Apologies for the delay, I was meant to review this yesterday, but after I dropped a couple of hints on Twitter @30dates about how well the date with the Fake Pimpernel was going, I had too many demands for the date write-up, so decided to prioritise that post!
So, after last week’s less-than-impressive round of speed dating in Clapham, Miss 32 and I decided to give it another try, in a different London location. We’d heard rave reviews of ‘Last Night a Speed Date Changed My Life’ – a fortnightly event in the basement of The Book Club in Shoreditch.
Girls’ tickets for the event sell out almost as soon as they go public, and extra tickets are only released if additional boys attend, in order to keep the numbers equal. On the off chance that more tickets for the event next month became available, I emailed the organiser. On Sunday evening, I got an email back to say she had reserved two tickets for me for Speed Dating the very next day.
I called up Miss32, my new dating partner in crime. Miss32 is the older sister of one of my best friends. As her name suggests, she’s thirty-two, attractive, accomplished and independent. And happily single in central London.
As a girl who has spent most of her life on a very regimented conveyor belt – school, gap year, Undergrad degree, Masters, I find it hard not to plan ahead. Ten years ago, I assumed I would be married at twenty-eight, and thinking about children by the time I was thirty. And then, obviously I fell off the milk-round roundabout and ended up backpacking around the world for three years, and dreaming of being an author as opposed to a lawyer!
Miss32 has stayed on the conveyor belt far longer than me. She trained as an accountant straight after university, and is now well-established in her career. Another typical grammar school girl, she’d planned life landmarks in the same way she did her education and career, and is now finding herself behind her own plan in some ways.
But the great thing (I think!) is that just because certain parts of her life haven’t gone the way she initially imagined, Miss32 hasn’t settled. She knows what she wants, and despite havinf comfortably crossed the dreaded ‘3-0’ post, she hasn’t changed her expectations.
Being fussy has been quite an incendiary topic on this blog, but in my opinion the older you get, the more aware you are of what works for you, and what doesn’t. Everyone’s desires and expectations are different, and the more life experience you get, the more you learn which expectations you’re happy to sacrifice, and which ones are actually necessities.
So with our mental tick-lists proudly at the ready, Miss32 and I headed to Shoreditch, to see if the more elite Speed Dating event would attract a more exciting mix of guys.
Walking through Shoreditch to find the bar, I immediately wondered if the venue was a bit too cool for me! I felt over-dressed in my work dress and heels (which I was relishing wearing, because for once I wasn’t there to see one specific, potentially short, stranger!). The Book Club reminded me of a hip backpacker’s lodge. It had a unisex bathroom, plant pots covering an entire wall, and murals in the hallway.
Miss32 and I headed straight to the bar, only for me to burst out laughing. Out of all the single men in London, The One with the Sign was standing right beside Miss32 at the bar! I subtly waved two fingers at her … ‘That’s Date Number Two!’ and she gawped at me in disbelief. It seems my blog is inspiring others to speed date … including my blind dates themselves!
At seven o’clock we headed down to the basement, only to find the area locked off. The staff asked us to come back in ten minutes time, so we headed back upstairs, and out into the breeze of the street. The bar was stiflingly hot. Barely a minute later we were called back in, and downstairs.
The administration of the event really wasn’t very good. We were required to enter our email addresses onto a laptop in the corner (something which could have proved difficult for anyone buoyed by Dutch courage), and then hovered awkwardly around the tables. The laptop suggested we had numbers, however there were no numbers on the tables. Some of the more experienced daters quickly selected the individual tables and couches, leaving Miss32 and me sitting at the end of a long dining table.
I introduced The One with the Sign (Towts) to Miss32, and we sat chatting, and munching on the free sweets, while the organisers worried about numbers. Despite the carefully controlled attendance, twenty girls had arrived, and only ten boys. Dating was delayed for a further fifteen minutes, as they waited in the hope that more men would arrive, and when that failed, they sent five girls away with tickets for next time.
The basement itself was a cross between a cave and a womb! The low ceiling was literally covered in unlit old lightbulbs, and one half of the room glowed red. As dating began. I soon realised the drawbacks of the dating environment. With ten couples talking at once, it was extremely loud in the room, and at times I found it hard to hear my date over the two couples either side of me. The dim lighting didn’t help either, and after a few minutes I grew frustrated with the ‘ambience’. I wanted to be able to properly hear and see the people I was dating! This hadn’t been billed as Dating in the Dark!
Due to the limited numbers, I had at least five ‘dates’ where I was left on my own.
