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I could be home on my couch watching Breaking Bad. While speed dating seemed to me a great idea in theory when I pitched the idea for this article, I am not so sure now. When I enter the restaurant, I feel instantly more at ease. At the bar, drink in hand, I begin chatting with another speed dater the entire place has been rented out for the event , and we have a nice conversation.
Yasemen Aydin, owner and operator of First Sight, warmly greets me, and shortly after that, she gathers the daters and begins to give instructions, in English and then Turkish. We have been assigned name tags and numbers.
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Women will sit at a table with their number and men will move clockwise from one table to the next at approximately 4 minute intervals. At the end of the night, we will hand our sheets back to Yasemen, who will notify us the next day by email of any potential matches. We all take our assigned seats and begin. After 4 minutes, Yasemen rings a little bell and I have just enough time to scribble down some notes before my next prospect arrives.
We continue like this for about 40 minutes and then have a much needed minute break. We start up again and 40 minutes later, it is finished.
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We are free to hang out and mingle, but I choose to leave. An introvert by nature, all of the talking has left me exhausted, yet socially stimulated and happy.
After eight years of networking at speed dating events in the US, she returned to Istanbul where she began First Sight. At first, she just invited friends and friends of friends, soon expanding to a more public audience. Every person selected must meet her strict criteria and usually comes referenced from a former dater. I went to meet him post-dinner simply because I was too nervous to sit through an entire dinner with a stranger and his friends. One of them turned out to be a super rich macho guy who ordered one champagne bottle after another and a truly dumb yet totally good-hearted blonde girl who was convinced that we were headed for disaster because we were going to Taksim, which apparently for her was a very dangerous place.
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My date, on the other hand, was a tall, dark-haired, blue-eyed, relatively good-looking man. But, God he was boring! I spent most of the night chatting to his macho friend who had great stories to tell, and we all went bar-hopping in Taksim, got drunk enough to be dancing with random people we met. At one point in the night, the kissing began. It kind of felt like the natural course of events. After all, we had met through Tinder. And I kissed him back not necessarily because I found him attractive but mostly because I wanted to erase the remnants of my ex, which I thought would happen when I kissed someone else.
He texted me the next day, asked if I was okay, and we met up again a few days later. And — he smelled!
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That night when we first met he was smelly as well but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and hoped that it was because we had been dancing and sweating for a while. But if he still smelled after walking out of his office, it was a no go. I had no idea what he was talking about.
Even though he was a disappointment, the date had been great fun. And if Tinder could deliver nice men who called when they said they will, then I was in. Going on a date with the smelly guy I told you about last week gave me the encouragement I needed to go full force in Tinder. I was doing pretty well by the way — no longer stalking my ex every five minutes on all social media platforms.
I was smiling, feeling calm, and having fun with my new-found peace of mind. I decided to go with the flow, take each experience as it came, and decide what I wanted to do then.
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A week or two after my first date, I matched with a year-old Spanish artist who had made Istanbul his temporary home. We had an unlikely yet instant connection, and spent the entire night talking on the phone. And when I say the entire night, I mean until 6 am! Plus, he lived in my all-time favorite Istanbul neighborhood Kuzguncuk , and we met up there two days later.
We were occupying an exclusive mental space that zones everything and everyone else out and only leaves two people in the world. We went to his apartment with a bottle of wine. His place was tiny and slightly disorganized, but it was cozy. We sat by the window, opened the bottle, and continued talking about life. I let him do most of the talking because I was slightly paralyzed with the emotions that were running through me and I just loved discovering his expressions, hearing his voice when he moved from one emotion to the next.
We were two people opening up to each other — no judgments, no attachments, no baggage. He said something about me being stressed and began to massage my hands. That was our first physical contact of the night. After my hands, it was my shoulders, then my back. He was very sensual and I was getting super aroused, but he was yet to kiss me. He finished the massage and sat across from me. I think he was just being nice, making sure I had warmed up enough before he made his final move. Throughout the night, I momentarily freaked out though.
Because this was not senseless or emotionless. I was there, heart and soul, and I was petrified. I was supposed to guard my heart like it was the most important treasure in the world. Yet I had no control over what it felt, and I kept myself calm as much as I could, allowing myself to enjoy the moment as much as possible because even though no words were spoken on the matter, I knew that the best that would come out of this was a friend with benefits. It had been a week since my date with the Spanish artist. We had talked once or twice, and had intentions of seeing each other soon, but my assumption that he was going to be a friend with benefits was spot on, which was completely fine with me.
And I actually did not want to be in a relationship either. So I did what anyone would do and found someone else to distract me. He was one of the first men I matched with on Tinder. He was a super flirtatious, year old creative director, divorced with no kids. And he looked a hell of a lot like my ex, which is why I liked him in the first place. He was not interested in chatting — he just wanted to have sex so he kept on inviting me to his apartment. I kept saying no. What if he was super weird in person?
After weeks of him inviting me over and me saying no, I finally told him: He got the message loud and clear. I was really nervous because this was going to be the first time in my life that I was knowingly heading towards a casual sex date.