The Bad Date Experiment
Regular readers of this blog will know that it has grown quite organically. What started as a tentative Facebook status one quiet morning at work, has grown into an almost daily online record of my ‘love life’ for the final three months of my twenties. I’m not gonna lie, there are times I’ve found this whole experience extremely surreal – discussing getting messed around by a boy to two DJs I normally listen to on my drive to work was a pretty bizarre experience! As was finding out that the parents of some of the men I’m going on dates with have read my blog before their sons even meet up with me!
What started as a simple idea – thirty dates before thirty, developed into thirty BLIND dates, and then became a blog, which the dates themselves could not only read before the date, but after it. A vague scoring system developed, and dates began learning about the challenge, and reading about my preferences on men and dates, and views on dating, long before they ever met me.
It’s interesting, because all I ever hoped to achieve from this experiment was some closure on the Henley Boy debacle, and a fun, exciting summer. I wanted to put the fun back into dating, and remember how low key and nonchalant a simple first date can be, when you remove any expectations.
The blog has become different things for different people. At first, after I admitted to being rather picky about who I date, there were obviously the suggestions that I could use it to broaden my dating horizons, and see if some of the men I wouldn’t normally date were actually a surprise fit for me. A friend who writes for a Christian blog has enlisted me to include a Christian date in my thirty challenges, playing on the fact that personally I’m not at all religious.
A number of my friends have seen this project as an inspiration to go out and date more – signing up to singles events or internet dating to experience their own series of blind dates. I even saw this in action when Date Number Two (The One with the Sign) turned up at the same Speed Dating event as me and Miss32 early in the challenge. My local paper has described my challenge as a ‘Search for the One’, whilst several readers have referred to it as an informal Dating Guide to London. Intrigued speed dating companies have approached me to compare their events to other similar nights, and have invited me to review some of their more abnormal events.
As the blog itself has grown in popularity, its role in my dates has also grown. As I discussed on the date with the Stitch, the ‘post-match’ write-ups have begun to affect how easily I can find blind dates. Often when guys do agree to go on dates, it’s because they’ve read the blog and see it as a challenge. It’s an approach I really like – as evidenced by how much I enjoyed my dates with the Challenger, Fake Pimpernel and Enigma. And to be honest, those were the kind of dates that I personally hoped this challenge might bring – ones which would remind me how enjoyable it can be to go on a date with a virtual stranger, and where I could truly embrace the spirit of a great blind date.
But as I’ve realised from my experiences online dating and speed dating, both as part of this challenge, and before I ever even started it, dates like the ones I’ve had with TOWTS, and F-Pimp and Enigma are by no means your average British first date!
And whilst I love the fact that guys have read my blog and seen the whole First Date comparison as a competition, it obviously does lend itself to a slightly warped overall picture of blind dating. Now of course, you would hope blind dates organised by mutual friends are always going to be simpler and perhaps more successful than dates with a complete stranger you’ve met online, or four minutes of polite conversation which you could barely hear over the two couples either side of you. And so that has obviously skewed my dating results so far to some degree, as the majority of my dates have been arranged by people I trust, or people trusted by someone I trust! There have been some interesting pitfalls – most notably Mr Twenty40, who not only knew about the blog and the fact I would be reviewing the date, but was also recommended by a really good friend, and yet still turned out to be one of my worst and most difficult dates so far! However in reality, out of my 13 dates so far, I would only class 2 as ‘bad’ and the first one just simply as very dull.
Obviously I could just continue with my challenge as is. Happily enjoying a series of 8-to-10/10 rated dates with boys who know all about the blog and are keen to impress. Interestingly I would probably say there have been three distinct varieties of these men. The boys who genuinely enjoy the blog and want to create a perfect date. The ones who just see it as a competitive sporting challenge and want to be the best. And then the ones who want to revel in the glory of creating an amazing date, and use it for their own dating PR for the indefinite future. On meeting the guys, it’s normally quite evident which of the three schools of perfectionist dating they fall into, and I find myself fancying the men to varying degrees accordingly! However as the blog is all about the date itself, and not about my personal feelings for any of the boys I meet, that normally remains relatively unspoken!
However, as I explained when I wrote about the Stitch, it takes a very confident and secure singleton to put himself up for public scrutiny. Even if the post about the date is all written anonymously, and with very little information at all about the date himself. And so even the most outgoing of dates are starting to dry up. As the challenge progresses, rather than feeling like it’s getting easier, it’s actually seeming harder to secure blind dates, because they all know about the blog and get cold feet. At present I would suggest from every three or four date ‘leads’ I get, only one actually comes to fruition. And even once I’ve started talking to a guy, or even booked in a date, it’s becoming increasingly common for the guy to back out at the last minute. My next date, this Thursday, will be with ‘The Stand-In’ for that very reason (after Would-Have-Been 14 cancelled on me), and when on Sunday the Original Pimpernel joked about what I would have done if he’d stood me up, I admitted that it is becoming an increasingly realistic fear!
And so I think it’s time for a bit of an experiment.
I’ve talked already on the blog about some of the factors which can contribute to a good blind date, and hopefully reviews like Date Eight and Date Twelve will have given you some ideas of how to achieve a near perfect evening with an absolutely stranger.
Now it’s time to investigate the other side of British dating. Because trust me, it exists, and at present speed dating has been only real fleeting connection with the more realistic side of British singledom!
To date, the vast majority of my dates have been hand-picked by friends, and on their best behaviour, because they knew they were part of a challenge. What happens when I find dates who don’t know about the blog? And dates who I really would never normally date?
I’ve talked at length about how picky I can be, but even putting superficial requirements aside, I like to think I’m a pretty good judge of character, and can normally tell whether I’ll get on with someone fairly quickly. I knew I would find Normal Fish relatively dull from just a few short exchanges over Plenty of Fish, and could probably have realised the Prick would end up being a Prick without elongating our text conversation over more than one evening. I have a lot of male friends who are players, and with the exception of the Henley Boy, like to think I normally have a pretty good radar for those types of guys.
But now, rather than place my normal filters on selection, I’m prepared to take my dating blinkers down and truly experience what it means to be a single girl in and around London, warts and all! I’m not going to lie, the decision is fuelled by a fair bit of journalistic curiosity … I could barely manage four minutes with some of the men we have met on our various dalliances with Speed Dating … can I really handle a full date with similar men? And I know that deep down, whilst every now and again the more romantic readers enjoy reading about the likes of Enigma and the Fake Pimpernel, what everyone really wants to read about is a really horrendous date!
So here goes nothing …
I still have a fair few friend-of-friend dates booked in between now and the end of September, and I’ve obviously got dates scheduled in for Madrid next week, and the States next month in the run up to my 30th birthday, however I will also start searching alternative sources for dates. Dates who know nothing about the blog and my personal preferences for an ideal date. (Anyone panicking about my safety, don’t worry, I promise to be very sensible and put safety measures in place. I still won’t be meeting up with the likes of The Prick!)
So far we’ve only had two 5/10 dates, and one 6/10 date out of thirteen on this challenge … is it time to lower the averages and experience the complete opposite of Friday’s perfect 10/10 date?
I guess only time will tell!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
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