I’ve not been speed dating before; I’ve been put off by the horror stories of seedy gay bars, mostly older men, and a pressured environment where you don’t really meet anyone. But, having tried a few different dating websites and still not finding good men, I needed something new. So it was with slight trepidation that I went along to The List London’s Date Night this week.
The List London is a gay professional networking and events society, offering a more interesting set of events based on four key values of a warm welcome, making connections, getting involved and attention to detail. Luckily, this was a speed dating event with a difference. Promising to ‘remove all the tacky perceptions that usually go along with speed dating’ The List claimed it would create a speed dating event with sophistication, at the McQueen bar and restaurant near Old Street. They kept me updated with emails before the event, making me feel really comfortable with the plan for the evening, which was nice as, going alone, it could have been quite scary.
I was pretty nervous as I walked into the very plush bar. Immediately I could see that this was going to be something different. It was an absolutely lovely venue, with comfortable leather seats and sofas, and great décor – themed around Steve McQueen with images of the screen icon all around. I met James, the organiser for the evening, who gave me a badge with a number and my name on it which I stuck to my chest. He directed me to the bar where I could get myself a free welcome drink. Opting for a large glass of white wine, I needed something to steady the nerves, I surveyed the room. There were already about ten guys in the room, and more came in, and I noticed something distinctly different. Here were a lot of well-dressed guys, a range of ages and a very diverse bunch. I chatted to a few guys beforehand, although I didn’t want to ruin our speed dating by getting the conversations started early. Once all 29 of us had arrived, we were told to take a seat and the rules were given. This was an ‘everyone moves’ speed dating, where I was able to have a 4 minute date with everyone in the room, not just half of it. And, unlike many speed dating events, I’d get my messages before the end of the night. Note paper and pencils were provided, all well branded and adding the professional look of the evening.
Then the real fun began. 28 dates, 4 minutes long, with a gong bashed to tell us to move on. There would be two, fifteen minute breaks, to replenish our drinks – essential with all the speed talking that was going to go on. Naturally, some dates were better than others, and some felt like they went on forever! It took me a couple to get into the groove, but I’d quickly perfected my spiel in order to move past the boring questions ‘what do you do, where do you live etc’ to get some real conversations going with guys. I had great conversations with all kinds of people – doctors, barristers, actors, digital wizards, teachers, nurses – even a competitive swimmer. Yes, 4 minutes was too short most of the time, but the breaks gave me an opportunity to talk a little more with those I wanted to. As the evening wore on, and the wine flowed, conversation became easier and I settled into having a great time.
The only slight awkward moment was the end of the evening, where we sat quietly and wrote up our messages for the guys we liked. Cards were filled in, giving an idea of the next date we wanted, and a way to be contacted. I filled in about five and handed them to James, who sorted them into the envelopes for each attendee and distributed them. Everyone had one, and everyone had a least one card in it. People hung around for a bit afterwards, drinking and chatting, and then the evening broke up.
It was a lovely way to spend a Monday evening, even if it was the hottest day of the year. It was a great opportunity to meet lots of different guys, and have a chance to network. Often, gays can be trapped in their own bubble, thinking all gay men are like them. This made me realise just how diverse and exciting a group of people we can be.
And, the bit you’ve all been waiting for. 10 messages out of 28 dates isn’t too bad. And yes, there’s a couple of guys I’d like to see again that felt the same. A pretty successful evening at a great event. I’d definitely suggest you check out The List London if you’re looking to meet professional gay men, for networking, friends or dates. The next event is at a Russian Art Gallery, with a speaker from the Human Dignity Trust talking about LGBT issues in Russia. Why not give it a whirl.