So, recently, I went speed dating. I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet new people, test my newly acne free skin on some gays, and get some good juice for this blog. Essentially I didn’t really accomplish any of these things. Speed dating in Soho turned out to be very similar to London in 2016 – expensive, predictable, mature and not so juicy.
I can’t say I didn’t have fun. It was actually really good fun. But while the people were lovely – SPEED DATING IS UNQUESTIONABLY THE MOST UNROMANTIC EXPERIENCE YOU CAN EVER HAVE. Posting a sex ad on Craigslist or Gumtree would be more romantic. Did I expect models armed with roses and a burning eagerness for my wit? No. But I think it was realistic to think – “well, if I don’t connect at all with at least one person, at least I’ll meet complete nutters that I can write about. There were no nutters. Is it so much to ask to have one pervert in his late 80’s, or one right wing racist, or one guy who has seen every episode of Star Trek like 5000 times? Apparently yes, yes it is. It is too much ask. London for the first time ever, you may have disappointed me.
Number 21 – Have you ever done this before?
Me – No. You?
Number 21 – No.
Me – I don’t think anyone has.
Number 21 – It’s nice. Haha. We are all losing our virginity together.
Me – Oh, I love losing my virginity.
Number 21 was such a sweetheart. Confident, smiley and really sweet with just the perfect amount of naughty humor for a 3 minute date. But while looks aren’t important (a school of thought frequently endorsed by us average looking people) – Number 21 only came up to my shoulder. He probably thought Tom Cruise was tall – bless him. When he sat down beside me, I thought he needed a booster seat.
Number 25 – So, why speed dating, Shane, and why now?
Me – That was very serious and efficient.
Number 25 – We only have three minutes.
Me – I know it goes so fast.
Number 25 – I was waiting for it to finish with the last guy.
Me – Oh no, was he boring?
Number 25 – Very.
Me – Why?
Number 25 – Why?
Me – Yeah, I love hearing about why people are boring. Haha. Is he an accountant?
Number 25 – I’m an accountant.
Me – Oh, fuck.
Number 25 – Don’t worry. Everyone says that.
Me – Sorry.
Number 25 – What do you do Shane?
Me – Writer.
Number 25 – Oh, that sounds cool. Are you going to write anything about this event?
Very tempted to say – Well, yes. I’m actually so unsuccessful in my field, I had to use crowd funding just to afford to come to this pile of shit and then write about it. I digitally asked people for money to come here because I’m so poor and single. LOVE ME. LOVE ME PLEASE ……
Me – Oh, no. I just write about political stuff.
Number 25 – American election?
Me – American election. Yes. Exactly.
Number 25 – Really. I’d see you as more of a blog and comedy kind of person. Not a financial times person.
Translation in my head – “you look like a fucking idiot with a mental disorder or a drug habit.”
Me – Oh, …………… well … thanks. So James, why do you prefer speed dating?
Number 25 – You didn’t answer my question.
Me – Fun. I thought it would be fun.
Number 25 – Is that it?
Me – Well…… It would be nice to meet someone as well….. I guess.
It was at the point, that I felt I was approaching this all wrong. I had gone there, with an agenda of some sorts, and I mentally prepared myself by thinking I was just gonna write about it. I wasn’t like these desperate people who were actually taking this seriously. I was superior. Suddenly, I felt decidedly inferior and dishonest. I was worse because I probably couldn’t even admit to myself that I felt lonely.
Number 25 – I’m looking to settle down. I would like to be married before I’m 35. I’m looking for serious commitment.
And then, suddenly, I felt better again. As God is my witness, I will never use the term “settle down” and within 200 seconds of meeting someone, I would NEVER claim to want serious commitment. Number 25 – we’re doomed from the start. What does “settle down” even mean? Is it like – “I dream of being permanently normal in a fixed location”? Feck that.
Me – Well, at least, you’re honest about what you want.
Thank Jesus F-ing Christ. Number 25 was literally looking to have babies…immediately.
Number 12 – Nice to meet you. Are you drunk yet?
Me – No. It’s 4.90 a beer. It will take a while.
Number 12 – Cheers. I’m on my way. I drank a bit before I came.
Me – I thought of doing that… but then I didn’t……
Number 12 – You didn’t want to end up like me?
Me – You don’t look drunk at all.
Number 12 – So, are you top or bottom?
Me – Oh, my God. I don’t think it’s that kind of event dude.
Number 12 – It’s not?
