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.