Speed dating: What images do these words bring to mind? A dimly lit room, rows of tables, candle light and a forced romantic atmosphere. At least that is what I think of. All those TV programmes and films where the awkward singleton goes into the world, trying to find true love with a tick box and a five minute conversation. Whoever thought that putting a group of complete strangers into a room together, dividing them up, and forcing them to make conversation would be conducive to romance needs to have their head examined. I can think of nothing more artificial than the concept of speed dating. Yet, I somehow found myself sitting at one of those tables making that forced conversation the other night in the Union.
It was not exactly my idea of ‘speed dating’ in the traditional sense. There was no candle light, the tables were not small and intimate and we did not have a piece of paper with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ next to each name. Most of the people there were there for a good time, and did not take the whole experience too seriously. To be honest, it felt a little like being back in Freshers week. The old reliable questions came out once again – “What do you study?”, “What year are you in?”, “Where are you from?” and “Where are you living this year?”. Although I was not quite expecting to be talking to someone about the Anstruther Fish Museum leading onto the Keswick Pencil Museum, that was a new one on me. They also provided some interesting conversation starters, “What’s your stance on Cannibalism?” being my personal favourite.
If I am honest, I was dreading being one of about five people looking awkwardly across the room at one another, but the turnout was fairly impressive. I am not sure that the organisers were quite expecting the numbers they got, the need to add extra tables seemed to take the whole room by surprise. There was a clear gender bias, the girls outnumbering the guys by quite a margin, but the turnout was still varied. There was everyone from the post grad with bright blue hair to the rather overdressed gentlemen who came in perfectly pressed suits. I even met an academic father and son tag team.
All in all, I am not quite sure what to make of it. Attempting to make conversation with complete strangers is stressful enough at the best of times, but to have to do it twenty odd times in a row is enough to give some people a nervous breakdown. On the other hand, I did manage to have a couple of decent conversations, and I met some very interesting people, albeit very briefly. Yet, the most interesting part of the evening for me, apart from the chat about pencils, was the people-watching. Every now and again you could witness a spark, two people finding something in common or just generally having a laugh and finding out that taking the risk and trying something new is better than sitting in your room. Even better was watching the couples who desperately needed more original conversation starters: “So… are you more of a Mac or a PC person?” Although I do not know if I would try speed dating again, at least not until I am a fifty year old divorcée, I will not condemn those who do. It takes a lot of courage to sit at one of those lonely little tables and put yourself out there, and I even picked up a few new conversation starters…So, what is your stance on cannibalism?