The dates themselves were far less structured than the Slow Dating event we attended last week. Sometimes you would have no more than three minutes with a man, other times it took almost ten minutes for the siren to go off. The ‘bell’ itself was a little odd – a relaxed, whale-like noise, it didn’t really inspire any insistence to move, and at least once no one moved when they sounded it, so the date went on for double the amount of time as the others!
My fears about not being ‘hip’ or ‘cool’ enough for the Shoreditch speed dating scene were unfounded. (I use the word hip ironically, don’t worry!!) None of the dates seemed particularly artistic or alternative. Arguably there were more ‘normal’ men than last week at Clapham, but once all ten men had done the rounds, both the Accountant and I remarked that yet again, we hadn’t really hit it off with anyone.
I realised, that unlike my blind dates, where I’m obligated to make an effort, regardless of a lack of spark, I can be a bit less strict with myself on Speed Dating, and so my default conversation, when I really wasn’t interested in a guy, was to tell them about the 30 Dates Challenge! I would regale them with tales of the Burlesque Dancer and his merkins, and let slip that Date Number Two was actually in the room. It made for different conversation, and meant I didn’t have to tell nine men over and over about my job, and the fact I had travelled into London from Reading.
It was a welcome relief when Towts came round as my final date. His first question was whether I’d had a fun night. I smiled stiffly and replied ‘yes’ with a bit of a shrug, and he laughed and pointed out. ‘well that was a polite lie’! And it was.
I was really underwhelmed by ‘Last Night a Speed Date Changed my Life’. The event had been billed as the premier league of London speed dating, with two-month long waiting lists to take part, but it was all so disorganised and half-hearted, and the setting so difficult to talk in, that I found myself rather unimpressed.
After the event finished, and I had filled in numerous bits of paper detailing my dating preferences for the evening (I selected Towts, even though I already had his phone number, not wanting to hand in a completely blank sheet!) we headed upstairs for a drink.
Towts came to join me and Miss32, and soon a group of the remaining daters congregated around us.
It was a nice end to the evening. In the brightly lit, open bar space, conversation was far easier, and it turned out some of the boys I’d spoken to had told their dates about my challenge, so I spent half an hour telling anecdotes from my dates so far, and laughing at the images brought up when one guy decided to google ‘merkin’ on his phone!
Yet again, speed dating was girl-heavy, this time with a ratio of 2:1, and of the ten boys in attendance, I would say only half were the type of men who would normally spend any time in a bar. No one was particularly awful, though I did have one five minute date where I literally couldn’t hear a word the man was saying! Also, one man shook my hand so enthusiastically when he met me that he crushed my fingers, only to then shake my hand twice more that night.
It wasn’t a waste of an evening, but I did feel like it was a waste of the £15 we spent to go dating. I’d have probably met just as many men by sitting in the bar area all night. In fact, I would actually recommend Googling speed dates, finding out which bar the dates will be in, and hanging around at the time the event is set to finish, as you’re guaranteed that the more sociable daters will stick around for at least one drink afterwards!
I also can’t stress enough again, how easy it is as an eligible guy to come across well at speed dating. I have absolutely no doubt that Towts absolutely cleaned up at the event on Monday night, because he’s nice, and normal, and interesting to talk to.
Unfortunately, from all three of the events I’ve been to so far, I’m coming to the conclusion that Speed Dating has lost it’s mojo. A few years ago it may have been the done thing to do, but with the stigma gone from Internet Dating, and apps like Tinder offering the choice of 100 new single faces every minute, for free, why should people pay £15 to sit in a dark room, and struggle to hear awkward singletons trying to make polite conversation with them for five minutes?
It is a real shame, as in theory it should be a lot more fun than Internet Dating, as it’s like having twenty blind dates all in one go. However, even with a really cool name, and a funky modern venue, Monday night proved that Speed Dating can actually just be a bit of a chore.
The plus side of the evening? We had so much down-time in between our 10 speed dates, that Miss32 and I spent the evening booking in other different London singles events into our diaries. This isn’t quite the end for Speed Dating on this challenge. I’ve still got a free event with Slow Dating, because I didn’t tick any of the men when I went to the Clapham event, and I’ll be on the look out for some more novel types of Speed Dating – including the very odd-looking Silent Dating which featured in the Daily Mail this week.
I’d still really like to arrange a date for the challenge off the back of a three minute speed date with someone, but seeing as the most eligible man at the Shoreditch event was someone I’d already dated on this challenge, unfortunately it won’t be happening this week!
And in case anyone’s wondering … no, that didn’t count as a second date with Towts! 😉
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx