My legs shook as I rummaged desperately through my purse. Anguishing seconds passed before my trembling fingers managed to extract what I was looking for: a small piece of card no bigger than my debit card.
This, I was convinced, could finally be my key to romantic paradise.
Trying to show a serenity that I didn’t feel, I moved quickly, my target well in my sights: around thirty years old, black hair, a kind smile. I passed him my card quickly, to his obvious surprise, before running out of the carriage, as the blood roared in my ears.
What was I doing, you might ask?
Well, even though my mother always told me not to approach a stranger – certainly never on public transport – I was so fed up with the heartbreaking sterility of dating apps that I decided to adopt a new approach to finding love.
Writer Sophie Cockerham was so fed up with using dating apps she decided to try a different approach: ‘I think you’re left out’
Forget about swiping right. I had printed my own “date cards” – think business cards, but for flirting.
And that’s the card I’ve been handing out on the Tube, hoping that a direct approach might be more rewarding than the recent disappointing adventures on the Hinge app.
The message on my card was simple: “H! I think you’re cute. My name is Sophie. I’m bored of dating apps, so if you think I’m cute too, contact us. It also had my Instagram handle and email address.
So could dating cards be the modern Cupid’s arrow I needed?
Surely they couldn’t be worse than dating apps. Since finding myself single in January 2022 after the breakup of a seven-year relationship, my online attempts to find a boyfriend had only succeeded in finding the most emotionally unavailable men in London.
I first heard about dating cards on Twitter, where they’re trending – where else? – New York.
The next day, I had 50 self-designed dating cards printed. All I had to do was find the courage to distribute them: I who, in 29 years, have never given my number in a bar or chatted with a stranger.
Once Sophie had designed her date card (photo) and had it printed, all she had to do was find the courage to hand it out.
But “business” cards were different: it was a “blitz” approach, involving very little chatter. Surely I could handle that… right?
That evening, I went to a comedy show with a friend, Eliza. “Perfect,” I thought. “A room full of men with a sense of humor.”
Armed with half my cards, I walked to the subway station and saw a man who was exactly my type coming towards me.
Digging through my bag, my heart pounding, I went to give him my details… and I froze in place, while he walked past me, unconscious.
I was annoyed with myself. I didn’t pay a lot of money for those stupid cards not to give them out!
Trying to shake off my nerves and getting to meet Eliza, I looked forward to my next opportunity. But when we entered the room, there were plenty of girls enjoying a fun evening.
And when comedian Grace Campbell asked if there were any single, heterosexual men among the 750 spectators, there was silence.
“Not a single person?” Grace roared. ‘I’m going home!’ You and me both.
Sophie gives one of her meeting cards to Lucas Salge in London. She also handed them out on public transport and in her home town of Leeds.
Undeterred, Eliza and I headed to a pub and, emboldened by the wine, I dealt my cards willy-nilly. A risky moment came when I gave a guy my card… only to notice his wedding ring as he took it.
Ignoring this, I persevered and got hopeful, handing a card to a tall, handsome man who held the door open for us to exit the pub.
I even handed out two on the long bus ride home, earning a laugh and a thumbs up through the window from a guy who had been waiting until he was safe on the sidewalk before reading it.
However, I did not receive any messages. It was much worse than the rejections on dating apps, because I had contacted these people in real life.
After all, going to the effort of handing out a card implies a certain vulnerability and shows that I was serious about dating. The least I expected was a simple “Thanks, but no thanks” message.
Confidence shaken, I continued on to King’s Cross station to catch a train back to my home town of Leeds.
Just when I naively thought my mission was going to get easier (due to Eliza’s prodding and false confidence from drinking the night before), I spotted an attractive man on the subway.
Once again, adrenaline took over and my legs shook as I waited for the perfect opportunity to hand over my card, which I did as it reached its stop.
Sophie steps out of her comfort zone to give her date card to another Londoner, Richard Two
Once at the station, I walked towards the train and saw that I had a message request on Instagram. My stomach lurched. Was that it?
‘Hey! I really appreciated the card you shared with me today on the subway,” read the message from a man called Travis.
“Not only is it brave to step out of your comfort zone like that, but it also made me smile and I love that you bring joy to the world.”
So far, so good. Until…
“Unfortunately I have a girlfriend, so sorry to ruin a card, but I love the idea and noticed your beautiful eyes before you even shared them!
“I’m sure you’ll see many of them on the subway with the same sparkle. Good luck and keep doing it.
Although it wasn’t what I was hoping for, Travis’ lovely message inspired me to hand out more cards in Leeds – including one in arguably the toughest pub in town – and as I returned to London.
Making the effort to deal a card involves a certain vulnerability. Sophie was able to show matching potential that she was serious about dating
At this point I was pretty sure Transport for London would report me for soliciting.
Yet my day was made when a shy, bookish man took my card and looked delighted, although it made the lady sitting across from me burst out laughing. Like Travis said, I was spreading a little joy – what was wrong with that?
But I was starting to lose hope. Then I received another message on Instagram.
“Hi, you gave me your card at Starbucks the other week – I think you’re ‘cute’ too,” it read.
After talking for a while, it turns out that dark-haired, blue-eyed Dan and I have a lot in common. We like the same music and our upbringings were similar. We set up a meeting this week. So watch this space.
Would I Recommend Dating Cards to Help Find Love?
Once you get over the crippling anxiety and learn to deal with that dizzying adrenaline rush, the cards gave me the same dopamine highs as when you swipe on an app.
Sophie’s day was made when a shy, bookish man took her card on the subway and seemed flattered. She plans to go out with Dan later this week…
I felt nothing short of jubilant when I finally started handing them out – something I never thought I’d have the confidence to do.
I felt such a sense of power, which had been missing for a long time in my turbulent love life.
Once I learned not to expect a response just because I gave someone a card, I relaxed, although I had to fight off a few strange looks and whispers from the big audience.
Indeed, the success is such that I always keep one or two dating cards on hand. After all, you never know who might be around the corner…