12 February 2017

Dating diaries: Silent Speed-dating

In terms of alternative dating in London - and by 'alternative', I mean dating that doesn't rely on apps - there isn't much out there. As an anti-app representative, I see it as my duty to explore what's on offer for single Londoners. So when I came across Shhh Dating (silent speed-dating), I had to give it a whirl.

Set up by Adam Taffler, Shhh Dating is aimed at people who are 'sick of the same old blah blah and have at least a little sense of adventure'. After all, 'the eyes are the window to the soul'... It sounded really interesting and hey, it was something to look forward to on a dreary Monday, so why not?

How the event is advertised on the website...

I booked on an event in Peckham, which is the first time Shhh have ventured south of the river. I arrived late, completely by accident, and annoyingly missed the introduction, which I assume was an explanation of the evening. So I joined the party as a 'cold participant', sans drink. Could I do this sober?

Kevin, our host (all hosts have a background in 'group bonding', team building, etc) led the activities. As they were silent, after he'd explained the rules for each game, we were advised to wiggle our fingers at him if we understood. In my case, there was less finger wiggling, more staring at him like 'Whaaaa?' so he came over and, silently, partnered up with me on the first round.

Kevin, with a chopstick (it makes sense later)

But what were the rounds? First, we did greetings. This involved approaching different people in the room with a 'British' hello - shaking hands (some people curtsied), moving onto a 'French' hello - two air kisses, one on each cheek, a yoga style 'namaste' and finally, the rather eccentric 'Alien' version. For those not in the know (I certainly wasn't), this consists of approaching someone and trying to jump *at* each other, at the same time.

If you're reading this thinking 'This is bonkers' - yes, it is. After the initial round I was a little wary, and had a moment where I thought, actually, should I see this through? Can I do this? But, being the stubborn person I am, and unwilling to look like a bad sport, I sucked it up and embraced what I knew was going to undoubtedly be a bonkers evening.

At this point I thought 'I wish these planes were real'

We played a tame game of 'I have never...', moving to opposite sides of the room depending on 'yes, I have', or 'no, I haven't' (the most scandalous thing we were asked is if we'd had a 'fiddle' with someone of the same sex), and participated in a game of 'Predator and Shield' (you'll have to attend for yourself to figure out this one, I'm not telling you all the secrets). And then, things got a little more physical...

Our next challenge was to shake someone's hand, and then shake another person's hand in the vicinity; but in order to let go of the first hand you shook, you had to find another person to shake hands with. And so on. It got a bit manic, and quite... twisty. It lasted a few minutes, and there were a *lot* of giggles.

A game of 'hand towers' brought us into random groups, and this was followed by what I'll call a game of 'Chopsticks'. This involved picking a partner, and putting a single chopstick between your left index finger and their right index finger, and the other to their other. With me? One person leads, and you're encouraged to kind of do a chopstick 'dance' between you, with the aim of not letting the chopsticks fall on the floor. And when we got *too* comfortable with that, we were encouraged to do the dance with our eyes closed.

Next, our chopsticks were made redundant, as we were told to do the same, but with our index fingers touching. This was weird. And oddly sensual. First, you had to just move your fingers against each other, then move your hand, and finally, get your whole arm involved - whilst not losing contact between the index fingers. And again, we were told to try and do it with our eyes closed. It was so funny. Or maybe it wasn't meant to be funny and I just felt a little awkward about the whole thing and laughed through it...

The final game before the break was what I'm dubbing 'Tai chi, touch me' (hahaha). With a partner, you had to try and lightly, lightly, brush your hand against some part of their body as they resisted your touch, all whilst moving very slowly, a la tai chi. Once you'd made contact three times, you had to signal with your hand up, and find another partner. I fully embraced the ninja aspect, which one guy looked terrified about, and made a 'crazy' action to me, which only egged me on more. Within minutes, this activity became less tai chi, more manic darting at each other, trying to get your 'points'. There was LOTS of laughing in this one.

Afterwards, we were granted a ten minute break. PHEW. I was gasping for a drink (to my delight, a double G&T was under £7. Peckham, you may just have a piece of my heart), and had a chat with one of the guys at the bar, who was really nice. It was a relief to finally be able to talk.

Descending to the bar...

The second half of the evening began in a circle of girl-boy-girl-boy, with a er, massage. Yep. We had to turn to our left, place our hands on the person in front's shoulders (as a girl, it was a boy, and vice versa) and start with by rubbing our thumbs on their shoulders. We could then nod if we wanted it harder. Harder. I died a little inside. I'm not a prude, but I did feel a little hysterical. And again, this was utterly silent. The silence makes it all the more intense, I swear. Our host Kevin, helpfully, said it was 'okay to let out a little groan if we felt like it'.


And then, the ladies were told to sit on the outside of the table, opposite the gents. We were now at the actual 'eye gazing' part of the evening. We had a little guide to prompt us to breathe, enjoy and explore, and we then proceeded to spend 90 seconds eye gazing with our partner. We were told to take a deep exhale and to let out an audible exhale before we began, with a bell signalling our time was up, and to move along.

Look away from the plane. I repeat, look away from the plane.

I would just like to point out that I seriously struggle with eye contact. When talking to someone, I'll look in their eyes, look away, look down, have a drink, look back at them, etc. Very rarely am I *ever* in a position where I have to look straight into someone's eyes for 90 SECONDS. It's a long time. And very awkward.

The first few attempts, nearly everyone was giggling nervously. But suddenly... the noise died down. We got into it. Well, as into it as you can get. I wasn't really sure I was doing it right, y'know? At first it felt a bit like a staring contest, and I forgot to blink, and at one point I forgot how to blink, because I was thinking about it so much. However, as soon as I started to concentrate on other people's eyes, I relaxed a little.

Some people have very kind eyes. As lots of us had a fixed smile, trying to hold in our laughter, lots of eyes would dip, and crinkle. Some people had sparkly eyes. Some people - no offence, I was probably in this category - just had eyes. There was nothing particularly spectacular about them.

On one instance, a guy's eyes, bless him, kept darting around. I couldn't tell if this was purposeful, or if he was just really nervous. I wonder if my eyes showed my confusion?

Another guy kept blinking, like, a lot. Which made me blink less, to even things out.

And one kept raising his eyebrows, and even did an ear wiggle (which made one girl let out an involuntary snort of laughter at the end).

I don't know, however, if after the eye gazing, I felt any more attracted to anyone. Call me old fashioned, but after the initial catching of someone's eye, and maaaaaybe subtly heading in their direction, I like to talk. Over a drink (or two).

I'm still on the fence, but I'd happily try out the other Shhh event - the Shhh Party. And I'd take a friend, because trust me, immediately afterwards you'll be positively bursting to talk about it to someone, and to break your vow of silence.

FYI -- two weeks on, I didn't get ANY matches from this event. Nada *insert laughing/crying emoji* Clearly I need to work on my eye-gazing technique...

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