Who would have thought it, me the jaded cynic agreeing to something like the concept of speed dating? Then again people change and I was growing tired of the same ol’ stale conversations online and craved a new beginning. After all A. I had never tried speed dating and B. life is too short to not try new things so why the hell not?! The big day was approaching and I felt slightly nervous, how would I come across, would I appear as awkward as I felt? But I needn’t have worried, with my best friend Anna Maria (On The Edge Blog) in Tow, I knew that we could have a giggle after if everything fell apart. Originally meant to take place at Mahiki in Green Park, the venue changed last minute to Shaka Zulu, which was a little bit inconvenient as it was further to travel to. Not to mention there are some people I would rather not see in Camden, but luckily it was dark and we did not bump into anyone we knew. Dressed in our ‘finest garb’ I channeled my inner princess and took on a new persona – let’s call her Princess Jasmine- because I knew the real me- Ana- was cynical and upfront. I did not want to scare off the poor guys during the date with my upfront mannerisms and wanted to be a little more open minded than I had in the past. As I am 23 and Anna is 26 we were put into the 21-41 age group, which meant that we got to meet a lot of interesting characters to say the least. But more on that later …
Shaka Zulu was beautiful, in fact a better word to describe it would be mesmerizing and the South African decor gleamed with intensity. The atmosphere pulsated with trance like music and it felt like stepping into an alternate universe where boundaries cease to exist. We stepped into the ‘speed dating’ room with more bravado than we felt and looked around at the sea of people. In that instant all I could think was that is a lot of men and struggled to see any women in the crowd. They were lounging around sipping on cocktails and beer and I have to admit it felt a little unnerving to see all eyes on us. Turns out the women were already seated at tables and I breathed a sigh of relief, good more females that are in the same position as us. We were ushered to our tables and the speed dating began;in the words of Paddy Mcguinness , let the crown see the jewels.
I wont bore you with the details of every single ‘speed date’ that we both had but I will tell you this, it ranged from the good, the bad and the god damn ugly. There was the good, lets call him ‘G’ who entertained me with tales of living life in the fast lane. His motto was to reach out to new people and share experiences that are out of ordinary. What I gleaned from that sentiment was that G was a fan of trying things again and again until there is really no hope of continuing. After all he ‘confessed’ this was already his third ‘speed date’ and when I asked him what happened the first two times he said that his ‘friends messed things up for him’. I didn’t really probe any deeper because we only had 4 minutes per person but I liked his honesty and how eager he was to get to know me. It made a nice change from the usual guys that I seem to bump into who were after one thing and thought it would be ok to grope me. Well I am not a bunch of f**king grapes so bye Felicia, have a nice life.
For the most part the dates were nice, if a little awkward but in all honesty there was no real spark with any of the ‘speed dates’. I felt like I was talking to new friends, although a few were my type. I am not sure whether it is because the dates are only ‘4’ minutes long and that is not really enough time to make a decision or because I just didn’t find a guy I liked but it was a little disappointing that there was no connection. Still I had a lot of fun and speed dating was definitely out of my comfort zone, so it was nice to try something new even if it didn’t make magic happen on that particular night. What I will say is this, I never knew how exhausting ‘speed dating is’ , especially since the men seemed to get breaks and the women didn’t, not sure what that was about? It was quite exhausting talking to many men without a breather and I think a better way of curating the experience would have been to have a breather in the middle like it stated in the dating brief.
Nevertheless we met some interesting characters, there was one ‘R’ who made inappropriate comments which we reported to the organizers, there was ‘S’ who thought I was his home girl and got all up in my personal space and there was ‘J’ who seemed a sweet enough guy and if matched with him would have loved to get to know him more, even if there was not much of a spark. R was extremely creepy and despite the organizers stating that he was ‘harmless’ and there was ‘misinterpretation’ over the comments he had made, me and Anna both felt uncomfortable that he was still in the building. What was good though is that the organizers said he would be banned from future events but even so I believe he should have been escorted off the premises, even if his comments were not meant to come across the way they did. Lets put it this way, I am not going to say what he said but it did make reference to ‘rape’ and ‘prison’.
The rest of the dates, despite being planted firmly in the friend zone were nice enough and it did make me laugh how everyone kept making references to my Princess dress. I looked overdressed (as usual) but I didn’t mind as for many of the speed dates it seemed to be a great conversation starter. The ‘speed dating’ was coming to a close and silly us (me and Anna) had not kept on top of our admin by checking off guys we wanted to see again, so we had a frantic struggle remembering who we would like to see in a romantic sense, even if there was no initial spark. I will say this, there were a few numbers exchanged-although not in a romantic sense- because of my job as they wanted me to help them with their social media presence so we will see whether any fruition comes from that. The speed dates drew to a close and because we had to report ‘R’ to the organizers, we were the last ones still downstairs. So it should come as no surprise that walking up the stairs pretty much everyone was already paired up and though there were glances we felt a little like gooseberries. Its not a nice feeling but we sure as hell was not going to make things more awkward and jump into other peoples conversations. Luckily people did come up to us and we did end up having good chats, but in a platonic sense only. Still the ranges of dialogues were interesting and a hot topic seemed to be ‘mindfulness’ and how our brains cope with change, which at a speed dating event only served to further reinforce a sense of irony.
We were getting tired and wanted to make our excuses and leave, but we couldn’t quite shake off a guy-who was quite literally older than my dad- hanging out with us. He was a lovely enough guy but we needed to eat and the only thing on the menu was game like ‘crocodile burger’ and that did not quite tickle my pickle. Still he was quite insistent that he would join us at a restaurant and we felt bad saying no. After going to say goodbye to the organizers who we didn’t end up finding we climbed back upstairs only to find him gone and breathed a sigh of relief. We might be upfront but we couldn’t be horrible to someone who was quite clearly a nice guy, Despite the lack of success in the speed dating apartment, I did spot a guy who caught both of our eyes ( we have the same type ok), one of the bartenders and I thought to myself, god damn if only he was on the date. I am not joking when I say he looked like his face had been carved by the gods. Still if I ever come back to Shaka Zulu again maybe next time I will say hello…
It was the journey home that turned out to be the most interesting part of the night. Two women got the train home with me and it turned out they had recognized me from the speed dating event. Suffice to say me and the bezzie had not been the only one to not find success and we bonded over our horror stories although like me they did not regret attending. We even bumped into a minor celebrity, who used to be in Eastenders and he was super interested in hearing how the process of speed dating worked, especially as he had just split from his wife of seven years, poor guy. Isn’t it strange the people you meet out of nowhere, how you have the ability to bond over such a universal topic like dating? Despite the ups and downs of the night, you might call me crazy but I am pretty much willing to give speed dating another shot. After all you should never judge a person you have met for four minutes so why should I turn my back on it? I might not have found the man of my dreams and will most likely still be single on valentines day but who knows, Dateinadash, maybe I will come through your doors yet again?
Me and Anna were given tickets free of charge but this does not affect my views and all sentiments are my own. Whilst it might seem like I was overly critical of the event, I did believe that it was well organized and merely pointed out factors they could work on such as breaks and the awkwardness during the after party. A more suitable venture would be organized ice breaker games which might have dispelled the awkwardness but nevertheless we still enjoyed ourselves.
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