowing that I wouldn't give my number to any of them, but thankful of their company to deter bigger smellier fish.
The second half of speed dating kicked off with slightly fewer numbers than the first. Even though the ratio seemed about equal I still found myself sat alone through the first four minute bout. Whilst across the room was one of the most potent question askers also sat alone. Before he could catch my eye I decided to check my work email again.
When the last date rolled round I felt relieved but also a little sad. The night felt a little like a saggy balloon left over from a cool party.
As it happened we got on really well. No, I didn't fancy him, perhaps I'm too fussy, but we talked and laughed and when the bell at the end rang neither of us moved on.
Our hosts said nothing and perhaps five minutes later when I looked round they were nowhere to be seen along with the rest of the room.
There was no announcement suggesting everyone take the opportunity to mingle at the bar. Nothing to say they hoped everyone had a good night, or even that we would get home safely. I felt a little like a Grandparent at a crowded family wedding on whom no one had checked for really long time. I wandered over to my discarded coat as the last couple of chatting guys descended the stairs down to join the 'normal' world outside the enclosure.
My final date offered to walk me to my tube. I didn't have the stomach to admit that I'd been thinking about heading to Leicester Square’s best attraction since date number five or six; the Häagen-Dazs shop. Not wanting the company I lied and said I was meeting a friend, but told him it was good to meet him, because it had been, and said goodbye.
One overpriced scoop of Dulce de Leche Häagen-Dazs later and I was heading back home on the northern line. Never quite such an uneventful date has been had in the history of this blog, let alone 20 uneventful dates in one night.
I think when it comes to speed dating a golden rule which nobody tells you, hence I'll blow it for you now, should be: Go to events which are held in the places you'd usually hang out.
Living in London I like to think of myself as pretty cool and I work bloody hard to keep up the guise too! I like to find places off the beaten track that nobody's heard of. Events that seem too bizarre even belong in East London and places Google struggles to find for you. Those are the places and events where I always meet the most inquisitive, outgoing, interesting people. My fellow explorers, who try that little bit harder, in pursuit of something less than obvious. So I guess I should have known better than to go speed dating at TigerTiger.