So, I went speed dating a couple of weeks ago. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have any huge expectations from it; I was going more as a social experiment. I didn’t think I was going to find “The ONE” (though the testimonials all over the website tried to tell me otherwise) I wasn’t even really going to find a date, I was going for the overall experience. I’m somewhere on the introverted spectrum, and though I jokingly like to blame it on my years of home-schooling and conservative up-bringing, the truth is that I’m just wired that way. I do ok for myself in social situations, I’ve lived through years of networking events, and I’ve been able to put on my extroverted mask and make small talk with the best of them… But I’m always looking for ways to push myself out of my social comfort zone. Speed dating seemed like a somewhat entertaining way to put myself out there. I had a number of quirky and off the wall questions formulating in the back of my brain, and felt confident that in five minutes time I could leave a fun and authentic first impression.
Though I understand that dating is mostly a solo undertaking, I would highly recommend using the buddy system when it comes to speed dating. You need a buffer to have a drink with before everything gets started, and someone to debrief with after the night is over. You also need someone to exchange meaningful glances with across the room when things have gone terribly awry… though come to think of it, my best friend and I never made eye contact, because I’m pretty sure we would have lost it. Also, we did not coordinate our outfits, but we both wore red Pea coats, so in retrospect it was pretty hilarious us walking into speed dating together in our matching uniforms.
You know that David after the Dentist video that went viral, and he is sitting in his car and the anesthesia hasn’t worn off yet and he asks “Is this real life?” That is exactly how I felt walking into the bar where speed dating was taking place. Firstly, it was at a 90’s bar… (yes, they exists) and we were handed our programs for the evening that look exactly like weekly church bulletins. We were ushered behind this ominous black curtain over to the Speed Dating section of bar, and are left to our own devices to mingle and get our bearings before the “event” started in ten minutes. Thankfully, it was happy hour, because after taking one look around the room it was pretty obvious that drinking was a necessary part of this activity.
Though I was trying to keep an open mind about what types of fella’s might be at a speed dating event for 23-37 year olds on a Saturday evening at a 90’s bar, I will say that upon surveying the men, it was EXACTLY what I expected. I know I know, keep an open mind, don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t be a bitch… but really “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” was the thing that kept popping back into my head. It was a room full of IT types, Engineers etc. Thankfully I didn’t see any pocket protectors, but maybe I wasn’t looking close enough. Oh well, I had my list of fun questions, I had my confidence, and I had a pretty decent $3 cocktail.
So the thing gets started and they make us do a little gather round in the corner of the bar, and our cruise director for the evening gives us some guidelines. Mostly, don’t come into these things expecting to find your soul mate, have fun, and men, don’t linger after the bell rings because you will just ruin it for everyone. Simple enough. We were each assigned a number, women stay seated at their designated spot while the men get up and rotate every 5 minutes. You have 30 seconds between each bell to jot down a few notes in your program, and circle yes or no, and you are onto the next person. Our event was FULL, but the people running the event apparently have this thing down to a science, and they realized that if we had to meet everyone our heads would literally explode or we would leave with a glazed over zombie look in our eyes, so they capped us at 18 dates. (Yeah, like our heads weren’t exploding after 18…) The bell rings, we head to our assigned seats, and the mayhem begins.
Well sort of. The mayhem begins for everyone else, and as the chit chat starts to flair up around me as everyone is delving into their awkward first encounter, I’m left at a table by myself. Um hello? I thought this event was full? Where is my person? Oh my god, my first date isn’t even going to show up… chit chat chit chat… WTF? Finally I see a guy lurking in the corner on his cell phone, and realize that my first “date” is going to spend the first 2 minutes of our 5 minute date chatting to someone else on the phone. Not that first impressions really matter when you only have 5 minutes, right? (Is this real life?) So finally he comes over, introduces himself as Zack, and gives me the weakest most flaccid handshake of all time. So now we are at minute 3 and we haven’t even said real words to each other yet, and I’m slightly annoyed and also weirded out. You can’t get off your phone and my dog gives a better hand shake than you… is this setting the tone for the rest of the evening? (keep an open mind, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, don’t be a bitch… but…) We exchanged the typical “What do you do? What did you study?” questions, we talked a little bit about traveling, but when he started to ramble on about how he just got back from Dubai, and how he pretty much hated it because when he went shopping he thought they would have some familiar chain stores, but they didn’t, and everything was pretty weird and pretty boring.
At this point in the evening, I realized that I was going to have to dig deep and try to find a semblance of a poker face, because this was only date one, I had only had half of a cocktail, and there were 17 more of these to go. Game on.
This is where things really started to get interesting, because at this point, now all the men were coming directly from table 6, (my best friend) to me, so I caught them in the awkward note taking moment. And though mostly I was scribbling my own notes like “worst handshake of all time, thinks Dubai is boring” I would occasionally get a 2 second preview of what each man thought of my friend… and while we certainly don’t really have the same taste in men I had several moments of like “well if you don’t like her, you are certainly not going to get along with me!”
