“Speed” and “dating” are two words most guaranteed to strike terror and loathing into the heart of the singleton, so I’ll admit it was with something of a heavy heart that I headed to Enkel bar in the Hilton Slussen to take part in a speedd8.se event. The things I do for you people!
Just before it all kicked off, I got the chance to chat a little with the organiser, Daniel. Daniel launched the events in August 2012, after he and a friend came up with the idea while travelling in South America. They liked the idea of creating something that was fun and social, that got people out from behind their computers and chatting to actual humans in a bar. He doesn’t expect everyone to meet their dream partner during a three minute date (though he has heard of a few success stories); it’s more about meeting new people, developing social skills and having fun.
He talked a bit about how online dating is so popular in Sweden because Swedes are so reserved when it comes to meeting new people, so the singles bar scene doesn’t really exist.
The problem is, people tend to get stuck on the sites, messaging back and forth into infinity, too shy to ever suggest meeting face to face. This was something I’d found myself during my little foray into internet dating last summer; I informed more than one hapless dude that I wasn’t in the market for a penpal when he hedged about meeting for a drink after approximately eleventy billion emails. So I can see where the speed dating concept kind of brings the two worlds together. It has all the plus sides of internet dating – the chance to meet a lot of people in one go, the security of (hopefully) knowing they’re all single and looking – but with the added bonus that you’re meeting in person right away.
For the uninitiated, the way the event works is that everyone (ideally twenty men and twenty women, though it doesn’t always work out that way – more on that in a moment) is assigned a number.
The women sit at table that corresponds to their number, and the men move around the room, stopping at each table for a three minute date until a gong – yes an actual gong, and yes it is as funny as it sounds – signals them to move on.
It’s an effective way to conduct twenty dates in a couple of hours, though there is a little bit of a musical chairs feel to it all. I had to resist the urge to shout “next!” when the gong sounded.
I’d dragged a friend along for moral support, and she was a bit quicker off the mark than I to scope out where her assigned table was. It was near one of the bar’s speakers and she was concerned she wouldn’t be able to hear well, so I offered to swap numbers with her. What I didn’t realize, was that “near one of the bar’s speakers” was also “at the very edge of the area reserved for the event”.
This was particularly fun, as it turned out that three men didn’t show up, meaning that each woman had to sit alone for three of the dates – and muggins here had to do so facing the curious stares of all the other bar patrons.
I did consider making faces, but rejected the idea for fear of proving what they say about single women in their 30s and sanity.
Just as I was about to wave a little flag that read, “I’m only doing this for an article, honest!” I got into conversation with a curious table of English business travellers staying in the hotel.
They took it in turns to sit with me during the empty dates, but unfortunately this led to a bit of confusion when a guy taking part in the event accidentally bypassed my table because I was sitting with one of the English guys. When I realised what had happened, I apologised to him, and he replied that it wasn’t as though he and I would be getting married anyway. Well, alright then. I was beginning to suspect it wasn’t my night.
We were all given a paper containing suggested ice breaking questions (“What would you take with you to a desert island?”; “If you won a million kronor on the lottery, what would you spend it on?”) and space to make notes on each date.
I rather stupidly assumed I could rely on my memory, which meant that a) I had to sit smiling awkwardly as each guy made studious notes on me, and b) as soon as the event finished I couldn’t for the life of me remember who was who.
I did have some interesting conversations, with topics ranging from Vikings to cross country skiing to pasta recipes to the latest research into happiness, though wasn’t intrigued enough to want to meet any of my dates a second time. At the end of the event, we were all to turn our papers in with the numbers of those we wanted to see again circled, and the organisers email any couple who circled each other with their respective contact details. I didn’t circle anyone, but my friend got a match and texted the guy last week. Watch this space…!