Womankind issue #1

Searching for a mate, speed-dating style

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by Amber Partington on September 26, 2014

Not many people know this about me, but I was engaged once. I had all the bits and bobs, the proposal on bended knee, the tiny diamond, promises of undying devotion… He was my first love and I was 16 years old, which is why nobody knows about it. I will not deny that what I felt was real at the time, but after clocking a few more years and a few more notches, you tend to realise that those teenage relationships don’t really count. I don’t even think that six months is enough to qualify for ‘relationship’ status, which is why I can safely say that, for all intents and purposes, I have never been in a relationship. I have been effectively single my entire adult life. And during that time I have tried just about every available method for meeting a man.

I have met them out in pubs and clubs. I have checked out friends of friends and allowed myself to be match-made. I have gone out as a pack with my single friends, gone out alone and tried to look approachable – I have gone out invoking the law of Murphy by refusing to shave my bikini line. I’ve even gone there with an ex’s brother, and colour me surprised if that didn’t evolve into a disaster of nuclear proportions. And when the internet became a platform from which to sell love to the lonely, I went there too. Websites, applications, psychological profiles, fee-paying and free; I’ve done them all. There was one place that I was still yet to go, though, the fi nal frontier, my own personal little piece of unchartered territory – speed dating.

The stigma attached to Internet dating is high. I have seen many an online dating profile wherein the person will promise to “lie about how we met”, as if it’s the last resort of the desperate. But speed dating is, for some reason, at the next level. “What sort of people go speed dating?” “Why can’t they get a date the normal way?”

When my friends discovered that I had booked myself in they practically wet their pants with excitement, oh, the stories I would tell! And it was not just the crazy characters I would meet that they wanted to hear about – everyone knows that I suck at dating because the likelihood of my saying something stupid and/or inappropriate is on par with the sun rising in the east. “I cannot talk to men” has always been my reality, but on the day of my impending mega-date I realised that this is not actually my problem.

I can talk to men. I can talk to anyone. My problem is that I am practically guaranteed to make it awkward, and I was about to do it 10-12 times in a row. So it was not with trepidation that I approached the venue that night, rather it was with an unpleasant combination of morbid curiosity and unadulterated terror.

The actual proceedings were as expected; the women stayed seated while the men moved around, six minutes per date with a bell announcing the time to move on. What was not expected was the outcome, which was quite simply this: I had no stories.

“But what about all the crazy, socially inept characters?” I tell you, there were none. Ok, maybe there was that one guy who actually stood up and left me before the end of our ‘date’ to go find the promised canapes. Or the guy who spent the whole time complaining that he’d been cut off from the champagne (by himself, it turns out) who attends religious outings to meet women despite having no religious beliefs of his own. But on the whole, every man there was simply nice, and normal, and looking for a nice, normal woman to spend their time with. The whole experience has left me perplexed.

Why can’t these lovely people find a partner? How is it that we’re all so lonely? Do we maybe have too much freedom of choice? Spending 45 minutes comparing three different pizza places, weighing up the costs, the surcharges, the specials, only to throw up our hands and order thai, half of which we throw away because we didn’t actually want it?

What of my own social ineptness, where were my ridiculous statements and subsequent stories? Was it because I wasn’t interested in them? Could it be that I don’t actually suffer from congenital awkwardness, but rather some sort of auto-immune attraction disease?

You’ve heard the clichéd platitudes before, or perhaps you’ve been the one to use them: “Your time just hasn’t come yet”; “You don’t need a partner to complete you”; etc. bleeping etc. They sound great, but the simple fact is that we do need love and stuff. We weren’t meant to be alone. If we were, all these people, myself included, wouldn’t be looking. And I cannot understand why or how it has become so damn a) taboo, and b) hard. Readers, I genuinely hope that you find someone to share your time with you. Each and every one of you deserve it, yes, even the no-hitters. I believe that the possibility of growing old alone in this day and age is a very real one, but do not give in to it yet, keep searching. I know I’m going to.

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