Review: Speed Dating

LOTTIE UNWIN goes looking for love and ends up swapping heads with a French lothario.

Speed Dating, Cambridge Union, 23rd November.

Under the pretence of investigative journalism I went looking for love…

In the sweaty madness of the Fresher’s Fair I had chocolates and roses pressed into my clammy leaflet stuffed hands and then and there I became a member of Cambridge Romance Society.  When Cupid emailed me inviting me to Speed Dating at The Union I had no doubts as to who I would be bringing.  Since Fresher’s Week my friend Doug and I have spent so many hours together, dwelling in our particular heartbreaks, discussing all possible options for making ourselves feel better.  We get as far as the ‘so, maybe we should just get together?’  There’s a long pause till we both shake our heads, stunned as to just what a disatrorous idea it would be.  Meeting someone new was what we both needed. 

Doug and I met in the corridor both looking a bit shifty.  What the hell do you wear to an event you are a bit terrified of? I had gone for jeans and a ‘nice top’ with only a small stain on it.  The other clean option was my Homerton Freshers t-shirt, customised after a fair few too many glasses, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t the glamorous, ‘of-course-I-don’t-need-to-resort-to-speed-dating-to-meet-someone’ look I was aiming for.  Another friend had wisely quoted that you fall in love with one in forty people your own age, so with thirty guys in one room I left feeling pretty damn confident I was going to get married and live happily ever after very soon.  In fact, with some dubious maths I had convinced myself it was 75% likely.

We looked around the room in silence. Doug giggled nervously and said, ‘Look and the guy in the glasses’.  I turned and tried to find him, interrupted by ‘Oh, sorry, they are all wearing glasses’.  And I promise to tell the whole truth.  There were 22 men, 3 with pony-tails and an informed guess would be another 3 with trousers around their belly buttons.  10 were in their late 20’s and 5 were older than that.  I tried to make witty comments to conceal my disappointment that I would be going home with Doug tonight, again.

For the first date I was next to Doug – three minutes of which 10 seconds were spent downing my complimentary glass of wine, one minute drawing big hearts around my number on his sheet so I was guaranteed one ‘match’ and then the remaining time gazing around the room. Actually once all had kicked off I had a brilliant night. 

Some of the men were quite awful. Zsott, which is a name, not a typo as another Tab writer claimed, told me as he leaned in far too close about his hatred for America and how much he missed his hometown of Budapest while sweat dripped off his eyebrows.  When I asked him to guess Pete asked me if I was Romanian studying the Cello. No Pete, I am English studying English. I am pretty darn English. 

Some were a bit tragic.  One guy had tears in his eyes when in under 15 seconds he had told me about his mental health problems and another when asked why he had come told me about his past relationship, kept under ‘lock and key’.  ‘What? In a cupboard?’ I asked, sensitively as always. ‘No, emotionally trapped… for three years’.  He got a circle round his number for making me laugh, though I don’t think I should have done.  French Emmanuel told me how he was designing iPhone applications – one that solves any Sudoku in 10 seconds when you take a photo of it and then another that swaps faces round in photos.  I asked him to demonstrate and it emerged he didn’t know how to use an iPhone camera.  I quickly lost hope he was the man to bring my home my millions. 

And others were really funny.  I asked a vet what the weirdest animal he had encountered was to which he replied a snake with very, very small legs and then had a debate with another about the need to perform operations on goldfish in plastic bags.  While I posited the numbers dying in Africa he reminded me how valuable koi carp are.  My particular favourite story was a third year engineer’s revision techniques, writing formulas upside down on a t-shirt and not taking it off for weeks, so every time he looked down he was learning.  Before we knew it we were debating what the examiners’ response would be if you had revision notes tattooed to yourself. 

The majority told me they had come because their friend had dragged them, but the very dominant alpha male with so many followers at his beck and call never did sit down next to me.  Some were honest and explained how they were stepping outside of their comfort zone – part of a change in lifestyle for one of the vets alongside taking part in other apparently comparable events, like a stand up comedy night?  I relished being able to say when I was asked that I was ‘interested, oh and I am writing for the Tab’ covering in one swift move the truth that I am a hopeless romantic and wanted to tell my children I had met my husband at such an event and my devastation it wasn’t to be. 

My results came through the next day. That sounds like a post STI test remark, and frankly it had all the fear of potential embarrassment such a moment entails.

‘You attended the speed dating event at
The Cambridge Union Society on 23rd November. Here are the results.

For your interest, here are some statistics for the event:
 You ticked: 4 people.
 You were ticked by: 9 people.
 You mutually matched with: 4 people.
 The total number of mutual matches was: 63 pairs.
 A total of 42 people (20 males and 22 females) attended.’

I wanted to smack anonymous Cupid of my emails in the face. He can apologise all he wants for the poor quality of the red wine when he is hosting events and not in ‘disguise’ but why did Doug get more ticks than me? Anger essentially directed at the fact that I am not in love and instead actually am interested in statistics. 

I left the evening with a smile on my face but completely alone. Doug was having drinks with some girl at the bar.

Two days later, hope is rekindled.  Emmanuel got his iPhone working. Maybe he is the man of my dreams after all?