“There you go, one large glass of wine. That’ll be £6.50.”
“Sorry but can I get some more? I can see the level is just off the 250ml mark on the glass.”
I turned to my two friends stood either side of me.
“What? Look if I’m going to go speed dating then I’m damn well getting a full glass of wine.”
I took the glass off the bar in a swift motion that resulted in the extra liquid splashing across my suede heels.
“Good job you demanded more wine Alice.”
“You’re so funny!”
“Thanks, it’s just me being me I suppose.”
“No really, you’re naturally great. How you can make someone laugh just on the topics of pens, that takes skill.”
“Calm it down, if all the guys knew I’d leant you my pen after three minutes I’d be the talk of the town. Now I don’t know how you men play it in Calne but in Swindon this is big stuff. What are you on anyway, Diet Coke?”
“It’s actually full sugar.”
“Jesus Christ! Full sugar? Now it all makes sense, now I know what your game is. You’ve been eyeing up my pen all night!”
And then there was a minute of laughter.
“You know, you really should write this down.”
“Funny you say that, I actually write a blog.” (Said for the eighth time that night.)
“What’s it called?”
“My Housemate’s a Mermaid.”
He started scribbling it down on the paper when showcase Alice leapt out of my throat.
“I have a business card if it helps?”
“Oh yes please!”
As I handed over the tiny card I caught my friend’s eye from the table opposite me.
“What?” I mouthed. She responded with a look that said “you know what”. I’d joked all week about giving out business cards at this speed dating event, in fact only a few days before at a house party a friend had yelled “for God’s sake Alice!” when she pulled out one I’d smuggled into a card deck. In many ways giving out just the one business card all night was a poor showing on my part.
When you go speed dating it’s hard to get any understanding of what half the room are doing. In fact it’s probably the only time in your life when you have a better understanding of the opposite sex versus your own. As a woman you never get to (or want to) get a firm grip on the ‘competition’. At best you get hear-say reflections from what rotating men tell you about the other women they’ve chatted to on the night.
My grasp on how I was polling? I was the funny one, the leading one, the in-control one or, as one man put it, “the dominatrix of the room with the submissive friends”.
I was strangely flattered by this comment and in the same way that when I was six I let my policewoman ambition go to my head, at the next interval I told my two friends to get on the floor and worship me. If they didn’t I’d hit them around the head with a copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
“Why have you even got that out on the table?”
“In case I get bored. Also a conversation starter.”
“And has it worked?”
“Why aren’t you on the floor already?”
My Dominatrix man was Jade’s ‘White Guy’ on account of his white shirt (although not before I’d yelled out “they’re all white Jade!” For all to hear). And White Guy was my other friend’s ‘Awkward’.
The latter description was fair, this man wasn’t a first class in fast flowing dialogue. In fact he’d come to my table with the opener, “I’ll probably say something that’ll weird you out and you won’t want to talk to me.”
“I wrote a blog post comparing men to snack bars. Try me.”
“I mean you could try to weird me out but in three and a half minutes you would be doing a very good job, so much so that actually I’d be more impressed than weirded out.
“As for me, I’ve long since learnt to not care. See if you chat to me now and think ‘she’s alright’ and we match then good times all round, if we don’t then that’s life. Why should I care what you think of me after four minutes if we never meet again? I don’t care. So go on, convince me why I shouldn’t tick yes for you.”
If Dominatrix was a computer I turned him into the blue screen of death. He froze for a second, that fraction of a moment when you could sense something was rebooting and then went from being uptight to putty in my hands. And, once again, I was branded “hilarious” for being me.
highlight mistake of the night was agreeing to do a collaboration video with a YouTuber who dresses as a Bear (I did an impression on my bar stool of how I’d be dancing in a mermaid costume. As glamourous as you’re imagining.) There was also a man who announced he’d seen me before, which given work, blog, Swindon 18-30 and being a normal human did not help either party. Someone else set up Cloud software for IT illiterate companies but had never seen this clip…
…which I instructed him to watch the second he got home.
“I’m not flipping kidding Jim*.”
There were other guys who either rocked up to my table as being loud and outgoing or deeply introverted to the point of barely getting a word out. At the time I just played me, I’d comment on their shirt and get them talking from that, or I’d make it obvious that I knew nothing about motor bikes.
“Like the Wallace and Gromit one?”
I.e. I got them all laughing and smiling. And although it seems a bit narcissistic, me thinking I’m God’s bringer of four minute joy…
…but I genuinely wanted to put people at ease and avoid the alternative option of four minutes of torture. I’d have thought I was being normal if not for the fact that the men were leaving my table with a look or comment that suggested they would linger longer if they could.
At a post event debrief I learned of some of the more ‘challenging’ conversations my friends had experienced, conversations that were non-existent on table nine. My little perch where I’d been doing me, chatting, laughing, smiling warmly through ink-laden eyelids. And while I sat there in the well-worn and stained surroundings of a neighbouring Wetherspoons a thought flashed before my eyes and exited through my mouth.
“I’m going to have to be the bad guy aren’t I?”
And then I realised the UHT milk pods I’d taken from the pub’s condiments table had leaked in my pocket.
To be continued…