1 July 2016

Love Surgery at Urban Coterie

There are a handful of journalists I really love. To win me over, their writing has to be witty, funny, clever and ever so slightly self-depreciating to compensate for the fact they're terrifically eloquent. Two of these journalists are Dolly Alderton and Cosmo Landesman.

To say I was a little bit excited to read that the pair of them, who write a weekly dating column in The Sunday Times Style, would be appearing at an event called "Love Surgery", is an understatement. As soon as I saw the event through SheerLuxe, described as...

"a sit down treat of hilarious and edifying chitchat on all things dating, where we can share our most amusing or outrageous dating tips, disasters and nightmares"

Image courtesy of The Times

I knew I had to go.

Unfortunately when I clicked on the link to purchase tickets, I was taken to a gateway that required a password... So I did what any fangirl would do, and tweeted Dolly to ask if super keenos like me could get the password, and was kindly directed by her to the events team.

The password was "Love" - natch - and when I asked if I could blog about the event, the organisers were keen to get me involved, and did I want to get a photograph with Dolly and Cosmo before the event got underway? Erm, yespleaseohmygod.

Working somewhere with a very casual dress code, the smart/elegant requirement for the event threw me a bit. I went into panic mode and bought a dress last minute from ASOS, and decided to go for the classic black-on-black look, with a bit of black thrown in... with tan, and strappy heels that looked great but I definitely couldn't walk in. Cool as a cucumber, I'm definitely not...

Urban Coterie is on the 16th & 17th floors of M by Montcalm, just off Old Street roundabout. Any fears I had of seeming overdressed dissipated once I stepped inside the hotel, which was super fancy...

And I felt super sassy as I pushed the button for floor 17 (which happens to be my lucky number) - at the very top, which opened out onto a slippery floor. My stomach dropped as I realised I'd have to attempt to elegantly walk/not fall on my arse and prayed I could get away with standing still or sitting down for the majority of the evening. Luckily, it was nothing a glass of champagne couldn't remedy. More to the point, is there anything a glass of champagne can't remedy?

Yep, the tree sculpture was, very imaginatively, called "Tree"

I'd arrived early to scope out the venue and take pictures/have a RARE picture of me taken (I prefer to be behind the lens, okay?) and was immediately introduced to Barbara (the MD of Events), Dolly and Cosmo. Dork that I am, I went immediately gushy and lame "Oh my gosh, I love your column!!!" - cringe. Dolly cemented herself in my girl crush top 5 by asking if my dress was Versace - haha, I wish - and that, regardless, it was hot. Eep! I laugh when guys think girls dress for guys, because all girls know it's the biggest confidence boost when a girl you envy says you look good. No contest.

I was pleased to see that Dolly and Cosmo were actually a really funny couple - their columns sit side-by-side and although very different (Dolly is single in her twenties, Cosmo is single and twice divorced in his sixties), they complement each other - balancing each other out in real life, too. And by that I mean that every time Cosmo verged on inappropriate (i.e. outrageously flirtatious) Dolly would call him out on it. For instance:

Me: My Mum would kill me if I didn't say this, so I have to say it... she really enjoys your column
Cosmo: Why thank you. Your mother, is she single?
Me: Um, no, she's not...
Cosmo: That's a shame. And you, what about you - do you like your Dad?
Me: Um, I suppose so -
Cosmo: Well what would you say if I volunteered to be your new Daddy? *cue suggestive eyebrow wiggle*
Me: Oh, erm, maybe?
Dolly: COSMO!

We got the picture - Cosmo simply loved being sandwiched between what he described as "two beautiful women" - "I've been waiting my whole life for this" - and slowly people started trickling in.

My plus one was usefully running late, which left me in a bit of a pickle, because there I was, surrounded by single men and women (I would say that at that point I was the only attendee who was under 30) feeling very awkward, fumbling around with my camera and trying to look busy but also elegant and not like my shoes were killing me and that the air con really needed to be turned up...

Preparing burrata, fresh from Italy, with heirloom tomatoes. So delicious.

However, I was, er, propositioned, and forced to switch off from blogger mode, pass the time and make small-talk. Although I did wonder if it was less how I looked and more my age that peaked his interest (although he insisted the contrary)? Who knows. Regardless, I was pleased I made an effort, as the other attendees looked suitably glamorous in the way successful and confident people do.

After a while we were seated at small tables, offered wine and canap├ęs - the stand-out dishes were the mozzarella and pesto arancini and pork crackling bites with spicy mayo, yum - before the proceedings began.

The infamous pork crackling bites with spicy mayo

The discussion was led by Dolly and Cosmo, who took turns to consult the audience on their opinions and experiences of dating - both good and bad - with a little insight into their romantic endeavours too. It was universally agreed that making an effort on the first date definitely counts - but after that opinion wildly differed.

Who pays on the first date? 
How soon after meeting is it appropriate to send a follow up message?
Do you kiss on a first date? 
Is sex best left until the third date?
How do you have the "relationship talk"?
How long should you wait to date after a divorce? FYI, Cosmo said "Fifteen minutes"

And so on.

My favourite bit of advice came from Dolly, who said that after a first date you should *always* say you have something planned immediately afterwards. EVEN IF that's a lie, and your only plan is to watch reruns at home with a bottle of Prosecco. Because then you always sound like the cool girl who's super social with an air of mystery. Brilliant.

And one of the audience members clarified the "age-appropriate" question, as in, if you're the older one, how young can you go? Answer - take your age, divide by 2, and add 7.

The jury is out on the "who pays on the first date" debate. Personally, I'm all for equality, but I do think if the guy has asked you, then they should pay. Maybe I'm opening myself up for a lot of trolling here, but I just think it's a nice gesture. But obviously it depends if you go from planned drinks to an unplanned dinner, or your drinks bill exceeds over £100... *cough*

After the event it was more networking, finishing drinks and continuing the party in the downstairs bar. We were the last ones to leave Urban Coterie, having tipsily discussed things like the Brexit, London house prices, and er, sex, for the past hour with people we'd literally just met - not your standard evening, I'm sure you'll agree. Downstairs I was treated to a mojito by the earlier propositioner who clearly didn't care about Cosmo's age rule (by that measure I should have been 29 and a half. I'm 24), but hey, a mojito is a mojito...

The night ended as, I'm learning, all nights tend to end with my plus one - a bonkers Uber journey at an ungodly hour, and this was on a Monday evening.

I wouldn't say that after discussing love and dating for the entirety of the evening that I'm any the wiser, as dating is just about the biggest grey area of life. There is no black and white, just in between - people blindly fumbling through the fog, tripping over, falling backwards, and not knowing what on earth is going on half the time. But the good thing is that we're definitely *not* alone, and dating dramas aren't limited to a specific age group - there was a lady in her fifties, married (and divorced) 4 times, who was convinced she'd just been dumped by text.

I think it's actually very brave, to put yourself out there again and again, because you're essentially opening yourself up to everything - hurt, rejection, humiliation, self-doubt, all in the hope of finding one person who you don't mind sharing a bed with and removing their hair from the plughole.

Ain't love grand?

**I was invited to Love Surgery courtesy of Vida8 Events in exchange for review, but all opinions expressed are my own. 

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