I arrived on the singles scene in with an aching heart and a lot to learn. Seemingly overnight, dating apps had shifted from the desperate domain of the overs to the new normal. Every man and his dog were on Tinder — or every man and his sedated tiger, all dumb grins and flexed muscles bulging out of Bintang singlets.
Initially hesitant, I got into the swing of it soon enough; window-shopping for boys from the comfort of your couch sure has its benefits, and amongst the beefed-up bodybuilders and BDSM buffs, there seemed to be a few potential suitors. After all, I have a clean record, wide smile and impeccable hygiene.
The reality was rife with rejection. I met men who seemed keen but never texted again; men who only wanted sex; men who were rude to waiters red flag ; men who flirted with waiters double red flag. It was perhaps the most profound two words ever uttered to me online: app fatigue.
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My editor has challenged me to delete the apps and look for love offline. Goodbye, Hinge. Ta-ta, Tinder. Happn, I never really liked you anyway. My colleagues are more excited about the experiment than I am, eagerly spurting out ideas and advice.
Cycling clubs, one tells me, are a breeding ground for men — fit and virile types who care about the planet too. In a moment of panic, I gather the girls for a night out. The pub in Bondi is swarming with polo-shirted guys and pretty girls in snake-print skirts.
Because really, why would a man put himself out there and approach a woman IRL when he could do it from behind the safety of a screen? I awake the next morning to a heavy head and a pinging phone.
We grab hot drinks then sit on the sand, chatting and laughing under grey-streaked skies. Coffee rolls into drinks at a local bar, then dinner at my favourite Mexican restaurant. Bondi Boy walks me home and gives me his jumper when the chill sets in. And then, as fat raindrops start to fall, he grabs my face and kisses me.
I have three main fears in life: ending up alone, elevator doors closing in on me, and speed dating. I like to win — yet after a series of failed online dates, you do start to wonder if you really suck at it. I feel dejected, but also determined not to let it derail my experiment. I get a friend to drive me and turn up 30 minutes late, a strategic move to miss the awkward small talk at the start.
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Walking in, it looks like your typical Saturday night at a slick city bar, except on closer inspection I see that the boys are all sitting on one side of the long candlelit table, girls on the other. As soon as I start chatting to my first guy, a computer engineer called Evan, my nerves dissolve. But for the most part, the men are warm, interesting, even vulnerable. I feel a hint of something with one guy, a Brit with a dry sense of humour. I back it up with another singleton soiree, Dating With Dogs, the following afternoon. There are dogs everywhere: stocky staffies and goofy golden retrievers and preened little poodles.
Women seem to out them five to one. I stand with a couple of other women and point out that the dogs seem more likely than us to get any action — one huge Pyrenees mountain dog keeps getting mounted by little mutts.
Face-to-face connection, whether romantic or otherwise, is a genuine benefit of this real-life-dating thing. Not only has my screen-time halved, but I feel altogether more open. More open to possibility, more ready to muster some words together if I do meet a potential beau on the street.
I can see Bondi Boy mulling over the cheese. I repeat: Wearing. My half-filled shopping basket practically falls out of my hand and I make a mad dash for the exit, unsure if Bondi Boy saw me, and unsure whether to laugh or cry.
I pull out my phone and create a new of notes to document my real-world dates. First entry: Jumper Boy. And an expanse of blank space just waiting to be filled. While online dating has totally shed the stigma that was long attached to it, speed dating is still largely seen as a last resort for desperate singles who have failed everywhere else in the dating pool At least, that's what I went into it thinking.
I pictured a snaking line of dolled-up girls changing seats at a dinging bell in front of a small handful of awkward, overwhelmed men.
Somehow, that wasn't it at all. In fact, speed dating may actually be NYC's best-kept dating secret. Inside, it looked more or less like a restaurant preparing itself for regular dinner service dim lighting, candlelit tablesrather than the morose, clinical vision I had concocted of name tags, clipboards, and other trappings of business conferences. People filed in one at a time and checked in with the hostess, who cleared their name from a list and handed them a card for keeping track of dates that night.
The rules of the road are fairly simple. Women sit on one side of the table while men rotate from seat to seat in front of them. After five minutes, the men move to the next seat, and so on. At the end of the event, you pick the top people you were interested in and return the card.
Should there be any mutual matches, the organizers of the event will put you two in touch.
Far from what I expected, the majority of guys I met were… normal. Even, dare I say it, interesting!
The constant flow of visuals in front of my face was also kind of like swiping through Tinder Not speaking from personal experience or anything. So who else is doing this?
With MyCheekyDatepeople are limited to the age bracket 24 to Surprisingly, there were more men than women -- most of whom were young, professional, and new to New York. Everyone was gainfully employed, sociable mostlyand somewhat attractive again, mostly.
The best part is that, drastically unlike Tinder, everyone there was actually looking for a relationship, or at the very least a second date. Of course there were a few oddballs, like the guy who was obsessed with his karate prowess and kept insinuating that his skills would come in handy to protect me on our pending second date. Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist. Follow her on InstagramFacebookand Twitter at drillinjourneys.
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