‘It wasn’t awful…’
That’s the text I sent my friends as I left the bar this evening. I’d just been at a speed dating event, which I’d been incredibly nervous about beforehand – so the immediate feeling on leaving was came from the bar being very low. On the floor. Impossible to limbo under and barely requiring even a hop over. After trying to sleep the past hour, I realised I needed to talk through the night to find a kind of peace with my ‘wasn’t awful’ evening as, if it ‘wasn’t awful’ what was it? And why do I feel sadness tinging at the edges?
I’d booked the event at the start of July during an infrequent crossover of ‘God, I hate the apps’ and ‘Well, why not?!?’ It was due to happen a couple of days later, which was the key here – as an overthinker of Olympic status, I didn’t need any longer to think over it all or strategise for all that could go wrong. Then the football happened and the event got postponed. I couldn’t make the following week due to work commitments, and an increasing tough blend of end-of-school-year fatigue meets Long Covid. That’s how it ended up happening literally a month later than planned.
Going on my own had felt the best choice – there’d be no where for me to hide (I’m surprisingly good at this for someone so tall and hard to miss…) and no need to worry about who liked who/any overlaps in possible matches. And yet, at 5am on Thursday when I woke up straight into an anxiety attack – well, that’s when it all started to feel like a bad idea. I could go into detail about what kind of thoughts that nasty voice in my brain was churning out, but I think doing so will amplify them and give them more volume. I think they’d also make you feel sorry for me, which is not the intent here at all. Suffice to say, they were not nice thoughts about myself and placed huge doubt in what I was thinking in even going to such an event – who did I think I was putting myself forward? Who’d even like me?
Big twist time, I did end up going! I popped those nasty thoughts in a box, pushed them to one side, had some Dutch courage and braved it. But, as you’ve probably guessed – it’s being ‘not awful’ isn’t the most glowing endorsement is it?
Arriving at the bar, I couldn’t get over the noise. Were bars always this loud in the before times? Did we always have to endure such loud music that required much shouting to even attempt a conversation? Have dj’s always thought mixing Ed Sheeran and Beyonce, before segueing into an awful remix of Shakira’s ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ was a good idea?
A few people had already arrived in the upstairs section, where the event was happening. There wasn’t much vibe, just us awkward folk awkward-ing. Clearly the past 18 months had had an impact on our socialising skills, if there really had been any to start with… The website for this evening had promised 15-20 dates on one page. On another 20-25. I asked the organiser what the numbers were looking for tonight. He replied ’14 blokes and 11 girls.’ I nodded, barely close to the promised numbers – but not ‘awful’. I genuinely didn’t expect him to follow up with ‘Well, I say that – two of the girls did arrive, clocked the blokes coming up here and are refusing to come up as they’ve said they don’t like the look of the quality of the men. But I mean, come on! You’re here now, why wouldn’t you come up??! They’re young I guess, you get it though right?’ I nodded sagely in agreement, as if to shake silent the red alarm whirling in my head but also to cover up for really not knowing what to say. Looking around the room, they may have had a point…
This is not to make a judgement on looks, appearance or height. It was more about the feel, and the feel wasn’t good. In all honesty, it felt really thirsty. And there was a growing discontentment from the blokes about the ratio and odds being far from in their favour.
My first ‘date’ happened before the event even officially started. Having sat down to get my bearings, I was alone for less than a minute before a bloke sat in the chair opposite. He hadn’t asked (a lack of questions being asked would turn out to be a recurring theme of the evening…) and started his attempt at a charm offensive. He was insistent on taking my IG details and checking I added him there & then. In a rather cyclical move, he returned at the end of the night to insist I go on a drink with him – refusing to take no for an answer. Soon after, as I left, I took so much pleasure for using the ‘block’ button.
The rest of the – fourteen in total – dates varied from ‘fine’ to ‘not good’ to ‘oh Lord, have mercy’ – which I guess is how you get to ‘wasn’t awful’. One guy ignored the Covid guidelines and decided to sit next to me instead of opposite – not asking for permission and trying to take the mick out of me as I subconsciously crossed my arms as a barrier. Another guy explained to me how men and women are different, ‘not to offend you, but men are less patient and wanting – we’re just really eager for you girls!’. I met a rapper-poet-events-boxing organiser. Several accountants/financiers/bankers, most of whom told me how lucky I was to be in a job as ‘rewarding’ or ‘noble’ as teaching. A man questioned me for referring to these in passing as ‘dates’ as I was putting too much pressure on them. I got called ‘quirky’ for wearing a headband. A couple of the dates were nice enough, good practice for the future but clearly nothing there for either party.
The fact all this happened whilst a line of four men stood at the back overseeing all the dates whilst they waited for their own, that definitely didn’t help matters. Or the fact the woman sat next to me walked out three dates in, leaving an empty seat next to me – so every time my date finished I’d have to explain the empty seat (the organiser didn’t) and proceed with my next date, in the knowledge the last date was probably listening in.
We didn’t get the promised interval, instead we ‘pushed on through’ as the organiser put it. Which would have been a chance for a second drink or a chance to leave. I took the later option, I probably would have done anyway – but my decision was cemented by overhearing the last of the queue boys discussing how tall I was when I stood up.
It felt like it was over, and it really was now.
I already feel a bit better for typing it out. There’s a catharsis to be found in writing, and with no-one to talk through it with right now – I’m putting it up here. However, I still feel today lingering on me. Aside from a throat that is sore from all the yell-talking over the questionable playlist, I feel a bit of a sinking stomach too. What’s next?
The apps no longer seem to work, endless swipping for minimal matches and next-to-no conversations. My social life is expanding again as the world ‘reopens’ – but no single men have crossed into the horizon.
I didn’t go into tonight hoping to meet the love of my life (although I would have been open to the prospect..!) But, whilst I rediscovered my ability to hold my own in a conversation and make people laugh – I didn’t get to experience that spark to night. That hint of possibility and potential, of intrigue and interest – of wanting to know more about someone. Words can’t express how much I miss that feeling, and the worst bit is that those 5am gremlins are making me doubt and disbelieve it will actually happen again.