Dateless-Man vs. Speed Dating II: The Wrath of Comic-Con!

Despite that title, I’m not actually a Trekkie. Just related to one.

At any rate, before Halloween creeps up on us and fall begins, it’s time to blog about an event I’ve promised since the start of September. After a six year lapse in doing anything involving dating besides monthly (or bi-monthly) checks ups on my neglected OkCupid profile, I finally decided to do something a bit impulsive. I agreed to go to a speed dating event which was held during this year’s “New York Comic Con” roughly three weeks ago. While speed dating may not be the most ideal setting for shy, anxious people, it’s an activity I have some experience with – I went to three speed dating shindigs back in 2009. This event was held by a different company and naturally at a different venue. Rather than a bar in Manhattan attracting plenty of “normal” people, it was held at the biggest comic convention on the east coast where everyone was assured to be some type of geek. I’ve never had any success at speed dating (or slow dating, or any dating, ever), but I regretted not trying it out at previous cons and I figured some of the odds were in my favor in terms of shared interests.

Things are different than they were six years ago. The success of comic book movies and TV shows have made comics more mainstream than they were back then. I also have had four years experience at a job which literally forces me to talk to over 200 people a day, every day, five days a week. My grandmother’s since died and I’ve gone through four years of turmoil and struggle with my sick mother, our slum of an apartment, and other struggles. I have insisted for many installments that trying to date again after being years behind the curve is useless because I’m the same person fundamentally as I was in high school, college or in my late 20’s. At the core this is true, and many of my insecurities remain. But at this event I did notice that some things had changed within myself, at least for an hour or two.

The event was organized by “NY Minute Dating” (NYMD), which offers parties and events for little more than $25 elsewhere. They held speed dating events on all three days of the con, but I chose to go on Friday, October 9th, with the theory that if I hit it off with anyone, we could hang out at the con the second day (or at the very least, I didn’t have to get up early for work the next day). I registered in advance and arrived a little less than half an hour early. While plenty of people were in “cosplay”, I wasn’t. I was clad in my usual studded leather jacket, jeans, and a geeky t-shirt (in this case, centered around Ninja Turtles).

Some things were different between this speed dating event and the ones I went to in ’09, and others were the same. The similarity involved the women being stationary, seated at tables and assigned number cards; it is the men who visit each one for 3 minute intervals before “rotating” to the next one (at the sound of a bell). Everyone is given a sheet to jot down the first names of the people you chat with and like for matching purposes later. The biggest difference were the demographics. In the more mainstream set events from 2009, the women typical outnumbered the men; in fact, discounts were often granted to men to get them to sign up in greater numbers. At comic-con, it was the exact opposite. Between women who registered in advance (which was the preferred method) and ones who showed up on the spot, NYMD was barely able to fill a room with 30 women for longer than a couple of minutes. The male spots, however, filled up quick and there was a line of them waiting outside for any vacancies which stretched for several yards. I expected this, which was one of the reasons why I arrived early.

I was a bundle of nerves as we were preparing for the event, with all of the men lined up on one side of the room before everyone was assigned their first “positions” seated with the women. I chatted with some of the dudes alongside me about this and that. Having done speed dating before, I came off as experienced. However, despite this being a “geek” venue, there were a variety of different guys. One (who was cosplaying as some ninja type character) was quite athletic, energetic, and traditionally handsome. A younger one (cosplaying as Marty McFly) was a physics student, and we talked a little. Not long after I also shared some words with another fellow who fretted about “creeping out the girls” and had a bit of an overbite. Despite preferring women with similar interests, I was under no illusion that this would somehow make them more tolerant of certain things than women who weren’t into geeky things. The proof of this seemed to be at least 5-6 women flat out leaving the event before it started once they got a first glance at the line up of the men available. I once heard a saying about trying to date at a con; men have no chance, and women can take their pick. This left almost two dozen ladies left to have speed dates with. At least a third were cosplaying, and I managed to recognize most of the characters they were dressed as.

