A few months ago I attended a Guardian Soulmates singles’ event at Vinopolis. Having never done wine tasting before (and with a palate reserved for rose and lemonade!) I was quite excited to learn more about wine, with the opportunity to perhaps meet a more ‘highbrow’ breed of singleton. Unfortunately, neither Miss 32, nor I were overwhelmed by the event, and I wrote a rather frank write-up the next day, not expecting Soulmates to ever see it.
Barely a day later, the dating site contact me, and asked if I might be interested in writing for them!
Rather inspiringly, rather than begrudging my frank and unimpressed write-up, Guardian Soulmates wanted to hear more about what I thought, and having checked out my blog, asked if I might consider writing some pieces for their website.
The day after I got back from Los Angeles, the venue of Date Number 30, and where I celebrated my 30th birthday, I visited the Guardian Head Office in London and met with some of the Soulmates team. It was then that they approached me about speaking at a #GuardianCoffee Singles event.
I jumped at the idea. I’ve always enjoyed chatting to people, and the idea of being able to inspire others to inject fun into dating and single life, talking face-to-face, was new and exciting.
I arranged to travel into London after work on Tuesday November 12th, and attend the latter two of the four Coffee Sessions for Soulmates members.
The sessions were designed for members to learn how to make the most of the site. A photographer was available to take profile pictures for the members’ online dating profiles, and there were various iPads around the coffee shop so that visitors could get second opinions on their dating profile, and perhaps learn why they hadn’t had too much success on the site.
Guardian Coffee is based at BoxPark, a modern pop-up mall in the centre of Shoreditch. The coffee shop was intimate, and places at the event very limited on account of the space. Tickets for the evening were priced at £5, and the event sold out within a few hours for most time slots. I actually received a number of emails from readers who noticed me mentioned as the guest speaker on the mail out about the event, and weren’t able to get hold of tickets in time!
For the first time since I began this crazy challenge, London Transport actually let me down – there were no active Tube lines out of King’s Cross, and so I ended up jumping into a cab and running fifteen minutes late for the 6pm session. By the time I arrived, quite a crowd had gathered to hear me speak – which was pretty crazy!
I had imagined sitting at a table, answering one-on-one questions from daters, however when I arrived, I was asked to speak to the crowd! It turned out having nothing specifically planned worked really well as I simply chatted. Though I definitely regretted not washing my hair or getting dressed up for the event when a Guardian photographer hovered around me! I’m working 6am shifts at the moment, and had turned up post-nap, wearing a huge baggy sweater – hardly my best dating face!
I started with the Henley Boy, explained my Challenge, and went briefly through some of the highs and lows. I explained about Madrid, and America, The Henley Boy’s Return, and my final Closure. I told them about The Airport Guy, The Enigma, and The Normal Fish. And spent a lot of time explaining just how much my attitude to Dating and being single has changed in a matter of months. I shared ideas on great date venues, and my theories of avoiding ‘bog-standard’ dates like pubs and restaurants and trying something unorthodox. I spoke about Toilet Tours, and Silent Dating, and answered a whole range of different questions – some fun, others more serious.
After the first session, I helped Soulmates Members with their profiles, offering my views on what photos to use, what information to include, and how to communicate with people online. I answered one-on-one questions, and met a blog reader who had come specifically to the event just to meet me (even though she’s not a Soulmates member!). My first taste of ‘fame’!
I laughed about being flouted as an ‘expert’, admitting to being single still, but happily single out of choice – a message I tried to underline.
I spoke to a whole range of daters – from ladies in their fifties and sixties keen to talk about post-menopausal dating, and men in their forties adamant they wish to use online dating to find the One – NOT just for fun.
After an hour of one-on-one questions, I gave a second talk. This time a bit more prepared and structured, knowing what the crowd was likely to ask. One man asked if anyone had ever written up my dates from the other side. I reminisced about the way The Voice promised to write up our date, but then never followed through (and the way my approach changed when I thought the date was being written up!). However as I had not just Miss32, but also TOWTS accompanying me to the event, I was able to point the man who asked the question in the direction of The One with The Sign, my Date Number Two!
I really enjoyed the event, and I hope the Soulmates members did too. I got a lot of positive feedback after the chats, and it was really fun to enthuse and inspire with my tales of my crazy summer. I had laughed with friends beforehand about being lauded as a ‘Dating Expert’, but as the daters asked me various different questions, all of which I had answers to, I realised that in the past four months I have learned a great deal about Dating, and being single.
It’s funny, because I had expected speaking about dating to be different to writing about dating. I obviously have time to sculpt and revise what I write, whereas speaking I was on the spot, and forced to think on my feet. But I absolutely loved the experience, and loved the opportunity to interact with blog readers and people in similar situations to the one in which I found myself back at the start of my 30 Dates Challenge.
I’ve followed up my talk with a write-up for Soulmates, to help their members choose photos, write dating profiles, and make contact with other members, and will be writing a series of pieces for the dating site in the coming months.
I had a great night, and really got on well with the Guardian Soulmates team. It’s amazing what a cool experience has come out of a Singles Event I didn’t particularly enjoy! And hopefully I can help Soulmates tailor some of their future events more to daters. So watch this space for more news. And fingers crossed they ask me back … because I bloody loved being an ‘Expert’ for an evening!!!
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx