A few years ago, I won a Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman of the Year Award … It’s definitely one of my more random anecdotes – I got ready for the ceremony in ten minutes, because I hadn’t realised I’d actually won anything, only to then spend the entire evening wedged between Ashley Jensen (from Ugly Betty and Extras) and Jamelia, and staring at the back of Jordan’s (very boney!) head. The award itself now has pride of place on my living room floor, propping open the door!
Part of the awards involved Cosmo writing an article about my life, and the random challenges I set myself following my parents’ deaths. Whilst the story was being written, I spoke a lot to one of the magazine’s writers, and six years on, she’s now a Deputy Editor there.
As the ’30 Dates before 30′ Challenge began to pick up speed I emailed my contact at Cosmopolitan to see if it might be something the magazine would be interested in. The reply was quick and brief. They’d run a relatively similar feature a few years ago, and would only be interested if something dramatic happened as my dates progress. However this evening, over a week since I originally contacted them, I heard from the magazine again. In a short email, they simply wanted to know exactly ‘how blind’ my thirty dates would be …
It’s an interesting question, and the answer, honestly, is ‘varying degrees’ of blind. Because in reality, in this day and age, it’s really hard to have a blind date!
Yesterday I talked about safety, and the need to be careful when meeting up with random strangers, whether you’re meeting thirty in three months, or just the one! As I explained in ‘The Prick and Plenty of Fishing’, up until I began this challenge, I had only ever met up with two men who I met online. One of the things that captures my trust online, is someone using his full name on a dating site. Both the Irish Engineer (my first POF date) and Henley Boy had their full names for profile names on POF. And both of them provided enough information about themselves over the first few days of chatting to me, that I could search them out on Facebook and LinkedIn, and establish that they were telling me the truth.
That might sound overly cautious, but I’m a single girl, messaging and meeting up with men I’ve never met before. And unlike the majority of guys on this challenge, guys I meet on online dating sites don’t come with the seal of approval of a trusted friend. So really, if there is ever a time when I think Facebook-stalking is acceptable, it’s when you’re online dating. Just look at the documentary ‘Catfish’! It’s far too easy to create a completely false profile for someone on an online dating site. In fact I’ve wound one of my work colleagues up numerous times by threatening to download photos of him from his Facebook page, and create an online dating profile for him. And I’ve definitely spotted profiles on POF where someone has stolen pictures of an unknown model, or foreign celebrity, in an attempt to get more attention online.
In the spirit of equality, I was pretty quick to give both the Irish Engineer and Henley Boy my full name. I have nothing to hide, and figured it was only fair that they be able to Facebook-stalk me, if I was doing the same to them! Though in doing so, I knew I was revealing a lot more about myself than simply the fact that I was a real person. I have a relatively unique name, with an unorthodox spelling of my first name, so if you type my full name into Google, the majority of the hits will bring up me. As a former journalism student, a few simple clicks, and you can see videos of me travelling the world, chatting candidly to the camera, and read blogs and stories I’ve written. With just my first and last name, you can tell what sports I played at uni, which college I went to at Cambridge, and how much I raised for Cancer Research the first time I ran a Marathon. There is so much information available on the internet that you could easily trawl the web and find out more about me than I would necessarily divulge on a first date. To be honest it’s quite scary realising how much information about you is out in the public domain, no matter how tightly you restrict access to social media, if you have an uncommon name, Google will always find you!
The 30 Date Challenge comes with varying degrees of disclosure. Obviously with the dates I’m arranging online, I’ve seen photos of the guys. Not that that necessarily means I know what they look like beforehand! As I’ve said before, dating profile photos aren’t always that accurate, especially if they’re three years old!
With the dates organised by my friends, Facebook is a big obstacle to having a ‘truly blind’ date … A couple of my friends have linked me up with potential dates by simply adding me and the guy into a group conversation, and then promptly ‘checking out’ to leave us to it. Others have given me a full name … which, as you saw with The Burlesque Dancer, can too easily fuel curiosity!
The boys themselves have also known varying amounts about me. Date Two – The One with the Sign, knew nothing about me apart from my name and that I was doing this challenge. Date Three – The Burlesque Dancer, let slip that he had blatantly checked me out on Facebook profile by using my surname in conversation when I’d never told him it, and Date Four – The Model Brother, admitted that he’d only agreed to go on the date with me after his sister had texted him a photo of me!
If I’m honest, so far the best dates have been those arranged with friends of friends of friends – something becoming more common as word of the challenge and the blog spreads. If I don’t have any mutual friends with my potential dates, then it makes it harder for me to look them up, And to be honest, the more dates I go on, the more I’m beginning to appreciate going into these dates completely blind. Other than the obvious high heel issue (I’m 5’8” and after a couple of awkward ‘am I taller than him?’ moments, have decided my standard blind date uniform is flat shoes!), heading into dates completely blind adds to the excitement.
It means my preconceptions of the guy aren’t affected by how hot he is. Ok, so it does mean I might build a completely false impression of a guy, based on how witty and grammatically correct his text messages are, but also measn that the summer ahead is full of possibilities …. ones which I haven’t written off because I already know they’re 5’6” and balding!!!
I’m not going to lie. I’m still ridiculously superficial. And I still think the first five minutes of every date will determine whether I fancy the guys or not. But there is definitely an appeal to knowing nothing more than a first name, especially in a day and age where if I also knew his surname, I could find out his life history in a few short Google searches.
Take the ‘Fake Pimpernel’ for example … my date for next Tuesday. I’ll tell you the origins of his name next week, but what I will tell you now, is that he’s the first of my blind dates to phone me rather than just text me. He had a nice voice, and came across well in the few fleeting minutes that we spent on the phone. He’s only texted me a few times, but every time I’ve read his messages, I’ve found myself giggling out loud. He won’t tell me what we’re doing on our date, thought he’s thrown me a few red herrings about needing flame retardant clothing, and that’s only served to add to the excitement.
And who knows, in a week’s time I might be moaning about how short and fat he was, and how he had terrible BO, and spent all night chatting about his stamp collection … but right now, there is just as much chance that he could turn out to be the man of my dreams!
OK, so that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, knowing just how picky I am! But you get the idea ….
And so, going forward, no matter how much I know about my date, and how easy it would be to Facebook stalk him, I am making a promise to you all to keep these dates as blind as possible! I may have already peeked at a couple of the dates I booked into the diary early on (and I’ll be honest when those dates come around), but anyone else who gets referred to me from now on will remain nothing more than a first name until I meet them. Promise!
From now on, I’m going into this challenge well and truly Blind!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx