|Don't Call Me Solid|
The secret of successful speed dating: tell her she's fat.
FIFTEEN men. 15 women. Add paper, pens and a person with a whistle and the result is what's known as "speed dating". You may have spotted that I've been banging on about it for a couple of weeks - unless, of course, you don't read this column, in which case you'll never see these words and I can insult you. You look terrible in that hat.
Last week's dramatic cliffhanger left me one speed date into the evening, where a four-minute chat had revealed that the only thing the pair of us had in common was that we were in the same room. Torn apart by the blow of a whistle, I bade her a polite farewell and moved on to the next table. The pattern then repeated 14 times as I met students, teachers, administrative staff and healthcare workers, then placed a tick or a cross on my little judgement sheet, thereby reducing their entire existence to a binary value. They were doing the same to me, so I didn't feel bad.
Now, a four-minute chat is clearly no basis for a relationship. People have married over less – I hear you can get away with a couple of emails and a deposit if you're importing – but on a speed date you barely have scope to introduce yourself and exchange brief biographical details before your time runs out. However, it also means the whole thing runs quite smoothly. Even when there's no chemistry you can simply smile and nod your way through 240 seconds before boredom starts to encroach. As long as you don't sit in silence or climb up on the table and start barking swear words, nothing can go too badly wrong.
Even so, I managed to put my foot in it. It's said that you should never talk about sex, politics or religion at a party. By trial and error, I discovered there are a few more rules to add to that list when applied to speed dating: don't talk about past relationships (e.g. "That's a nice top - reminds me of my ex-wife"); don't embark on a debate about feminism (which probably comes under politics); and don't insult the person you're talking to. Certainly don't call them "solid", as they may be offended.
Sitting down with a Women's Studies student, I asked about her thesis, which touched upon feminism. I was raised by an armchair feminist, with gender equality drilled into me from birth, so I mentioned feminism was a bit of a redundant concept for me. Cue as much spirited debate as you can fit into four minutes. I couldn't tell if it had gone well or terribly.
I spoke to a teacher soon after, who told me she had been speed dating before, met her then-boyfriend through it, and he'd turned out to be an idiot. There followed a dissection of past relationships, which I gather is classic off-limits territory for any kind of date.
I insulted the last person I spoke to. She was a few years younger than me, but seemed pretty headstrong, so I told her - and I can't for the life of me remember why that seemed like a good idea - that she seemed pretty solid. She was aghast.
The next two minutes were spent digging a deeper hole as I explained I hadn't meant physically solid. Pretty smooth.
The evening came to a close and I made good my escape. The next day, I logged on to the speed dating agency's website to record my ticks and crosses and find out how badly I'd been judged. I did a quick double take. In amongst my various results were ticks from the feminist, the former speed dater and the one I'd called solid. They had liked me. How does that work?
I guess "Hi, how do you do?" doesn't cut it when it's being said 15 times.
The nice people all blur into one and the ones who argue, pick apart your failed relationships or just outright insult you have a better chance of standing out. Next time I go, I'm just going to stand on the table and bark swear words.
Get a chunk of RollZero delivered direct to your inbox with the weekly Electric Letter. Sign up in the header at the top of this page.