Over the years, my friends in relationships have made various suggestions on how to meet the man of my dreams, all of which have failed spectacularly. But one that’s come up again and again is ‘why don’t you try speed dating?’ To which I have always responded with a resounding ‘er, no thanks’.
You know how it works – put some men and women in a room, for a series of mini-dates lasting a few minutes each until everyone’s met everyone else. It’s a concept that’s always filled me with horror, for various reasons: what if you meet someone and have nothing to say to them, so you just sit in awkward silence till they move on? What if all the other girls in the room are gorgeous and confident? What if, the next day, you find out nobody that you met wants to see you again? It was all far too scary for me.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I saw an ad from Original Dating looking for bloggers to try one of their speed dating sessions, and in a moment of what I can only assume was utter madness, I got in touch with them. Not wanting to go through it alone, I dragged my friend Amanda along too, both of us growing increasingly terrified as the day approached, and before we knew it, we were arriving at Black & Blue, near Oxford Street, on Wednesday evening. And then there was no backing out.
So how was it? Well, I’m not sure we chose the best session to go to – the numbers were seriously uneven, although in fairness that wasn’t the organisers’ fault (if people book and then don’t show up, what can you do?) and the host handled it really well. But it did mean that we ladies spent quite a lot of time sitting around playing on our phones and trying not to eavesdrop on the dates going on around us. The situation wasn’t improved when two more guys walked out, never to return, halfway through the evening. Not guys I’d spoken to, I hasten to add. It wasn’t my fault.
But, the problem with numbers aside, it was actually a really fun night. The venue was the downstairs bar of a restaurant, which we had all to ourselves. It got a bit crowded at times thanks to the excess of women, but it was nice to have our own space where we could relax, knowing we weren’t being watched by the other customers.
Each date was four minutes long, and it’s surprising how much you can cover in that short space of time. I managed to find some common ground with (almost) all my dates, so that in pretty much every case, we were still chatting away when our time ran out. I was amazed at how easily the conversation flowed, and only had to resort to my pre-prepared ‘random questions’ a couple of times. I also learnt a few things: apparently Sainsbury’s in Dartford sells really good sandwiches, firemen really do rescue cats from trees, and I should watch Californication. So there we go.
And then came the fun/scary part… when you choose who you want to see again. Original Dating have their own app, Mixeo, where you can login and rate each of the people you’ve met as either Yes, No or Friend. Then if you both say Yes, or one or both say Friend, you can keep chatting through the app and arrange to meet up later. If either of you say No, that’s the end of that. Personally, I like the middle ground of the Friend option, because I don’t believe that after four minutes, you can really make an informed decision if you want to see someone again, and while I didn’t necessarily want to say yes to everyone, saying no without a good reason seemed a bit too harsh.
It’s all very clever, and easy to use – in theory. Unfortunately there was a problem with the app on Thursday, when we were supposed to go online and record our preferences, and I hate to say it but communication from the company wasn’t great. Considering this is a fairly fundamental part of the whole speed dating process, it would have been nice to have at least been sent an update during the day so we knew what was going on, instead of waiting until it was fixed at 3.30pm.
That said, once it was up and running, the app was really easy to use, and since then it’s been plain sailing. And the company did extend the deadline, to give us a bit more time to enter our preferences, so it all worked out okay. But I think if I’d paid the £25 entry fee to attend the event, I might have been a little bit disappointed with the service provided.
So… did I get any matches? Well that would be telling, really, wouldn’t it? 😉 But it’s fair to say I’m over my terror of speed dating, and I’d definitely consider doing it again. My coupled up friends will be so happy.
My friend and I were given free entry to this event for review purposes, but all the opinions in this post are my own.