So as I was searching through my pictures from the past three months, to put together the story of the 30 Dates Challenge in Photos, I decided to see if I could find the original Facebook status which started this entire crazy challenge off.
The status made me smile – ‘would be up for dinner or a drink’ … anyone who regularly reads the blog will know how few of my dates have simply been dinner or a drink. In fact the only one of my dates which was a simple drink at a pub was the rather dull first date with The ‘Normal’ Fish. And one of the reasons I fell so quickly for the Henley Boy in the first place was the fact that he managed to make a simple drink in a pub seem so fun. Four and a half hours went in the blink of an eye.
It’s quite odd, because whilst dating culture dictates that a ‘first date’ ought to be at a pub, I would very rarely go to a bar just for a drink unless it was with a group of friends at the start of a night. Unless I’m meeting a friend for a pub lunch, I would never just meet someone one-on-one at a bar. Unless I was on a date.
I guess the tradition comes from the need to relax on a date, and the fact that if you’re in a bar, it’s socially acceptable to have a drink or two. A lot of people get quite worked up and nervous about dating, and so it always seems a lot less painful with a drink in hand.
But in reality, it’s an odd forum for a date.
Obviously not as odd as staring into someone’s eyes without saying a word for a minute, but there is still a very forced intimacy of meeting up in a way which revolves completely around one-on-one communication. Whilst lots of my male friends would much rather do drinks as a first date, rather than dinner, because that way you don’t have to drag out the date through two or three courses if it’s not going so well, in reality, even a drink at a bar can be pretty awkward if you have absolutely nothing in common with the person you’re on a blind date with.
As I realised rather awkwardly, on my impromptu second date with The Skype Date just before I left for the States, even if you’re attracted to someone, that can be quickly undermined by the quality of their conversation, or a lack of a mutual sense of humour. When we met up in person, the Skype Date forwent all form of normal first date ground-laying – perhaps because he thought we’d already skipped over that part, and as a result, conversation over dinner awkward was really awkward and one-sided. I asked questions. He answered. It went silent. I asked another question. And so it continued, until he referred to my Challenge as ‘slutting it about’, and I basically called the date to a quick end!
A first date is about getting to know someone. And yes, that’s something you can do over drinks or dinner. But, as I’ve realised over the past twenty-nine dates … there are also a lot of other fun things which you can do, where you also get to know someone at the same time.
Because the thing about drinks on a first date is that, unless those drinks are really cool cocktails that you wouldn’t normally drink, basically the entire enjoyability factor of the date will ride on the conversation.
And I don’t know about you, but I have precious little spare time. So if I’m going to be spending some of that spare time on date with a complete stranger, then I’d much rather be doing something really fun in the process. So that even if the conversation is awful, or I don’t fancy my date in the slightest, at least I can say I did something fun, or tried something I wanted to try.
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a first date at Harry Potter World, or pretending I’m in the Crystal Maze, or learning how to make sushi, than I would sitting awkwardly across the table from a guy, in a random pub I wouldn’t normally visit, knowing I can’t have more than one drink if I want to be able to drive home afterwards!
And so as this Challenge progressed, and I realised just how much of my summer I would need to be spending on dates if I was going to fit 30 First Dates into three months, I began being a bit more demanding than my original tentative Facebook status suggested. I didn’t just want to go on thirty dates in bars or restaurants. For a start, I knew full well some of the dates were going to be pretty awkward (The Burlesque Dancer, Mr Twenty40, The Pupil). And I also realised how much easier a date can be when you’re not simply sitting face to face. That obviously goes completely agains the stereotypical Speed Dating set-up, and also against the whole premise of the Shhh Silent Dating event I went to the other week. But I’ve definitely noticed how much easier it was to get to know some of the shier dates, when were doing something, or walking somewhere, and therefore side by side as opposed to face on.
Just look how well I got to know The Enigma in the HintHunt room – when the situation made us trust each other, communicate quickly and efficiently, and even manhandle each other around in the confined space. And how successful the cringeworthy Toilet Tour turned out to be because The Fresh Prince and I spent most of the first hour suppressing our laughter.
In addition, as the blog took shape, and it became harder to find volunteers, willing to be talked about on a website being read by thousands of people, I also realised it was fairer on the guys to review the date, rather than the guy I was on the date with. I had a lot of time for any of the guys prepared to put themselves forward, particularly as the blog itself picked up momentum (perhaps with the exception of The Exhibitionist, who just seemed far too driven by all the publicity!)
And so with the focus on the dates themselves, it made sense to research some more adventurous date locations, because not every guy was going to be as imaginative or creative with his date ideas as The Fake Pimpernel or The Enigma.
Part of that adventure involved taking this challenge to Madrid – where I met The Booby Prize, and The Argentine Matador, and to New York – where I went on a date with The New Yorker, and Los Angeles, from where I find myself writing this blog post.
However, in London, there are three main sources I’ve used for date ideas.
Time Out is a really good compendium of things to do, specific to whichever city you’re in. I used it to find the home of Phileas Fogg – the location for my date with The Surprise Package, and to source out the offers at the Ice Bar.
DesignMyNight – The website not only has a section for ‘Something a Bit Different’, and ‘Date Night’ ideas, but allows you to purchase tickets direct from their site. It was here that I discovered the Dine Mile High Mozambique event which I went to with The Jet-Setter.
Finally and most successfully, I’ve used the dating site DoingSomething for the majority of my most recent date ideas. In addition to allowing you to meet potential dates in a rather unique, date idea-based fashion, the website also contains detailed lists of things to do on a first date. And in a recent spin, has also begun organising singles events which defy the orthodox Speed Dating set-up – for example the Ping Pong singles event they ran on top of the O2 just a few days ago.
The premise of the DoingSomething website revolves around sharing a common interest in a date idea. The dater profile is more basic than some websites, however focusses instead on what you would like to do on a first date. If you see a date idea you like on someone else’s profile, you simply let them know. And then if they like the look of you, you can schedule a date.
Anyone can create a profile on the site for free, with more advanced communication opportunities available if you pay for enhanced use of the site. I definitely found the lay-out of the profile more user friendly than some other websites, as you don’t have to worry too much about marketing yourself, and instead can just focus on which of the hundreds of date ideas you’d be up for trying.
The lists of London dating ideas are seemingly endless, divided into various categories, including ‘Unusual Date Ideas’, ‘Fun Date Ideas’, ‘Cheap Date Ideas’, and ‘Creative Date Ideas’. There is also a detailed list of 100 Must Do Dates, and the website has expanded to also cover other major British cities.
It is thanks to DoingSomething that I heard about the Toilet Tour – an event which they have recently collaborated with to create a very unique Singles night. I also heard about Disappearing Dining, the restaurant Back in 5 Minutes (which I visited with The Queen’s Guard), BUG (my date with The Superhero Alter-Ego) and National Paralympic Day (which I attended with The Stallion), to name but a few of my DoingSomething-inspired Dates.
The site is a vault of creative date ideas, which can really take the awkward shine off a date. The crazy Toilet Tour which I did with The Fresh Prince was one of the best ice-breakers of any of the dates I’ve been on so far, and there is a lot to be said for watching comedy on a First Date. I’d much rather remember a date for the laughter, than for the awkward pauses.
With regards to the DoingSomething Dating Site, it’s not as sophisticated as some, and it can be a little frustrating trying to access it from a mobile phone. An app would definitely be preferable, as it was quite hard at times to read messages. I also found the selection of men using the site quite restrictive, which is a shame, as it’s a far more fun, and exciting dating site premise than most. I like the novelty of picking a date because of a shared interest, rather than purely because you find them attractive, or because their profile ‘ticks your boxes’, and love the extensive ever-growing list of date options which the website has to offer. All of which can be accessed by non-members too, which is pretty cool.
And so my advice to any of you thinking of going on a first date sometime soon – think outside the box. Yes, you could go to a pub for a few hours of hopefully not-too-awkward chat. Or you could spend your evening doing something fun you want to try anyway, with a complete stranger, who you might end up attracted to. Or who might be dull as dishwater. But either way, you know you’re going to have a great time, because there is more to the date than just the date part!
I don’t know about you, but I know what I’d rather be doing!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx