You have 4 minutes
Speed dating: have you tried it?
In my late twenties it was a new trend; a quick and efficient way to meet prospective partners.
Held in bars or pubs as private events, there were usually twenty men and twenty women; the women were seated at tables numbered 1 through 20, and the men visited each table in turn, so that by the end of the event, all the women would have had met all the men.
Each date lasted four minutes, the end of each one marked by a bell, signalling time to move on to the next table.
Now, four minutes doesn’t sound like much time to get to know someone, but it can feel like an age with the wrong person.
What do you talk about?
In my experience, some people came along to these events with a check list of prepared questions in their head, and the four minutes would feel like a quick fire job interview:
What’s your favourite book?
Where do you like to go on holiday?
What do you do?
What music do you like?
What’s your favourite food?
This kind of interrogation got old very quickly, and diminished any enthusiasm I may have initially felt about that person.
The question that you should never ask: Have you done this before?
I tried to avoid having interview-style questions, and generally started the conversation with a simple Hi, how was your day?
I remember one woman had a jar of homemade chocolates on her table, and offered one to every man; I could see what she was trying to achieve, but it came across as creepy.
Everyone was given a score sheet, with which to make snap judgements on who they would like to meet for a real date.
Later on, the speed dating company would collect all the score sheets and collate the results.
If two people liked each other on the score sheets, they would be considered a match, and the company would send them each other’s email addresses.
It was up to each person whether or not they followed this up with any further communication or an actual date.
Playing the game
The first time I went speed dating I decided to play the game; I flirted with everyone and casually dropped compliments into the laps of all the girls.
The result was that out of the twenty girls I met, I ended up receiving the email addresses from half of them. I went on a date with one of them, but it did not develop into anything further.
The second time I went speed dating, I decided to just be myself, and not play the game; rather depressingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I ended up with no matches at all.
I’ll make it worth your while
At the end of the event, a guy approached me; I hadn’t noticed him before, because he hadn’t been participating in the speed dating.
He asked me if I’d had a good time, then leaned in closer and quietly told me I own this place, indicating the bar around us, pick any girl you like, I’ll make it worth your while if I can watch, I have a room upstairs.
Hardly believing my ears, I politely declined and walked away into the night, alone.
After that proposition, you may be surprised to read that I went speed dating for a third time.
One of my good friends had a traumatic break-up from a long-term relationship, and what better way, I thought, to cheer him up than to go speed dating?
So he, myself and a mutual friend went together.
As we walked into the venue, who should we see there but his ex-girlfriend.
He turned very pale, went to the bar and downed two swift drinks. To his credit, he stayed, and we endured the excruciating moments when each of us had to spend four minutes with his ex-girlfriend.