One of the first things I noticed was how young most of the crowd was. The sign up site said that the event was for people aged 21-35, but I noticed a grand total of one person who I thought was older than me (and barely more who were my age). Nobody checked ID’s at the door so it is very possible to have lied about age and gotten in without being 21. A gentleman doesn’t ask a lady’s age and it wasn’t a question which came up with every date, but it was very common for most of the people present to still be undergrads in college. At least half of the women I talked to couldn’t have been more than a day or two over 21. While I am willing to date younger women, they were a bit younger than I usually prefer, and at times the age gap seemed obvious. I used t-shirts and/or cosplay as an icebreaker topic and once I mentioned things such as being a fan of the original Ninja Turtles cartoon from 1987 – before some of these women were even born – I felt a little bit like Dorian Gray or Dracula (only without the charm or wealth). A slight majority of the women there were white, but there was also many women of color there as well; mostly of Asian or Middle Eastern heritage. Such things don’t matter to me; I’m not someone who avoids women of color nor has a fetish for them as some men may.

I started out a bit nervous, and it is possible the first lady I spoke with helped me fight through a lot of that. A Latina in her 20’s, she had dark hair and was not only very assertive and seemed to be proud of it, she also worked as a mortician as well as an avid kick-boxer. I got the feeling she may have killed me if we were on an actual date. Everyone else seemed far easier to talk to in comparison afterward, and I had roughly 21 speed dates in total – which makes it a perfect blackjack. I easily had the best conversations with two women who were likely friends because they were both cosplaying as gender bent versions of Blue Beetle & Booster Gold – a classic buddy team from DC Comics. It was mostly just 3 minutes of talking about comics and other nerdy subjects. I also had a fun conversation with a woman dressed as Frodo from “Lord of the Rings”. I must say that while there were only one or two out of that 21 who I could say I had no attraction to physically, there were others were there seemed to be little chemistry with, and that 3 minutes felt like an hour. The DJ who kept music flowing and rang the cheap cowbell to mark the time was trying to keep the atmosphere loose, even though he seemed to be trying too hard to be funny.

What surprised me about my own performance was the ease with which I seemed to talk. After initial nervousness, I was in a zone. Sure, I did have a bit of a canned opener and I did have to watch myself to avoid talking too much. But I would work with what I got, try to find common ground. I seemed to have more of a sense of when I thought things weren’t clicking with some women. I think I came off sounding far more confident and fun than I usually am, even if I also likely came off a bit old as well. I proved to be quite a chatterbox, even willing to poke fun at myself (when one attempt at my opener felt awkward, I owned it by saying, “Sorry, it’s just my icebreaker, let’s carry on” or words to that effect). Considering I was hardly the tallest or most handsome guy in the room, I honestly don’t think I could done any better, and I rarely feel like that about anything – especially things involving women. I took the best shot I had. Perhaps my day job caused me to rely somewhat on an opener which felt scripted, since that is what I am used to. It did help, as well as the fact that I was more in my element with fellow geeks talking more about hobbies than with more straight laced types. Still, most of the women there were talking about college and just graduating, which once again put the onus on age.

Once the event was over, one was supposed to log into the company’s website the next day and click on all the names of the people you liked. If they also liked you, emails would be exchanged. So out of 21 people, there were roughly 9 that I felt enough of a connection happened that I would be willing to go on a full date with. That’s almost half, which I think means that my taste is flexible. I mean, why would I want to continue contact with someone who I didn’t click with for even the 3 minutes? I’d rather not use anyone. Everyone had up to 5 days to send in their clicks and then allow the NYMD wizards to work their magic.

I wound up with exactly zero matches. Despite the hi tech change – previous speed dating events with another company would use physical sheets instead of website clicks – my result was the same as before. There are harder ways to be rejected by 9 women within two hours, but in the end it turned out like it always did. At least since 2009, I can technically claim to have been rejected by at least 40 women at these events. Nobody can say I never tried.

I’m of mixed feelings about this. During the event itself I was enough in a zone where I thought I could actually try real dating again, at least online, if I had more heart to give it a genuine, honest try. Speed dating is a bit of a shortcut and it’s a shortcut which doesn’t seem to be working. The question is whether I have it in me to give genuine dating a try again considering how far behind the ball I am. Not even women at comic con wanted more than 3 minutes with me. What chance do I have with women outside of my element? Why should I expect any different result now?

Happy Halloween, everyone! I am sure I will have another post or so in me in the future, I’m just not sure what it will be yet.