London is the singleton capital of the UK. Around half the population of London’s 20 to 59-year-olds are single and many of them are hunting furiously— be it for casual sex or serious dates on apps such as Tinder. But it’s not just a search for friends with benefits: some just want to expand existing friendship groups so that dinner parties aren’t a tiresome game of “six degrees of separation”. But it’s hard to do this without submitting to a rota of earnest hobbies and interest clubs.
“In this city people really don’t talk to each other,” observes Sarah Ryan, head of matchmaking at electclub.co.uk. “Romantically, it seems people firstly move to the city to concentrate on their career and barely have time for themselves, let alone their social lives and finding a partner.”
Personally, university left me with a deep-seated aversion to “organised fun”. After three years, my wardrobe was crowded with novelty hats, I found the spontaneity of “popping to the pub” faintly dizzying, and didn’t tend to know that anything was happening unless I saw it on Facebook. Organising your social life works well when you’re at the mercy of the ebb and flow of essays and lectures but there’s something acutely neurotic about a 23-year-old woman who has “date nights” and rotas for “time with friends”. And yet there I was on a Monday night, heading to a bar with two of my closest friends where we would meet three male strangers. Luckily, they were lovely. This was their second event and they seemed quite taken with the idea (although perhaps only because they thought it was a quick way to amass a London little black book). It was fun, and it was certainly made easier by copious drinks and the presence of my two real mates, who I could turn to when conversation decelerated. Essentially, it didn’t feel that different to spending the evening with someone else’s friends.
However, one obvious hurdle reared up. I had assumed that this was a strictly “without benefits” affair: a way to make friends, not boyfriends. I’ve got one already but even if I were single I doubt I’d choose to date en masse. What if we all fancied the same guy? However, the boys definitely thought this was a three-way blind date. And the battle of the sexes rages on…
“When one-on-one dating in London, there is so much pressure to perform and people take a while to wind down from work,” observes Ryan, from Elect Club. “If those first-date nerves get in the way of showing who you really are, he or she may forget it and move on to someone else just because they can — dating apps make it too easy. This is why there are so many singles in London: there are too many options.”
I haven’t changed my mind about organised fun. I had a Tuesday morning hangover, and the whole thing made me feel pretty juvenile — at one point my mates and I were texting each other under the table — but it was definitely a laugh. Call me maybe? Strictly as friends, though.