Number 21- Speed Dating

*(2,327 words)

I had always wondered what type of person speed dating attracted. Desperate and dateless? Socially awkward? Asthmatic? I was about to find out.

Thirteen girls stand opposite thirteen guys in an otherwise empty room within a pub. Numbered place mats from ‘1’ to ‘13’ lay on various bench tops and table-tops through out the venue, and next to these, stand lit candles encouraging intimacy.

Although strangers, all in the room share one thing in common; we are desperately single.

Tonight is a night of discovery. Within the next two hours, we will have had an opportunity to talk to thirteen members of the opposite sex in a quest to find a partner.
A seven-minute time frame is offered with each person as a way of screening would-be suitors. A ringing bell indicates both that your ‘interview’ is over, and that the next person is ready to be spoken to.

Aggressively streamlining the more trivial aspects of dating such as buying drinks, dancing, and wolf whistling, it’s no wonder that Speed dating has become so popular.

Making use of the complimentary glass of wine/beer on arrival, we were soon marshaled into our starting position.

I looked at my nametag pinned high on my chest. I was number ‘8’. I scoured through the room for my first date and soon found her sitting nervously on the edge of a couch. The room was quiet as the men found their spots, and soon everyone was seated. Without the comforts of loud music and drunken behaviour, an awkwardness about the situation filled the air like bar smoke.
This smoke quickly cleared though as the starting bell rang.  Instantly, as if previously deemed illegal, the room was full of conversation, and laughter. Taking a moment to look around the room, you would have been forgiven for mistaking it for a normal bar scene. People were spread evenly through out, all with a glass in their hand.

Girl # 1: Robyn

Robyn seemed like a seasoned veteran of speed dating. With pen in hand and Dating Card handy, she was ready to jot. In fact, she was born to jot. Her black thick-rimmed spectacles complimented her tightly drawn ponytail, which in turn complimented her black turtleneck jumper. It could be said that she was dressed for a funeral. Her magnified eyes stared at me intently as she took a measured sip of her wine.
“So what do you do?” she asked with a straight face. A simple question that made me realise I hadn’t planned an angle of attack. In truth, I was genuinely interested in the concept of speed dating, but as far as answers go, that seemed too boring. I had joked with friends that I would change my story with each date, but had thought against this, as admittedly it was very immature.
“I’m a painter” I replied. I was immature. Instantly, our seven-minute relationship was based on nothing but lies. If I ended up marrying this girl, I would have to tell her this, I thought to myself.
“Oh, what type of paintings do you do?”
“Pop Art mainly” My hole was getting bigger.
After four minutes, it turns out that I was quite an established painter within the industry of Pop Art and that I was leaving the country soon to paint in Rome. Each lie forced me to lie again to support the story, I felt like a child, but at the same time I was beginning to like the lifestyle of a painter.
It was a one-sided conversation and it was only by the sixth minute that I remembered that there was one question that I had planned to ask each girl
“So Robyn, if I may, can I ask you what’s one thing that you would do if the world was going to end next week? Money is no object of course”
After a moments thought, she answered,
“I’d travel more”
The bell rang on cue indicating the end of the date. Robyn scribbled down some notes, and I simply sketched.

Girl #2: Michelle

I had enjoyed living vicariously through the life of an entirely fictional character so much that I decided to do it again. Sadly, these characters just seemed so much more interesting than me.
Michelle was a university student and had a great quirkiness in her demeanour. She has a big smile amongst other large assets.
Michelle again got in the first question,
“So why are you here?’
“To get away from the family”
“You live at home?”
“Of course, with my wife”
“You’re married?”
The look on Michelles face was priceless. A big smile covered a confused mind.
“What do you mean? Does your wife know you’re here?”
“Of course not!” I laughed, “She’d divorce me if she knew I was speed-dating!” My reasoning made complete sense,
“That’s not cool!” said Michelle. Her reasoning also made complete sense, “Do you have kids?”. The answer was of course Yes
“Just one”
Moments later my one child had a name; Tamara and at three years old was unaware of her parents unhappy relationship.
The bell again rang, and Michelle was clearly relieved. She was positively outraged at the antics of an unfaithful philandering husband and her body language was very aggressive. The story had got out of hand, and I realised that life was easier as a painter. I stood up and told Michelle that I had been joking. She burst out laughing releasing tension and two clenched fists. I was lucky. Her laughter consumed the entire room, and I’m sure put her next date in a strange situation.

Girl #3: Renae

Aptly, Renae was a psychologist, and with this I felt that I needed to tell the truth. Heavily-set and already onto her third beer, Renae opened up about her aspirations of travel, and also her love of fine food. This didn’t surprise me. I mostly listened, although I couldn’t help but notice Michelle staring at me from the corner of my eye. She kept bursting into laughter, her new date looking very uncomfortable as she did this. I had certainly made an impression on her, but whether it was a good one or not, I’m still unsure.

