Valentine's Day Speed Dating: How to Lose a Guy in Five Minutes

This is the unedited version which can also be found published in Stylist Magazine here.

So it’s here: the day of the year where it is socially acceptable to gush over your significant other in public spaces. A day filled with roses, chocolates and giant teddy bears bigger than your head and of course, the third consecutive year I will be pressing confirm order on my own Interflora purchase. Yes, you’ve guessed it. It’s Valentine’s Day – the day we hate to love and love to hate. And as a single millennial, I’m ready to embrace it.

From the age of six we are conditioned that we need to find Prince Charming and if we don’t, we’ll turn into lonely old women in cat-filled bungalows. Secretly, we want someone to look longingly in our eyes and say, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” we want to be the Sally to his Harry and we dream of a happy fairytale ending like Drew Barrymore’s Josie Geller in Never Been Kissed.

We are faced with the inevitable “when are you going to settle down?” when visiting family. The ‘why are you still single’ is a personal favourite. But while I’ve accepted my fate, I’ve also enjoyed treating myself to roses, perfumes and affirmations, before I cry-sing ‘All By Myself’ while my head buries itself in a box of Guylian.

A study by Cancer Research found that almost half of millennials felt more comfortable using dating apps to talk to strangers than doing so face-to-face. It seems the curse of the fuck boy, and everyone shagging each other until they get bored, has taken over. Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and other dating apps have dictated the way we interact with people, and it’s as frightening as Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” novel, where characters walk around with their social-media profile displayed on a necklace telling people whether they are getting laid or not.

So when I was invited to a Play Date Valentine’s speed-dating event, I thought, what the hell. I’m single and might as well test my savoir-faire in the field. What could go wrong?

While speed dating is fairly new to me, the phenomenon has been around for decades. Created by a Los Angeles Rabbi called Yaacov Deyo, the concept was created in the late nineties for young Jewish singles to meet. Men and women would table-hop their way through a dozen dates in a night and decide whom they would like to see again. If there is a mutual match, details are exchanged.

Play Date is slightly different, with each table allocated board games so as to avoid the awkward silences – if there are any. What am I bloody doing here, I thought to myself while cowering in the bathroom like a wimp. I had no idea who attended these events and I was nervous, but I met some incredibly funny women, the straight talking, and no bullshit ones who carry strong personalities. The men, in contrast, were bashful, and more rehearsed.

I was sipping my cocktail, thinking of non-awkward funny things to open my conversation with when I was faced with the loveliest of guys. Thank GOD, I thought. He was an Arsenal-loving funny man who had great chat.

TJ was the same age as me and despite being in a forced environment our exchange was genuine.  So much so that when the clock struck 12, we stood up in unison protesting extra time. Despite wanting to trade it all in and head to the nearest restaurant with him, I moved on to the next. Most were charming, intelligent and had good chat. Others made me want to die.  

I met Mr London Zoo, who looked like Po from Kung Fu Panda and, you guessed it, spent the total of three minutes talking to me about the zoo and ended our session with, “If you had to choose an animal onesie, which one would you wear?” – his was a panda, of course.

Mr Firefighter, the tall handsome chap who seemed a great contender until the moment opened his mouth, spoke about his ‘buff Trinidadian friend who is always surrounded by girls’ and later shouted at me for not rolling the dice before I started playing Jenga. As I tried steer the conversation away from his friend, I was saved by the bell.

“I used to work at Bloomberg,” uttered Mr Data Analyst. He spent our slot building ¼ of a house out of Lego and joked that he thought I had already been proposed to by TJ, but eventually asked me what my hobbies were, I replied with: “I really enjoy-” DING. Never mind then.

As the evening went by, I slowly began to understand why people attended these events. It’s a safe space, it’s controlled, you get drinks and it’s all a bit of a laugh really. No unsolicited dick pics - yet – and what you see is what you get, and if you don’t like it, well, you never have to see these people again.

While I came home with numbers and anecdotes to laugh about for many days to come, it’s safe to say I’d definitely do it again. My confidence was high, I learnt more about what I like and what I don’t like and had the opportunity to meet some unexpected people, and, of course, made some new friends. People do go home with a second date in the bag, others later go on to get married and have children, so I’ve been told.

But if everything does go tits up, practise your favourite ballad, get creative and send your secret crush a lovingly puntastic card to declare your love. Try loving like you’ve never been dumped just before Christmas for a younger blonde or a guy with more abs.

