I dated 50 men in six months (and STILL didn't find love)Forget waiting for The One — the new way to find love is 'multi-dating.' But is it a recipe for heartbreak
17:11 GMT, 6 September 2012
The 20 minutes he spent telling me about his pension plan weren’t what did it. Nor was it the fact he ate all four mini-burgers we’d ordered without offering me one.
It was when Sam told me, for no particular reason, he felt ‘the Jews made too much of a fuss about the Holocaust’ that I knew this blind date was going to be a disaster.
Once I might have despaired that my love life had come to this — spending the evening with a balding bigot.
Dating game: Pippa Wright has yet to meet The One through 'multi-dating' (men posed by models)
But checking my diary in the taxi home, I noted I had another blind date on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday afternoon with an array of men: all of whom would surely be an improvement on Sam.
Please don’t judge me: I’m not a woman with loose morals. Like so many modern single women, I’m a multi-dater. I’m one of a new breed adopting a scattergun approach — packing as many men as possible into our diaries in an effort to find love.
In the past six months I have seen 50 men, some lovely, some absolutely awful. And hand on heart, I swear none of the dates got beyond a casual peck on the cheek and an exchange of phone numbers.
The shortest date lasted an hour. Another resulted in a relationship that stretched over a few months before fizzling out amicably. But I see it as my best chance of finding someone to share my life. And it seems I’m far from alone.
'It was much better to line
up several dates at once, with the hope one might be fun, than
to pin all my dreams on one man with whom I’d only ever emailed'
A recent survey revealed nearly a quarter of single women are dating up to three men at the same time.
The average single woman who dates just one man at a time goes out with just five men a year. Five dates a year It’s hardly trying, girls.
While multi-dating is a new phenomenon to British girls, the Americans have been at it for decades. As a student, I spent a year at college in the U.S., where I was baffled by the complex dating rituals.
All the girls I knew had rules about who called who when and how many people you could see at once — an infinite number, apparently, until you’ve had the ‘exclusivity’ talk.
I met my American boyfriend through the traditional British method of getting drunk and kissing him at a party. I thanked my lucky stars that I’d been spared all that confusing dating etiquette.
I think he found me a refreshing novelty, too, happy to blunder through a six-month relationship without any excruciating ‘Where is this going’ talks — until I moved back to England and promptly ended it.
Juggling: Pippa thinks the best way to find love is a scattergun approach where she doesn't just date one man at a time
But that was in the mid-Nineties, a time of landlines and answerphones, when mobiles were a brick-sized rarity and no one had an email address.
Finding a date was limited to people you encountered in real life, a small pool of possibilities.
These days the dating pool is limitless. There are websites catering to every romantic interest — from people who like hanging out in the countryside (muddymatches.co.uk) to those who fancy salty, bearded types (sea captaindate.com).
It’s not just dating websites either. Many of the women surveyed said they found dates without going near one. Facebook and Twitter can present a girl with dating possibilities far outside her social circle.
'The rules of multi-dating are to keep
dates short, not drink too much, meet somewhere public and
always tell a friend where you’re going'
So nearly 20 years after leaving America, I find myself, aged 38, with a good job in publishing, but still single following a series of unsuccessful, long-term relationships — and facing a completely different dating game to the one I’d played as a teenager.
With most of my friends married with children, I rarely meet single men… and my days of drunkenly kissing strangers at parties are definitely over.
So, as several of my friends met their partners on dating websites, I decided to give it a go three years ago.
At first, I adopted the traditional approach, dating one (carefully screened and vetted) man, hoping he would be The One, only to be disappointed again and again.
I hadn’t a clue how truly dreadful some of the people out there were: as well as bigoted Sam, there were guys like the one who lunged at me tongue first, making me flee down the street and fling myself on the bonnet of a taxi.
This wasn’t news to my veteran internet dating friends. As my pal Sarah told me: ‘When you’ve been on your first internet date with a man who proudly shows you that he’s brought along a toothbrush “in case I come back to yours”, you quickly learn not to expect too much.’
I soon worked out it was much better for my sanity to line up several dates at once, with the hope one of them might be fun, than to pin all my dreams on one man with whom I’d only ever communicated via email.
Line up boys: Multi-dating is common in the U.S.
Hedging your bets means keeping your expectations low and your date-count high. I started going on up to three dates a week, but after a few months my bank account and liver dictated I should cut it down to a manageable five or six dates a month.
When it comes to safety, the rules of multi-dating are to keep dates short, not drink too much, meet somewhere public (and preferably a place you know so you’re not stranded in a strange neighbourhood) and always tell a friend where you’re going.
My friends are nosy enough to be texting for updates all evening, so they would immediately raise the alarm if I didn’t reply. I don’t lie to the men I date, but I don’t tell them I’m seeing other men either. I assume as they’re ‘out there’ on the internet circuit, they’re casting their net widely, too.
I’m not as ruthless as my friend Anna, though, who after a series of disappointing nights out dictated she would meet dates only for a coffee for half an hour.
‘Either the chemistry’s there or it’s not,’ she says. ‘What’s the point in wasting a whole evening with someone when it turns out his idea of humour is saying “Simples” in a meerkat voice for three hours”
In the end, Anna met her boyfriend through mutual friends, but she has no doubt multi-dating got her there.
‘Once your friends see you’re putting
yourself out there, making a real effort to find someone, they start
thinking of ways to help, and it snowballs. I got set up on lots of
dates by friends. When I met Matt, I was so relaxed about the dating
process that the pressure was off.’
Still looking: Pippa hasn't given up on using the internet to find Mr Right
Dating lots of people has certainly given me a healthier perspective about looking for love.
I’ve learned to talk to pretty much anyone about pretty much anything — I recently heard myself saying: ‘So, tell me more about the sugar industry.’ And this skill opens up different encounters.
My multi-dating colleague Jen met her boyfriend when she was out with another man. Waiting to get served at a bar, she got talking to James and told him she was on an internet date. He tells me: ‘I liked that she was so open — it made me laugh.
‘It also told me she was available. I asked for her number and we’ve been together for six months.’
Critics of multi-dating say it’s a sign of our consumerist times that women are too picky and demanding in their search for a love interest who ticks all the boxes.
'”What have I got to lose” should be the motto of every single woman'
But to me, multi-dating shows the opposite. If you open yourself up to dating a lot of different people, you might find that what suits you best is not what you were looking for originally.
Jen says: ‘If I’d seen James on an internet dating site, I wouldn’t have gone for him at all. He’s five years younger than me and works in IT, which I thought was boring.
‘But I’d been on so many so-so dates with men who were the “right” age or had the “right” job that I thought: “What have I got to lose”
And ‘what have I got to lose’ should be the motto of every single woman. If you’d rather stay at home in your pyjamas and wait for Mr Right, let me assure you it is perfectly possible to go on a two-hour date and be home in front of the TV by 10pm.
But it’s also perfectly possible you will go on your third date in a week, exhausted, with your expectations on the floor, and find yourself breaking the two-hour rule with a man who genuinely makes your heart flutter.
That’s something that definitely won’t happen if you’re not out there dating.
It happened to me. Six months ago I went on a date with a man who was gorgeous, funny and successful — and seemed equally keen on me. The relationship fizzled out after a few months but it left me feeling more hopeful about love than I have for ages.
Maybe those American girls had it right all along.
PIPPA WRIGHT’S novel Unsuitable Men (Pan Macmillan, 6.99), is based on her internet dating experiences