April Fools #1: Speed dating
Earlier, I read a blog in which the author discussed dating and the various issues that go along with it. I’ve blogged about dating before, not in this blog so much but quite a bit in my other, supersecret blog, which I’ve written in for over 10 years now. Pretty much my entire dating life is recorded there in vivid, gory detail. I don’t have any intention of making that totally public, but there are enough gems in there to fill up decent collection of posts. I’ve been told I should write a book. I’m not so sure about that. At the very least, I’ve been inspired to put together some of my “greatest hits” (or misses, rather) for the month of April. A compendium of April Fools, if you will.
Disclaimer: It’s entirely debatable if the fool in each story is me or the guy(s) I went out with. I’m biased to say it was the guy, but your opinion may differ.
Disclaimer #2: This is edited from a previous post from the aforementioned supersecret blog.
Speed dating taught me that 8 minutes is a very, very long time.
I can figure out that I’m not attracted to someone in 3 seconds flat. Beyond that is just prolonging the misery. And I’d rather not put myself, or anyone else, through that more often than I have to.
A flyer for “8 Minute Dating,” found tacked to the bulletin board in the laundromat I lived above, inspired me to try speed dating. I visited the glossy website; everyone was young and goodlooking and seemed like they were having a lot of fun. What’s 8 minutes? I thought. I’ve suffered through much longer dates and lived to tell the tale. This will be a piece of cake! A bar near me was scheduled to host a “Cupid Party” a few days before Valentine’s Day, and I figured I could start dating season off with a bang. Speaking in the non-sexual figurative sense, of course.
I had originally planned on going alone but found myself losing my nerve, so I recruited the only other single girl in my grad school department to go with me. She thought it sounded like fun and invited another friend to go along. There’s safety in numbers.
On the night of the event, Carrie and I met up after her last class let out. We waited for her friend, Devin, who came with us. We were starving, so even though we had only 20 minutes until we had to be at the bar, we went to a Qdoba down the block and inhaled some burritos. I was nervous that we wouldn’t be able to make it in time, because the emails had all warned, “Be there by 7:00 p.m. at the very latest, or you lose your place!” So even though Devin had suggested walking in fashionably late at 7:10, I was paranoid and hustled us over there by 6:59. Having made it to this point after weeks of waffling, there was no way I was going to lose my money on this thing.
We walked into the bar and stood there awkwardly for a few minutes while Tina, the event organizer, made sure everyone had a card and knew the deal. Each card had a schedule with the tables you were to sit at for each date, along with tips and room for notes. I have to admit I was far from impressed when we came in. There were three guys in the entryway as we waited, and all were quite above the age limit of 35. There were two groups there simultaneously, a 25-35 group and a 36-47 group.
We checked our coats and made a beeline for the bar. The bartender was pretty hot. I was hoping he would be participating, but no such luck. We stood with our drinks for about a half hour while the place filled up, and chatted with one sorta-cute guy with a shaved head. He happened to be with the older group and had a friend who looked like Ted Kennedy, who was also in the older group (obviously). They both lamented the fact that they weren’t in our group.
Finally, Tina made some announcements and we were off to the first assigned tables. I sat down at Table #1, which happened to be right in the front windows. Greaaaaat. Hello world, watch me speed date.
My first date was Mike. I had seen him in the pre-event mingling and thought he was in the older group. If this guy was under 35, I’m the Queen of England. He looked like Ben Kingsley with a skin problem and Buddy Holly glasses. He commented on my tattoos, which were visible because the back of my sweater dipped down enough to see the tops of them. This led to a conversation about Chinese zodiac signs and how he despises gambling (I mentioned that I’d been in Vegas for New Year’s). These and other topics told me that we were far from compatible. I kept thinking, “Shouldn’t Tina be ringing that bell soon? Hasn’t it been 8 minutes already? Ring the bell, Tina, RING THE DAMN BELL!”
It’s amazing how quickly one’s enthusiasm for something completely drains. I was not looking forward to the next seven dates after Mike.
