From set-ups to salsa dancing, writer and singleton Chloe Alexandrou ditched the dating apps and tried looking for love IRL

After three years spent riding solo, it’s safe to say I’ve swiped my way into a few dating disasters. I’m talking everything from burning up in Bikram yoga on a first date (don’t do it… totally the WRONG kind of hot and steamy) to falling for a guy who ended up ghosting me (it’s fine, I’m over it). So when the idea came up to date without the help of apps, I jumped at the chance to play guinea pig (translates: I was the only single woman on the team). Just kidding – I was up for trying dating like they used to, and began my journey into the real world the only way millennials know how – via Google. And after researching how to be a socially functioning human, I bid Bumble farewell, trashed Tinder and bagged myself some blind dates. Oh, and I booked a salsa class.

Mates = dates

Blind dating may seem a bit old school, but trust me when I say, where there are mates, there are dates. Think of your friends as personal Cilla Blacks and the possibilities are endless. Between my mum giving the fit fella who plumbed in our washing machine my number and the set-up a friend engineered with her colleague at a party, it’s been pretty successful.

A couple of coffee dates later and I can reveal that to make this work, you’ve got to resist ALL urges to social-media-stalk first. You form an opinion before you’ve even met, so just allow yourself to be surprised. It’s either going to be good – which is great – or bad – which makes a good story. Sadly, washing-machine man was far too interested in plumbing for my liking.

Raise the bar

Step two was a bit more terrifying. Some people are great natural flirts. I’m not one of them, so when out in the wild (aka in a bar with real humans), I need to start with baby steps. According to my BFF (that’s best flirt friend), the trick is in the eye contact.

Now signalling interest with anything more personal than a swipe of the thumb can be daunting for me, but once I’d practised and got over the my-contact-lens-is-jammed-in-my-retina kind of expression, it worked. Two men I did nothing more than throw a glance at came over, and I left the bar with one of their numbers.

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It takes two

Throwing it waaaay back with this one, but there’s a reason the ‘Strictly curse’ exists – dancing is romantic. So I signed up for salsa classes at London’s City Academy. Considering the closest I’ve ever come to salsa is with a tortilla chip, this was a bold move. Don’t get me wrong, I can cut shapes in the club, but give me ‘left, right, left’ to follow and I crumble.

Inadequacies aside, I put on my gym kit and headed to my lesson. Admittedly, there were more gals than guys, and I didn’t find my Johnny Castle, but Baby definitely wasn’t in a corner. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone really boosted my confidence.

Expanding your social circle with hobbies means you’ll meet like-minded people and increase the chance of romance. So book the class, keep your phone in your pocket and mingle. I guarantee your dating life will improve.

I was sick of dating-app dead ends and feeling I was applying for a job rather than looking for love. Despite some of the IRL stuff being spine-freezingly uncomfortable, it was like a breath of fresh air and reminded me that dating should be fun. My advice? Stay positive and put yourself out there – you never know what will happen...

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