This article was originally written for, and published in The Dubliner Magazine - Ireland's best city magazine, on Thursday the 2nd of February 2012.
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This is an extended and very poorly edited version of that article. Obviously.
There are times in every journalists career where, he or she may have to do something which they don't like. I have absolutely no evidence to back up this statement, it is just what I liked to tell myself on occasion while "researching" this article. The magazine had given me the opportunity to write my own feature - my very own feature. I leaped ebulliently at the opportunity, with so much hastE, in fact, that I failed to focus on what this "feature" entailed. Over the course of a week or so, I would have to go to a series of dates, and dating events in order to "research" the dating scene in Dublin.
I am pausing here for comedic effect.
I think we can all agree that I should be taken into a laboratory and dissected to establish whether or not I actually contain a magnet for romantic disasters. Surely this blog alone is testament to the fact that my love life seems to have been written by the same people behind The Inbetweeners? Unfortunately, I do actually grapple with my social ineptitude in order to maintain some sort of veneer of professionalism. How were the editorial team to know I can't flirt to save Christmas? And so, sweaty and panicked I set off on a series of romantic liasons, knowing full well I was expected to produce some chirpy, witty and entertaining article at the end of the week detailing just how I made all these men fall in love with me. It didn't exactly work out.
Date One: Wine Tasting
Well, my “where have all the good men gone!” angle has gone completely out the window. I'm telling you now, women of Dublin, the room was filled with attractive & lovely men. I was disgusted. And, it was the only event that didn't feel like a dating event. However, I absolutely detest wine and after three or so years of living like a student, the only time I'd drank wine was at great speed from the neck of the bottle to make sure it was never left in my mouth long enough for me to taste it. Looking around the expensive wine bar, my journalistic instincts told me this might be frowned upon. For example, lots of people were talking about “how well the wine went with the cheese.” I tried to imagine me and my housemates sitting in the living room using Dairylea slices to soak up our Tesco own-brand sparkling wine and decided I did not fit in here. Still, I figured I knew enough to bluff. There are only two kinds of wine: red, or white. And red is icky.
I was extremely nervous. As soon as I arrived, a small plastic card was thrust into my hand and I was informed that this was a little credit card which I could max out on wine. I stared at it ominously. I could see headlines flashing across my mind already: "STUDENT JOURNALIST DIES FROM ALCOHOL POISONING IN WINE AND NERVES FUELED BINGE." But being uber-professional, I managed to control myself.
"You know what," I resigned to my ignorance and guessed. "I haven't!" I said, hiding my glass just in case.
"Why don't we try it together?"
Many many many men ended up trying the New Zealand, and the South Africa, and the god-only-knows what else with me. On top of this, the organiser lady was very eager to make sure I had a great time. She must have experience with journalists because her method of doing this was try to poison me with alcohol. She'd often flounce over to men and ask them "if they've bought Ellen a drink yet? Get this girl a drink!"
There were a few worrying moments when the whole thing almost turned a bit Hunter S Thompson. I think my chances of finding a man were severed by the fact that a few of them must have thought I had some sort of crippling bladder disorder. I kept running to the bathroom to drink gallons of water to make sure I didn't end up hugging the organiser and telling her "she was my besht friend everrr."
I'm afraid I didn't end up falling in love with anyone. I did, of course, manage to sit between two people who were falling in love with each other. I sat there, awkwardly, watching their love blossom. Occasionally I'd offer them cheese, and wine, half to remind them I was there and half to occupy some sort of matchmaker role. I felt like the candle out of Beauty and The Beast. I excused myself to go fetch yet more wine to diffuse the cringe-inducing awkwardness, when I was cornered. “So, tell me.” this guy said, swilling his wine in the obnoxious way that you see people do on Come Dine With Me, “what's wrong with you?” “Well, I managed to sit between two people who ar-” “No I mean, in general?” “....” “Well I mean, you're not obviously deformed,” charmed! “so what kind of personal issues have you got that's left you single, in Dublin? Tell me, what is it about you that just repels men?” So this is what I'm up against: “you must have mental issues if you're single.” I began to panic slightly that this article will read less like a witty Carrie Bradshaw-esque social commentary, and more like a tragic re-hash of Bridget Jones' Diary.
Date Two, Three &Four: Blind Dates
Note to self: The next time I attempt to orchestrate a blind-date, pick a less over-zealous friend. The date seemed almost anti-climactic compared to the harrowing day before it. The point was that I would know literally nothing about this person. That's right, no Facebook stalking before hand to pre-empt attractiveness/things we have in common. This meant handing my friend all of the power. I'd ask her innocently “so, will I like him?” and she would say something highly alarming like “Ooh...depends,” before walking out of the room, cackling. I decided to do a couple of these, this week. The only relationship I potentially developed from it is with a doctor, given my new nervous disposition. All of the dates were absolutely lovely, it has to be said. The loveliness of which was often eclipsed by a blend of sweet relief and ultimate foreboding for the next date. I was convinced I would finish the week with such an aversion to dates, I'd never be able to look at a calendar again for the rest of my life.