Girl #4 and #5: Karlie and Jordana

In the nature of Speed Dating, Karlie and Jordana whizzed by very quickly. I was beginning to notice a trend that as more alcohol was consumed, the more open everyone became. Karlie had always wanted to own a property and had not slept with a man in two months whilst Jordana had always wanted to go skydiving, and had a fascination with threesomes!

Girl #5: Eva

Eva was not the most beautiful woman in the room. She was very blunt at the same time as being extremely desperate. Fusing these two qualities together, Eva was very intense and presented a thin layer of sweat on her forehead. She told me that she was on the search for her soul mate, which she knew she would find soon. Hopefully not in the next seven minutes, I thought to myself. I replied by saying that I had no money, but this didn’t seem to be a problem for her. The remainder of the interview was similar to the great Ali V Foreman fight, where Ali (me) found himself against the ropes defending his body from heavy punches delivered by the larger Foreman (Eva). Like Ali, I was fatigued, but made it out the ring alive.

Girl #6: Serena

Serena used humour to break the ice;
“Why do farts smell?”
“I don’t know Serena. Why do farts smell?”
“So deaf people can appreciate them too”
Unfortunately, this was the highlight of our seven minutes.

Girl #7: Monika

I had never met a Palm Reader until Monika. Grabbing both my hands and drawing them closer to her, she began reviewing my future life. She resembled a gypsy and spoke with a soothing voice. Occasionally, she looked up, kind enough to keep me posted on my future. With no sign of emotion on her face, she informed me that I would suffer some form of trauma before I became old, and that although appearing to be a pretty boy on the surface, I had more beneath. She would never elaborate either, instead, ducking her head down towards my hands whenever I had a question. Moment later, she told me that I had a strong faith and spirituality, which I suppose is handy when trying to overcome trauma. Unfortunately by the end of our seven minutes, I had not found love, but instead a fear of imminent death.

Girl #8: Susan

In the name of eligibility, I decided to hide my traumatic future from Susan. I didn’t want to cast a dark cloud on our date. This soon proved ironic, as it was Susan who shared a grim story.
After a ten-year marriage, she now found herself single and divorced, her ex-husband serving a long sentence in jail. After a few minutes of good conversation in which I learnt of Susan’s dream of cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa, she decided to open up again. Susan’s ex husband had actually been jailed for a crime that I'm not happy to share (or think about for that matter). She had been through a lot, and even looking at her suggested this. Susan seemed very surprised that she was comfortable enough to share this story with me, especially after a few minutes. She went on to tell me that since her ugly break-up, she had been too scared go to bars in order to meet people and that speed dating offered a safe alternative. Unfortunately as we began to speak more about this, the bell rang.

Girl #9: Christine

In comparison, Christine was a barrister. She dreamt of becoming a concert pianist. Her busy lifestyle didn’t allow her time to socialise. She didn’t drink either. Speed dating offered a time-efficient means of meeting men. Life, it seemed for Christine, was about efficiency and perfection. It was clear that I didn’t fit this mould, but we did amicably talk for the remainder of the date. I noticed her put a cross through my name as I left.

Girl #10 and #11 and #12: Rose, Anthea and Simanta

Rose, Anthea and Simanta all wanted to travel around the world. Anthea wanted to do this on a boat. My concentration had dropped at this time, possibly effected by my fourth wine, this and the fact that I had noticed one particular girl at Table 13. This nameless girl was not only my last date, but she was by far the best looking person in the room (not the greatest of accolades). I couldn’t wait to meet her. She looked to be in her early twenties, but her blonde shoulder length hair gave her an heir of maturity. She had piercing green eyes.

Girl #13: Kya

Kya didn’t belong in a speed dating event. Her casual attitude indicated that she knew this as well. It turns out that she was actually supporting a friend, the palm reader. She then went on to tell me that most girls came in groups of three to four. I just hoped that Robyn and Michelle weren’t friends, hence exposing my painting background as fraudulent.
Kya told me that she wanted to travel more, and that she was fun loving. I told her that I was afraid of commitment and wanted to take her out for a drink after. She laughed.

The dates were all over and all singles were allowed five minutes to hand in our Dating Cards. The compatibility results would be sent to us via email. With this in mind, some people immediately left, others stayed for one more drink. I had actually drummed up some rapport with Kya over the last seven-minute window, and she soon introduced me to her friends. I asked Monika if she could tell me any more about my future, but it seemed that she had consumed one too many wines to do so.

As a group, we finished off our last drinks and left. The girls had plans to move onto another pub, and invited me along.
Having experienced speed dating and enjoying it greatly, I could only assume that back in the real world, I would be lost without a seven-minute bell and numbered tables. I declined the offer but gave the girls a lift in my car anyway.
Five minutes later we had reached the next pub and the girls got out. Kya turned back in and asked me one more time if I wanted to join them, but for some reason I said no.
She then leant over and kissed me. It felt good.
With that she left.

All in all, speed dating had been a success. True, it does attract different types of people, but not necessarily those who you may label desperate, awkward or asthmatic. It appeals to people on the go, groups of fun-loving girls and lonely hearts to name a few.

I had great fun, and at the end of the day, I got a good old-fashioned kiss on the first date.

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