I was heartbroken – my husband had left me for another woman – and I was struggling to get my self-image and confidence back.
Single again after my long marriage, I realised that nothing about the contemporary dating world is easy to interpret. There’s a slew of unspoken rules, concepts, and expressions to be aware of, and a great deal of psychology to contend with. So, being a doctor of psychology, I decided to treat dating as an experiment and write about my experience. Since then, I’ve been on 100 dates with 100 different men.
In Sweden, we have an expression regarding the recently divorced: ”skild och vild” which translates as “divorced and wild”, or perhaps “off the leash”. It is a phrase that is used to describe when you’re extraordinarily excited to meet new people, and luckily, most of my dates took place during that inspired period.
To get started, I downloaded dating apps and swiped away for countless hours, experimenting with different profile pics and bio texts. I maximised the age range of my potential dates, from 18 to 100, and matched with a wide variety of people.
Then it was time to go on dates. I met people all over Sweden, from urban Stockholm to the pastoral countryside, and even across the Baltic to Helsinki in Finland. I texted with thousands of people, testing various opening strategies such as GIFs, emojis as well as waiting to let the other person initiate the conversation.
I also met guys down at the bar, on cruises, in my job and at speed-dating events, and many well-intentioned friends and relatives tried to hook me up with people too, of course.
It had mixed results. I’ve been stood up, catfished, ghosted, ghost busted, aired and breadcrumbed. I’ve met a gravedigger, a magician, a priest to be, bodybuilders, miners. I’ve made out with dads in my car and met youngsters in bars and coffeehouses.
Once, I even booked two dates back-to-back at the same café! Bachelor number two arrived before I’d finished saying goodbye to bachelor number one! He sent me a photo of his beer and wrote, “I’m here now.” I had to sneak off and part with my first date, find the bathroom, change my sweater just to try to make it look like I was somebody else and return, hoping dearly that he wouldn’t realise that I was the one that just a few minutes ago left the place with someone else.
Another funny moment was when I kept meeting dates at the same hotel bar and started getting funny looks from the waiter. In fairness, my table experienced quite the high turnover – a “revolving door” of suitors, if you will. But it all worked out, though – and the waiter? Well, he became date number 98!
From matching and chatting, to first dates and post-date contact, I’ve recorded statistics regarding my experiences, and analysed and tested the entire process from the ground up. Of the 100 dates, eight were really good, five not so good and 87 fell somewhere in between.
I titled my book about the experience 100 Dates because – combined with extensive scientific research, interviews with other daters, and my 10,000 matches – it is the result of my own series of dates with over 100 different individuals. Going on those hundred dates was certainly a challenge, but obviously this has also been an exciting and educational adventure.
“So, did I find Prince Charming?” – is a standard question I often get, from both friends and strangers.
The answer is: “Yes, I did!” But not during those 100 dates. The project was finished and I was flying from Stockholm to Copenhagen. While struggling to lift my heavy travel bag into the overhead luggage compartment, a pleasant voice asked me if I needed a hand. I’ve held that hand ever since.
100 Dates is written by Dr Angela Ahola and published by Bluebird.