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People were urging me to join JDate. So I did. For seven minutes. What turned me off online dating in those seven minutes was not the caliber of the candidates, nor was it a personal belief that I was not yet desperate enough to go that route. Instead it was my laziness toward making a member profile. I really didn’t feel like listing the qualities I look for in a man. I’d rather be reading the “Real Estate” section of the Sunday Times. Not interested in rejoining JDate, or any other online dating service for that matter, I researched another option: Speed Dating.
The organized structure of speed dating is so awkward that, as it turns out, it isn’t awkward at all. Women sit at two-person tables and men play musical chairs, moving from table to table every four minutes. There is no fluidity, no sashaying up behind a prospective romantic interest with a pick-up line or a drink offering. Speed dating is methodical. You have a number, a nametag, and a paper for checking yes or no. Of course the decision making must be done as discreetly as possible, because the person being scored need only move his or her beer mug to see into which column the slash falls.
Matches are made online after the event ends. Each participant checks off the names of the dates with whom he or she believes a connection was made, and if there is match, the speed dating company releases each participant’s email address to the other. Then it’s up to the daters to pursue this “match,” or write off the experience as just another Wednesday night.
In my opinion, speed dating is rather cost effective. When a $30 event promises 15 dates, that’s only $2 a date. I’d say that’s a pretty cheap date. Cheaper, anyway, than the dinner my friend was invited to where her date ordered bone marrow and caviar, (two dishes my friend makes it a point to avoid) and then was displeased she didn’t offer up her credit card.
In preparation for the event, I explored the dating company’s website for tips for the first time speed dater. New York EasyDates suggests daters come prepared with several fallback conversation topics to use if things get awkward. According to the site, the weather is always a great topic. The “Guide to Speed Dating” also gives appearance-related tips: “Hair that is too long, glittered or not clean is also not a good thing.” Have they had problems with glittery-haired individuals being rejected indiscriminately in the past? I have to wonder how common this “glittered” hair is. On second thought, I myself fell victim to this look circa 1999 after insisting my hairdresser give me gold highlights. I wanted hair the color of winners.
The theme of my event was Single Professionals: vague, but one of the few categories for which I qualified. There are a surprising number of events reserved for Tall Individuals. I also had to scroll through the Cougar events as well as those designed for Ivy leaguers and singles with advanced degrees.
My date with “Eli” started painfully. I described myself as a freelance food writer. He responded: “You should do me!” We were off to a great start. Eli should have stuck to weather. Instead he launched into discussing the weight loss that followed his most recent relationship. He also slipped me his business card and invited me to be his lunch date the next day for restaurant week. It’s amusing to me that with just four minutes to find a connection with someone, either romantic or platonic, one would choose to discuss a failed relationship and a struggle with weight.
Apparently I was not the only person with whom Eli felt a connection. I attended the event with a close friend who was seated two tables from me, and after getting “Hello my name is…” out of the way, Eli declared to my friend, “You are the girl of my dreams! Where do I go from here?” She directed him to table 12.
My conversation with “Scott” turned into networking. He took pity on me after I made several comments about the difficult job market, and offered to send my resume to the human resources department of his advertising agency.
No pursuable matches were made, but I went on fifteen dates, had a few drinks, and confirmed my belief that there are some subjects better left to a fourth date. At least.
Next time I’m going to pretend to be a firefighter.