"OMG. Are you serious??"
That was the common reaction from my girlfriends when I told them, a bit sheepishly, that I had signed up for a speed dating event.
"Oh, I know," I would answer "I'm just going because it will make a great story." I would follow this with a statement about how ridiculous speed dating obviously is and how I fundamentally did not believe it was possible to make any kind of connection at such a silly event. Although I'd never been to one, and didn't know anyone who actually had, the whole concept sounded so contrived and artificial, it couldn't possibly result in anything but an awful evening and (hopefully) a hilarious story.
As I walked in and scanned the room, my hopes didn't exactly soar. "This is going to be painful," I texted my friend. Once the event started, the ladies were instructed to have a seat at a table with a number at it, and the gentlemen would rotate every five minutes. As the first gentleman took a seat at my table, the conversation began instantly and I might as well have been casually approached by a guy at a wine bar. The five-minute intervals came and went, punctuated somewhat awkwardly by the whistle, which was alternately received as a surprise or a relief. While I wasn't exactly feeling everyone I was talking to, I wasn't having a bad time. In fact, at moments, it was even fun.
Walking home later, I surprisingly felt like the night was a success. The five-minute nuggets of conversation were perfect. Long enough to determine if you want to go out on a real date with someone, and short enough to exchange standard pleasantries with people you hope to never have to see again. Efficient. There was no awkward exchanging of numbers, worrying if he just got your number to be polite, or wondering how long it will be before he texts. You simply put in a "yes" and "no" online, and you get your matches 24 hours later. When I logged on the next day, both the "gentlemen" I had matched with had emailed me and asked me out on a proper date.
Instantly, I was struck with how different this was from what I was used to -- online dating. I'd tried different sites on and off over the last couple of years, and somehow kept at it despite constant bad experiences. It seems like the thing to do because online dating has become mainstream -- despite being, for the most part, a draining experience. From the countless profiles to the first dates where you want out five minutes in but are stuck until the bill comes. Such a waste of time and energy! That's not what dating was supposed to be!
Speed dating was so refreshing! It was so easy. It was so drama-less. It was so NOT what I expected, and so much of how dating was supposed to be! Ladies sit. Men come to them. Once the mutual interest is established, there seems to be no doubt that its the man's job to reach out -- and there's a lot less anxiety in it for him because he knows I've already said "yes." I have a date this Thursday, and instead of worrying if the guy's going to be a creeper, I'm actually excited about it!
And to think -- I'd almost passed up this opportunity due the pre-conceived notions of speed dating. How many other experiences was I passing up simply because the idea was a little far-fetched, or the public opinion of it unfavorable? Now, speed dating might not work out for everyone -- it might not, in the end, even work out for me. But I had a great time, and I feel a lot less restricted now. Maybe it can't hurt to step outside the comfortable, the commonly accepted and the familiar. After all, what is there to lose? At worst, it'll be a good story.