Date number 2 was named Abdullah. He was 22 years old, from Saudi Arabia, was interested in banking, and thought that Portland was the greatest city ever. He also had a very weak handshake, and I quickly realized that I was going to have to start taking better notes, because “flaccid handshake” was clearly not going to be a stand out adjective for the men in this room. Le Sigh.
Next up was Sergio (the first of two Sergio’s on the program) Who came over to my table introduced himself as “Serg” and greeted me with yet another limp fish handshake. For reals, shaking hands shouldn’t be this uncomfortable… At this point I was actually starting to wonder if this was some sort of the speed dating secret hand shake and I just didn’t get the memo, but then I actually focus in on “Serg” and I realize that he is wearing a leather trench coat, has a very long pony tail. Ok… So I start to listen as he tells me that he is 23, LOVES living with his roommates, recently became a massage therapist, and enjoys making chainmaille jewelry on the side. He then asks me if I live alone or with roommates, or with my family, and I’m thinking that it is a terribly creepy question to ask at speed dating, so I casually mention my roommate “Toby” and then he starts in again about just how much he loves living with his roomates. Then, he asks me when my birthday is because he is “VERY into Astrology” In that moment all I could think was how thankful I was that I decided not to wear my Gemini necklace, and then I really had to focus on channeling that poker face… because IS THIS REAL LIFE?
The next few dates were not very memorable. All the men seemed kinda boring, pretty awkward, and no one really stood out. As the evening went on I begin to realize that these are not the type of men who are going to do well with quirky off the wall questions. I know this, because every last of the gentlemen that I met asked me some variation of the same three questions, 1) have you ever been speed dating before? 2) what do you do, 3) how long have you lived in the area…. As if any of these 3 things could tell you anything about my personality, as if any of these 3 things would leave a lasting impression. Though I’m sure some of the men probably jotted down “yoga teacher” in their notes, I was totally baffled by the fact that every guy on every date took the time to ask if I had ever been speed dating before. I mean I guess it is an icebreaker question, sort of… but honestly, you’ve got 5 minutes, and that is the one thing that you absolutely have to know about me? Clearly this was not going to be 2.5 hours of quick wit.
By this time, my drink is gone, I’ve received 8 flaccid handshakes in a row, and I amVERY ready for intermission. Date number 9 comes over, and emphatically circles NO for table #6. Well ok then, my bestie clearly left an impression… He sits down, and immediately he starts talking about how he started out as an English Professor but then he realized that he couldn’t make any money whatsoever being an English professor, so he went into the private sector to be a technical writer. Blah blah blah blah blah. He droned on and on and on about how he could never make any money teaching English and how much he hated it, and not once did he ask me what I did for a living or what I studied in school. (ahem, poetry major) At this point, I know the poker face came off, I know my eyes glazed over, I know there was a little vein in my neck that started popping out a little bit. I’m sorry… but does anyone major in English because they are planning to graduate and make millions of dollars? Last time I checked, you majored in English because you were passionate about I, because you knew that writing was going to be a valuable skill no matter what career you ended up with, because you had an absolute love of literature. I mean sure, I guess if you went on to Law School after undergrad, or if you wrote some earth shattering book or had dreams of actually writing you might at some point think that you are going to be rich and famous… but if you are getting your PHD in English with the intent of becoming a professor, one can only hope that you aren’t doing so because you are planning on making a shit ton of money. And if you are… well… lets maybe do a reality check dude. I really wanted to smack him on the forehead, and ask why he majored in English in the first place if he was obsessed with making a quick buck, and I considered telling him to stop being a condescending jack ass, but since we hadn’t talked about my degree in Poetry, I figured it might be a little overkill. Do not engage, its not worth it, this too shall pass. Our cruise director came around and reminded everyone that intermission was moments away, thank you Baby Jesus, because I had had more than my fill of Marshall the Technical Writer.
The bell rings, and I let out a huge sigh of relief, and start to plan my escape to the bar and to the restroom. Ten seconds go by and as I’m fishing for my wallet, Marshall rears his incredibly boring head, and says “well I guess I don’t have to leave!” and joyfully sits back down at my table. On the bright side, I must have been hiding my distain better than I thought, but on the not so bright side Marshall was back with no intention of leaving. I then quickly weighed my options, I couldn’t excused myself to the restroom, but also it was only half time, and if I was going to sit through 9 more dates, another cocktail wasn’t exactly optional. So I excused myself to the bar, but he decided to tag along… Somehow my 5 minute date with Marshall had extended into 12, and I was already emphatically circling NO in my mind, he attempted to order me a drink without even asking what I wanted, then told me there was no way I was going to get served at the bar ( “Oh trust me Marshall, I’m not leaving without a drink.”) and then he tried to slyly slip me his business card as he was fishing around for his wallet. He then blatantly asked me how old I was, and nearly spit out his drink when I told him I was 29. “Oh! That’s great, you look like you are 23!” Ok, I imagine there will be a time in my not so distant future that I will be wishing people told me that I looked younger than am, or great for my age… But that time is not now. I don’t want to be mistaken for a 23 year old! I have nothing against 23 year olds… I used to be one… and I know some great ones… But also, 23 was a long time ago, a lifetime ago in terms of knowing what I wanted and who I am, in terms of priorities and careers… I have come a very long way since 23… and at this point in my life, I’d rather not be mistaken for a 23 year old… And the way in which he said it was not in the “oh you look great for your age” kind of way, but in the “oh you look like you just graduated from college and are really green an immature” kind of way. I mean sure, he was happy that I was older than I “looked” but the condescension in his tone… Ok Marshall, pretty sure it’s time for you to take your PHD and hop along.
