Dating in the twenty first century. A safe and easy way to meet new people. However I tried to reassure and justify myself, I was all too aware that I was going ‘Speed Dating’ and looked incredibly sad and desperate. I comforted myself with the fact that I wasn’t here by choice but in a purely journalistic capacity.
The setting is the upstairs of Bar 38, and the event is held once every month on a Sunday evening from 7pm – 10pm with all proceeds going to a children’s charity. The organiser, Dana-J (surprisingly not American) informed me that she had set up the sessions after attending a similar event in Kennedy’s from where she was barred after refusing to reciprocate the manager’s advances.
Since the speed dating nights began in December 2003, Dana told me there had been various success stories involving the meeting of minds (and other things I’m sure) of hair stylists, journalists, accountants, lawyers and solicitors.
Refusing to go on my own I dragged a friend along with me (who, incidentally already had a boyfriend. Its safe to say he wasn’t too impressed). As we arrived upstairs we were greeted by a common scene, many attractive female students and some rather odd looking men. Half an hour went by and we chatted to some of the participants whilst Dana-J frantically tried to recruit more men from downstairs and adjoining bars Orgasmic and the City Screen. Many of those booked in had chickened out, presumably having had doubts similar to my own.
However, from speaking to experienced speed-daters who had been to this event on previous occasions (obviously not proved succesful for them yet then), I was assured that this was the first time they had been short of people.
Eventually we began and sat opposite our first dates. You have three minutes to talk to your ‘date’ and write their badge number and notes on them down before a bell rings and the men move on to the next table. There is a break half way through to go to the toilet or get another drink although there is a waiter on hand if your throat gets dry or your nerves are threatening to let you down.
My first date was a Butlins Redcoat called Nick who seemed to have a fondness for Argos jewellery. Whilst all I gained from our conversation was confirmation that I am a snob, the next guy proved more enjoyable to talk to. His name was Ayman, from Israel doing his masters in Forensics. Then came Mike, a York graduate from Liverpool who was a fan of the Beatles which earnt him extra points in my book as accents are very attractive and you can’t fault the fab four.
The men that followed seemed to separate into three groups. Typical Yorkites: side-swept hair, short trousers and laughs that were embarrassingly loud; a group of chefs that were amusing (of the laugh with them, not at them sort) and three builder/ farmer friends who knew a notorious bad boy racer from my home town – the world is just too small sometimes!
There were very few awkward silences as three minutes is just enough time to introduce yourself, have a short chat and comment on how odd the situation is. The men were all around the age of 23 and it was interesting to talk to so many new and different faces on a one to one basis.
At the end of the night the men and women are lead to opposite ends of the room and can put their names and numbers into the numbered envelopes, (which correspond with the badges) of any dates that had caught their eye. No one went home with my number – my mum told me never to give it out to strange men. But four of my ‘dates’ had put their blue slip into my envelope (don’t be dirty) and it proved a satisfiying ego boost.
Although the only boy that caught my eye that night was the tall, handsome, blond barman (I have a thing for them, perhaps it’s the fact that they serve me alcohol) it had been a good night and is definitely a ‘safe and easy way to meet new people’ without racking your brains for an excuse to leave a date whilst cursing your bad judgment or trying to compete with cheesy pop music in a club. I expect if you went often enough you would meet someone who you would want to see again, in a romantic sense. But even failing this, the venue is sophisticated, relaxed and atmospheric so it’s a good excuse to dress up and do something different.