Putting the Dating Game before the Mating Aim; CITY LIVES

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHANN HARI

A YEAR ago this week, a group of eight of my mates - some straight, some gay - decided we were sick of the one-off, casualsex, I'll-call-you-sometime-never world of the London singleton.

Dammit, we were lurching into our late twenties and we had nobody to take to the (frighteningly frequent) parade of friends' weddings we had to attend.

It was, we said with a sad toast, time to leave behind our student mating habits.

So we made a decision. We turned to the tactics of our American cousins. We would not have sex with somebody without a formal, gooutand-do-something date. Americans are used to being asked out on a Proper Date, where you wear nice clothes and have long getting-to-know-you conversations. Why did we settle for a quick pint and a bag of crisps?

And now, one year on, I can report on the results of our experiment. It has involved lots of frenetic texts to each other - "he's taking me to the Savoy!" or "I suggested seeing an opera" or "oh, we just went to the pub and shagged anyway. Sorry."

And, yes, it involved some nightmares. My friend Patrick took a beautiful, high-cheekboned bloke to the Natural History Museum before they went for a posh meal. The date stood staring for a moment at a huge stuffed panda and whispered nervously: "It doesn't move much, does it?" Patrick roared with laughter - and then he realised: his date was serious.

The next day, Patrick explained: "If I had just met him at a club, we would have had great sex and I would never have known he was unbelievably thick.

But the date ruined it. I just couldn't."

But the dates sometimes revealed something much uglier. …