Date Five: Speed dating
Speed dating. Yay! Even my cataclysmic dating skills shouldn't be enough to repel a man in 4 minutes. But I may out-do myself...
Once again, absolutely appalled by the amount of gorgeous, funny & lovely men. Maybe I need to start abandoning this whole “tragic-singleton” air and start asking where the hell all the good women are? Most of the time, 4 minutes went ridiculously quickly. Other times, you experienced “It's A Wonderful Life” moments, almost bursting into tears of relief when that bell finally rang. One guy, about 20 seconds into our date gruffly grabbed my wrist and pulled me in close to him. We're talking a proximity usually only reserved for dentists.
“Listen, I go to these dating events to find the girl of my dreams. Looks to me, like I've found her...”
I tried hard not to focus on the EMERGENCY EXIT sign which I could see in my peripheral vision. Instead I giggled in what I hope was an attractive and girlish fashion. I decided this was not his fault. Clearly, he was enthralled by both my charm and beauty. He is but a man, after all. Who is he to resist? My delusions were quickly shattered when I discovered he had proposed to two other women, and tried to take one to New York that night. Oh. Despite all this, I got 4 matches and 2 second dates. That is the greatest testimony for speed dating it could have ever hoped for: if it will work for me, it will work for anyone.
Date Six: Online dating
This one and I did not get on so well. It's not you, online dating, it's me. No really, it definitely is me. Half my life is spent altering my Facebook & Twitter to make me sound as ridiculously cool as is humanly possible. I almost had a breakdown trying to set up an account that was solely for the purpose of making someone like me. Before I'd even gone online, I was already a nervous wreck trying to establish the best way to phrase “fun loving!” without sounding like a harlot and “social” without sounding like an alcoholic. It's not easy.
Well, can you think of a way of making “I enjoy current affairs” sound sexy? Eventually, I settled for a generic online personality. “I like books and going out.” I knew I wasn't going to dazzle anyone with my originality. I had a worrying amount of responses. This made me suspicious, instead of flattered. I know myself pretty well, ok? I am not the kind of girl who can attract 23 people in half an hour. I decided, rationally of course, they must all be killers. In spite of this, I ended up going on a date with someone from Cupid Rocks.ie. Unlike myself, he seemed very balanced, normal and lovely. So there is hope for online daters. As long as they're not as neurotic and shallow as me...
Date Seven: Blind date (again)
Lesson of the date: be careful what you wish for. I've spent many the evening with a mouth full of popcorn screaming at whatever the Rom-Com Du Jour is “WHY WON'T ANYONE DO THAT KINDA STUFF FOR ME?!” before glaring meaningfully at the door. Colin Firth, where are you? However. Something which may seem like the perfect movie moment, e.g taking me to Howth Aurora Borealis hunting/stargazing on The Summit, quickly turns into “Why don't you follow me out onto this dark and ominous cliff?” in real life. It certainly added mystery and excitement to the date, thinking you were about to be killed somewhere in Howth by this guy you've just met.
“So, this is going in the Dubliner, yeah?” he asked. I had to fight back the thoughts that at any moment it would probably end up more 'front page of the Herald.'
I relaxed a bit when he produced a mini-picnic, including some cheese. Murderers don't bring cheese.
I decided that now that I have this boy trapped on a cliff face somewhere on the east coast of the country, I should quiz him about the men of Ireland.
“Well, we don't really do this, this is weird.”
Oh thank goodness! He thought so too...
“The cliff thing? Yeah I thought that was kind of -”
“No I mean, the date.” he cut in.
“People don't date each other. But it is a lot better than just shifting someone in a nightclub...” “Exactly! So why don't you do it? Why don't the men of Ireland just cop on and ask us on dates?!”
He munched cheese thoughtfully and took a swig of wine. “Well. Why don't you ask us?”
Date Eight: Asking someone out. Old school style.
Look, I don't know what happened. It might have been a mental imbalance from a weeks worth of nerves and panicking about what to wear and stressing about dates. It might have been the exhilaration from my “near-ish death experience” in Howth. Either way, it's not something I'd normally do. I decided to ask someone on a date, myself.
I toyed with the idea of tweeting him, but maybe that's not super-romantic. So I reverted back to the 80's and picked up the phone to call him. It was either that or run over to his house and ask his ma if he was in.
“Hey! HEY. It's me.”
“Oh, uh, hey Ellen?”
“HEY!” Said that already. “....how are ya?!”
“Em, I'm good?...” God damn you, my generation and your blasted reliance on technology. Calling someone on the phone is automatically suspicious because nobody does it any more. Small talk obviously was not going to work so I had to get straight to the point.
Top tip: “It's for an article! I SWEAR.” is a great cheat to make you sound less mental. I say “less-mental” opposed to “not mental” because the nerves were making me blather like a fool.
“Ok sooo great! Haha, obviously, thanks! Such a favour, god. Ha. Hmm. Have to do it you know, research.... and all that. Not like I want to go on a date with you or anything, ahahhaha, well I do? But.” Jesus, hang up Ellen. I think this one will go well! ...As long as I spend Thursday making sure he gets nowhere near a newstand in the greater Dublin area.