The Dating Game: What's It's All about then?

Well, my heart went boom,
When I crossed that room,
And I held her hand in mine
Lennon & McCartney

According to a study in The Independent newspaper, the average Brit needs to go on nine successful dates with a prospective partner before they’re ready to commit. A quarter of the 2000 respondents to the survey believe they have experienced love at first sight, but more than one in 10 think it takes a least a month before love blossoms. It also emerged the typical Brit has fallen in love twice in their lives, with many believing a meal out with a date is most likely to lead to romance.

Flick through the channels on your telly and you’d be forgiven for believing it’s never been easier to find love. Well, if you believe the adverts anyway – dating sites that apparently cater for every possible romantic taste (and kink) fill the airwaves night after night. Their target is the millions we’re told are currently online searching for love and encouraging them to find happy ever after with the help of DreamBloke.com or PerfectPrincess.co.uk.

Then there are the newspaper and magazine personals, still tucked away in the pages at the back but also now online so if your eye is taken by one particular profile – you know the kind of thing: “vampire seeks fresh blood, GSOH essential, no crucifixes please” – you can be in touch with your own Edward Cullen in a matter of minutes. Looking for love online is one of the best forms of free dating but remember, you generally get what you pay for … Like online dating, speed dating is the relatively new kid on the “find a mate” block – the first speed dating took place in 1998 when a rabbi in Los Angeles figured it was a good way for single Jews to meet. Now thousands of us schlep to speed dating with hope in our hearts and having memorised a three-minute spiel to sell us as the greatest potential love interest since Marilyn Monroe first sashayed down that railway platform in Some Like It Hot.

The first time ever I saw your face
Ewen McColl

Kissing a Frog or Two

The path to true love, they say, rarely runs smoothly but, hey, that’s all part of the fun and the angst of the dating game. We’ve all had to kiss a frog or two in our quest to unearth Prince (or Princess) Charming. It ain’t all bad and, hey, a frog snog is often better than no snog at all. Except that sometimes, like free samples at the supermarket deli counter, it’s only when you’ve tasted Spam that you realise you definitely prefer prosciutto.

Getting to know someone online through a dating site has the advantage of giving you some breathing space to get to know each other before that first nervy face-to-face encounter. So you can discover at your leisure whether your prospective match ticks the boxes that matter – important stuff, like music, movies, and books. And the essential information like her tolerance level for sports or his ability to indulge a love of Michael Bublé. On such knowledge can a relationship flourish or flounder.

What the online chats do not, of course, reveal is the person in the flesh. Pictures are one thing but come on, don’t we all choose the most flattering shots we can find to share? And if we rush with our new beau into the friending and adding thing on social media, who hasn’t hastily edited and untagged those Facebook pics of boozy afternoons and irresponsible wardrobe choices? So a definite advantage to speed dating is that we get to see the possible objects of desire right there and then. If you believe in instant attraction, or even the possibility of it, that’s a great big carrot dangling right there.

Don’t forget I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.
Julia Roberts to Hugh Grant in Notting Hill

A Matter of Time

Simple walking up to someone you like and asking them out on a date seems all a bit dated now, a bit old school. And who has time for all that getting to know you business now anyway? In the era of instantaneous gratification, we want to select our partners the way we download a new app or song – right there, right in front of you, right now. So speed dating is perfect for the time-poor, like the shortest night out, ever, where all the eligible folks you might never have had the opportunity even to make eye contact with will share a crucial three (or five or seven) minutes of their evening exclusively with you.

And the concept has come a long way since that first LA coffee shop meet and greet. Today you can go speed dating at a museum, in a cinema, at a wine tasting or even online (though that rather defeats the purpose of seeing someone in the flesh).

There is speed dating for the religious, for the LGBT community, for graduates, for the old and the young, for the old who want to meet the young, for freaks and geeks and everything in between.

The novelty certainly hasn’t worn off in speed dating in the decade and a bit since it was first conceived. Young professionals love it – no wonder, they’re too busy climbing the corporate ladder to worry about a love life until, bang, one day they’re in their 30s and the only cuddles they get at home are from a cat. The idea is simple and it’s fun, once you’ve grasped the important fact that you only have minutes to sell yourself AND discover whether or not you want to know more about the person in front of you. And even if you’re not looking for your soul mate, you might just be lucky enough to meet a fun, interesting person to share some time with – what’s not to love about that outcome?

You had me at hello.
Renée Zellweger to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire

Words to the Wise on Speed Dating
Do say: What brings you along here tonight?

Don’t say: I’m seeking the mother of my children.

Do say: What kind of music are you into? I’m a big fan of R’n’B and going clubbing.

Don’t say: My minister warned us that dancing is like sex standing up.

Do say: I love to cook – if I was cooking for you, what would be your ideal menu?

Don’t say: I embraced fruitarianism when I realised we were slaughtering carrots on an industrial scale by picking them.

Do say: Is your career important to you?

Don’t say: I’m living with my grandparents while I try to make it as a stand-up comedian.

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