Me – No. It’s not Grindr. It’s 30 pound speed dating in Soho. We have at least pretend to be classy.
Number 12 – I know. I know. But I’m bored of the “hi, how are you?” thing.
Me – This is date 5. We have 25 more to go.
Number 12 – Fuck, really.
Me – Yeah, there are like 30 people here…….
Number 12 – So, we have like 15 more to go.
Me – What?
Number 12 – You can’t date yourself. Or, 15 in total.
Me – Really?
Number 12 – Yeah, if everyone is in pairs.
Me – Oh, I don’t know. I’m shit at maths.
Number 12 – So …………
Me – Oh, God. I don’t know. I lived in the Middle East – everyone there was a top. But I lived in Nepal – everyone there was a bottom.
Number 12 – So…….
Me – You do the maths.
Number 12 – OK. Fair answer.
Me – So… Michael. What do you do for a living?
Number 12 – That’s boring. Ask something better.
Me – If you could shag any animal, which one would it be and why?
Number 12 – Oh, that’s better. A creative one…. mmmm…
Me – Tick tock… It’s an instinct question… not a “how much do you know about the animal kingdom” question.
Number 12 – Penguin.
Me – Oh, my God. A penguin!
Number 12 – Yeah… A penguin.
Me – I would have said a penguin, too.
Number 12 – Yeah. Really?
Me – Yeah. Seriously. It’s the first animal I thought of.
Number 12 – See. We have a connection.
Me – Dark, milk, white. Rank the chocolates?
Number 12 – Oh, my God. You’re good at this.
Me – I teach English. This kinda shit comes in handy.
Number 12 – Just in that order – dark, milk, white. White isn’t really chocolate.
Me – That’s racist. Why shouldn’t it be included because it’s white?
Number 12 – There’s no coco mass in it. It’s just…
Me – Coco butter. Yeah, but still. Dark chocolate tastes gross.
Number 12 – Oh, you see you’re missing out. OK, I’ve got one.
Number 12 takes a huge mouthful of beer.
Number 12 – Would you rather be deaf or blind?
Me – Oh… that’s tough. Probably, deaf though. Because I think I value reading higher than music.
Number 12 – Someone could read it to you.
Me – True.
This was one of the more interesting dates. But I didn’t see it working between Number 12 and I. Frankly, I don’t think he did either. While nerves are never good, there is such a thing as being too relaxed and in my experience being totally relaxed and not really caring about making any kind of impression means you’re not really interested. Number 12 was fun but had that energy about him. That energy that says – “this jacket costs more that you make a week. I’m self-employed, I’ve got all this shit figured out. Unlike the rest of people.” Maybe, I’m being judgmental but that’s kinda of the point of the three minutes.
Me – Hi.
Number 9 – Hello. How are you?
Me – Good. How are you finding it?
Number 9 – A bit much really.
Me – I haven’t written anything down on my paper.
Number 9 – Are we supposed to be writing?
Me – Well, yeah, you write comments beside each person, and then we get a break, you tick friend or date and see if you match.
Number 9 – Ah. OK. I can’t remember who I spoke to.
Me – Yeah, I think this is the 7th one.
Number 9 – Did you speak to the fat boring guy?
Me – Eh, I didn’t. But I shall look out for him.
Number 9 – Are you Irish?
Me – Yeah. Are you?
Number 9 – Yeah.
Irish people can have an amazing bond when they randomly meet abroad. We can reel in the years, talking about things the British just don’t get and how much we love to hate Ireland. Or we can see ourselves with “an only gay in the village” complex. We want to be the only Irish person and we like to find ways to seem superior to our Irish family. I sensed this was the latter.
Me – I suppose if we wanted to meet Irish guys we could’ve stayed in Ireland.
Number 9 – Oh, God. I’d never lived there. How long are you in London?
Me – 2006 was the year when I first came here.
Number 9 – Jesus, how old are you?
Me – I was 19. But I left and came back in January. You?
Number 9 – I’ve been here for 5 years. Love it. I’d never go home.
Me – I see.
I should point out (this is hard for me to say about another Irish person) but he was so good looking. I quickly panicked because I realized that I would be identified as the less attractive Irish one. Most of us look like badly dressed vampires. But not him. Feck it.
Me – I write and teach English. What about you?
Number 9 – I’m an accountant.
Me – I teach English. You?
Number 7 – I’m studying to be a chartered accountant.
Me – What do you do?
