Has it really come to this? Are we now so dependent on apps and online dating, and just how do you navigate the app-happy dating pool of today? One staffer was set a challenge to get as many online dates as he could, to play the numbers game and come out the other side. This is his story. I used to, and I think at times I might even have enjoyed it.
Which is all the more reason to get started. A couple of hours beforehand I have a pep talk with dating expert Hayley Quinn, who warns me that coffee dates often seem like job interviews. V is a floor manager for a major department store. I buy her a latte and we talk retail. I might as well have met her on LinkedIn. While marvelling at OkCupid seemingly designed for egomaniacs and oversharers I decide a bland profile is best.
I take her to a bar. Tall, curvy and classy. I feel too weekend-casual in jeans and a cardigan. Brogues will be a rule from now on. E re-applies her lipstick in the bathroom. But work is looming. Date 3 Lost in translation R from Lovestruck is Japanese — lovely, totally incomprehensible. I think she enjoyed our chat but it was hard to tell. When she was a baby she was kissed by Marshal Tito. I produce a biography of Tito from my bag but the coincidence fails to stimulate conversation.
Date 5 Second swipe M is also from Tinder. She recently suffered a nervous breakdown. Never mentioned that in her profile. Hunting for women is already preventing me from doing more enjoyable things; I have Chapman Pincher on my Kindle. It was a mistake to stack multiple dates in a day. It removes any thrill — a concern considering I have eight dates scheduled for the next two days. I buy her a pie. Date 8 Friendly fire S from Tinder is smiley and chatty with faultless social skills.
The algorithms that sites such as Lovestruck use to match people seem somewhat redundant post-Tinder, where appearance is everything. Date 10 Devil in the details I end the evening at a singles night.
After a couple of false starts, I unwittingly use a blinding opener to attract C: Apparently women like someone noticing little details in their outfit.
Conversation — or the lack of it — has been playing on my mind. Talk about the weather if you have to. I suspect she would put out if we met over wine, rather than coffee and cake. My weather chat flounders. We enjoy a glass of wine. Loads can't Date 14 Stacking strategies My second nanny of the day, teetotal L, again from Lovestruck. A coffee date never runs late; dinner might.
I dribble out the same chat and by the fourth date, I just want to go home. Not a single one of my marathon dates contacts me for a second meet-up. Inane openers do break the ice, but stop you from reaching anything deeper. My approach needs an upgrade: Thankfully my date with G is over quickly. I crave male company so go home and watch Expendables II. I practise my controversial conversation. I tell her I was running late and had to elbow a granny out of the way to get off the train.
Dates The numbers game I head to a Mayfair nightclub for speed dating originaldating. The scatter-gun concept works: I leave feeling confident, but have to wait for feedback next week to find out if my self-belief is justified. I re-write my profiles and spell out that I want a girl with lovely hair and boobs as I have neither and would appreciate the novelty. I also add four Red Flag Words: She works for BA.
Her legs are dramatic. I tell her about my writing, my website, my passion for the Balkans. I book another spot next Saturday to see if I can do better, armed with new tips from my dating coach: I am told to be self-deprecating in my humour; stories that show me as a protective person are encouraged; my eye wandering must be on point, too — from eyes to mouth to neck with the odd chest glance.
Top of the chest mind, not boob ogling. Research says this works. Which works for me. I treat her to a moderately priced pizza and the house red but, after a science-backed cleavage glance, decide to up the ante. She wants to meet again.
Still on a high when I get home, I feel a change in myself. I rejig my profiles to make them punchier. When playing the numbers game, a controversial personality will strike gold at least some of the time, where something blander could easily pass straight under the radar. Pick out something noteworthy about them shoes or haircut, presumably, not her huge nose.
I tell three girls I find them attractive and would like to take them out for a drink. One is engaged but the others divvy up their numbers. A spectacular standard of women. The fact that I was there at all put me in a good light. I open with a general comment on the rain but add that I stole my umbrella from a market stall.
The fact that this excites her terrifies me, but we agree to meet again. Dates Less haste, more speed I approach my second speed dating night with trepidation. Last time I was a little too enthusiastic, too try-hard. I take charge of each conversation but try to appear aloof, leaning back in my seat; these girls are actually working for my attention.
I make a point of examining each. Date 37 Failing chemistry Afternoon coffee with D from Lovestruck. Decent chat but no sexual frisson.
Suddenly my phone is buzzing with messages — the busty Pole, the 6ft Scot. I book them both for second dates. Why did we click? The only common factor is that I bossed the conversation on both occasions. Date 38 Voicing an opinion I hit a new dating night called 4 Ladies 4 Gentlemen 4ladies4gentlemen. I spend the evening flirting with a voice coach. Polish M blows me out at the last minute; she has a presentation to prepare, can we do Thursday instead?
The Scot has stopped responding to me. Postponing the previous date must have upset her. Dating is an insecure business. Date 39 Behind at the bar Tonight, an 8. I get an angry message from the Scot. Date 40 Exit the game Heading home, I arrange to meet an ex. The emotionally devastating ex. The next day, we grab lunch but judging by her body language, this is the lowlight of her year.
Possibly even her decade. Unwilling to end on a sour note, I meet the Pole. We drink too much wine, then go to a god-awful club. I remember dancing, a horrendously expensive cab and a dingy flat in south-west London. I found her attractive.