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Annie Hayes

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The Couch?! Goes looking for instant love

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Take 15 desperate women and 15 desperate men, put them in a bar with some scorecards and what have you got? Speed-dating!

The prospect of being in a room with 29 other desperados might make your skin crawl with shame and embarrassment, or you might fancy the challenge of being able to schmooze your way through three hours of small talk this Valentine’s Day.

Forget the days of newspaper personals or meeting people at work or through friends, speed dating is one of the fastest growing phenomena in the UK. Events are organised on an age basis and I believe niche speed dating evenings – gay speed dating, OAP speed dating, Asian speed dating and even nude speed-dating – are also in demand.

Purely in the interests of research for the Couch?!, I volunteered to go along to an event near me and see what all the fuss is about. Held on a Monday in a big city bar, I arrived having already sunk an obligatory courage-inducing glass of wine.

Walking into the event was fairly daunting and it was clear that the 30 minutes’ mingling time before the ‘dates’ start was an evaluation period for most participants. We were all nervously eyeing each other and after a quick scan of the room, I was rather disappointed with the mediocre selection of singletons on offer. My Bridget Jones status did not appear to be under any threat this evening!

Having sunk another couple of drinks (just for courage you understand!) and clinging to the bar for half an hour, we were seated at individual tables. The women stay seated and the men visit each table in turn for a ‘chat’. The organisers rang a large school-type bell after each session, which didn’t help to make you feel like a confident young professional with things to say – more like an anxious thirteen year old!

The conversations were basic at best, rarely consisting of anything more than ‘What do you do?’ and ‘Where do you come from?’ The selection of male dating candidates included army officers, solicitors, a lot of computer programmers (I think there’s a stereotype in there somewhere but we won’t go into that now), possibly a couple of teachers, one unemployed guy and the others merged into one…

After eight or nine conversations and nearly as many trips to the bar, you start to forget who’s who. I tried to make notes on my scorecard without people seeing, being careful not to write anything too insulting.

As I staggered to my feet at the end of the night I didn’t know that worse was still to come. On arriving (hungover) at work the next day, scorecard in hand, I faced the unenviable task of entering my ‘scores’ on a website. You can pick ‘No match’ ‘Friend’ or ‘Love Match’. After everyone has input their scores, you can go online and see if you had any matches. I, ahem, won’t reveal the results of my own experience; suffice to say that there wasn’t anyone I was particularly keen on getting a love match from! Maybe I’m picky. Maybe I just got a dud selection. Maybe it would work for you.

It is, if nothing else, an amusing night out for those of you who are single. My top tips for surviving the Speed Dating experience are:

1. Don’t get stupidly drunk
2. Don’t expect too much – then anything’s a bonus
3. Be honest with your scores
4. Think about the type of questions you might want to ask beforehand
5. Think about what you do/don’t want to reveal about yourself
6. Don’t be intimidated by the bell
7. Don’t write ‘Loser’ on your scorecard before the person has left the table
8. Make an effort with your appearance. Scruffy jeans and trainers are bad!
9. Take a friend or two with you
10. Don’t talk about your ex-wife/husband!

So, what’s next for a single, twenty-something girl? Online dating? Hmmm… slightly dubious about that one. Please post your comments below and share your own experiences. How did you meet the partner of your dreams? Any tips welcome…
By “Bridget”

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Annie Hayes

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