If you haven’t read Part 1 of my speed dating adventures then you can do so – here.
…And then the bell rung and a call went out;
“Let the speed dating commence.”
My friend and I look around bleary eyed. Perhaps pumping alcohol into my veins at breakneck speeds on a dinner of crisp sandwiches and anxiety was not such a good idea. I watch the cloudy forms walking in front of me, men taking their seats whilst the women are huddled alongside what was essentially a subs bench due to a clear 2:1 ratio of women to men in the room.
I peruse the speed dating subs bench anxiously. On it sits the organiser, Blue Eyed Hipster’s slim friend (a Taken Badge across his chest) and a gaggle of women in sparkly tops who smell of Opium and hairspray. These ladies crowd around Sandra, who newly divorced has slipped on her sling backs and is about to embark on the most excruciating 28 minutes of her life. The perfumed harem rub her shoulders, shout positive affirmations and push her towards the waiting guys. She looks like a frightened ewe, about to take a dip bath whilst her best gal pals hold her head under the water screaming “just one more minute, Sandra, just one more minute”. Resigned she makes her way across the room, aware that she has to make this work or be excluded from another couples’ break to Benidorm.
I watch her and my eyes are drawn to all the other women sauntering away from me and towards their dates. I look back over my shoulder towards the cluster of perms and pixie cuts in the subs and then propel myself to date number one for fear of spending my first 4 minutes of speed dating adventure sat with a bunch of smug marrieds. My standard Friday night.
I place myself down in front of the nearest man to me, old Flame Shirt (the Tinder Beau me and my chum had tried to escape from earlier). I see my friend sprint across the room to the man the furthest away from us and I feel like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard, protecting my Whitney, throwing myself in front of her, deflecting awkward conversations and embarrassing eye lingers. All I have to do is make appropriate conversation for 4 minutes, how hard can that be?
The whistle blows and we introduce ourselves and he kind of rises from his seat to shake my hand and I rise a little and before I know it we are entwined in some weird Japanese bow ritual that at the very least passes 30 seconds and I am kind of grateful for it. He settles and puffs out his chest and before a single word has left his lips I know I will never see this man again, except perhaps on the front cover of a newspaper, in a mug shot, with a white tent covering his garden. So I waffle. I waffle about speed dating, work, relationships and friendships, I waffle about it all like I am on an episode of ‘Just a Minute’ and I don’t stop until the 4 minute mark where I leap from my seat, putting a big fat cross next to Flame Shirt Guy.
I turn and follow the arrows on the floor to the next table, catching my friends eye and rolling mine whilst glugging more gin and sitting down in front of ‘Man Puppy.’ Man Puppy smiles excitedly at me, he is young, very young, like I am pretty sure I had grown tits before he was birthed into the world. He introduces himself and I find myself flicking my hair, and ‘Oh Good God, who gave this woman alcohol?’ He yaps away about his love of dogs and everything in his life which is so thrilling and enjoyable and before my eyes his little face morphs into a Labrador puppy and he is sat there, big eyed and simpering at my feet. It isn’t that I don’t think Puppies are cute, it’s just I imagine oral sex with Man Puppy would be 20 seconds of him lapping and then 2 hours of him begging for a reward, and I just don’t need that in my life. So after 4 minutes, I bid him farewell and side step into date number 3.
Date 3 looms in the shadows of the room and I scooch nervously towards him. He lifts up his head to look at me and I realise the shadows are caused by a gigantic baseball cap that covers his head and honestly is it too late to sew up my vagina and join a nunnery already? Baseball Cap Bloke introduces himself to me by half standing and grabbing my hand and announcing “Hi, I am BCB and I have 2 kids but I don’t see them,” and then sits back and awaits my responses. In the meantime, I await for him to strip of his track suit and reveal his superman costume before clambering onto the bar screaming “Dads 4 Justice.” But alas we had to suffer 4 minutes of him going round the houses as to why he wasn’t allowed access to his children anymore instead. Now I am not a fan of small talk (anymore than anyone else) but maybe on a 4 minute date, leave the custody battles and DNA tests for the second drink. The bell rung once again and I turned and swiveled into the lap of the Hunky Bar Man.
