One dreary December day, when I was inevitably hiding from all of the Christmas furor, an idea popped into my head. I don’t know how or why exactly, but I remembered a blog post by Hannah Witton where she revealed a scrapped book idea in which she wanted to go on 25 dates before she turned 25.
Hannah’s book idea didn’t come to fruition as she ended up meeting a lovely man who she’s now been with for a couple of years. However, this idea was always quite intriguing to me, and on this December day I found myself thinking, “Hey, in January it’ll be 6 months until my 26th birthday… what if I went on 26 dates in the lead up to it?!”
Last year, when I was newly single and ready to mingle, I dived into a new (to me) dating app that I had heard about for a while – Bumble. If you’re unfamiliar, Bumble is like Tinder in where you swipe right for yes and left for no, however when you make a match, the woman makes the first move, and she has 24 hours to do so or the match will expire. In cases where two women match, it’s fair game on who makes the first move, but the time limit still applies.
I liked the concept of Bumble, because it forces you out of being complacent. You have to make your move or the match will be gone forever. And I had no qualms about making the first move, as when I used to be active on Tinder, I would send the first message half the time anyway. I did pretty well on Bumble, I wasn’t doing anything crazy like going on a date a week (yes I fully acknowledge me doing this experiment is completely mad) but I was doing pretty well and scoring some good dates.
After our date, J went on holiday for a week, so naturally I didn’t hear much from her. I got on with my life as she went gallivanting around the mountains in Switzerland. In fact, it sounds kinda bad, but I actually forgot about her a bit until she texted me when she got back, but it was a pleasant surprise seeing her name pop up on my screen.
We made plans for our second date. At this point, my life was becoming increasingly busy, not only with all of these dates I was going on, but other things such as my new job, and various social events that kept popping up all over the place. We found some time on a Saturday to meet up – I was going to a friend’s house that evening as she was having a few people over for her birthday, however I had ample time in the day for J. Instead of just going for a drink, I suggested that we go to the Top Secret Comedy club and see a comedian, because they often do shows that are free or ‘pay what you like’.
On the day of the date, J was a bit quiet that morning, as she had been out the night before. This didn’t phase me so much; she mentioned she was meeting up with an old friend from the US and was playing tour guide. She probably had a bit too much to drink – I thought, if our date was anything to go by – so was probably feeling a little bit hungover.
It wasn’t until I left the house to get the train into London that I received a message from her, asking if we could meet a bit later, as she was struggling to get herself together.
“Must have been one hell of a night,” I joked. So instead of meeting at 2pm, we were meeting at 3pm. Was I slightly annoyed that she didn’t message me a little bit earlier, because I was already at the station, and it could have saved me some time and allowed me to leave a little bit later. I tried to rationalise: she couldn’t have known when I was leaving, surely? Although, she did know that I didn’t live directly in London, so it takes me a little longer to get into the city.
I brushed it off. So I had to hang around another hour? Inconvenient, but not a huge deal. When I got into Waterloo, I hung around the Foyles bookshop for a bit, and ended up finding a really nice book, which I spent some time reading in the cafe we had planned to meet at.
And it’s a good thing I did buy a book to keep me occupied in the end, because I was waiting longer than anticipated. When 3pm loomed, J sent me another message of apology, that she was on her way but still another half an hour or so. This was getting to be increasingly less fine. The idea behind meeting a couple of hours before the show was so that we’d actually have a chance to hang out, because I would have to leave shortly after to see my friend for her birthday.
My friend isn’t the kind of person that’s a stickler for people being rigidly on time, and wouldn’t have minded if I was a bit late. But J had also mentioned that she was going to a friend’s house for dinner that night. So we both had places to be, and our window to hangout was getting smaller, and so was my patience.
I digress. J finally got to the cafe, full of apologies, and asked me if I had been waiting long.
“Mhmm, kinda,” I said. I didn’t want to make her feel bad, because she already seemed to. Called me old fashioned, but when you’re in an early dating stage, I feel things like timekeeping should be high on your list of priorities, especially when you’re generally trying to make a good impression. I’m not saying that J shouldn’t have gone out the night before, but maybe if you know you don’t deal with hangovers well, and you have plans in the evening… maybe don’t make plans in the day?