Sitting back at table 7, I was a little disheartened to think that we were only half way through… and I never got to pee… and why do you want to know if I’ve been speed dating before? I don’t really remember the conversation with date #10… I do remember that he was wearing the largest, fuzziest sweater I’ve ever seen. And my only notes on him are “No. Sweater, Sweater, Sweater.”
Next up was the man from Nigeria. He had a very thick accent, and upon sitting down he repeatedly asked me how I got my “Tiths” so white. I was a little taken aback, because the first two times he said it, I could have sworn he was asking me something about my Tits, but once I figured out he was asking me about my teeth I still didn’t really know what to say. This did not seem like to moment to try to explain oil pulling, and why were we even talking about oral hygiene in the first place? He then told me that I had one and a half dimples, and then asked if I wanted to know which one was the full one and which one was the half… I don’t remember which is which.
In retrospect, maybe we were talking about something random like teeth because on his date with my friend, she tried to set him up for an informational interview with Abdullah, because apparently this gentleman was in banking, and she felt bad for Abdullah because he had no real experience and she thought the two of them should connect. Yes, this IS real life.
Next up was a totally nice guy from Montana, and we mostly hit it off, but he tried to impress me by telling me he was a chef… and already I am skeptical… Ok, so you are a chef, and yet somehow you have time to go speed dating on a Saturday night? And granted, I might be just a little tiny bit jaded from my past experiences dating people in the culinary world, but he was very elusive about where he and though he didn’t disclose it on our date, he told my friend that he had a 4 year old. And kids don’t bother me, granted, I don’t want to birth one, but dating a guy with kids doesn’t freak me out… but I’ve already dated a chef with kids… And I’m looking for a different life experience. So, next.
There was the guy who said “Right on” after everything I said, the guy who came to speed dating all the time for “fun”, The psychologist with the dog, there was the man who was my only note was “gay?” And a man from India, who was even more overwhelmed than I was. I felt so bad for him as he came over to my table and sat down with this defeated look in his eye. He wouldn’t really make eye contact, and tried for a few minutes to form a question… but he just kept making statements about how overwhelming the whole experience was. One man made a comment that my ring looked like a shield… I was thinking “hopefully it protects me from this experience.” Finally towards the end of the evening, I started to pull out my off the wall questions, just to change things up, just to make things interesting. And just as expected, none of them men really knew what to do with them… you wouldn’t think that “Yankees or Red Sox?” would be a panic inducing question, but you could see the fear “oh shit, she is asking me about sports… how do I answer this?” Clearly asking them what their walk-on song was, wasn’t really going to be an option, and none of them had ever even heard of Wes Anderson… One man mumbled the entire time, and I honestly have no idea what he said at all. I couldn’t tell if it was a tactic to get me to lean in, or if he was just not articulating.
I accidentally missed my last date… sort of. We were like 2.5 hours in, (and trying to do the math it shouldn’t have lasted that long! And yet, it was almost 10PM!) and I made an executive decision that going to the restroom was going to be more productive than one more five minute date. Mumbling man got up from the table, and I totally bolted. Do not look back, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go directly to the restroom and try not to think about the last 2.5 hours. When I came back, there was no one at my table, and I relished a moment of quiet before a man came wandering over and said “oh sorry, I decided to go use the bathroom.” Whatever, he saw that I wasn’t at my table and then made that decision. We chatted for a moment, but apparently the bell rang before both of us got back, because looking around us the staff was starting to pick up chairs and people were still sort of chatting but it was mostly breaking up. “Ok, nice to meet you!”
My friend was chatting with the woman sitting next to her at the bar, and we all looked at each other and just shook our heads. “Well… That was a thing we just did.” IS THIS REAL LIFE?
I did end up having 1 match from the evening. And we went on one date… which is another blog post all together. My friend and I actually had the same “maybe” and we both debated for a few days if we should match him, or just cut our losses. We secretly thought it would be hilarious if we just went out on a triple date or if we had back to back dates at the same place… neither of which happened… Overall, I’m glad that I went, but I don’t think I’ll be going on any more speed dating adventures in the near future. I went I saw, I wrote… and afterwards all I could think about was this hand-written card that my grandmother sent me when I was a Freshman in college “Look out for all the jerks and weirdos out there.” Indeed, grandma. Indeed.