Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adventures in speed dating

I laughed out loud while watching "Army Wives" tonight.  The subject of speed dating came up, and my experiences with the trend came racing back into my head. 

When I was still in the mood to date and aspiring to have a meaningful romantic relationship, I gave speed dating several tries. It was pretty disappointing at every turn.  I have yet to figure out if the selection was bad, or if I'm just not the speed dating type.  Maybe it's the latter, since I've asserted my desire to be single.  Alas, I learned a lot about myself and about speed dating behavior in the process. 

DO wear something flattering and comfortable.  Girls, you don't have to break out the cleavage, unless you really think that's your best feature.  But try to choose something that looks good on you, even in low lighting, as most events are held in a bar. Guys, please leave the shirt with the offensive saying or pizza stain at home. A hat or cap is ok, if it's your style, but don't even think about putting it on backwards or sideways. You just look like a douche.

DON'T drink three martinis before the event begins.  All of the events I participated in were held at bars, and you were required to show up early to check in.  After that, there was a lot of sitting around and eyeing each person that entered to see if they were speed dating too. A few drinks were certainly in order.  Fortunately, I knew I had a long drive after the event, so I was smart about imbibing.  Not everyone can say that though.  At one event, a girl had come with a few of her friends.  I think it was a "girls night out," and she bragged about how she'd had a bottle of wine before she got there and topped it off with three mixed drinks at the bar.  Needless to say, she was hammered, and it showed.  She was loud, obnoxious and inappropriate.  There were times I could not hear the person sitting across from me because of her yelling and laughter.  It was really unattractive.  But she was a pretty girl, so I'm guessing she got more "yes" answers that night than I did.

DO have a mental, if not physical, list of things to talk about.  After you get out the basics about what you do for a living, where you live and what you like to do in your free time, you might hit a lull in the conversation.  I polled friends for their question suggestions before I went on my first speed dating adventure, and these are the three I took with me -- "What's your favorite sports team?" (that way I'd know how much of a sports fan he was too), "What's your idea of the perfect vacation?" (so I could find out his idea of unwinding) and "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  (this will give me an idea of their ambitions, satisfaction with their current job and maybe even a bit of humor).  Although, even a list like this won't always save you. I was once sitting across from a guy who said he had no hobbies.  As my friend, Caroline would say -- blank stare.  No hobbies?  I asked what he did when he wasn't working.  He said he liked to talk with friends. I asked what they talked about.  He just shrugged.  At least tell me you write Star Wars fanfiction or collect kittens....SOMETHING. Everyone has a hobby, and if you don't, you're boring.

DON'T bring emotional baggage to speed dating.  Naturally, everyone has a dating past (or in my case, just a past of lots of rejection), but that shouldn't be a part of the speed dating conversation.  You only have a few minutes to talk to this person.  Only the most basic and most important topics should be covered here.  It's not important for them to know, at this juncture, that you just got out of a long-term relationship in which your girlfriend cheated on you the entire time.  On the other hand, maybe that is a good thing to bring up because you're clearly not ready for anything serious again.

DO be mindful of another person's personal space.  It can get noisy in these venues, but please resist the urge to climb over the table to better speak to or hear your speed dating partner.  Not everyone likes stranger breath in their face.  Pass notes on the napkin, if you must.

DON'T make fun of an interest of the person sitting across from you.  You might think baseball is the most boring sport ever, but don't counter with "soccer is way more exciting."  Really?  A game that can end in a 0-0 tie is more exciting?  I'm not buying it.  But I didn't say that, even though you tried to tell me football was lame too. 

DO make sure you're not married when you attend.  You might be in the process of separating because you caught her cheating on you, but that does not necessarily mean you're single.  That wedding band should be indication enough.

The most important thing to remember when you go speed dating is just to have fun and leave your expectations at the door.  Don't pin your hopes on finding your perfect match, but also don't expect that every guy in there is a creep who lives in his parents' basement (they're in the minority).  Most of the guys there, in my experience, are just those who have a hard time meeting new girls, whether it's because of work or shyness.  Even if you don't end up with a single date out of these events, they're a great way to meet some new faces and practice small talk skills.  They also make for some fun stories, so plan a post-speed dating date with one of your best friends.  Trust me, after an hour or so of small talk, you'll need to dish.

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