Anyway. We still had the chance to chat for a bit and catch up, J about her holiday and me about my new job, before we set off the to comedy club. The comedian, Tim Renkow, was really good; I had only seen clips of his on YouTube, as well as an interview with Romesh Ranganathan. So it was great to see a full hour of his, as he geared up for the Edinburgh Fringe.
After the show, J and I had a little bit of time to go to the pub across the way from the club and have a drink. As we chatted, I revealed to her about this ‘dating project’ I’m doing, and she was surprisingly cool with it (or just had a really good poker face). After a few more moments of chatting and flirting, we walked to the tube stop together, kissed and then parted ways, making promises to meet up again soon.
After that second date, it was becoming increasingly difficult to actually make plans to meet up again. Because we had slightly different work schedules, it was hard to find time in the week to meet up, and both of our weekends seemed full. And then, we had around a week where we weren’t even texting at all. And the thing is? I kinda forgot about her again. With the rush everything going on, J got pushed to the back of my mind, and I found myself not that desperate to see her again.
But I didn’t just want to leave things to fizzle out like that. I thought I owed it to her, to both of us really, to send a message saying that it was nice to meet her, but it’s probably best to go our separate ways.
She read my message but didn’t reply, which was fair. On telling a friend of mine, they said that that probably meant she was probably a little bit more into me than I was her, and maybe felt a bit hurt. Which could well be the case. I felt bad, but I think I ultimately did the right thing.
I know a lot of you loved the post about our first date, and I’m really sorry that I don’t have better news to tell you all! I did have a really good time with her the first time we went out, but that’s just the way life goes. Sometimes you have one or two really great dates, but that’s all it’s supposed to be. You just gotta carry on.
If any of you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’m getting dating app fatigue at the moment. My amount of matches aren’t slowing down, necessarily, but everyone I’ve matched with lately is either not replying or not making a commitment to meeting up, opting instead on inane in-app small talk, until I give up out of pure frustration (or until I ask them if they want to go for a drink and then they ghost me).
Someone on Instagram gave me the idea of trying out speed dating, as there are loads of events around London, and most companies operate the policy of, if you don’t meet anyone you want to see again, you’ll get the next event free. I’ve never been speed dating before – a former work colleague once floated the idea that we all go to a speed dating event last year, but nothing came of it. So, using my frustration with apps as my guiding force, I typed ‘speed dating in London’ into my browser and hit search.
I think the second company to come up was Original Dating, and after browsing their events page, I was immediately intrigued. Mostly because they had an event called ‘Dating Against Humanity’, an event they described as combining “the best in speed dating with the hit card game Cards Against Humanity to bring you a new, slightly vulgar but absolutely hilarious way to meet new people in London.”
I took the liberty of contacting Original Dating to see if they would like to be a part of my dating experiment, and they were very gracious to gift me free entry to another event – their Lock and Key Summer Party – AND give me a code for you guys who might want to try out their speed dating events for a fraction of the price! I’ll leave all the info at the end of this post, so you can read about my experience and decide for yourselves.
When I told people that I was going to a speed dating event where we were playing Cards Against Humanity, the general consensus was that CAH is a strange choice of game to play when you are essentially going on 12 first dates with strangers, and want to make a good first impression. And that’s not an invalid opinion to have. I have a tendency to overshare on dates anyway (not on purpose, and I’m not necessarily condoning oversharing with strangers… but, come on, have you met me? Have you seen my Instagram? Have you read THIS BLOG? THIS SERIES? Of course I’m an oversharer). So, for me, it felt natural to reveal my slightly weird, sometimes dark humour from the get-go. If anything, it weeds out the people I won’t gel with much more efficiently. Go hard or go home, right?
However, on the day of the event, standing in front of the venue, the nerves suddenly set in. I had been excited about the night all week, but I was having doubts. What if it’s full of weirdo losers? Wait, what if I’m the weird loser? I think going to any social engagement alone is going to spark some initial apprehension. But, I swallowed my fear, and as soon as I met the host, I knew there was no need to worry. Alicia – who usually hosts the Brighton events, but occasionally pops up to London – was very warm and vibrant, and made me feel immediately at ease. You could tell she was had a performance background, as she had a natural charisma and way with people that made her a perfect host for this event.
