Friday, March 16, 2012

Dating on Steroids

I know it's been a while since I've posted. Over two months to be exact, but that's because my life's been in limbo. I had lost a shedload of weight, and appeared this year to be trying to regain the lot via as much reheatable beige food as my mouth could accommodate - which is quite a lot.

There hasn't been much to talk about, really. It's been as per the last 6 years; work, drink, work, drink, work, unceasing masturbation, and the inevitable paying for sex with a transgender hominid from Bangkok. Mainly I've been commuting to and from work with a small company comprised of only men, and that's it.

And then, last night, I went Speed Dating. This was quite a challenge as I haven't actually talked to women not already married to friends of mine, since 2006. In fact it's safe to say I was fucking terrified.

Long story short:
  • My mate Danny tells me he knows of a speed dating gig he can't attend, but tells me as I'm single and pathetic and desperate. 
  • I text my mate Ed. While I'm single and pathetic and desperate, Ed is independent, solid and picky - yet he's keen to tag along too.
  • I've had TWO beers. I'm in that zone. So when Ed texts me a go-ahead, I get out my phone and credit card and buy two tickets before my brain has had time to think this through. It's a movie first, then the dates. I convince myself it's no big deal.
  • I actually begin to believe it's no big deal.
  • For four days, I couldn't give a shit. I'm almost cocky. 
  • Then it hits 2pm on the afternoon of the mass blind dates.
  • I start to feel ill. 

"Speed Dating," a friend once observed, "is the chance to repel a large amount of women in the shortest time possible." Suddenly those words felt profound. They feel like ancient wisdom. Religions could've sprung from that font of knowledge, and I would be its highest priest.

Don't misunderstand me; despite this constant well of misery and bleating here (now less often), I don't want to give the impression that I'm terrified of women. I'm really not. Seriously.

I'm terrified of me.

I am single. I have an unblemished, 100% track record of failed relationships.When I have had a window of confidence and approached a woman girl, I'm told to fuck off within seconds. On another occasion, I found myself in the company of two women girls where I forced myself to endure a long and painful conversation that literally made me sweat and panic.

Suffice to say those two events, mere threads in my broader tapestry of angst, left me unable to trust myself any longer. I can talk to women - I can talk to anyone - but I have an abiding fear, a real and honest terror, of awkward silences, or being immediately told to fuck off.

And that's my problem. I've erected a wall of safety around me that's now insurmountable to overcome. And last night might - might - have been the night I began to tear it down.

The butterflies began yesterday afternoon, and I didn't like it one bit. I had a commitment for once, and it wasn't fun. I texted Ed and arranged to meet after work at 6pm - except I was late.

Ed was pissed off. This was a big deal for us. We were both on tenterhooks, and I was already ruining everything. Ed was having a sandwich in Pret when I found him. I barely had time to eat one myself but necessity called, and as I wolfed down my spicy, unidentifiable early dinner, I had a colossal change of heart.

'Let's not do this, Ed. Let's just go to the pub.'
I could see the pub in front of me (*not literally. Ed was in front of me, and the soulless grey wall of a popular sandwich chain.). As the words tumbled out of my mouth, I realised how much I didn't want to go Speed Dating. Something bad was going to happen, I just knew it. I was going to stutter in front of someone attractive.
Or I'd wet myself.
Or I'd bring up my speed sandwich in a vast, vomitous arc onto the feminine yet understated dress of a delightful girl from Brighton.
Whatever it was, it would join my repertoire of cringing moments my scumbag brain likes to throw in front of me just as I'm about to sleep. 

Ed ruined everything with a sigh. 'Nah,' he said dejectedly. 'Besides, you've  paid for it already.'
'I don't care,' I said, now eager it appeared to throw £30 into the ah-fuckit ether.
'Naah,' he replied like some kind of sighing bagpipe eating a baguette. 'Let's get on with it.'
And with that the pair of us headed to purgatory.

The thing that intrigued me about this event was the movie first. You watched that, in a cinema like any other film, then headed to the bar where you'd engage in table-hopping from one single woman to another. I liked the set-up. Firstly you could pretend you were actually going to a movie before the truth set in. Secondly, during the 'dates', you'd have something to talk about.

Now I don't want to give the game away - and by that, I mean mention anything Googlable - but the film wasn't exactly the best to precede meeting a dectet of unattached ladies. For starters, it was about a doomed relationship.
Make that an abusive doomed relationship.
For seconds, she kills her abusive partner. Violently. With a fucking knife.
Then for thirds, she takes the knife and kills herself.

Ed and I were squealing during the aforementioned homicide. It wasn't exactly the stuff of dates. We were laughing by the time the heroine killed herself, mainly because we were seconds away from approaching ten women with a cheerful, 'Hi!'
The laughter was also pretty inappropriate. Somewhere in that darkened cinema sat those women.

I tried to talk Ed out of it once we'd left, shellshocked, from Screen 2.
'I really don't want to do this,' I said.
'Naah,' Ed said. He seemed strangely determined to go through the ordeal while every fibre of me wanted to turn and run. Instead that energy somehow propelled me into the gathering where we checked in to the event on autopilot. I was now playing a role, that of a guy pleased to be there.

And it was fine.

Fine.

The women were lovely. All of them. None of them were my type though, as my type is woefully out of my league. I go for Beyonces and Kelly Brooks and the delightful woman in the 'India Big Tits' video on YouPorn, yet the evening was fascinating. I was intrigued by the spectrum of women in attendance and their varied personalities; the boisterous, the shy, the eager, the bored, the curious, and how that all alternated as the night wore on. The date part was a misnomer really. You're just chatting to other people, gently crisscrossing lives for a matter of minutes, and it felt great. All those faces you normally see walking past on the street or sat on the tube, this felt like a chance to meet some of them and I couldn't help but ponder the number of lonely souls who must be out there all the time.

I also admired the dedication and confidence of those who'd turned up alone. Ed and I had needed one another - I'd certainly needed him - yet everyone else seemed to take it in their stride. They hadn't arrived or left in a group, at least not as far as I could tell, and I sensed that maybe, maybe, I'd allowed a couple of unpleasant earlier experiences to dominate my life for too long.

It was gone midnight by the time I got home. I was utterly exhausted, but strangely euphoric. Even when I received my email today telling me how many matches I'd had.....  None .... it didn't matter. The old adage about taking part really counted. It meant a huge deal to me.

What matters now is that I do something similar, and soon. We all have to push at the boundaries of our comfort zones until we're really living.

* * *

As a postscript, I'll never know how many ladies had my name written down as a person they liked. Had I written their name too, there'd be a match and a date lined up, but that wasn't going to happen. I only handed back one name at the end of the night; that of the hostess.
She wasn't even taking part. I may as well have written Beyonce.