Guess Who's Coming to Dinner by Karen Phelps
It can be hard in our hectic lives to find time to meet new people. You’ve heard of speed dating, singles websites and text flirting, but it seems the matchmaking style of the cold start party is making a comeback. Cold start parties have been a well-known tradition down south as Otago university students held dinner parties where the most important thing you need to BYO is an eligible single.
“It’s an opportunity to meet a stranger you might not know how to approach and also a good way for friends from different circles to meet and mix which often doesn’t happen at the pub because you’re hanging out with your own group of friends,” says Christine now aged 30. “They might start out with a dinner party but in Dunedin they’d turn into a pretty raucous affair. People always wanted to go to them because they knew it would be a fun night. We certainly never had any trouble getting people to come along when we held them!”
Our writer Karen Phelps investigated this social trend with great results on a recent summer night...
Well here we were – four eligible (well we thought so) lasses who had decided to take matters into our own hands. Bugger sitting around waiting for someone to ask us out. This time we were going to call the shots.
A cold start party was the plan. As we gathered at a Korean restaurant on Queen Street on a Friday night we all felt decidedly nervous. Tonight we were going to ask four complete strangers out to dinner for the following week in a kind of en masse blind date. The aim? To meet new people, have some fun and perhaps find love…
Much like Sex in the City our love lives were in various states of disrepair. I had spent most of my life single. Finding Mr Right, or even Mr Almost Right, had so far proved elusive.
“Men what are they?” Ginny giggled when I asked how long she had been single for. An attractive blonde working in the film industry I suspected the problem was her work schedule and maybe that she was rather choosy.
Clare had recently broken up with a long-term partner. She was unsure how to get back in the swing of things again. Phillipa on the other hand would almost put any of the girls from Sex in the City to shame. More adventurous than the rest of us she dated regularly and always had plenty of interesting stories to tell.
We discussed our game plan. Should we tell the guys what we are up to or would the phrase ‘cold start party’ put them off? And how were we going to find and pick up four nice guys in one night? We decided the keys to success would be to have fun and play things by air.
“I’ve been single long enough so that anyone that comes near me in pants tonight will be fair game,” Ginny joked.
“This is kind of like Sex in the City except we’re not talking about vaginas and stuff,” observed Clare.
“That’s cos we’re not getting any!” laughed Ginny.
We decided to head down to a swanky new lounge bar called Honey in O'Connell Street. With big chocolate couches and soft lighting the atmosphere was relaxed. After getting some cocktails we sat down at a table and surveyed the room. At the table behind us were three guys sitting by themselves. So how should we approach him? Suddenly we were faced with a dilemma most guys face – how to find the perfect pick up line. I summoned up the courage and invited them to join us. Glen, Matt and Mario were three early 30’s professional males. We were certain we had some cold start potentials lined up then I overheard Mario telling Ginny that Matt and Glen were both in relationships. Say what? I had assumed because they had come over to join us and there had been no words such as ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ subtly slipped into the conversation that they were all single. These men were tricky to read. Obviously we needed to ask them outright if they were single. We had wasted an hour; it was time to move on. Phillipa had been chatting to Mario most of the night and thought he was quite cute so we grabbed his phone number.
Next stop was the viaduct but the writhing, sweating masses of people made conversation difficult. It was 12am and time for sustenance. Then we noticed Clare had disappeared. We found her with a couple of guys who were asking if she wanted a bite of their sausage. Luckily they were eating hot dogs at the time. We ordered some from a nearby stand and ate them with Scott and Warwick. Both 34, funny and yes single, they asked us to come to Bar 3 with them so we all piled into a cab.
Scott paid for the cab (we like that) and Bar 3 was pumping. Warwick told me he had been single for the past four months. He told Ginny he had even picked out the song he wanted to play at his wedding. Suspicious she asked if he had a time frame for finding a wife? “Just before I’m dead as long as it’s the right girl.” Awww….
Scott was tall and had a good sense of humour. Both Ginny and Clare thought he was quite cute. We asked them both out to dinner. While we would have loved to stay and chat it was 1am and we still had one more date to find. Time to move on.
A change of scene. Up in Ponsonby we queued to get into Bar de Baz. But once inside it was so loud and crowded we all felt finding suitable men would be impossible. Sponge bar across the road was emptier. I felt a bit like a piranha circling its prey as I did a quick circuit to identify any potential dates. There was a guy in a white t-shirt that caught Clare’s eye but turned out he was attached and not that bright. By now it was 3am and time for home. We had three potential guys and vowed to find a third by Wednesday night.
And then cold feet hit the cold start party. When we rang Mario he was suddenly ‘busy’ on the night we were to go out to dinner. Luckily true to form Phillipa had found a replacement over the weekend, a guy called Paul she had met at a barbecue. We still needed more men and so were forced to turn to more traditional means of finding men for the cold start party – our single friends and acquaintances. I knew Brendon through another friend and although shy he was keen to come along. Tavish I had known for some time and at the mere mention of cute single girls he was in with a grin. We now had more men than we needed (nothing like having a ‘spare’ at a cold start party); things were looking good.
So on the following Wednesday night we all gathered somewhat nervously at Shahi Café in Parnell to explain to the men we had invited along exactly what a cold start party was.
“So did they pick you up on a different night?” Scott immediately asked the other guys. Introductions were made and as an icebreaker we went round the table and showed everyone else our ‘special trick’. These ranged from Clare who could impressively cross her eyes then move just one eye from left to right to Tavish who could make his throat puff out like a frog. It did the trick and everyone started chatting freely. From early on Clare had her eye on Scott and so they made a cosy two-some trading sexual innuendos and touchy feely gestures down the end of the table.
We all toasted ourselves for having the guts to turn up and decided what to order. In keeping with the flavour of the night briefly contemplated the dishes that had descriptions such as ‘romantic interlude’, ‘orgasmic’ and ‘heat throb’. As the curries were served software engineer Tavish showed us the rips in his jeans that seemed to be hanging onto his body by a few threads at certain points. We then noticed there was a startling resemblance between Brendon and Hugh Grant and managed to convince him to do an impression. “You saucy minx,” he said with a British accent as we all laughed and suggested he set up his own look-a-like agency. Warwick was funny and chatty but when he blurted out he wanted kids he made a few of us a little bit nervous as we imagined him lining us up for genetic compatibility. Paul it seemed just wanted to eat a lot.
“Hey if you guys can’t finish your meals you can chuck them down here.” We couldn’t tell if he was joking or serious as he demolished the naan bread.
The restaurant was now empty and the staff was starting to clean up. We took the hint and headed for a bar across the road where we continued the cold start frivolities over drinks. At the end of the night as we parted I noticed Scott had his arm around Clare.
WANT TO HOLD A COLD START PARTY? ·
Don’t ask out complete strangers (as we did) and invite them round to your house or give out personal details till you know them better. Get cell phone numbers and meet your dates at a neutral venue such as a restaurant instead. If you decide not to ask out random strangers but to pool your cute single male friends for your cold start party then it is probably safe to hold the party at your house. Just make sure each of your friends only brings males along they have vetoed first.
· Do remember everyone will be nervous so it’s a good idea to have a few icebreakers. Try some party games, for ideas check out:
· Do make sure everybody mingles. Perhaps suggest people move places after each course.
· Don’t have the music too loud; keep it muted so everyone can talk easily.
· Do make sure you, the host, enjoys yourself. If you’re short of cash or don’t want to be left doing all the work why not suggest the females bring a plate and the men bring something to drink.
· Do let Cupid work his magic. Even if you brought a guy with someone particular in mind remember at a cold start party no one belongs to any one and anything can happen!