“I’m a cougar,” says Woman Number Five. Her friend, Woman Number Six, quickly corroborates.
“She is. I've never met anyone more cougar-y.”
“You know that the men are all going to be over 45, right?” I say.
“Yes,” says Six. “We’re trying to reform her.”
* * *
On Monday nights, I’m a speed-dating host. I cover two venues in southeast England for one of the largest dating companies in the country.
Speed-dating has become ironic; it’s actually one of the slowest forms of dating around. I spend half an hour setting up the room, putting café numbers on the tables, and writing out name badges. Then the daters arrive, in ones and twos, slowly filling the bar. They stand for the next 15 minutes nervously twiddling straws and re-tucking shirts. That’s before they even start dating.
Since the advent of Tinder, Grindr, Tingle, and numerous other dating apps, the attention span of the dating world has shrunk. At a conference in Los Angeles earlier this year, Tinder CEO Sean Rad told press that the app now matches 10 million people every day.
Speed-daters, by contrast, have on any given night around 10 potential matches. The only preconditions are that they have all paid some money, dressed up a bit, come to a bar in town, and pinned on a name badge. Some would probably not survive a dating app flick session. Some are bald, some are overweight, and a few are gorgeous. Together, they are a unique group that tells an overlooked part of the story of how we meet each other in 2014.