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Alex  

Ten dates in ten days
March 2007

Single? Fear not. Alexandra Heybourne has undergone an extreme experiment designed to help you.

Alex

I write to you fresh from a ten-day dating extravaganza culminating in yet another Valentine’s Day alone. Truly, I did date 10 men in 10 days (although being greedy it worked out at more like 11 men in the end – lucky me).

And yes I chose to spend Valentine’s alone… not because I didn’t have offers. Some of you will be thinking that I am ever so lucky and others will be wondering why I put myself through that hell and maybe some of you will be wondering what the point of it all was.

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Well, it all started after another truly terrible dating experience. Rather conventionally, I met a guy in a bar. When drunk we kissed and exchanged numbers. Said guy and I went on a date, despite my vain attempts to fob him off because of my sheer terror at the whole notion of dating.

The date went well, but for some reason I never heard from him again. I work for a radio station as a PR. When I told my work colleagues about this odious man, they were unsympathetic and decided to oust me on the radio as an abysmal dater. They offered me up as a single girl who would go on ten dates in ten days, documenting it and reporting back every day.

I was given one week to procure ten men and because it had been mentioned on the radio… it had to be done.

Where would I get all these guys from?

The fear got to me soon after I heard my colleagues talking about me on the radio. How the hell was I not going to come across as a loser to my friends? What man would agree to such an experiment? And where would I get all these guys from? I’m not wholly unattractive but neither am I a supermodel size zero… would this matter?

I tried to tackle the problem logically by going to a bar to pick up someone just like most Saturday nights the globe over. Regrettably, despite finding a man who showed enormous interest he never called. Hurrumph. Disappointed but not deterred I decided to tackle my fears head on and after three days I had found myself with a pick of men.

The first lesson to be learnt here, is that in procuring a man or woman, always plunder the friend network. My friends didn’t think I was ‘lame’ they actually said I was very brave and out of the woodwork they found me men that they hadn’t declared before because they had been worried I’d be offended! As if being single is something to be ashamed of anyway.

The other brilliant thing about using friends to set me up was that the dates came with a certain pedigree and a traceable history. And finally, whilst I was initially worried no man would put himself through the lab-rat style experiment; I’d forgotten that men love ‘competition’. How often do men get the chance to take part in a cave-man style race to win the hand of a woman?

I chose eight men

Alex
Alex

I chose eight men from varied backgrounds and 8 very different dating experiences. Plus I left two slots for someone I would meet through a dating event called The Supper Club and someone I would meet via online dating site www.mysinglefriend.com. Over the course of ten days I encountered: a journalist, a financier, a poet, a banker, a screenwriter, a journalist, a lawyer, a marketeer, an entrepreneur, a social activist, an old flame and an artist. I dated men from 23 – 41.

I had dinner, drinks, tango, cinema, casino, burlesque, lion feeding. You name it, I did it. I was late, cancelled, cancelled on, kissed, argued and reduced to tears.

My personal favourite, both man-wise and date-wise, was date number nine where I fed lions with an attractive and funny artist who gave me butterflies in my stomach. My worst date was with the man I knew the best. He was a man I’d waited a year for a date with - an old flame of sorts – the build-up made the date awkward and he finally admitted he has an inability to commit.

Being my last date he brought the whole experiment to an extremely emotional end. It culminated in Valentine’s day, when I collapsed in a lifeless, sleep-lacked heap on the floor of my work canteen while my gay boss dolled out man advice. “Enough of men” I yelled.

I realised what I'd learnt

I guess you can say it all came to a head on February 14th. After I had picked myself up from the floor of the canteen and thrown my burnt toast into the bin, I discovered a packet of love hearts on my desk left by my boss. Why are the best ones gay?

In a fit of Valentine's fatigue, whilst preparing my final broadcast of the experiment, I popped most of the entire packet of love hearts into my mouth and started violently choking. Regrettably acting in haste, as with dating, can kill you. How ironic it would have been had I choked to death on a packet of love hearts… on Valentine's Day!