After all our dribbling over Hunky Bar Man in the lead up to the dates, it seemed the organisers didn’t want to miss a trick and had pulled this poor, unsuspecting man into a speed dating adventure of his own. A little dazed and confused, still wearing his uniform and a tea towel across his shoulder, Hunky Bar Man smiled and began sipping his pint as I once again began to verbally spew my life into his lap. By this point the gin was effecting my ability to be even remotely cool and held together, and I was flicking, pulling and twisting my hair in not too subtle signs that I fancied him. I flickered lashes and giggled and smiled and honestly, after 4 minutes with BCB, 240 seconds with Hunky Bar Man was a light relief. He wasn’t my usual type, a rugby type build with a whip of blonde hair. Kind of like a Surfer who spent a lot of time surfing in Cornwall, rather than Miami. And much like a surf board, his personality was a bit stiff. Maybe it was because I was flicking my body round lie experiencing a seizure in an attempt be mildly attractive, but our conversation was drier than an empty river bed. It was just a bit dull. Thankfully the whistle blew and I rose up to take a saunter to the bar and grab my bestie to debrief in the break.
We grabbed each other by the wrists and made our way outside, her lighting a cigarette like we were two mean girls on lunch break. The debrief began and she rattled off factoids about each of her dates, life ambitions, job opportunities, their internal desires. Somehow in the 4 minutes I had spent flicking my hair and talking about myself, she’d managed to go Derren Brown on them all and get them to confess their life stories. I was in awe, and then the ginxiety kicked in and I began to question whether I was a terrible date? But we only had 20 minutes before our next date so I ignored those feelings and went and grabbed another cap full before I could question my validity too extensively. As we staggered in Sandra and her harem passed us by as they legged it for the exit, the cheerleading team looking more deflated as Sandra sighed desperately about the state of men on offer before proposing the pub. Not a bad idea Sands, I might join. We had lost three women so far in this speed dating adventure, would the rest of us make it to the end?
I slid in and into my spot on the subs bench whilst my friend went on her next date. I sat next to Blue Eyed Hipster’s mate and he smiled and introduced himself, and 4 minutes in, this was the best ‘date’ I’d had so far. He told me about how he had found his girlfriend speed dating and filled me with hope that the next 3 dates in front of me wouldn’t make me want to pull my eyeballs out. The bell rung out and I made my way to a man whose skin shined like leather under the fluorescent light.
Overtly Tanned Man sat confidently in his chair, legs far enough apart I could only assume he’d had a terrible accident when he was younger. he smirked at me as I spoke and in my head all I could think was “he kind of looks like..”
“A stripper, I am stripper.”
A pole dancing stripper in fact. I allowed a choked laugh to escape my lips as he regaled me with his stripping tales. I nod and listen and now I am not at all proud of being the listening type of dater and wished for the life of me I could think of something to say just to make it stop, and then the blessed 4 minute mark arrives and I can escape.
I turn and walk straight into date number 6 and as I do so I walk past the table of Blue Eyed Hipster and I catch his eye. He smiles at me and my insides jolt, it feels like electricity is tracing from my fingers to his and I want to redirect myself off the arrowed path and next to him. I carry walking forward and into my seat, feeling like his eyes are boring into the back of me. I look up and try to distract myself with the face of the man I am dating now but I can’t stop thinking about who I will be dating next. This guy in front of me is like wallpaper paste in comparison, he is drab and dull and I listen, nodding to his life of beige and tap my toe impatiently waiting for it to end. When it does he stands and smiles and tries to continue his last sentence but I am already gone.
I stand next to the table and Blue Eyed Hipster looks up at me, eyes smiling as he says hello. I try to pull out the seat opposite him, but it is heavier than it looks and I end up bending over trying to hulk its weight a little further back and Oh Shit! Have I just flashed my knickers?
A film of sweat from the effort is glistening across my brow now and I managed to secure my seat as he looks at me quizzically.
“Hi!’ I respond back trying to calm my breathing from the effort of lugging a ten tonne chair 2 inches from the table and from the nerves that are pulsating through my body.
