Here’s a question: when someone asks you how many people you’ve dated, do you count the ones you’ve met at a Speed Dating night? And how do you get the answer to the person who asked you once you’ve reported them to HR and got them suspended pending a full investigation?
I don’t know. What I do know is that if you have gone through all the time and effort to organise a Speed Dating night, you don’t want me turning up about half an hour early. Oh, sure, you’ll make an attempt to laugh it off and power through, but as you watch me awkwardly sip lemonade at the bar while trying to work out how to fill in my name and contact sheet you will feel the despair gradually fill your body.
And then to add insult to injury some dude with a neck tattoo, round spectacles and a fedora shows up.
A little while back, I decided to give speed dating a go. I had no expectations or hope of a result; I just wanted to do it to a) prove to myself that I could and b) actually do something about the feelings of loneliness that come hand-in-hand with my other stuff rather than just sit at home consumed with self-pity.
Having established that I was half an hour early (I honestly think the dude who organised it almost started crying when the others showed up), let’s move on to the evening itself.
On paper, only having to talk to someone for four minutes might suit me very well. I’m not the most talkative person on Earth, and when I do talk everyone wishes I would shut up. Having a time limit would almost certainly prevent me from saying anything too weird or offensive or start putting myself down and bumming everyone out. And it did, to a degree. But something else happened. Something that is probably worse.
I tried to be funny.
I’m not a funny person. Especially when I’m nervous. Or pensive. Or happy. Or angry. Or hungry. You get the idea. Already a bundle of nerves due to the prospect of meeting new people, I reacted by trying to turn every other sentence into a witty Bon Mot. A casual observer might have thought that a couple of these jokes landed, but come on guys. Come on. There is a difference between genuine laughter and polite laughter. Even I know that and I honestly can’t tell the difference between frustrated, sad or bored on about 30% of people. Which sounds bad, admittedly, but last year this was about 45% of people. Progress!
Anyway. Apart from the questionable attempts at humour-including one incredibly misguided attempt at quoting Anchorman-things went reasonably well. I managed to keep the conversation going and didn’t have to resort to Plan B, a daring escape plan I concocted on the train ride to London which would have almost certainly ended with me committing arson. I didn’t turn up to talk to human women wearing a fedora, so it wasn’t as though I had the biggest or most obvious red flags in the room. And nobody rolled their eyes when I told them I was writing a book, though in their defence they didn’t know me very well.
Like I said before, I have no expectations. If I can go almost three decades without entering a relationship of any kind, I doubt that one night of speed dating will change anything. I’m still the emotional mess who likes Comics and spends most of his time running. But I went out, met new people, and at least tried to be somewhat less of an introverted depressive. So whatever happens, I’m counting it as a win.