OK, so with Uni Boy about to disappear from the scene, I’ve decided I need to get proactive and find myself a new partner in crime, before I get an attack of affection withdrawal.
I just can’t bring myself to go back to the dating site, so I reluctantly conclude that speed dating might be a better bet: you can go with a girlfriend; there’s no excruciating preamble; you get to check people out first-hand, right from the off; and if you don’t like the look of them, you need never hear from them again. So far, so good.
Although I’m unsure how much you can tell about a person in three minutes and 45 seconds, I convince myself that it’s a good idea, so I get online and check out my options. Not many, it would seem. There’s just one local organiser of speed dating events, and their soirées cost £20 a pop.
Of course, if you meet the love of your life, twenty quid is a mere trifle. But if, as I suspect is more likely, you’re paying to spend the evening in the company of a herd of socially awkward gents with a penchant for Dungeons and Dragons, it’s less of a bargain.
Now, I know I shouldn’t judge, especially as I’m One of Them. (The hopelessly single, I mean. Not the lovers of Dungeons and Dragons.) But the last dating event that I attended didn’t fill me with hope. I have memories of some thoroughly awkward conversations. Some folks looked jumpy when faced with questions that probed delicate topics such as … ooh, the vague geographical location of their home, or what they did for a living.
I know that people are just nervous. I know, I know. But … hey, we’re all adults; we’re all here for the same reason. Surely the least we can do is make it easy on each other by putting our friendliest face forward? Anyway, I need to get a grip. My reluctance is causing me to foresee disaster and I haven’t even booked my place yet. To arrest my waning enthusiasm, I quickly turn back to the screen.
It’s not as simple as just picking a date and showing up, however. Oh no. Choosing my location is easy, but then I find I can choose between graduate professionals, and … um … the rest of the populace. I suppose this division is because we’re in a University town, but why does mingling with graduate professionals attract a £2 surcharge? Presumably it’s because I’ll be meeting a higher calibre of human being. Or perhaps it’s because graduates demand a higher class of biscuit at half-time. Who knows?
Anyway, next I have to choose my preferred age range. And here’s where it gets more taxing, not least because – like the Queen – I have two ages: my official age, and my real age. Which to choose? (Answer: never you mind.)
I find that there are several different groupings of age and status but, oddly, nothing for my demographic – that is, female graduate professionals over the age of 33. Is the assumption that as a female aged 33+, I should be grateful for whomsoever I can find, graduate or no? Or, more charitably, that beyond the golden age of 33 I’ll have mellowed to the point where educational status is no longer important?
Flummoxed by the lack of appropriate options I hesitate, mouse hovering indecisively. After several moments of umm-ing and aah-ing, I finally make up my mind with a decisive click.
Immediately, a box pops up on my screen.
“Sorry!” it says. “That option is no longer available.”
Gah! Is that “no longer available”, as in fully booked, or “no longer available” as in permanently off the menu? I’m sure if I were more into the idea, I’d find a way to surmount the problem and book my place. But as it is, I decide to take it as an omen: speed dating isn’t for me. I’m such a chicken, I know.
Just as I’m pondering my lack of grit and determination, an email arrives. It’s from The Darkly Intriguing… and he’s as succinct as ever.
“Dinner post-gym tomorrow?”
Wow. He’s never requested my company after 5pm before. So it’d be rude to refuse … right? With Uni Boy about to abandon me forever, I’ve got to take the chances as they arise. I know he’s not worthy of my attentions. I know he isn’t. But then show me someone who is. Go on.
So, with an inevitability that surprises no-one (least of all me), I type a nonchalant reply – “Sure.” – and accept the invitation. Dinner post-gym it is.