Dateless-Man versus Speed Dating

After some dawdling between installments chronicling my past (mis)adventures with the opposite sex, it’s time to get back on track. To tell the truth, some of the delay with this installment has less to do with feelings and more to do with it being less specific than most of the others. It doesn’t involve a particular lady or even one particular event. The title says it all; towards the end of my attempts to make some headway with my romantic life (or lack thereof), I delved into that realm which is both storied and hectic. It’s time to hear the bell and rotate, it’s time to speed-date!

This took place roughly six years ago, more than a year after “my last actual date“. I was unemployed, times tending to both my mother and dying grandmother were reaching a fever pitch, and my love life was in the pits to the point that I was willing to try something new. When you dislike the bar and club scene, there are few options to meet other people outside college, especially in the pre-Tumblr, pre-iPhone age. It was pure chance that I happened upon an online ad for “NY EasyDates” (or “NYED” to keep things short), which at the time was celebrating it’s 10th year anniversary with a discount for a select number of speed dating events that summer. Speed dating events can vary in price from $20 to as much as $100 or more, depending on the company and the venue. For the anniversary, NYED was offering prices of $10-$15 for select events so long as one registered early (about a week or so in advance). At the time I figured the investment was low and it was something I hadn’t tried before.

Although I am certain that various companies have different gimmicks and different venues may have different rules, the fundamentals of “speed dating” are roughly the same wherever one goes. Each speed dating event is themed around various criteria, such as age ranges, employment, and/or hobbies, or what various people desire in a lover. These can include “straight couples 21-35”, “40 and up” or “artists”, or so on. The host will sign up anywhere between 15-30 on average men and women and they will be seated together at a table at the particular venue. Once the event begins, everyone will have about 2-4 minutes to chat with the person they’re seated with until a signal is made (usually a bell), and then one gender (usually the men) “rotate”, or move to the table next to them. This progresses until everyone meets everyone. The length of time for each “speed date” varies depending on how many people are there; the more there are, the less time each date is. From my experience doing this in the NYC area, it was usually more difficult getting enough men at each event than women, and at least once the women outnumbered men by one or two (so a few lucky people got to “date” twice). The event usually runs for 1-2 hours and there is usually a break in between, where everyone can mingle at the nearby bar or lounge or whatever happens to be at the venue. At the end, everyone is handed a piece of paper with everyone’s name on it and those you’re interested in, you write your email next to their name. The hostess then collects the sheets and anyone whose names and emails sync up are told, and naturally things can progress at their own pace.

I went to three of these events at the time over a summer period of about 1-2 months. I naturally made sure I was dressed well and clean cut. I found the events to be a bit nerve wracking and exhausting. They felt more like job interviews than “dates”, since there was barely enough time to go over one’s name, job, and brief bits about hobbies. I bent the truth a bit about being unemployed (saying I was “between jobs”, which was still true) and by and large stressing my hobbies involving watching movies and DVD’s more so than comic books or anime, as at the time these sorts of things were nowhere near as mainstream as they are now. Even today, such things are still a bit cult-like in certain sections of New York. Supposedly chemistry can be “instant” between the right people, but I never felt it with anyone I was with. The women there were of various shapes, sizes, and ethnic groups (but mostly white). I wasn’t the only shy, awkward guy there, but a few of the men there seemed charismatic enough that I wondered why they needed the venue in the first place. I tried to keep my sense of humor about me, but I think my anxiety showed through as if I’d word a bright yellow suit. I joked that I felt like a hard boiled egg being told to “rotate” every few minutes. I didn’t have a bad time at these events, but they were tiring and I never quite felt any “spark” with anyone there.

