With a vast student and young professional population, Manchester has adopted a diverse and innovative nightlife scene that spans from bars disguised as corner shops to crazy golf clubs made entirely out of junk that would have otherwise littered landfill sites. A more established evening pastime that Manchester offers is speed dating, hosted in one of the Northern Quarter’s most frequented bars, Walrus.
In the interest of research, (we promise), two One Agency girls headed down, the night before Valentine’s Day, to establish our disposition on the event. Given our love for the NQ and Walrus as a cocktail hotspot, we were excited for a night of fizz and light hearted frivolity.
What we actually experienced was an education. We quickly realised the multitude of situations that we were not prepared for. Though we spent the day seeking advice in the office about what to say when the conversation runs out, or whether a handshake was too formal when our date sat down, we didn’t realise that we should have been asking for advice on how to organise your face after your date spits in your mouth, or how to say ‘get me out of here’ in Morse code.
Little did we know that we would be driven to such extremes that we had to fictionalise parts of our personalities in order to make the night pass quicker…but realistically, there are only so many times that you can answer the same mundane questions about your career, star sign and ‘type’, before you have to have to start pretending to be a juggler in the circus.
Similarly, if you’re faced with a potential suiter who seems just that little bit too interested in your career, and confesses that he, himself, works as a pizza delivery man; proceed with caution. The sugar mama search is real. The scepticism here isn’t intended, but it is something of a tell when they feel comfortable enough to ask about your salary 2 minutes into a 4 minute date.
This isn’t intended harshly at the men – we aren’t suggesting that we could be considered a catch to any of member the speed dating frequenters. Not even just because we were at least ten years younger than every single man there. Although one guy did situate himself in our ‘age bracket’, despite being a good twelve years older. Which is telling of the level of wooing that we experienced on the night as a whole.
But for more specific reasons, we just weren’t what some guys were looking for. Like the guy who was seeking a companion in his passion for role-play. Except it’s not role-play, it’s an unexplained obsession with pretending to be Marty McFly from ‘Back to The Future’.
Although one of us did make an impression on one guy, who preceded to mop his brow every 20 seconds during the mini-date, presumably due to the overwhelming lust that swept over him as soon as the caught sight of his next date. This would have been flattering, had a bit of his tissue not broken off about six seconds in, and remained there for the rest of the evening.
Luckily, some dates required minimal interaction, other than an interested expression. Such as the date that we have now labelled Peacock Man. Peacock Man (PM), replicated the same date with both of us, and, we suspect, the other 17 women in the room. PM sat down opposite us and began a soliloquy that went exactly like this;
‘Hello, my name is (Peacock Man). I’m not going to be like everyone else and ask about your occupation or your hopes and dreams [or anything about you really]. Rather, I’ll mix it up and ask you this – what is your spirit animal? [Brief, miniscule pause. Can’t have been more than a quarter of a second. Not enough time to inhale fully] I’ll start off, I’m a peacock. Because I’m showy, you know? I like for people to see what I’ve got. But I’ve got a softer, demure side too…’
Bell rings, and repeat.
It wasn’t all bad. Shockingly, we didn’t find the men of our dreams, but we did get the chance to meet loads of new friends. One guy explained this logic to us very soundly, ‘I’ve got a few social groups. But they’re always the same people. It gets boring. I like events like this, because you can meet new people every time. I tend to make it down sort of bi-weekly. It’s just something I like to do to meet new people.’
It could have been the delirium of the whole experience, but this was sort of making sense at the time. The fact that he budgeted £40 a month for this specific type of torture was a minor detail. So we asked, ‘Have you made many friends that you’ve seen out of this setting?’
To which he replied, ‘Well yeah, maybe once or twice. But then it’s speed dating again next week, and I’ve got new people to meet.’
We clearly weren’t alone in our discomfort, as when we ventured upstairs and out of the speed dating domain we found our friend who had been waiting for us to finish and debrief…being chatted up by one of our dates. So we’re currently waiting for her contribution to our tickets…
All in all, speed dating is the worst bit of any night out, but you have to pay £20 for the privilege. Thank God for Walrus’ 2 for £10 offer on cocktails, and the pain numbing qualities of gin.
Words: Amy Cully Steele