I struggle with Tinder. Faced with stacks of photos, often without bios, I find myself swiping right on the off-chance the guy might be interesting.
It’s an event that follows the speed-dating format — but instead of making small talk, you write rude words on a Scrabble board. It’s foreplay for filthy minds, and founder Jordi Sinclair tells me that out of all the niche dating events he runs, Dirty Scrabble has one of the highest hit rates for singles pairing off: “They email me to say thanks! The nice thing is, they’re couples you wouldn’t necessarily think would be together. The focus isn’t on looks, so you get two people with dirty minds, who probably wouldn’t have met on an app, having fun and ending up together.”
It sounds like Dirty Scrabble could be right up my alley, so I head to Kentish Town, where singletons are gathering upstairs in plush pub The Bull & Gate. We’re in the chandelier-strewn Boulogne Bar, which could double up as Nell Gwynn’s boudoir. Sinclair says the Scrabble set are drinkers: “They load up on wine — I’ve had to throw out Scrabble boards because they have poured drinks all over them! It can get quite messy,” he says, “I have to roll people out!”
I take this as my cue to order a large glass of red, and sit myself down with my first Dirty Scrabble date. I’d intended to spend the day on Urban Dictionary to brush up on filth, but I didn’t, and faced with a random assortment of letters, I find myself floundering. The closest I can get to spelling anything remotely rude is P-E-N-I.
The men remain in their seats, and each time I move, I gain an insight into how their previous date went by the words left on the Scrabble board. F-U-R-Y and V-I-L-E stand out on one board, while W-A-R-T jumps out on another. It is less like flirting and more like divorcing couples having digs at each other on Parents’ Night.
Several of the guys haven’t turned up, so with more women than men, I spend three date slots sitting out, in what I term the Spinster Seats. I ask one of the other girls why she came to the event. She says, “I wanted to come somewhere I can write ‘tits’ on a Scrabble board!”
On my second glass of wine, I write K-I-N-K with a T where a K should be, because really, who cares by now? “You inspired me,” I say to my date, smiling at him with red wine stains on my teeth. He says, “you’ve inspired me too,” then lays down his letters.
Sinclair has previously been crowned Blogger of the Year by the UK Dating Awards, so he’s presumably spent some time on the dating scene himself. He explains that unlike some dating events, we don’t wear name tags because we’re adults and we can introduce ourselves. I’m with him on this, and the evening is certainly less awkward than a regular speed-dating event. However, not even Dirty Scrabble eliminates small talk, and despite the tone being set by words such as T-O-N-G (tongue) and R-O-G-E-R, I am still asked where I live and what I do.
In the toilets after, I ask one of the girls if she had her eye on anyone. “Mike,” she says.
Another girl joins us at the sinks. “Did you fancy anyone?” I ask, as I have done in toilets since I went to my first roller disco at the age of 14. “Oh,” she says, “the one everyone fancies!” It turns out she means Mike.
It also turns out that we were meant to fill in something inside our clipboards and hand it back to Sinclair, so he knows who’s a match. I have cocked this up bit, by keeping my notes and leaving my clipboard on a table, with blank pages inside it. It may not be the greatest romantic tragedy of our time, but it could be why I’m single.
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