Still, I was as open minded as I could be. I tried to work with whatever job or hobby a lady told me, and at the end when it came time to try to select which women one liked, I usually selected most of the women at the venue. That is, I would all but literally offer my email for 14 out of 15 or 16 out of 18, however many there happened to be for the event. It turned out that this strategy “synced up” with another woman exactly zero times. That’s right; at three events having met at least 45 different women at rapid speed, not a single one of them were interested in a second dose. I was aware that “speed dating” is literally all about quantity rather than quality, weeding out the rough to get to the diamonds. However, at that point I’d spent a similar amount of money to an “actual” date, and resources were finite. I don’t recall feeling too dejected, but it did nothing to boost my ego or sense of charismatic allure either. As always, I don’t have any scorn or anger for the women there in any way. I’m not tall, or terribly handsome, or am an athlete or have any sort of sports related hobby or fascinating life. It was a venue where personality was king, and I likely came off as too stiff, too generic, and too average.

By the end of the third event, in addition to becoming wary of how much I was spending for a lack of results, I’d come to a startling realization. I really could sum up the entire whole of my being in less than two minutes. I was just a guy with geeky hobbies with no money and nothing terribly exciting going on. There was nothing about me which made me stand out from the crowd. In the game of life I was just a bystander, there to help make up the numbers and give the cooler guys something to contrast against. As hapless as I was for the format, the “intermission mingling” sessions were even worse. I’ve never been good at ice breakers in romantic situations, and this was no exception.

In the end, “speed dating” isn’t for everyone. It certainly wasn’t a format I excelled at. Unfortunately, there was NO venue in terms of dating that I excelled at. Nothing seemed to work. The setting, the place, the time, the age, none of it mattered. By this point I was in my late 20’s and I was beginning to realize the depth of my inability to connect. I’d worked past my emotional college era of despair over this, and was starting my slow path towards acceptance, which is a path I hope to complete in the very near future.

I don’t regret the experience. Despite it being years since I attended an event, I still get email notifications of them on a semi-weekly basis. Business is business. It isn’t a format I would seek to repeat.

And here we are. Only one tale left before I am out of flashbacks. It’s nearing the one year anniversary of the blog, which I didn’t time deliberately, but which appears fitting. Thanks for reading.

Random Related Thoughts & Temptations

It has been over a fortnight since my last installment, which was a “reflection” over some of my past experiences with women since I began typing them out on this blog last summer. In fact, it will soon be a year since I began this blog in the first place (as my “origin” posting was on July 6th, 2014). Since I only have two real previous experiences regarding the opposite sex left until my long tales of underachievement are finished, I feel it’s fine to lead up to them with a collection of thoughts or musings about related topics. In fact, this installment may act as a modest prologue to my next recollection, at least vaguely.

In summary, in our last episode, I took a second look at three of my previous accounts with a different perspective than before I’d typed them out. I saw that with the benefit of some 7-15 years of hindsight that while my opportunities were few and far between, I did have legitimate ones for potential romance had I been able to live in the moment instead of be crippled by my anxieties and past “tween” experiences. In practice since then, while I’ve always regretted the “Millennium House Party” affair, I’ve since come down a bit hard on myself mentally for my new found awareness of my second date, which was from OkCupid when I was in college. The woman, “Star”, did everything reasonable to convince me that she was at least initially interested in me on a dating website despite the fact that my profile was ungodly negative and depressing, and I didn’t leap at the bait and instead neurotically underwhelmed on the date. I’m prepared to move on and get over being a complete failure with women in high school, when the hormones were fresh and my issues from junior high were still fresh. I had no such excuse by college, in my 20’s. It was my last, best chance of at least having a second date with someone or, heaven forbid, a kiss on the lips had I played my cards differently. I’ve never had any success at online dating since, and I’ve never had such clear indications of attraction by a woman in my entire life, and I was too suspicious to realize it. I was still young, still in college, and it could have helped begin the cycle away from becoming what I am now. I was a social work/psychology major, for heaven’s sake, and I couldn’t figure this out sooner?

