Something about speed dating screams desperation to me. The idea of being forced to speak to a complete stranger for a couple of minutes at a time seems like a last resort in the world of singledom. Why can’t we all meet people in a natural way?
People say that first impressions are everything. Well, Speed Dating gives you a few minutes and a glass of wine to pitch yourself to some stranger who you may or may not like. I’ve also watched too many episodes of Sex And The City to know that if you get too desperate, just reveal that you’re an air hostess and things might just work out fine. But, in light of the month of Valentine’s and in the name of journalism, I am willing to put my cynicism aside.
I smear on my make up whilst riding the tube, wondering why I haven’t prepared myself for this- I hadn’t even fixed my hair. But I don’t care because the guys at these things are desperados.. right?
As I make my way into the little motorcycle shop, Rebels Alliance, I’m greeted by the hosts of the evening – Amber and Caylee. They are very accommodating, and make sure a drink is promptly in my hand. The pair has created the evening as an alternative to the usual speed dating nights with the focus point of biking. Though, the girls express that you don’t need to be a biker. Which is good because I don’t know anything at all about bikes apart from that I like Harleys.
On a Friday night, it seems almost daring to tear people away from their usual rituals of peacocking in a cocktail bar but Single Cylinders has a full house. The free booze seems to get the conversation flowing and tonight’s event is sponsored by London Fields Brewery. Hallelujah.
Before we are to find our designated seats, I ask where I could find the toilets. One of the girls looks at me with a little smirk. “I’ll come with you and show you,” she says, “It’s a bit obscure.”
I follow her out into the snowy streets of Shoreditch, and walk around a building into a Byron restaurant toilet. I can already predict that this is going to be an inconvenience throughout the night.
When I finally traipse back to the bike shop, we are told to sit in front of a shot-sized cup labelled B and G. As I find my spot, a man sits down beside me with a smile.
A musician by the name of Michael Sabastian slowly starts strumming in the background, signalling the beginning of our chat. Somehow I delve deep into a conversation about taxes and dodgy accountants. Before I know it, another man is in front of me and we are swapping sales pitch ideas.
Biking became the cornerstone of every conversation. And it seems not to matter about my lack of knowledge of bikes because it opens up a realm of questions. But each man sits down with a completely different personality but yet similarly friendly. There is no vibe of desperation coming from them, or expectation, but just a long line of quick chats.
Caylee makes sure everyone’s drinks are constantly topped up and everyone is moving around in the correct rotation. Even some sly shots of whiskey and Lemoncello are passed around. It quickly comes to the end, and for some reason one guy never had the opportunity to speak to me. He sits looking at me from across the room with glassy eyes.
“He’s been making sure everyone has a shot with him at each table,” one girl says, pointing to his bottle of resposado tequila.
I feel like I might have missed out on this one. But h suddenly blabbers about how my hair is his favourite hair. I think maybe I had a lucky escape. Even though the rounds have ended, we are all free to stay for a chat. A bowl is passed around to put in our details and the name of the person we would like to stay in touch with. By this point I’ve forgotten everyone’s names and choose not to put in anything. You’re not told if someone has put your name down (a bit like tinder) unless you have too. I guess I’ll never know if I was anyone’s match.
I grab some more booze and continue chatting about life and more. One subject that keeps sourly coming up is Tinder. As a non-user I enquire to why people are looking for love on their phone. It seems that everyone has become fed up of meeting the wrong people on the app and so instead has chosen to try out something like this. Not one of them admitted to ever speed dating before, and I believed them.
I start to feel the effects of the many drinks and no food so I throw myself in a taxi and travel home, leaving a series of voice messages on Facebook messenger. I hadn’t met the man of my dreams but I had met some great people and learned a little piece from each of them. £15 is a steal for free booze, good conversations and live music and perfect for meeting new interesting people. Who knows, maybe you could find you perfect partner there? But why not enjoy the ride too.
I do regret the voice messages, but I don’t regret attending Single Cylinders.