Sunday, 28 July 2013

All The Single Ladies - an odyssey into daily dating at the Edinburgh festival

This is the 1st birthday of my blog so I'm giving myself the week off! Below, is a little article I wrote after my 2011 Edinburgh show, All The Single Ladies where I went on a date with a different audience member after each show.

I sat across the table from my date, Kevin experiencing a mixture of impatience and frustration all contained behind a thin veil of enforced politeness. I suppressed a sigh as he enthusiastically talked me through his book of graphic novel illustrations.

Kevin was the last of seventeen dates I had. Incidentally, this is not indicative of the level of success I normally experience. In fact, it’s seventeen more than I’ve had in the last three years (five years now!).

So I decided to do something about it. I decided to try and get someone to come on a date with me after each of my shows during the Edinburgh Festival.

In 2008 I broke up with Daniel (I’ve changed his name. His real name is Steven) and the subsequent dating drought made me wonder why I have been so unlucky in love for quite so long.

I started looking back over previous relationships, romances and dalliances and  hoped writing and performing the show would shed some light on my situation and some epiphany, however small would navigate me onto a new, date-filled path!

I told friends about the idea. One asked helpfully, “What happens if you meet a bloke you like early on?”. I pointed out it wasn’t like a game of pool. It’s not ‘winner stays on’.

There were several lengthy logistical conversations with “my people” regarding the dates (“My people” being my agent, my publicist and my mum). Most roads led back to the issue of safety. Two of my people wanted me to text them the minute each date was over, weirdly, my mum wasn’t one of them. The only text she probably wanted was one declaring I was engaged.

As an ├╝ber optimist, I had to counselled myself that it was unlikely I’d meet the man of my dreams. You see, even in the most adverse conditions I’m always supremely hopeful. The panel of Loose Women could be the last remaining humans on earth and I’d still expect to meet my future husband. I’ve become a master of disappointment management and could teach Roy Hodgson a thing or two. 

However, despite this, there was secretly an ember of hope I’d be whisked off my feet after the final show. Wouldn’t that be a fabulous love story? Back then the possibility of Kevin didn’t even exist.

The first date was with a French guy called Jean. It was a slightly awkward hour and not entirely due to his nerves. I realised I was nervous too. The reality of what I was doing hit me. This is a real person, a stranger, this feels like... a date.

Over the following days, there were various non-matches which came in different packaging. Despite my best attempts, I was genuinely feeling disappointed and By day 15 I wondered if I could do this for an entire month.
The novelty  and joke writing potential of ‘the date with a gay guy’ or ‘the guy who brought his kids on the date’, were wearing thin. (I actually dated two gay guys. It’s nice having something in common with one’s date, even if it’s a mutual love of men).

Then there was Freddie. He was funny, fun and interesting and the first person I’d met that month who didn’t make me want to take a sly look at my watch and make my excuses. He wasn’t exactly my type but things were looking up.

Unfortunately, Freddie proved to be a rare high point.

There was the old guy who was well into his 60s. I know girls look for similarities between their dates and their dads but life expectancy shouldn’t be one of them. There was the John Prescott stunt double who wheezed for breath as we walked up the hill to the bar for our date.

I’ve never been more aware of the passing of time than on that date. I literally felt myself age while we were together.There were the young ones, 20 year old Lewis, 14 year old Kai, and 11 year old Nicholas. I hasten to add, I didn’t date the kids even though they cheered when I asked if there were any single guys in. Perhaps for them being single and being a virgin are the same thing.

I wouldn’t call the month a failure but there were definitely no true matches. In fact, if you lined up all my dates, it would have looked more like the passing out parade at the end of Police Academy. Mainly Hightowers, Zeds, Tackelberry’s and only the odd Mahoney.

I should have been disappointed but weirdly, I wasn’t. I’d met some really nice people and it was certainly something to tell the grandkids (well, nieces and nephews. Let’s be realistic).

I did wonder though, if the experience would give me some insight into the dating drought after all.

Last week, sometime after the Edinburgh dust had settled, I was talking to my friend, Alistair. Following a breakup from a long term love, he was explaining that not only was he ready to date again, he was no longer fearful of making mistakes.

And it struck me. I was scared of making a mistake, of meeting someone, investing in “us” only to find he wasn’t the one after all and I’m even further from creating the family I longed for. Though I was fearful of being alone I was actually more scared of the journey to success.

I realised, the only thing to do with a fear like that is be brave and go out and make mistakes. Go on dates knowing, hoping even, they’ll be mistakes, the completely wrong person.

This morning I received a text from a guy I’d dated a while back. He was a nice guy but I’d decided not to pursue it because... I was scared of making a mistake.

But isn’t every relationship a mistake? Mistakes aren’t necessarily bad. Half the population probably began life that way. Mistakes can be lovely, passionate, insane, sensible, short-lived, long-lasting, funny, romantic, gorgeous things.

As the poet, Galway Kinnell, pointed out, aren’t we all just looking for ‘the wrong person’ because we ourselves  are ‘wrong in some way’.

I realised all I could do is look out for ‘the right wrong person’ for me and never be scared to occasionally encountering the wrong, wrong person. I’ve literally nothing to lose... except my fear of wrongness.

I’ve just replied to the text. Perhaps this is the start of my adventures into the world of mistakes.


  1. "The panel of Loose Women could be the last remaining humans on earth and I’d still expect to meet my future husband"

    Don't be fooled. Janet Street-Porter just really needs a good shave.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm wondering if that's at the mental image of you and Street-Porter trading nuptials or if there's a mental image I didn't intend. lol

    2. double eeeuw. Not intended at all lol :)

  3. Damn! Why couldn't I have been in your audience when you were doing that?!! Oh, yeah, I'm in North America.

  4. Society these days frowns on anyone of our age who isn't married with kids (I'm also 40). After 2 long term relationships I was faced with a dating experience that involved fb, text messaging and, good god, dating websites. I've concluded that the harder you look for love the further away it gets, so for me its lots of 7pm trips to Tesco accidently bumping into anyone who is female and buying ready meals for one.

  5. And purely out of interest how did the text message go?

  6. But on the plus side you have received an offer of a double date with your mum :-)


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