I felt at a crossroads in my last post, and with over two weeks to think about it, in the end I merely realized another dimension in my inability to connect to women romantically. My Dateless-Man powers were more potent than I realized. There was a fleeting sense of vigor which has been replaced by a more prolonged realization of despair. If it takes me at least half a decade to see the forest behind the trees, then my love life is more of a lost cause then I thought. I am no longer in my 20’s, or in college, or even have as much free time as I had then. That period of time was my last, best chance to try to make up for lost time, and I squandered my one ember of opportunity. I don’t regret coming to this revelation, or beginning this blog. I think I have gained insight, and the followers and comments here are all supportive. Once you leave college, once you reach and then surpass age 30 without having had any success at dating on any level, you enter a very different category of man. The realm of the serial killer, or the circus freak; the fact that I have a minor deformity on my back likely points me towards the former. I get anxious about removing my shirt in my own apartment unless I am alone or my mother is asleep. I sometimes look online about related topics, but often feel even more isolated. I simply don’t have the intense hatred of women that many older virgin men seem to have in many forums or websites. I know the fault is mine, the blame is mine (or at others who have nothing to do with any women I have encountered).

Maybe a part of the dilemma is branding? I came across an interesting article about Japan. Being a fan of anime, I have some modest interest in their heritage. Apparently according to their latest surveys, roughly 25% of Japanese men (1 in 4) over age 30 are virgins; so many that a new word, “yaramiso”, has been created just for them. Reasons are cited as a bottoming out of the economy which has left many Japanese men in their very chauvinist society feeling weak and emasculated. There are even companies offering nude drawing classes for many of these men. Seeking to “treat” this “condition” with art instead of encouraging them to buy books about how to exploit drunken women, as tends to happen in the states, is interesting. “Yaramiso” sounds like it could be a dish or the name of a superhero, and seems to roll off the tongue better than “virgin” to me.

But with this realization also comes temptations to seek more drastic alternatives. Now, by definition, “temptation” is being tempted towards an action, which isn’t the same as acting upon it. It’s honest to admit to being tempted by something even if you have no intention to follow through on it. Everyone has something which tempts them so. For me, at least in some instances, it is either a legal brothel in Las Vegas, Nevada, or curiosity about “sexual surrogate therapy”. I came across the website of one legal brothel in Vegas called “Sheri’s Ranch” and while I know full well that any business’ official website is an advertisement, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit I gave it some thought. Fortunately, a lack of disposable income (as all this is in the four figure range) prevents me from acting impulsively. But I’d be less than honest if the very idea of attractive women being encouraging and supportive of old hapless virgins like me in a setting where no one is breaking any laws, being forced into performing and is taken care of (as medical exams are a key part of legal prostitution in Vegas) didn’t at least raise my eyebrow (and that’s all). Just to think of it for a moment…“virgins welcome”. Words mean something, such as typing out “the last actual date” in bold text. If there is one thing I can say I never felt around women in terms of romance or lust, it was “welcome”. Of course, then I actually think; brothels are business and of course anyone with a fat wallet is welcome. And while I may be chaste, I am not naive. While I am fully aware that an inexperienced man of my age is in no way appealing to most women of my age range in New York, a man who’s slept with a prostitute (legally or not) is socially considered even worse. Those are reasonable things for most woman to be wary of, as they bare the brunt of most STD’s. Most people would consider that a “worse” secret than being a virgin, even if not as bad as having a criminal record. Then again, if my fate is to live the life of a circus freak, then I may as well embrace it. There’s no point lying to myself about what I am and am not going to achieve.

On the other side of this coin of temptation is “sexual surrogacy”, which is a form of “sex positive therapy” (as a lot of therapy in America still has puritanical values and seems to belittle sexual desire in people or couples). There is a legal gray area with this; supposedly it’s been considered legal (or not illegal) since 2003, but only if connected to a licensed mental health practice. The gist is that it is part of an intensive therapy program (usually running about 3 months or so on average) in which clients are taught to appreciate their own bodies as well as the bodies of others, among other sexual ills. This has gotten some more media attention since the 2012 Helen Hunt movie, “The Sessions”, debuted which chronicled one such sexual surrogate and her work with a client, a poet with polio. There are two such clinics in New York, “Abel 2 Counseling” and “Avalon Counseling Services”, at least according to Google. The former has three absolutely horrid reviews on Yelp, and the latter is a mystery. I haven’t attended therapy sessions of any kind since I was 18, and the therapist I did see for a couple of years as a teen didn’t connect with me. I was nowhere near ready to open up, and she sought to blame all of my problems on my mother (which was a bridge too far for even me, even at my most emotional state). I’ve sound places and people to vent to since, and learning some of the helping arts as a social work major helped. Unfortunately, medical insurances don’t cover this (especially “Obamacare”), so any one of these therapies will cost money out of pocket; usually to the tune of anywhere between $2,000-$6,000 (or more) according to research. If I had that much disposable income, I’d date more! Naturally, the above “legal brothel” in Vegas would cost about the same (at least according to my assumptions), and likely attain the same result.

