Unpublished article for the Evening Standard

Fifty First Dates
“What’s my name?” she asked.
I paused for just a little bit too long. “I’ve told you. You’re number 47,” I replied.
“I know you know my number, but what’s my name?”
“Just give me a second.”
“You’re kidding!”
“You have to understand it’s been a long couple of months. I’ve met a lot of people and I’ve drunk a lot of alcohol…..”
“I can’t believe that you’re out on a date with me and you don’t even know my name.”
“Of course I know your name,” I lied. My mind had gone blank. There were fifty names spinning around in it, all jumbled together in the world’s hardest anagram.
“It’s Amy,” she mumbled, disappointedly.
“Amy!” I shouted, as if saying it louder would mean my “Amy” would actually precede hers. Which it didn’t. Not the best start to a night out.

Even so, this had to be my best idea ever. None of my friends could believe it. Some were jealous, some impressed, one was so angry that he was on the point of punching me.
All because I was dating fifty women in fifty consecutive days.
ThatÂ’s right, fifty different women, fifty days in a row. Was I mad, bad or just tragically sad? Only time would tell.

It was all down to my new comedy show for the Edinburgh Fringe called “The Twelve Tasks of Hercules Terrace.” I am performing a dozen demanding feats to prove that I am a match for the fictional hero, Hercules. I ran the London Marathon, jumped out of a plane, I even went to Scotland to kill the Loch Ness Monster.
But my mind was sent racing by one of HerculesÂ’ achievements -and this wasnÂ’t even one of his official tasks, just something he did in his spare time - he impregnated fifty women in one night. Wow! If I manage it twice a week with the same person I feel quite chuffed. But fifty in a night? All leading to impregnation? No wonder theyÂ’re still telling stories about him.
I wondered if I could do something similar; not the impregnation bit – I had neither the energy, nor the money to support such a brood. What interested me more was the logistics of the whole exercise. Presumably, Hercules not only had to find 50 women, he had to ask them all out, and charm them enough to get what he wanted. Did each women know about the forty-nine others, or was there some kind of Ray Cooney farce where he would hide one woman in the airing cupboard as the next one arrived? Would it be as amazing as it sounded or would the reality be my worst nightmare?
It would be a ground-breaking social experiment.
Also IÂ’d meet loads of single women. I might be a comedian but IÂ’m not stupid. Surely out of fifty women, at least one of them would fancy me.
Like I said, one of my better ideas.
I decided there had to be rules.
1) Each date had to last at least four hours. I couldnÂ’t just meet a girl for a coffee and then sod off down the pub with my mates.
2) In order for the dates to be “genuine,” I couldn’t go out with anyone I’d been romantically involved with before. This ruled out almost two women.
3) I would pay for everything.
4) I would be honest about what I was doing and I was going to be a perfect gentlemanÂ… unless my date specifically requested otherwise.

Initially I was dubious that I would be able to find the requisite number of females, but the day I had the idea I mentioned it to someone I’d met at a party and she said, “That’s a fantastic idea. I’ll do it.” Result! Then she added, “And I know at least six friends who’ll do it too.” This is the stuff that dreams are made on.

