Last week a first-time Tinder date postponed me in favor of getting stoned . “Hey my friend has just turned up with some weed, I think therefore it’s unlikely I’m going to make it to the pub later,” she wrote. I’ll be honest: it’s not the most romantic prose I’ve been sent.
Tinder, by design, encourages this type of flakiness. A previous Tinderer sent me to the wrong neighborhood to meet her. One girl I know told me she doesn’t speak to most of the guys she matches with. Why bother doing it at all, then? “It’s just good for the ego,” she said.
Well, great. “What is it with these women?!” I said, to a female friend.
“It’s not women,” she said, a reminder that this flakiness is pervasive, regardless of gender. “It’s the device.”
So it might be time to find something else. I recently signed for to Good Deed Dating, a new online service that helps singles meet each other at volunteering events, do something nice for the world and potentially find love in the process.
The site was launched this summer by Hannah Whitehead, a 28-year-old former charity worker from London who couldn’t persuade her friends to volunteer at an event because they were too busy dating. The proverbial lightbulb went on and she got to work. Her idea was to bring both worlds together, and it’s a good idea: like-minded groups of people meeting up for something fun and altruistic, without the pressure of a one-on-one situation (and with the option of hooking up after if they want to). At the very least, honorable work is done; at best, love/sex/marriage/children/everlasting happiness.
After signing up — and agreeing to pay the site’s modest subscription fee (a quarter of which goes to a charity partner) — I could choose from a handful of events, most of which involved cheerleading at charity runs. I didn’t particularly want to stand on the spot and shout at people for two hours, so I opted to help on a dog walk for the Mayhew Animal Home, a welfare organization in London that provides better lives for canines and cats.
Dogs are funny. It’s easy to talk to people if dogs are involved, these amusing creatures that practically start conversations for you. Beats the usual getting-to-know-you shenanigans. Alas, only two other people had decided that meeting their special someone might happen on a heath full of dogs at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. Both women, but I felt for them — I would be their only choice. I alone would be representing male singledom. I would be as good as it gets. And I am not as good as it gets. But still: There was some good deeding to be done.
The setup is an immediate icebreaker. I arrived that morning to meet Mayhew staff and the two poor ladies who’d be stuck with me—and very nice they were, too, but love was not in the cards for any of us that day. No matter. We set up a marquee, we put up some flags. A Mayhew coordinator then decided — I refuse to believe that it was because she wanted to keep them away from me — that I should help at the registration desk, while the two others should be marshals for the dog walk, and were separately dispatched to serve as guides on the route, several miles away. I’ve since been told that this was an administrative hiccup, but I was happy to greet all the dogs, which I did. So in the absence of kiss and tells, I’m going to tell you about some animals.
Tallula is a nine-year-old Shih Tzu who, at two, developed infections in both eyes. The infections developed into ulcers; when her eyes didn’t respond to treatment, vets reluctantly decided to remove them, which doesn’t seem to have affected her much. She’s basically Scrappy-Doo.
Sophie was a street dog from the Republic of Georgia. In December 2014, she was rescued after some guy started throwing stones at her, and was subsequently adopted by the British defense attaché. Nearly two years later, Sophie’s happy as heck.
Gordon is a deaf Staffordshire bull terrier. During his time at the Mayhew he was taught sign language, and since being rehomed he’s been taught a plethora of tricks. He can stand up like a meerkat, he can jump into his owners’ arms, and he can now bark on cue — despite not being able to hear himself barking.
Dimpy is a half-collie, half-husky from Spain, named Dimpy because, her owner told me, of her dimples. I asked if she really had dimples. “When she smiles,” he said.
I met a Mayhew volunteer who told me conspiratorially that she was more of a cat person. She told me about cat socializing, which Mayhew does to teach their cats good behavior and prepare them for life with humans. Good Deed Dating has piggy-backed onto this, getting single people together to meet each other while cuddling cats—which is as novel a dating situation as I’ve ever heard. I finished my morning packing goodie bags (Christmas cards, Mayhew-branded wallets and popcorn for dogs, called Pupcorn) and handing them out to the owners returning from the walk.
This was low-level volunteering. But it was excellent to be doing something, and inspiring being around nice people, doing their bit. It wasn’t a romantic rendezvous, but the potential is great. “We’re still new, but it’s exciting to see the business grow,” Hannah told me. Good Deed Dating already boasts a fair number of success stories; it hopes to develop an app and expand internationally, as well as planning events for more groups: LGBT people, single parents and older daters.
It’s certainly more fulfilling, and more creative, than its digital alternatives, with every event giving you something enriching to come home with, even if it’s not a soulmate. I may well go back, if only to cuddle some cats.