"Mr. Christmas" (left) with a hostess at the Smeeters date. Photos by Chloe Orefice
Smeeters is a new dating website that, like many new dating websites, seems to think the world needs yet another unnatural way to meet sexual and romantic partners. You see, Smeeters is a self-described "social club" that lets you and two of your friends go on a six-way blind date with three random strangers. Yes, a triple blind date! I bet you never even thought that was something that anyone would want to do, but according to some press releases, it's all the rage.
Perhaps it represents that odd but inevitable cultural moment when our endless thirst for social media novelty leads us all the way back to square one: the blind date. Smeeters say that its three-on-three dating experiences are as much "a place to expand your social circle" as somewhere to hook up with a stranger. If the gallery section of their website is anything to go by, London's social circle of nice people who like The Big Bang Theory and can afford to drink cocktails most nights has never been so well connected.
Personally, my social circle has diminished pretty sharply ever since I took up being a dickhead, so after reading about it in a recent Evening Standard article, Smeeting—and the dream of a less lonely life that it offered—piqued my interest. I’m a red-blooded male, after all. A single man has needs. Not least, the need to occasionally bore and disappoint a woman he's never met before and will never see again.
Gradually, things came together. I created a profile. Calls were made. A Thursday night was scheduled. A tiki bar off Fleet Street with drinks served in half-coconuts was arranged. Now all I needed was two friends.
First stop: Paddington Station, where I was due to meet my friend Mr. Christmas.
Mr. Christmas lives in the town of Melksham, Wiltshire, and has been celebrating Christmas Day every day for more than 20 years. Every day, he sits down to turkey, sprouts, and all the trimmings. Every day, he washes it down with some champagne and mince pies. Every day, he goes outside his house and posts Christmas cards through his own letterbox. His house is a permanent blaze of lights and tinsel that he never has to worry about taking down.
Basically, his life is perfect, except for the $330,000 he reckons he's spent on his perpetual festivities over the past two decades.
From Paddington, we took the tube, which gave us lots of time for conversation. Mr. Christmas told me about how he gift-wraps two items every day to give himself as presents. He told me he’d bought a Mercedes recently, and he’d gifted that to himself too. “Do you know Mike Read?” he said. “The DJ. He’s my friend. He lives in West London. We speak about once a week.”
Mr. Christmas also said he attended the Brit Awards regularly because of all his contacts in the music industry. “I dish out the mince pies to Shania Twain, Phil Collins—all the stars.” He knows the ex-lead singer of the Stranglers and he’s collaborated with Slade.
“I’ve got Boy George coming round next week for Christmas dinner,” he continued. Melksham is also apparently very close to where Prince Charles lives. “Camilla talks to me sometimes. She’s very nice. I’ve invited her round for Christmas dinner, but there are security concerns.” It soon became clear that Mr. Christmas had many wonderful celebrity friends. The three lasses we were on our way to "smeet" didn’t know how lucky they were.
Mr. Christmas was already in high spirits and demonstrated this by proposing to a girl on the tube.
Worryingly, our third dating partner was late. I texted him peevishly as we approached the bar.
Kanaloa, our venue for the evening, was a posh London flirting arena where girls with Louis Vuitton handbags mingled easily with investment bankers; next to them, traders in Hermès shirts mingled easily with insurance auditors. All of the most fashionable haircuts from three years ago were on display, "Moves Like Jagger" was on the stereo, and each of the drinks was more expensive than a meal at Denny's.
Our dates were, as promised, three human females. Wasting little time, I immediately started talking to one of them. She and her friend worked for a big international bank, and she said she was doing her second half marathon in Berlin that weekend. “What was your time for the last one?” I asked. “Two-twelve,” she replied. “That’s pretty good,” I said. In my heart, I knew it was merely average—but you need to be generous with the flattery if you're going to have much luck in this dating game.
“So… tell me about your friend,” she said, a note of suspicion rising in her voice.
“He is Mr. Christmas, and he celebrates Christmas every day,” I replied.
“Is he actually single?” she said.
“Yes, he is!” I said. I decided not to tell her about his earnest queries that afternoon about whether he would be assigned a girl or have to choose his own.
At this point, the mood around the table began to darken; the girls started whispering to each other. Mr. Christmas mugged and pouted valiantly, but I couldn’t help feeling that the social momentum was slipping away from us. I prayed that my second friend would hurry along, but I kept getting apologetic texts letting me know that he was still "on his way."
Twenty minutes in, Arno finally arrived. Arno plays guitar in a band called Generation Graveyard, one of the shining lights of London’s vibrant goth community. I felt sure the girls would respect him for his integrity within the scene.