Matchelor #2 was Chris. Chris was more my age. I had also seen him during the pre-event mingling and wondered if it would kill him to dress up a little. He was wearing faded, dirty jeans and a rumpled plaid shirt. He had a goatee and longish hair that went to about his chin. But he was very refreshing after the torturous 8 minutes I’d spent with Mike, and we actually had a pretty good conversation. He told me he had been to two speed dating events before, and the last one was about two weeks ago at the same place. According to him, it had sucked because there were only 3 girls there and about ten guys. Apparently, this sort of thing draws more men than women, which surprised me. I liked Chris, even though I wasn’t sure how much we had in common and I wanted to cut his hair. But I thought he might clean up nice. He worked for Merrill-Lynch as a financial planner and was just getting used to the suit and office culture after 5 years. Maybe having to wear a suit all the time explained why he was so dressed down for the speed dating.
The third contender was James. I was back to Table #1 for this one. But there was a couple who was so enamored of each other that they refused to move, so we sat at another table, giving the passersby an even better view of our awkward 8 minutes. James was also about my age, maybe a year or two younger. He reminded me of Will Forte from Saturday Night Live. He had the same mouth, and I was starting to feel like I was in a bad comedy sketch. James was no ogre, but wouldn’t turn my head if I saw him out; a little too guido for my taste. Gold chains are not my thing.
So we sat down at the table, introduced ourselves, and James launched into this 4-minute diatribe about how he’s applied for a job as an IT project manager and had an interview about two weeks ago and was supposed to get a call back from the guy who basically told him he was hired but he hadn’t heard anything still and maybe he should call HR and blah blah blah…I tuned out. Smile and nod, Mandy, smile and nod. When James took a breath, I managed to ask him what he was doing with his free time until he started working again. From there, the conversation struggled a little bit, so I brought out the default question of the night: “Why did you decide to do speed dating?” James told me he’d been doing this for the last year. Yes. The last year. He went all over the state for it, going to these events with his sister, who was also present that evening. Rather than explore why he couldn’t find a real date at these things, I kept him talking about the merits of speed dating versus online dating. I had started the evening with higher hopes for speed dating, but that fantasy wasn’t coming true. Finally, the bell rang, and we moved on. Not once did he ask me anything about myself.
The fourth date, and the last one before “intermission,” was Chris #2. He sat at a small table on a long leather bench against the wall and I sat opposite him on a matching ottoman. This guy embodied everything I think about when I think of guys in New Jersey. He was definitely on the upper limit of the age range, if he was even in it at all. He told me he was from Staten Island. Big surprise. He asked me if I knew anything about Staten Island. I nodded. He asked me if I’d ever heard of the Staten Island Ferry. Uh, yeah. I may not be from the area originally, but I’m not stupid. Anyway, Chris #2 was an IT guy who worked for Charles Schwab. “Oh, okay,” I said, not really sure what the appropriate response was. He ogled me. “Oh…she likes Charles Schwab,” he said, grinning. Creeeepy.
Chris #2 was leaning so far into the table that I thought he was going to crawl over it at any minute. I perched on my ottoman, legs crossed and angled away, leaning back as far as I could without toppling over. He said something about people wondering if I’m stiff and not outgoing. If you know one thing about me, you know that one thing I’m not is stiff. I wanted to tell him, “I’m not stiff, you’re just making me really uncomfortable.” Eight minutes couldn’t come fast enough. This guy didn’t break eye contact with me except to check out my boobs. The bell dinged, and Chris #2 took my hand. “It was soooo niiiice to meet you, Mandy,” he said. “And your haaands are soooo warm.” I couldn’t help it, I yanked my hand from his and nearly ran to Carrie and Devin at the bar. I needed another drink and possibly a shower.
We broke for intermission, during which James came up and introduced Carrie, Devin, and me to his sister, Jamie. No joke. I guess their parents couldn’t come up with anything else. And they weren’t even twins. Jamie told us about some good bars in the Hoboken area, and was so nice and full of information that I told her she should write a guidebook.
I don’t know how long intermission was, but it was over pretty quickly. Again, there was the great stampede to the tables. I sat down at #3 and up came Rai, who had a “date” with Carrie right before the intermission. Rai had a degree in math from Rutgers and was in IT. Speed dating is big with the computer geeks. He was nice, but we didn’t have anything in common and he wasn’t my type. I can’t remember anything we talked about other than “Lost” and “Law & Order.” OK, I guess we had that in common.
Date #6 was Dan, a guy of undetermined ethnicity with an accent I couldn’t place. When I asked him where he was from, he said Hackensack. Not really what I was going for, but whatever. He was yet another IT guy, and, not surprisingly, we had nothing in common. He said that he attended live cricket matches at 3 or 4 in the morning on a regular basis. I wasn’t sure why they were at that odd hour. Were they broadcast overseas in prime time or something? I didn’t ask.
