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Solo Sabbatical

2 Speed dating

Like we said in last month’s issue, Solo is all about promoting the positives of being single. On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with stepping outside of that solo status every once in a while and we’re here to give you some pointers on how to go about doing just that. So while in June we covered the art of using a dating agency, this time we are going to examine the concept of speed dating.
Perhaps the best thing about speed dating is that attraction – or lack of it – is pretty much instantaneous. For those who are not familiar with this method of partner-hunting, it’s nothing to do with snorting speed and then going on a date. Speed dating involves attending an organised event whereby an equal number of men and women date one another for three minutes, before moving on to the next person. In a throwback to old traditions, the ladies get to sit while the guys move from table to table and the whole thing is meant to be a fun-filled occasion where you may just happen to meet someone you would like to see again. There are scorecards to help you remember each ‘date’ as he or she comes along, and it’s on this you record the person’s name and number, which was assigned to them on registration, along with whether or not you’d like to date them. Or if perhaps you would like to be friends with them. The scorecard is for your eyes only and it’s useful the following day when you go back onto the speed dating website to fill in your ‘yes’ ticks. The whole thing costs €33, which is quite cheap really when you consider the price of a pint in this day and age and how much one would spend on a night out in the hope of meeting someone who was free, single and looking.
So, back to the event. Well, if one of the pluses is the immediacy of the experience, the length of the date itself can be both a positive and a negative. Three minutes might seem like a flash in the pan, but it can be a very, very long time when you’re faced with someone who clearly is not a talker, which is precisely what happened to me on more than one occasion.
“So what do you do?” I heard myself asking numerous times, only to receive monotone responses from men who appeared to be stunned by their surroundings. It’s even worse if there is an obvious and mutual lack of interest on both sides. The clock ticks at a painfully slow pace and by the time you’re into the second minute the non-interest has turned into more of an aversion. There’s nothing like a brief, but intense, encounter to bring out animosity – something I discovered after one of my dates told me he was living in Lucan.
“Oh Lucan is lovely,” I said, smiling pleasantly and actually meaning it.
“You think?” he snarled back at me, before launching into a speech about the state of Dublin’s infrastructure. The sound of the gong around 30 seconds later was music to my ears, although my relief was shortlived when about four or so dates later there was a technical glitch and the man in question returned to my table for a rematch.
“I think we already met,” he said, studying his carefully written notes. “But I may as well sit down again as I’ve nowhere else to go.”
“Please do,” I said, not without a hint of sarcasm.
“So where were we?” he asked, still examining his scorecard as if he was trying to discover if he’d marked me down as a possibility.
“You were talking about the infrastructure in Dublin as I recall,” I told him. At least he had the grace to laugh, before explaining to me he must have been nervous and had calmed down somewhat since then.
Of course, it’s not all bad and the three minutes can fly by if you happen to be looking across the table at a person you find engaging. One minute you’re full of hope, taking down the name and number, the next the bell is ringing obnoxiously and it’s all over as your next date is in front of you.
But it’s also very confusing. With about 40 people in attendance, you would imagine that to be a manageable number. How hard could 20 three-minute dates be? Quite hard, it turns out. By about the tenth date I was utterly exhausted and forgetting if the bald guy who was an accountant was actually the almost-bald guy who worked as a computer programmer. It was too late when I realised that I should have really brought a notebook. Then again if I was furiously scribbling I might have come across as taking the whole thing a mite too seriously.
Meanwhile if it’s tiring, at least there is a break when the smokers can go for a nicotine fix and everyone is free to wander to the bar, which is often just a regular one full of other punters. And here is where another phenomenon became apparent. Do men go to bars where they know there is a speed dating event on because they are sure to have a sighting of some single chicks? I only wonder because when we took our break we were heckled by a couple of guys watching a Liverpool match.
“How’re ye getting on girls?” they shouted at us, highly amused at the fact we were emerging from the dating basement for a quick breather. And I would have put this down to innocent teasing only that when I returned from the loo I discovered that my speed dating companion had swapped numbers with one of the non-speed dating piss takers. And he hadn’t paid a penny for this luxury. Smart guy.
So the verdict? It was certainly funny, although we’re not entirely sure we were laughing at it or with it. At it probably. It’s odd – you hear a lot about desperate women, searching manically for ‘the one’ as they frantically try to block out the deafening sound of their fast-ticking biological clocks. You never hear as much about their male counterparts. It’s like they exist quietly on life’s suburbs – some mysterious place where nobody can see them. And it’s there they wait for love. We beg to differ though. We suspect that they might be all speed dating.

For more information go to www.speeddater.ie.

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