“HI, my name is…”: Vegan Speed Dating

So this blog is going from 0 to 100 real quick.

Vegan Speed Dating is why.

It happened and I really don’t know where to begin. Although this isn’t the sort of thing I pictured myself blogging about; you can’t really have a vegan blog, go vegan speed dating and NOT write about it, right?!

It’s important to flag that I happened to stumble across vegan speed dating and thought it would be novel to give it a go; I am by no means exclusively dating vegans now or on some desperate quest to find a vegan soul mate. It’s hard enough to track down a decent guy as it is, let alone if you were to take away 95%+ of the male population on the grounds of their meat consumption. That would be literal madness.

Back to the vegan speed dating. I text my girlfriends. Do it, they said. It will be ‘an experience’, they said. Dutifully I agreed and patted the yellow name badge sticker onto my t-shirt.

I was feeling horrifically hungover. The type of hangover where you want to cocoon yourself in duvets, Netflix and Codeine and avoid all human contact until it is safely the next day. Instead I was entering a brightly-lit convention room and being handed a card with lots of numbers and instructions in Dutch. Nothing happened for 20 minutes, so I had to make awkward conversation with a Canadian tourist. Incidentally, he was the only other non-Dutch person in the room of about 60 people. Some could say it was fate. I would argue otherwise. He genuinely believed the “Dutch Weed Burgers” for sale contained marijuana (I know the Dutch are liberal but this is a freaking vegan convention. The Weed in question was in fact from the sea). I already felt duped, having been promised short and snappy social encounters lasting no more than a few minutes at a time, and here I was nodding along to a stranger’s life story.

We were finally put in our correct places, and I found myself surrounded by smiley but slightly-greying people who were unquestioningly in their forties and fifties. Having signed up for the 25-35 category, I figured I’d misunderstood the instructions so I went to check with the organisers. They told me I was in the 35+ group and it was too late to change. Considering my upper age limit on Tinder is 34 and I’m partial to the odd baby-face, this wasn’t the best news. I sucked it up.

Now I’ve never been ‘regular’ speed dating before (i.e. non-Dutch and non-Vegan), but I’m pretty sure you have short 1:1 interactions where you are free to chit-chat as you like and perhaps make up an interesting fact or tall story about yourself if things get dull. This was very different. We were put into groups of four (two male, two female), and given a question or topic to discuss as a team for ten minutes, before swapping to another group/question.

The questions were kind of lame (“what is the most important quality in a friendship?” / “what are your personal beliefs?” / “what do you really enjoy?”), and the chat wasn’t much better. Everyone gave the same, safe answers: acceptance and loyalty mattered most in a friendship; we all personally believed in being conscious about the environment and respecting living creatures; and everyone loved yoga, meditation and long nature walks. Only one wacky senior rocked the boat when he declared that making love was his favourite activity, with a half-crazed glint in his eye that was either an attempted wink or possible blindness.

As for me? Not doing so well. I was struggling to produce coherent sentences that didn’t make me sound like a Grade A Loser (ironic that the Dutch were doing better in this department than me, despite having to think and speak in English on my behalf). I really set the tone when, in answer to the question, “what do you look for in a partner?” I told the group that I “wasn’t that fussy”. What I meant of course was that I don’t have a specific criteria, but the damage was done. In a short-lived moment of giving zero fucks, I also threw in a joke about drugs that went down like a lead balloon.

Meanwhile I kept trying to sneak a look over at the younger side of the room to ascertain if the conversation was any spicier over there, or if anyone caught my eye. Amongst all the animal rights tote bags and “Go Vegan” hoodies it was hard to tell. I figured probably not, and covertly put my jumper on to conceal my “Tree Hugger” tee. I wore it to be ironic, I promise.

There was one person who I hit it off with. A pretty girl about my age, with messy blonde hair and smudged eyeliner who was rocking a baggy Harvard sweater. She had been out partying all night and was similarly suffering in a big way – a girl after my own heart. Incidentally, she had also wound up in the wrong age group. (Come to think of it, maybe our haggard hungover state was ageing us compared to the healthful radiance of everyone else). Sadly, whilst Hungover Harvard Girl could have been the vegan BFF my social circle was crucially lacking, I didn’t have the courage to ask for her number. Cue da violins.

After 90 long minutes, the evening came to a close. We were instructed to write down the names of anyone who had taken our fancy, at which point I realised I had paid zero attention to anyone’s name. Despite the awkward format and age group fiasco, there were perhaps one or two semi-interesting people that I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Never fear, I had a winning plan. On the back of my card I wrote the not-at-all-desperate-message of: “Don’t remember. But if anyone puts me, please let me know!” I’m not sure if this strategy worked, since its a few days later and I haven’t exactly heard back…

In retrospect, it was quite nice to interact with a bunch of new people who you couldn’t instantly screen by swiping left based on looks alone (God bless Tinder). As hinted at earlier, the vegan element meant a lot common ground, even if that did mean conversation could easily turn to whether or not you occasionally included milk in your diet (one guy was very apologetic about this). However, seeing as I’m pretty content being single, I probably would have found more value in the event if the romantic element were removed and it was just a fun way to meet vegan buddies. Anyway, I guess my friends were right that in that it was indeed an experience.

But if you are looking for that special vegan someone, you can head on over to the online vegan dating specialists https://www.vegadates.nl/ who kindly put the event on free of charge. 🙂

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