Otherwise, find yourself a gang of friends and love how you’re supposed to on Valentine’s Day. Sing and dance to Single Ladies whilst trying not to let your legs buckle in the 8-inch stilettos you thought you could walk in. Think up icebreaker questions like “have you ever been to prison?” and march over to your love interest full of confidence.

Enjoy V-Day for what it is: a gimmick. Have a laugh, make it your own and see how fast you can lose a guy in five minutes with a bit of humour. Embrace singledom. Order yourself flowers. Go out, get pissed and love with an open heart. If it doesn’t work out, at least you’ve had a good night.

I enjoy being single and one day I will be a soldier of love, but for now, I will tuck into my Waitrose dinner for two and admire my pre-ordered blooms. The world is crying out for a butterfly-inducing romance and so, as I am a sucker for love, I will patiently wait for TJ, in the middle of the Emirates Stadium, for him to sweep me off my feet to the soundtrack of The Beach Boys: a perfect ending to an otherwise unexpected story.


Why I Quit My Corporate Job To Prevent Having A Nervous Breakdown


"You don't have a plan?" 

"Not really"

"So what are you going to do?"

"I don't know, maybe write more, go to the theatre, finish knitting that scarf, EAT!"

"What about money?"

"I can't put a price on my happiness".




1.              the state of being happy.


Happiness.  A word many of us struggle to define or understand and something we crave through material things.  Short-term happiness can sometimes be achieved through things like shopping, eating a nice meal, reading a good book, seeing a friend.  But what about your long-term happiness?  Your ability to look into the future and feel confident that it is going to fulfil you.

The past year has been a whirlwind of mixed emotions with various life events taking place that I was experiencing for the first time, all whilst chasing a career in finance. 

The city of London, an urban rat race, can be overwhelmingly lonely.  A bubble where nothing else matters except money and power.  You hear corporate drool instead of real conversations.  You see nothing but tailored suits and high heels.  Is anything really real here?

I started working at my firm with the hope that I would learn and gain more experience within the financial sector as my background is in law.  It was a big step for me but I was enthusiastic to add another string to my bow and put everything into it.  This meant sacrificing my evenings to work late and to attend networking events.  At this point, I was in a relationship with someone I was well and truly in love with, a love that was unexpected and a love I truly valued.  However, that love slowly began to disintegrate along with my social life because my happiness was fading at work.

A lot was going on.  The working day was incredibly busy as we were seeking more clients to grow the company's revenue; my boss was constantly out of the office looking for new business whilst shouting down the phone to me.  That was until it became too much for me to handle.  The main problem I had with *Patrick was the fact that he refused to accept liability for his mistakes and would automatically transfer it onto me.  Whether it was via telephone call, email or even face-to-face, he continuously beat me to the ground until I had no more layers left.  I felt useless.

Whilst this was going on at work, my mental health outside of work was declining.  I could recognise the symptoms from the first time I had discovered I was ill so I was encouraged by my boyfriend to seek further help, which I did.  I went back on my anti-depressants and tried to carry on as normal.

I didn't tell my boss nor did I tell anyone I worked with because I didn't think they would understand.  A colleague was always referring to people as 'mentally retarded' so how could I say to them 'yeah, I'm mentally deranged too'? 

The days dragged and each morning I struggled to get out of my bed to start my commute to work.  Every day felt like Groundhog Day, but worse.  I would spend half the day escaping to the women's bathroom to cry in the cubicle, with my head against the wall looking down at the puddle my eyes had created.  Get it all out Jess, you can get through this. I’d then then spent a good ten minutes staring at my reflection in the mirror whilst fixing my make up so it didn't show I that had been crying, but then frantically wiping my tears once I heard someone come through the door.  The fake smile made a return; I picked up my pass and waltzed back to my desk like nothing had happened.

I always looked at work as being an escape from my rather manic private life but in this case I had no escape at all.  I wanted to escape a lot of things and as usual it was all happening at the same time, an overload of emotions created a storm in my mind.  I had nowhere to turn until I felt solace in standing on the platform edge.

I tried to jump at Mile End station one morning on my way to work from my boyfriend's house, until I felt arms round my torso preventing me from doing so.  I remember looking back at this woman in disbelief that she would save my life like that, or perhaps she herself recognised the behaviour before I had walked up to the platform.  She dealt me a card that day and I will never forget what she said to me when she hugged me. 

Life is a gift, do not waste it. 

She must have been my guardian angel because I never saw her again.  I didn't even get her name but even today I hear those words echoed in my ears and have never since tried to take my own life again. 

