Lesbian dining clubs
Time Out finds food for thought in the world of lesbian dining clubs
Odd socks, biros and lesbians: where do they all go? After the age of 30, lesbians magically disappear off the scene to no one knows quite where. This becomes something of a pressing issue if you are freshly single, feel like expanding your social circle, or are just plain bored of the usual suspects. One possible solution is the dining club circuit. To the uninitiated, the notion of a dining club can offer up wildly different impressions.
On the one hand, they present a civilised way to meet other women over a glass of wine and fine food. On the other, they summon a nightmare scenario of scary singletons negotiating awkward small talk. So what’s the real story? Of the three or four dining clubs mentioned in Time Out’s listings, the Champagne Dining Club comes with the highest price tag. A bit of a one-woman show, it’s run by Jackie who holds regular events every month or so in stylish venues across London, mostly in Mayfair. (The night I visited, the club took place in a Moroccan-styled restaurant called Isis comprising loose cushions, low tables and the occasional belly dancer. All for £60 a head.)
Once past Jackie and her handshake (her fingernails were two inches long and painted green) I was swiftly dispatched to a seat and left to my own devices. The women gathered there had an amazing variety of jobs. One was a director of operations for a primary health trust. One was a defence lawyer. Another a deputy head at a primary school. There was also a head of a pupil referral unit, a family therapist and even a beauty editor who worked on a national newspaper.
I’d stumbled on a gaggle of power dykes, all rather self-defined, confident (yet strangely camera-shy) women aged between 30 and 55. They had lots to say for themselves and were rather sceptical about the lesbian scene. Needless to say, it was the therapist who mused whether ‘80 per cent of the women here tonight have been recently dumped’. Going around the table, we soon established that the percentage was probably even higher, a fact that everyone found highly amusing. So what were they looking to get out of the supper?
‘You want a bit of civilisation but a bit of debauchery as well,’ a civil servant confessed. A company director, meanwhile, was ‘bored of paying for younger women’ and wanted to find someone who could pay her own way. Most of them were first timers to the experience and by the end of the evening (and rather a lot of wine) phone numbers and business cards had been summarily exchanged.
The second event – this time run by the organisation Women4Women – was altogether different. Far more of the women here were regular attendees, with a greater proportion of couples. This felt like a warmer affair, with the hosts providing a more personal service: ‘In general it’s women aged over 40 or those who fancy them!’ Organiser Carol was keen to stress the policy of inclusion. ‘It’s an awful thing to go into a place blind. There’s nothing worse than standing around on your own’.
Rather than going for expensive restaurants, Women4Women dinners centre on various ‘themes’. They’d had tapas and Thai nights, and a ‘superstitious supper which involved a tarot reader’. The latest took place outside the Royal Festival Hall on a summer evening, where a three-course meal cost £30.
Like the Champagne Dining Club, it too advertises through a website as well as in Time Out listings, but it also drops flyers on the scene. The women here are less in the closet than the higher earners at the Champagne Dining Club. Their demographic too is slightly different. I met a ticketing operations manager for London Transport, lots of police and prison officers, an insurance underwriter, a psychotherapist and a lawyer. There were also a few faces I recognised from the previous group.
Dining clubs provide ample evidence that lesbian life doesn’t end at 30. In fact, rather than disappearing, it seems that these women have instead decided to live life to the full. So I guess a glass of wine and a bit of belly dancing is more than they deserve. Join them if you dare.
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