Speed Dating!

This post has been several weeks in the making, but it’s finally here.

Two weeks ago, my friend Becky and I left the confines of Friday night triathlon-training swims and dinners to have our very own Washington-style Sex and the City adventure. We’ve decided it’s time to meet new people (and by “people” we’re only halfway kidding when we mean “men”), but really, we don’t quite know how.

Every so often, you read an article about the popularity of speed dating in a reputable publication, how it’s the perfect way for busy singles to meet and sift through others quickly, etc etc. How dating services, speed dating, and online dating are becoming more socially acceptable and less the domain of the hopelessly desperate.

Becky and I even debated at length the merits of speed dating versus online dating before the evening began, eventually agreeing that speed dating was the superior method to meet people, since it’s a lot harder to lie about who you are when you’re looking someone in the eye than it is from behind a computer screen.

Before the event had even begun, we each slurped down two gin and tonics. As men and women drifted to and from the bar, we quickly realized we were among the youngest there. One man noticed Becky’s name tag and used it to start a beyond-awkward conversation: “Becky, that’s a nice name. It’s my daughter’s name.”

When the main event finally got underway, the organizers assured us that the only reason the women moved and the men stayed in place was that if the men moved, they would just screw it up. I’m sure that explains the pink index cards for the women and blue cards for the men, too.

We lined up. A short, balding man explained the rules. Men faced women, we sized up the other line, and on the count of three, we stepped forward.

I was alone. The men and women on either side of me chatted together, but I had no speed-dating partner. Talk about a good way to make a girl feel even more awkward in the middle of this awk-toberfest. The host moved me to the end of the line where a kind man awaited to exchange gin stories. 13 more four-minute conversations followed. Mostly with IT workers from Northern Virginia (I live near Dulles and work at Tyson’s corner-types). I stopped telling people I lived in Mt. Pleasant and just said “the city” after the first three blank stares when I tried to explain that “it’s a neighborhood near the Columbia Heights metro stop.”

Ironically, one of my most interesting conversations was with Daughter-Man, who turned out to be the Systems Administrator for a middle school during the day, and the mayor of a small town in Maryland at night and on the weekends. The biggest problem facing his town? Immigration. The bulk of his job? Fixing traffic lights and analyzing budgets.

The hardest part of the evening was keeping the conversations interesting and not repetetive. When I asked one man the last good book he read, he told me he never read anything but technical manuals. When I asked another where he took his last vacation, he stared at me for a second before saying that he couldn’t remember his last vacation.

Ultimately, the meat market aspect of the whole night was a turn-off, especially during the open bar afterwards. You know everyone else’s reason for being there. What distinguishes this scenario from a normal bar is that at least there’s a little bit of mystery when you’re talking to someone about why they want to talk to you. It’s not automatic that they just want to date, because maybe they have a girlfriend. At a speed dating bar, there are suddenly expectations about why you’re chatting and where it might go (see earlier post “Brunch Advice” for my feelings on expectations).

Maybe I’ll get some free meals out of it, maybe not, and I may even write about it again. At the very least, I got some good stories. I haven’t filled out my match.com or jdate profiles, and may not for awhile, but in the future, I’m going to respond that online dating is a superior way to meet people than speed dating. At least you can screen out the ones you don’t want to talk to.

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4 Responses to “Speed Dating!”

  1. Steve Says:

    Hey, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one wrestling with the problem of meeting people. I suppose in some ways you have it easier than me (fewer thorns), but then I also probably know my city a bit better. Let me know if you learn something useful.

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