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At the end of the evening, all the daters will head to the same bar to finish the night off.To make sure things go smoothly, Natalie will be taking tips from her dating books.As I headed into the basement, I was handed a padlock. Apart from the keys or padlocks hanging around every neck, it looked like any other night, with groups standing together drinking and chatting. It felt more like a fashionable party where everyone knew everyone else than a sordid singles night.As I ordered a drink at the bar, a pair of men approached me. People who had never met before were chatting comfortably.With the market for single nights booming, publishers are taking full advantage with a stack of new books to help you along.Natalie has long been a fan of The Rules, a book which insists that to snag a man you should not stay on the phone for more than 10 minutes. Rachel Greenwald takes it a step further in her manual, Find a Husband After 35 Using What I learned at Harvard Business School, which sets outs a 15-step programme to snaring your man using 'branding' and 'marketing'. The 51-year-old says the tips are already having an effect: 'I am quite happy and outgoing, so people think I'm content being single, but I'm not.You can opt-out of our event notification emails any time.It sounds like the antithesis of feminism: leering men prowling a bar, carrying keys that just might open padlocks dangling from the necks of young women.
Many thousands, perhaps millions worldwide, form serious relationships as a result of these methods.
If the key and lock didn't match, people would chat anyway - and if they didn't want to, then carrying on the game provided an excuse to walk away.
Later in the night, with more alcohol consumed, I saw one couple holding up their address books and mobile phones, arranging to meet again.
All these new events provide a guarantee of meeting men of a similar age to me who are fun and single.' Natalie has signed up to Speed Dater UK, which has grown from running one night a month at the start of 2003 to 30 a week, with more than 30,000 people registered with them. On Valentine's Day, she will be joining 300 others for 'Blind Valentines' in south London.
After filling in forms, pairs will be matched and sent to a restaurant for their blind date.