How it all worked was that we were sat in groups of six, and we spent 20 minutes playing CAH and getting to know each other. After our time was up, the girls stay put and guys move around to the next group. This meant that I got to sit with two other girls for the whole evening, which was nice as we got along quite well (thankfully, could you imagine what a nightmare it would be if I was lumped with people who were annoying or rude?). I did wonder, since this was all so heteronormative, if there are any speed dating events out there in the world for queer people, because I’d be interested in going.
The first group we were sat with were pretty cool. I felt the six of us got on quite well and it all felt very natural, like we already knew each other well. We all had similar senses of humour, which did well to eliminate the awkwardness that we were all virtually strangers. And made things less judgy when we were pulling out some absolutely brutal cards during the game.
After the first three lads, we didn’t get so lucky with the next few groups. The girls and I would quickly debrief after every group to discuss what our initial thoughts were, and we agreed that while most of the people there were nice, there were no sparks flying for the most part. The chemistry, easiness and ‘bants’ we had with the first group was not replicated in later groups. One of the girls, who had been speed dating once before, and she said that she noticed that the girls were often much more interesting than the guys in these things. I know, ooo burn. But I could kind of see where she was coming from.
Even for someone who is ‘good’ at dating, that first one-on-one interaction can be awkward and daunting for everyone. Because of the nature of this event – a group setting, with the wonderfully awful Cards Against Humanity to break the ice for us – things felt a bit more easygoing. There was less pressure as it felt like more of a social environment than a date one. I was asked on Instagram if I came across any scary or weird players, and to that I would say no. I think we all know what we’re getting into when it comes to Cards Against Humanity, and everyone interested in this kind of event must have a sense of humour about it. Plus, I’m not one to talk when it comes to weird – I ended up winning two out of four games!
A fun time was had all round, so I’m glad I went through with it despite initial nerves. I would highly recommend going to an Original Dating event – I obviously don’t have any other speed dating events to compare it to, but it all was relaxed and easygoing, and they obviously have a sense of humour if they’re making strangers play CAH together. I’m looking forward to sampling another one of their event in a couple of week’s time.
And did I get any dates out of it? Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait and find out…
If this sounded at all enticing, why not book yourself into an Original Dating speed dating event? As well as Cards Against Humanity, they have Vegan speed dating, the aforementioned Lock and Key parties, chocolate making, and traditional 4-minute speed dating. Get 25% off (that’s right – a QUARTER off) your ticket price by using my code: ellas26dates. They don’t just do events in London either, they have speeds dating events in Brighton, St Albans, Southend, Oxford, Cambridge, High Wycombe, Derby, and have just started doing events in Kent, too. So give it a go – and let me know how you get on!
Livin’ on a prayer, lemon and a pear, kitten on a stair, etc. etc. Already we’re 50% through this series. Where has the time gone, eh?
I’ll be honest with you guys – this date was kind of a non-event. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t anything to write home about; and certainly not for 1,000 words, the average word count for these posts.
So, this is what we’re gonna do. I’ll give you a brief rundown of how the date went down, and then I’ll spend the rest of the post reflecting on the first half of this experiment, and what I’ve learnt so far.
M’s opening message to me was “Ella, delete Hinge. I’m your boyfriend now.” It was corny, but bold and to the point. I liked it.
“Haha! How doe this line generally work out for you?” I asked.
“I would call it a moderately successful attention grabber to hide my shit chat,” he said, “I usually let my looks do the talking…”
“It certainly grabs your attention,” I concurred, “There’s only so far looks can get you.”
We were pretty quick to sort out a date, as a couple of days later we met up at another London bar that does a great happy hour. With such a strong opener, I was expecting a charming, confident guy with great chat. However, I should have noted the first red flag when he openly admitted to shit chat… because it was, in fact, not great.
