Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Speed dating – by the book

my view
sheena hastings
You're looking for a partner. Would you consider speed dating?

For the uninitiated, it's a gathering of singles in a bar or café, where they get to interview each other for three minutes before a bell rings and everyone plays musical chairs, moving to the next position on the conveyor belt.

At the end of the evening, those who feel a glimmer of interest in anyone they've met (if, by that time, you can still fit the details to the face) give out their number and hope for a call.
It can get pretty desperate, by all accounts, but probably no more prone to superficial judgments, I suspect, than age-old rituals of chatting each other up at a bar or party, and moving on to someone else after 10 minutes, having realised the other person has body odour issues, a braying laugh or a National Front membership card.

Today's single women seem to be prepared to kiss lots of frogs before they find their prince, otherwise speed dating would not have taken off as it has across the globe.

A much better bet, surely, is to speed date in a pond you know is full of frogs who share a passion of yours, like reading. "Read dating" is being touted as the acceptable, less sad and pathetic face of speed dating – and it's held in book shops and libraries to give it added gravitas.
Formal rules make it less risky than simply stalking and lunging at your prey from behind a bank of travel books. Hmm..there's also a sort of fantasy value to getting off with someone in a library. But I digress.

Surely having to discuss literature must weed out the dilettantes who are just looking for another notch on the bedpost, or something more sinister, rather than a lifetime of happily reading his'n'hers Dostoevsky? Not necessarily. Dr Crippen was an avid reader, apparently.
Read dating involves putting a badge on that bears not only your name but also your favourite book. That's so unfair. This single book title has to convey a complete snapshot of your personality.

Even on Desert Island Discs, where I'm convinced many of the choices are dreamed up by agents and PR people, you do at least get to choose eight tunes to illustrate how sensitive, cerebral, or populist you are.

Do you admit your affair with the sex-and-shopping genre in case you are judged to be a featherhead unworthy of further investigation? Do you write off the man whose favourite read is The Silence of the Lambs? Is that worse than the bloke whose top read is Being Jordan by the eponymous model/whatever?

It probably doesn't matter, within reason, what they're reading. The litmus test is how unselfconsciously they talk about a book, whether they can make you laugh in three minutes flat – and whether they're willing to explore the travel section.

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