C’mon, I know you wanna try it…Speed Dating 101

Everyone has guilty pleasures. One of mine is filling my head with useless celebrity trivia. I don’t know what strange psychological imbalance creates this desire in me, but since it’s legal and doesn’t involve methadone it doesn’t seem all that bad.

On the way home from getting my hair cut yesterday I stopped over at my parents’ house, thrilled to see a new issue of People sitting on the counter. I began flipping through the pages, but stopped midway through, muttering under my breath. Inside the magazine there seemed to be nothing but story after story of new romances. It would appear that every celeb who has been separated or divorced for one nanosecond is off and running with their next true love within weeks – if not days – of the split. These people could be total nutjobs for all we know, yet they find beautiful mates right away with nary the blink of a false eyelash. This week’s case studies: “Reese & Jake – Surprising New Couple” and “Kate & Owen – The Romance Heats Up.” Apparently even Heather Locklear finalized her divorce from Richie Sambora. I’ll go out on a limb here and say she hasn’t spent any nights in the last year wallowing in loneliness.

I don’t fault the celebs; they can’t help it if they have people to call other people’s people to arrange dates. I don’t think it is healthy for anyone, celeb or not, to run right out and hook up after a life changing event like divorce. But when you are ready to give dating a whirl again, it’s a little tougher to meet people if you’re not famous…and especially if you’re closing in on 40, have kids, work in a predominantly coupled-up workplace, etc. The ways to meet new people under those conditions are few, which is why I was ready to venture into the realm of speed dating again.

I tried it twice before, three years ago to be exact. I rather enjoyed these experiences – not because they resulted in any great loves, or even many dates, but because they were kinda fun, funny, and slightly daring on my part. (A year later when I began to write creatively, I also realized it gave me good material.)

I was planning to attend an event next week, but I received notice about 15 minutes ago that it has been rescheduled due to a scheduling conflict at the venue. I can’t attend on the new date because Drama Girl has an art show at her school and another activity she loves on that same night. No question about missing those. It kind of bums me out because opportunities that work with my non-celebrity juggling schedule are few and far between, but c’est la vie.

Two of my married friends have asked on separate occasions if they could go to a speed dating event with me because it sounded so fascinating. I suppose this would be like going on a safari to gawk at odd animals in the wild, although they didn’t come right out and say that. I explained that married people attending speed dating events for single people is not considered to be part of today’s GADP, Generally Accepted Dating Practices, which is not to be confused with GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. (Note that while GAAP has been enhanced by the implementation of SOx, it is not always the case that GADP is enhanced by implementation of SEx.)

I digress.

Since you may be married or too squeamish to try speed dating yourself, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into what it’s like. I will also post a separate (shorter) review of my other speed dates, and, in the event I go to one in the near future, any new reports.

How does speed dating work?

I’ve only done this through one organizer, but they all generally work the same. Each participant gets a name tag printed with his/her first name and a number on it. Each woman sits at the same designated table throughout the event. When the event starts, the guy sits down at his first assigned table and the first date begins. You’ll talk to each other for anywhere from 5-10 minutes; the events I’ve attended have been 6 minute “dates.” When the time’s up, both participants fill in the other person’s number (from the name tag) on a little card, and circle “yes” or “no” on the same line. This indicates whether you’d like to meet that person again. After each date, the guy goes to the next table and the fun continues.

What happens with the “yes” and “no” responses?

After the event, the organizer reviews the responses and matches up people who are interested in meeting/connecting again. That is, if both of you said “yes” to each other, the organizer will send both of you the contact info you provided. Then, it’s up to you if you want to contact each other further. If one or both of you said “no,” neither of you gets anything about the person. It take two to tango…

What if no one matched with me?

You’ll get some feel-good message to reassure you about your self-worth, plus maybe a chance to try another future event for free. Win some, lose some. Believe me, it’s easier to be rejected by an email than in person.

How many people can you meet at one event?

It varies, but I would say it is reasonable to meet around 10 potential dates, maybe more if it was a popular event. (Note: big cities and certain age groups may get a bigger draw.)

What can you talk about in 6 minutes?

Not a lot, maybe “have you done this before?”/”what do you do?”/”what do you like to do for fun?” – that kind of innocuous stuff. You can get some strange questions, though. For example, since my background is in financial services I’ve been asked how to invest a 401(k) or how mutual funds work. Not good questions to ask on this kind of date. Or maybe ever.

Is 6 minutes long enough?

Yeah, I believe you can assess whether you’d want to talk to or see this person again. You’re not evaluating whether you’ll marry him (or her), just whether you could stomach a few hours with the person. And, trust me, 6 minutes can be really, really long, too.

What if you know right away you’d rather stay home and clean the toilet than spend an evening with this person?

You smile and ask questions, just like you would for anyone else. Susan’s motto: suck it up, be respectful and be kind. I’m not suggesting you flirt excessively or offer up juicy details of your life, but everyone took a chance by being at the event and putting themselves out there. Even the guy who makes your toilet look desirable.

This seems a little cutthroat and based too much on first impressions.

Speed dating may not work for everyone, but, again, I believe you will know in this amount of time whether you would want to spend more time getting to know this person. Nothing beats an in-person meeting to make that call, in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I’m more sure of what I want and need…and of myself. I also have less time. I’m learning to trust my gut instincts, and speed dating is an efficient way to weed out the mo-mos. Go ahead, call me ruthless.

Why, oh, why, Susan, would you do this to yourself?

Up until late February I had been on a dating hiatus of nearly a year. Since February it just so happens I’ve had two dates with two different guys, met in two different ways. Both seemed good “on paper” but didn’t click in person. Signing up for the now-on hold speed dating event may have been one of those “it seemed like a good idea at the time” flashes of insanity I’ve been known to have from time to time. However, as a friend once said, I’m “careful of the risks, but not afraid to take a chance.”

Other questions? If I tell you I’m going to one of these things will I find you hiding behind a potted plant spying on me – maybe wearing a safari hat?

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