“I have actually messaged you on a dating app before, but you ignored me”
Oh, well that wasn’t quite the expected start to this love affair I had imagined. I tried to rack my brain, looking at his face and wondering why I would never reply to him. I assured him he had got that wrong and I would have definitely responded if he had done. He laughed and told me he had recognised me as soon as I walked into the room and I had absolutely ignored him. This date had gone from exhilarating to embarrassing in less than 20 seconds. My mouth turned to cotton as I tried to explain how I rarely used the apps only scrolling on there for material to share with my married friends. Absolutely typical that I would come to a dating event and fancy only one of the men out of seven and this one is annoyed at me for blanking him.
He laughed and reassured me he was not bothered and was glad to get to talk to me now. And then we chatted and all of a sudden the room of 20 other people nervously giggling and gibbering fell away around us and it was just me and him in conversation and time both hurriedly rushed past us as well as inexplicably slowing down. I studied his face, wanting to burn this moment into my memory forever, was this it, was this the moment I would recall for months on end, when I first met him.
The dull sound of the 4 minute mark rung in my ears and it was like someone smashed the bubble between us and the moment was gone. We both stood awkwardly, our speed dating experience ended for the night and we walked to the bar together.
In heels, he was a little shorter than me, and we stood at the bar and I tried to do that slouchy knee thing so I looked cute and approachable. All the easiness from our date earlier had dispersed and I felt my anxious desire to want him to like me creeping in. I couldn’t find any words. I didn’t know what to say and I made the atmosphere between us a little awkward. He offered to buy me a drink and I accepted as my friend arrived and I shot her “please rescue me” eyeballs. She helped to ease the tension with witty conversation and easy questions and I did an internal karate chop to my personality for being so eternally rubbish at talking to men I like. After a while of me standing at the bar like a wax work dummy he bid us goodbye, searching for his own friend and I did the only sensible thing I knew to do and ordered two shots from Hunky Bar Man.
For the rest of the evening we mingled and chatted to the other girls and guys on the dates. I say we mingled, I picked a spot on the subs bench and stayed glued there, next to Blue Eyed Hipsters Mate as I watched the man himself flit from girl to girl in front of me, watching those same women do the weird flicks hair thing I had spent most of my evening doing. His friend told me about the last time they had been there and how BEH had made lots of ‘friends’ there too and the sinking cloud of self-doubt enveloped me. Perhaps we hadn’t clicked, perhaps there was no electricity and in fact I had made it all up in my tiny desperate head. I sidled over to my friend and made our escape plan to the local cheesy bar, to dance and get wildly intoxicated to drown out all these mixed emotions whirling in my head.
We grabbed our stuff and as we left BEH stopped my friend and they swapped numbers. I stood at the door frame, feeling like my heart had just erupted out of my chest, of course, he didn’t fancy me, he liked her. She came running back to me and I fixed on a plastic grin and I begged my body to be happy for her.
We rushed ourselves into a taxi and then the club, but I found it tricky to dance energetically to 5ive’s greatest hits when I felt so god damn walrus like. The numbness of the past few hours weighing me down.
She checked her phone, but there was no messages to be seen, and we meandered our way to the local kebab house, deflated and still very much single. Half way through an onion filled shish her phone dinged. It was him.
“You guys still out?”
Well, technically we were. Sure, we were sat slumped outside a kebab house at half past midnight on a Friday, but we were ‘out’. Shall we go meet him? We considered this for less than 2 minutes before becoming panicked about the half a red onion and pint of garlic mayo we had both consumed. Suddenly we were flitting past groups of eligible men searching for chewing gums, mints, mouth replacements, anything to dull the stink of half eaten to kebab breath. Scoffing half of the Wrigley’s factory into our gobs we sped by taxi half way across town to see him. We stood outside the prearranged bar and waited for him I wondered if I would spend the rest of the night as the third wheel in the tete a tete or if those connections I felt on our date were real. I wished under my breath that we had ordered a gin to go with our kebabs as sobriety began to hit me, and with it more self-doubt and internal destruction.
And then his cab pulled up and I saw him and he looked at me with those old blue eyes and smiled the electricity from the look pulsed between the us and I was hooked.
Want to know what happens next? Does BEH feel the same towards me? Or do I spend the best part of the night watching my bestie and BEH play tonsil tennis? Catch the third and final part of my speed dating adventure next week.