However, things took a turn for the worst and at Christmas, my boyfriend out of the blue, broke up with me because he couldn't handle my mental health.  He then preceded to tell me in a Starbucks round the corner from my office that he doesn’t and never loved me.  From the moment he broke up with me, he cut off all contact and I had suddenly become a distant memory to him. 

I went into a fit of rage and upset, my world shattered into tiny little pieces. My heart had broken in two.  I constantly had a knot in my stomach because I felt so unloved. Yet, through all of this, I went to work to seek some peace.  But this peace did not exist, for I was in another relationship, or so I felt, with my bullying boss.  What really pushed me over the edge was when a potential client sent me an incredibly rude and inappropriate email stating that he wanted to bend me over a table and spank me, my boss did not fight my corner, instead he allocated that client to me despite my objections against it.  That was confirmation to me that my boss did not care about my wellbeing nor me and only cared about the company's revenue.

Crying became a pastime and each time my boss would shout at me or send me a rude email blaming me for something, I would simply take a deep breath and hide in the cubicle in the bathroom again.   This became a regular occurrence.  

After a few months, I had gained confidence through running and I made plenty of new friends to pick me up from my running community.  From this, I was able to legitimise my smile again and finally have a balance in my life.  Even if work was an unhappy place, I had a happy place to go to every Tuesday night.  A place to escape the madness. 

As I began to start training for various races, I had an excuse to avoid every networking event, every social event and drinking session my boss asked me to attend.  I left work at 5.30pm on the dot.

My attitude changed as my resentment for my boss grew day by day.  My enthusiasm to help him disappeared; my willingness to stay late to finish a particular project was non-existent.  I refused to answer emails outside of my working hours or even so much as answer a text message from him.  I decided from then on out, I would not let him take over my life.  I will not answer any 5am calls anymore. 

I Googled how to quit your job for months to get advice and a sense of direction.  My desperation to leave was increasingly high but the anxiety surrounding my future finances and the subsequent ‘what ifs’ were taking over.  If I did quit, could I afford it? What will I do?  Will I get another job?  Will my parents hate me?  Will my they think I'm a failure?  My thought processes throughout this period were all over the place. 

Most people told me that I should have a plan.  That I shouldn't quit unexpectedly.  That I should be careful.  

I was looking for new jobs and interviewed for a few until a bomb exploded.  My boss gave me a promotion.  Some people would be absolutely over the moon with a promotion and in some ways I should've been too but the thought of having to work with this vile man any longer made me sick.  I realised then that my time was running out and I needed to get out quickly.  But then something awful happened.  I got severely injured.  

I was on my way to meet some friends for dinner after work when my quadriceps gave way and I twisted my knee.  I couldn't walk and had to be rushed to the hospital.  When I had to explain this situation to my boss the next morning, I received no reply. 

The doctors had signed me off for three weeks due to the fact that I couldn't walk let alone travel to work each day but I assured my boss that I would work from home.   In a way, this was a godsend as it gave me the time to reevaluate my life choices. However I was beat down again after hearing that my boss was refusing to pay me for the time I was off sick.  

The way I was treated whilst I was at home, isolated from everyone, was unacceptable.  My employer offered me no support and my mental health was steadily declining again.  I had anxiety every day about work, even begging my father to allow me to get to work even on my crutches.  

And that's when it hit me. 

I can't walk and I'm in an incredible amount of pain.  Yet, here I am, trying to put work before my health and wellbeing.  What the hell am I doing?  I turned on my Macbook and started work on my notice letter.

After a month, I went back to work fully on my feet and handed in my notice straight away with no immediate plan for the future.  I could say that it was daunting but I had discussed my options with my family.  I have no mortgage, no car and no children to pay for.  I'm 23, and my life is just beginning. 

The fact that I was 99.9% close to having a nervous breakdown was enough to make me realise how unhappy I really was and that no job should ever make you feel that bad.  The morning I handed in my notice, I was shaking profusely with sweat dripping down my temples waiting to see Patrick's reaction.  He was okay with it, and apparently, he had seen it coming.  I released a sigh of relief and suddenly a weight had been lifted although I knew I had to suffer a further four weeks of my notice period until I was well and truly free.

I have never felt happier in a decision I have made in my life.  A lot of people told me not to quit, my parents were a little anxious about it too, but what I have learnt from this is that everything works itself out in the end and your mental and physical wellbeing should always come first.  A job is a job.  No one will die if you quit your job.  There will always be a replacement.  Being in a toxic environment will only kill you. Money is just money.  These are just things.

What matters the most is you.  


*Names have been changed to protect the individual's identity.