I survived and as I was catching my breath, I realised what I'd learnt from my ten dates in ten days. Sometimes in haste, you can have too much of a good thing and you end up choking on it; be it the commercial Valentine's day build-up, dating every guy who puts himself in your path or the constant images of happy couples in your peer group.

There really is nothing wrong with being single and in these busy times neither is there any shame in joining an online dating site: www.mysinglefriend.com, going to a dating event or asking your friends to sort you out.

I personally preferred my friends setting me up and my favourite date came via a friend of a friend. But once you have made that decision to find someone, once you have been bold enough, take your time and why not line-up a few for good measure.

Before the experiment I didn't have much confidence… and whilst I met men in bars etc my conversion rate (for actually dates) would be one in three (either due to my dating phobia or their lack of calls!).

Of those actual dates, a very small minority would be vaguely suitable options for me but then I'd scare them off by being over enthusiastic.

This experiment has forced me to do things differently

Firstly, I've realised booze is not a substitute for actual conversation. If it's not working why bother forcing it, in the long term it's not going to work – better cut your losses and run! My favourite date was feeding the lions, a very sober experience indeed!

Alex
Alex

Secondly, my confidence has grown. I've realised I'm not hideous to the opposite sex and neither do I have a personality that has them running for the hills (well not all of them). Of my dates, I'm in touch with all bar two. Maybe something else will flourish but I'm certainly not going to sit by the phone waiting.

Thirdly, you always want what you can’t have. I chose the only man (of my experiment) who was to be on holiday for Valentine’s Day. So I decided to spend it recuperating and you know what? I enjoyed it more this year than ever before. I received a packet of love hearts from my boss. Text messages from some of my dates, an email from another and a long phone call with one. I also have a very able best friend who is great company and whilst it's sods law that the man I chose was on holiday, it's not the end of the world.

I've noticed that men don't take Valentine's day very seriously so why do women get so hung up on it? It doesn't mean they love us any less.

On the whole, if I'm to take anything from this experiment it's that we need to have more confidence in ourselves, we shouldn't rush things and if someone tempting from your past is lurking (my date number 10) – be really sure you want to go there – there's probably a reason that they are in your past!

And finally, to all those men who have put up with me (and my lateness)… thank you!

Alex's advice: What to do if you are single

In summary – what to do if you are single:

1. Plundering the friends network is so the way forward! Failing that do try new modern dating options, it's really not as scary as you think!

2. On dates, the other party is like a spider… more afraid of you than you of it! Sometimes this is a great icebreaker, talking about the nerves gives you both a level playing field and something definite in common.

3. The more you relax about romance (without playing games) the more your personality can shine through and you don't end up frightening off your intended.

4. Looks aren't everything. I've had dates with guys who have been great looking but with no personality and the dates I've enjoyed the most have been with men who have fabulous personalities and know how to have fun.

5. Take risks. Don't stick to your normal type of man or woman. Go out with someone you might not normally consider, this could be where you have been going wrong.

6. Try to avoid booze. It gives you a false sense of security and if you need it as a crutch you don't have anything sustainable going forward.

7. Low lit restaurants and bars are a winner, but activity dates or themed eateries are even better. There is something really dull about just doing the whole bar then restaurant thing. An activity gives you something else to talk about – though I wouldn't suggest Burlesque or tango unless you know your date fairly well already.

8. Little disasters – leaning on bread knives, falling over, being late – really don't matter, they make you more human. Just be gracious about them.

9. Too many people are uncomfortable in their own skin and really put pressure on themselves and often their dates (when they find them) to conform to some strange society view that as a couple you are better. Rubbish. If you feel great alone you'll be even better with someone else.

10. Have fun! It's not meant to be a stress, sometimes getting from A to B is far more fun and you might learn something along the way

Links:

www.mysinglefriend.com

 
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