Finding women willing to go out with a perfect stranger (who was dating 49 other women at the same time) was the easy part. People were eager to help and volunteered friends, all of whom seemed to jump at the opportunity. To begin with I couldnÂ’t understand why they would be so keen, but it became clear that dating isnÂ’t something we do very well, if at all, in this country. Most women I went out with found it hard to remember more than two occasions when they had been asked out, generally by people theyÂ’d known for ages which meant there were tense affairs with certain expectations.
So this insane idea made a nice change and was so frivolous that no-one would take it too seriously. Ironically this probably meant things had more of a chance to work out positively.
I have to say that I was very surprised by how many attractive and intelligent single women there are in London. After having spent the last year bemoaning the fact that I never seemed to meet anyone, all it took was a little bit of asking around and there was suddenly an embarrassment of riches. Talk about the power of being proactive!
Thinking of things to do on the dates was much more of a challenge. Although there would have been some “Groundhog Day” style amusement in taking all 50 women to the exact same restaurant (if only to see the disbelieving look on the waiter’s face), I decided each night should be different. On the few real dates I have had in the past I have tended just to go down the pub and then maybe a pizza if I really liked her. I soon realised how unimaginative I had been.
Favourite activities included drinking cocktails in the Oxo Tower, going to the greyhound races in Wimbledon and dining in what must be the worldÂ’s only Polish/Mexican restaurant. Possibly the most romantic date was a Sunday afternoon in Kew Gardens with a picnic that I had put together myself. A little thought went a long way. Many of my dates said they were surprised how good it felt to be treated to a nice day out. It was clear that the men of London were as bad at dating as I had been before all this. But I was learning a lot, mainly from otherÂ’s mistakes. Common complaints were of men who only talked about themselves, others who didnÂ’t wash and those who were either ungenerous or alternatively were very generous and expected something in return. This made it surprisingly easy to impress. I thank mankind for keeping the standards so low.
My other main problem was stamina - and not like youÂ’re thinking. The relentless, socialising certainly took its toll. I drank every single day, getting very drunk on at least forty occasions and some days I couldnÂ’t face getting out of bed, let alone going out and being charming. But by taking things one day at a time and treating each date as its own special occasion I managed to get through it.
I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I had thought that such constant female company might become overbearing and that I might yearn to be out with farting, ball-scratching uncommunicative men. And surprisingly given the circumstances there were quite a few occasions that ended with at least a hint of romance. I met a woman early on who I seemed to click with, but in the intervening month and a half she met someone else. I couldnÂ’t really complain; after all I was seeing other people too, but occasionally I cursed the stupidity and rigidity of the exercise. On the other hand if I hadnÂ’t taken up the challenge IÂ’d probably never have met most of these women. I thought the experiment would prove that Hercules was unheroic for leaving a trail of creation and broken hearts behind him, but unexpectedly it was me who was ending up taking it too seriously and getting confused (and occasionally hurt). The girls seemed to take everything in their stride. After all it was only one night of their lives. It was mainly terrific fun though and I am glad I did it, if only because now I have rather an impressive little black book.
So what have I learned from this ridiculous stunt? Some men have asked me if I’ve worked out any good chat-up lines or routines that women fall for. Again this possibly shows why men are generally so bad at this dating lark. Any woman worth her salt is going to see through something that has been prepared or seems to have been practised before. Spontaneity is much more impressive, especially if it proves that you have been listening to what someone’s been saying. Amazingly, I believe that a woman will judge a man on the way he acts and behaves, rather than because he’s learnt a “clever” line off of the internet.
If nothing else the 50 dates experience proves that women appreciate honesty above all else: the fact that they went out with me whilst knowing what I was doing proves that. I think that men and women are much more similar than any of really give credit for. Dating has to be about fun and frivolity, at least in the early stages (there will be plenty of time later for contempt and disappointment). What I found most interesting about the whole thing was that there were several women who I started the evening thinking, “Well, they’re not my type” (either physically or personality-wise), but after spending a few hours with them had come to see something in them that I really liked. Although fifty dates in fifty days is certainly excessive and not recommended, I think if you’re single then it’s a great idea to go on as many dates as possible. And not just with people that you’ve fancied for ages. I hadn’t met about 40 of my dates before, but we hadn’t been set up by anyone thinking we’d be compatible. It was just two single people going out for a drink. If you don’t hit it off then that’s just four hours out of your life (that you would have probably wasted watching TV), but you might make a friend or possibly something more. I got on with the vast majority of my dates (in fact rather disappointingly there were no terrible nightmares) and I have a feeling that the next couple of months may be more eventful and confusing than the last two. I hope I end up marrying one of them; it will make for a great wedding speech and the other 49 can be bridesmaids.

They say you canÂ’t put a price on love, but they are wrong. My 50 dates cost me ÂŁ4678.44. I also put on half a stone and have permanently damaged my liver. On the plus side IÂ’m fairly certain I didnÂ’t impregnate anyone. Though thereÂ’s always the fifty second dates for that kind of malarkey.