Unfortunately, at this point the questions from our new friends started to veer from the usual “What sort of house do you live in?” and began to gravitate sharply towards the “What exactly do you think you’re trying to pull here?” end of the spectrum. Suddenly, I was on trial for having interesting friends. How had this happened?
While my back was turned, the girl who was running the marathon left with a very curt "goodbye." I’d sunk a fair bit of sycophantic social capital into her at this point, so it was something of a letdown. I sucked my boozy fruit drink and wondered whether I would die alone.
It was time for a game changer. Luckily, Mr. Christmas had brought along some crackers for us all to pull. And a Christmas card in which he stood next to Cliff Richard. Surely that would lighten the mood?
But it didn’t lighten anything. I asked one of the girls, who turned out to be Danish and pleasant, about what Christmas is like there. She said it was nice but different. Approaching panic, I did what I always do on awkward dates—I reached for a fascinating fact. I told her Cliff Richard is the only artist who has had a number one hit in every decade since the 1950s.
She seemed fairly tolerant of this.
Sadly, the DJ had less time for Mr. Christmas' bangers.
Arno and Mr. Christmas discussed their respective musical careers. Despite the large difference between Christmas and graveyards, they found they had a lot in common. But all this time they spent talking to each other was less time they spent talking to the remaining girls, who were displaying classic mobile-phone-burrowing signs of boredom and irritation.
A Fresh Prince track came on, and the bankers coalesced into a mass of respectably drunken sexy face. But back at our reserved table, a perpetual winter had taken hold. Even Arno seemed to have given up on Mr. Christmas and was now eyes-down into his mobile phone.
Then the girl on the left (who had earlier told Mr. Christmas she was "a brain surgeon"—a statement he said he had no reason to doubt) began telling me that I was a bad man and that I’d pulled a dirty trick on her. She said she refused to have her photos used in any article, and kindly offered to sue us if they were. She then further underlined and amplified her basic point, that I was a shitbag.
Finally, she launched an appeal to my basic sense of fairness. “People,” she complained, “come out here to meet someone they might want to take things further with.” She then gave me a coup-de-grâce daggers stare. Oh, brother, I’d really cocked this one up.
I sucked down more sugary booze, felt like a shitbag, and got back to wondering whether I would die alone. Then, bizarrely enough, I started having a wonderful time. I fell deep into conversation with the Danish girl, who, as I said, was really pleasant. We talked about our childhoods, the fall of the Berlin Wall, our previous relationships, and exactly how ready we were for commitment. That’s pretty good, no? I said something, and she laughed. I laughed, and she said something.
But then a bitter melancholy took hold. I realized that the Danish girl would never consent to be with me, because I was essentially a predatory journalist who had brought her and her friends on a night out that they now viewed as an attack on their character/precious free time. Whatever happened over the brief span of this moment, I knew it would be canceled out by the fact that they thought I was a prick.
No—instead, this was to be our own version of Brief Encounter, but with party poppers, the guitarist from Generation Graveyard, and a profound feeling of loneliness. An exchange of tender feeling—an honesty I’d not felt in weeks—then the whistle blows and we move on with our lives. She, back to an international banking conglomerate. Me, back to the killing fields of writing mildly sarcastic articles for money.
It would never work.
Far too soon, it was that point in the evening when the in-house DJ plays "Hey Ya." “Let’s have a mince pie?” I suggested. Chloe, our photographer, realized she’d never had a mince pie before in her life, because she is secretly from Italy. I stuffed one in her gob, and one in my own. They were delicious mince pies. The Danish girl had one too. What a nice girl. And so attractive beneath those pixels.
Everyone loved Mr. Christmas's fake Xmas-themed £20 notes.
The witching hour arrived. Mr. Christmas needed to be back in Wiltshire. He had important things to do the next day. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and the best kind of Christmas Eve—one on which the trains are still running. After we paused to pay our $116 bar tab, the evening came to its unnatural conclusion. Goodbye, Arno. Goodbye, Mr. Christmas. Goodbye forever, pixelated Danish girl.
I flung Mr. Christmas into a cab and flung myself and Chloe into the nearest bar. At 4 AM, I awoke back in Mudchute, sweating the sweat of a man who had skipped dinner, drunk too much sugary booze, and exposed three vulnerable West London gals desperately seeking Mr. Right to the dating equivalent of the Stanford prison experiment.
In the early morning glimmer, I thought a lot about the direction my life is presently heading in. And I resolved to get on Tinder instead.
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See more of Chloe's photos here.