Number 1 – I’m an accountant.
Me – So, what do you for a living?
Number 6 – I look after the penguins and the polar bear in London Zoo.
Me – What? Really.
Number 6 – Yeah.
Me- What a cool job!
Don’t say you want to have sex with the penguins. I will be out of context and weird and definitely not funny.
In the end, I didn’t get to meet everyone. There wasn’t enough time. I remember seeing a beautiful man who I had heard was a doctor. Mother would approve.
Me – I don’t think we got a chance to meet.
Number 10 – Yeah. I don’t think we get to meet everyone, you just get to meet most people.
Hot doctor smiles and goes to the bathroom. Shane feels defeated.
Number 20 – I can’t believe it’s over. I don’t remember anyone.
Me – Anyone?
Number 20 – Except you. You kept making me laugh.
Me – Haha. Why? With the stupid questions.
Number 20 – Yes.
Number 20 was sitting beside me. I was Number 18. Even numbers didn’t move. Odd numbers did. So, while number 20 and I never had a date we did listen to each other’s dates and we spoke during the break. I entertained him by imagining really stupid questions to ask people – such as, if you could be any flavor of ice cream, what flavor would you be and why? What’s in your fridge and what does it say about you? He came so well dressed that he seemed older than he was.
When the guy with the microphone declared the event to be over, the room emptied in about 30 seconds. Typical London. Everyone had to work the next day. So I was left with Number 20 and Number 11 ( a really nice guy who worked for the Bank of England). Number 11 was so nervous and his three beers seemed to be counterproductive.
Number 20 – G.A.Y Bar does drinks for 1.80.
Me – Oh, God. Let’s go there.
Number 11 – OK.
After an hour and 5 rum and cokes, Number 11 went home.
Number 20 – Do you want to go to a quieter bar. I can’t hear anyone here.
Me – Yes, that’s a good idea. After this song (Justin Bieber – Sorry).
Number 20 – I can’t believe you like this song.
Me – I don’t like him. But the beat is great.
Number 20 – You love him. You want to be like him.
Me – I’m already like him. A twat.
It turned out to be the best date of the night. Number 20 was also a writer and a musician and worked with children with learning difficulties. A creative and a good guy… Ahhh, the perfect person. I omitted to tell, I was earning most of my money serving sushi and being roared at by Japanese chefs.
We went to a quieter bar and he ordered a bottle of red wine.
Number 20 – You owe me next time.
Me – I’ll get the next one.
Number 20 – No, I’ll be wasted after this.
Me – Yeah, I’m already wasted.
Number 20 – Do you smoke?
Me – I was pretending I didn’t, because I didn’t see anyone else smoking. But yeah, I do. When I drink, especially.
Number 20 – Me too. Let’s buy some.
Me – I have some.
Number 20 – Hurray.
We go out and smoke and meet a really old Irish man (like really old… God’s waiting room kinda old) and me being me, we end up having a heated discussion about the economy before Number 20 pulls me back inside.
Number 20 – I don’t want to lose you. I’m having fun.
Me – Me too. I’m so happy we met.
Number 20 – No one else made me laugh, except you.
It was a perfect date. I realized, I really liked him. He was very cute, caring, funny (not as funny as me, but no one’s perfect) and he wasn’t so cute that if we walked around together people would think I hired him (I had that issue with my Omani man). He lived an hour and half south of Central London and I live an hour north of Central London. So we parted ways.
Number 20 – Can I have your number? I’d love to meet you again. If you do.
Me – Yes. Yes. I really would. Here it is.
Number 20 – Spanish?
Me – You have WhatsApp?
Number 20 – Yes.
Me – I use my Spanish number for WhatsApp.
Number 20 – OK. So….
We looked at each other. He had a twinkle in his eye, and then it ended the way all beautiful nights in Soho end.
Me – Fuck, that’s my bus.
Number 20 – I’ll message you.
Me – Bye.
And so instead of kissing Number 20, I grabbed the Number 43. And sorry to say, but I never heard from Number 20 again.
Housemate – Maybe, he got hit by a bus.
Me – I hope so.
There’s a famous saying by Confucius (Chinese communist from the 1950’s) – “Always the bride and never the bridesmaid.” Somehow I feel like always the entertainer never the date. Sad face. But I made some friends on the bus home and that was nice. Back to the directionless, perplexing feeling of life. Hello old friend.
To find out what I did, with the excess money – tune in the next week. And thank you all for supporting it.