M wasn’t a bad guy – he was actually a rather nice guy, pretty wholesome – but we just didn’t click. In fact, I found it quite a slog at times to keep the conversation going. We had virtually nothing in common: he wasn’t in films or music, he worked in IT and, when I asked him what he did outside of work, the only hobbies he could think of were rock climbing and socialising with friends. I even asked him what he would do with his life if money was no object, and he said he didn’t know, because he wasn’t passionate about anything.
He seemed quite nervous as well, which didn’t seem to ease up at all even after a couple of drinks. Maybe he could also sense that things weren’t quite meshing. At least we decided to give each other a chance and neither of us decided to call it quits after 45 minutes. Cough cough.
So, what have I learnt during this dating experiment thus far?
I’m very forgetful.
When you’re talking to so many people, and repeating a lot of the same details of your life, things tend to blur together and I forget what I’ve said to what person sometimes. I’ve even had a few occasions going into a date and thinking, “Fuck, what is this person’s name again?!” Luckily I’ve not had any slip ups so far, not called anyone by the wrong name, or repeated something I’ve already told them.
Guys like to pay for stuff.
I feel like every now and then I hear about guys complaining that they are the ones who always foot the bill. However, I’ve found that, for the most part, they like to pay. A lot of them even INSIST on it. I don’t know if this is because we’re all victims of the patriarchy and gender norms makes everyone feel that guys have to pay. Or, maybe it’s just that the guys I’ve been on dates with so far have generally been over 30, and older guys (who are generally more established in work/money) don’t mind paying as much. We’ll never know.
It’s not a big deal if you don’t click.
I’m playing a numbers game here, so if I’ve not had a successful date, I don’t worry too much about it because I’m more than likely gearing up for the next one. And I’m not necessarily saying that you should all go on LOADS of dates in a short period of time, like me. However, this experience so far has me believing that there really are more fish in the sea. Of course, I live near London where I have access to thousands of strangers in just a swipe. But even in less populous towns and cities, there’s always going to be someone around the corner, eventually. There’s no point on dwelling too much on something not working out. If you don’t click with one person, there’s almost always going to be someone else out there who you will click with.
Many people don’t practise what they preach.
A lot of people will post on their dating profiles “say something more interesting than hi” or “don’t bother if you’re a time waster” and the classic “not looking for a pen pal.” These people are, more often than not, the ones who are uninteresting, unable to hold a conversation, or reluctant to initiate a meet up. Funny that, eh?! I could do a whole other series on dull duds and no follow-throughs of the datin pool (and there would be more than 26 of them, i can tell you that for free).
People love to go ghost.
I’ve had three occasions so far where I’ve chatted to someone, got on well, arranged the date… but then they go quiet a couple days beforehand. Even when I’ve nudged them to say, “sooo… are we still meeting up?” Nada. Nil. Zilch. Like they’ve fallen off the edge of the earth, or something. I don’t know whether to make a separate post about it, because it’s just plain weird how some people will ghost you before you’ve even met. And then there’s of course, people you have met IRL, gotten on super well with, and still decide to ghost you… and then later zombie you.
Dating is a minefield and there are times when it can get super frustrating. The incessant swiping, the endless small talk, always having to put your best foot forward to make a good first impression. However, when you don’t take it too seriously, it can be tones of fun. I’ve had people asking me if I’m having a good time with it, and I honestly am. When you take away the pressure of finding someone – whether it’s ‘the one’ or simply the one ‘right now’ – dating is such a great experience. I’m meeting all sorts of people that I probably wouldn’t have met before, having a ball, and learning a lot about myself in the process.
The journey’s not over yet, there’s still so much to explore. Bring on the next 13 dates!
The soundtrack to this post is also super obvious and if you haven’t guess it by now then, frankly, I am appalled.
It’s the age old dilemma – you sleep with someone after the first date and then you don’t hear from them again. A problem that I’m not exactly unfamiliar with, but hadn’t encountered in a while. And let me tell you, it doesn’t feel great the first, second or any other subsequent times.
Does anyone remember this onimus tweet I posted a while back? Well, hold onto your butts and let’s rewind, shall we.