Now, I am not a complete fool. I am very aware that the act of sex itself is not a commodity (or that it shouldn’t be), that women are not objects, that I am not “owed” anything or anyone, and that the act itself will not cure all of my emotional woes and anxiety. I know that I won’t literally gain a set number of “experience points” and become a “level 1 man” afterward. On the other hand, my status as an older virgin who is clueless in terms of interaction with woman or any sort of body language or signals (even “normal” ones like touching someone’s arm in casual conversation) is clearly an obstacle in my way, and my lack of experience has become a lead weight attached to me. Could the positives outweigh the negatives? Would such an act take some of the edge off, remove some of the mystique about both the act and women themselves for me, and allow me to move on? Or would it just play into my anxieties and fears, and become an expensive habit to risk dabbling with?

The final element of the temptation are the testimonials which are online from both patients of sexual surrogates and/or a few older virgins who went with the prostitution angle. “Sheri’s” naturally has a page full of some for promotional purposes (as virgin cash spends the same as sleazebag cash, apparently). I would be less than honest if having read a few didn’t hit me in the gut a little, with me having some empathy for the writers and feeling some emotion as they describe some of their feelings of relief, elation, and pleasure. I think, wouldn’t it be nice to be held and touched, to be able to be with a woman in a situation where there is no fear of rejection because it’s all business, and no miscommunication? As my own history shows, even on the rare occasions when a woman was giving me “signals” as a teenager or a young college man, I missed them completely due to my own negative feelings, anxiety, and past failures and frustrations. If a woman at a bar or party said to me flat out, “I think you’re hot,” my mind would be buzzing with suspicion, disbelief, bewilderment, and an expectation of a catch somewhere. I would assume the woman was either drunk, high, or was somehow ignorant of what and who I truly was; none of which I would want to exploit. However, if a sexual surrogate or someone at a legal brothel said that, I’d know exactly why. And while it would have less emotional meaning – it’d just be words to get my money – I’ve literally never heard them before from a woman I was into. I can’t say how I would react. It couldn’t be any worse ore to build upon emotionally than my own string of failures have been.

Now, when I say “temptation”, I MEAN “temptation”. I have no intention to utilize either “service”. Were I to somehow come upon the income to do so – such as improbably winning first prize in a lottery – I would use such winnings for no end of far more important things. However, I’ve at least thought about such things, and since this is a venue for me to get out things which I tell no one, here it is. The only money related “shortcut” which I would seriously consider would be paying for extra perks at OkCupid to see the 25+ women who clicked “like” on me over the years. None of them are mutual, of course.

I tire of my secret sometimes. I tire of having to hide it from people I know or don’t know. Continue with it not being mentioned by the few friends who do know, or having to eke past any discussion in terms of relationships that I get caught in since I can offer no opinion or experience. Just for a moment sometimes I’d like to not be the Dateless-Man anymore, and actually succeed with romance. It isn’t so much the act of sex itself, I think it’s the emotions, the attachment. To be blunt, I can achieve my own orgasm by myself inĀ  private, and easily. But the touching, the kissing, the holding, the act of bringing that kind of pleasure to someone as they bring it to me, the interactions, the playful flirting…it all seems like a kind of magic. And just because some romances last longer than others doesn’t negate that. A brief spell and an eternal enchantment are still magic, after all. Due to my own flaws and history I have missed out on the chance to capture some of that spark by any normal or conventional means. I am attempting to accept that and move on, and I believe I am close. These temptations are just the withering gasp of a desperate part of me, of which I hope to be free of. There is more to life, after all.

So I hear.