I scooted along the leather bench just one table down to meet Jason, a skinny blond guy with a goatee who reminded me of Jere Burns, the actor who…has never played any really significant roles, but you’d know him if you saw him. He usually plays sleazy guys. Oh wait, he was the dad in Life Size with Lindsey Lohan and Tyra Banks (Yes, I watched that movie. Shut up.). Jason had a Bluetooth earpiece clipped to his lapel, which was annoying because every so often it would light up, which I assumed meant it was ringing. I wanted to ask him if he’d rather just take the call. He was another leaner, leaning so far into the table that I wished the wall weren’t behind me so I could scoot back. He told me that he owned a tanning salon in Bridgewater. I imagined that he probably had a few peepholes in his office there–he really seemed like the type. Jason totally loved that I studied psychology, saying that he studied it on his own (read: he’d read a lot of self-help books). He said that he used to have anxiety, but cognitive-behavioral therapy changed his life. I think he was under the impression that I could give him free therapy if he dated me (for the record: I can’t).
I was thanking my lucky stars that I was on my last date as I moved to the next table. I sat down across from Joe, who had just finished a date with Carrie. I was secretly happy to sit with Joe, because we’d caught eyes across the room a few times during intermission. He was cute; brown hair, brown eyes. Little on the short side, but I’m short too, so I didn’t care. I introduced myself and Joe asked, “How’s graduate school going?” Carrie had said that I was with her and told him we were both in the same program. We talked about various things; I learned that he was a broker, went to school in Scranton, owned a house in Westfield, and refereed women’s college basketball games. He was the only person who was worthy of asking at least one of my screening questions that I had thought of beforehand. It’s funny, you think about all the clever questions you could ask, like “What’s your favorite thing about yourself?” or “What’s the strangest habit you have?” and you never actually ask them. Before the dating started, Carrie, Devin, and I made fun of the “Conversation Topics” printed on the backs of the cards (which were things such as “Where did you grow up?”, “What kind of work do you do?” and “What do you do for fun?”), but those ended up being the questions that popped out of my mouth 90% of the time. I guess I wasn’t interested enough in anyone to get beyond the basics.
Joe, however–not allergic to cats (my #1 screening question). He also liked a bar I frequented near his house, enjoyed karaoke, and was not a dork, a guido, or an idiot. I forgot to ask him about vegetarianism. So there was still a chance that he didn’t meet the basics, but he held up through 8 minutes, which was a good sign.
Joe and I sat together for a few minutes longer as Tina made some closing announcements and invited us all to stay for drinks afterwards. She also raffled some prizes off. The first one was a book by Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Finding Your Perfect Match, and a dating board game called “Link”. Guess who won that? Yup. I was a bit embarrassed and a lot peeved that she had announced my full name to the entire crowd. The rules during the dating were that you couldn’t reveal your last name or give contact information. And now the whole room knew just enough information about me to Google me and possibly stalk me using the results. Fantastic.
As soon as Tina finished, Joe had his coat on and was out the door with barely a goodbye. Guess he wasn’t going to stick around for the post-event mingling. I talked to Chris #1, who had won another $50 gift certificate for the bar (he’d won one at the last speed dating he’d gone to), and we talked about eBay before I had to excuse myself to visit the bathroom. I saw Devin in there and we dished about all the guys we were matched with before Carrie came in to powwow as well. After that, we decided to leave in favor of the Harvest Moon, a favorite bar of ours a block away.
At the ‘Moon we got beer and compared notes. I planned to list Joe as a match and possibly Chris, but Carrie and Devin found no matches. Devin noticed a cute guy sitting by himself at the bar, so we started talking to him. His name was Sean and he was new to the area. A good Irish boy, he resembled Ted on “How I Met Your Mother.” Bonus: he also had a good personality. We told him about speed dating and how our misery was his lucky day, getting picked up by three girls at once. We all left at about 11:30 and exchanged numbers. That was a tad awkward, all three of us giving Sean our numbers, but after speed dating it barely measured up on the Awkward Meter.
The question that everyone always asks after this story is, did I get my $35 worth? Well, sorta. Stay tuned, because out of the three guys I was interested in from that night (Chris #1, Joe, and Sean), I never heard from one, went out on a semi-disastrous first date with another, and wound up dating another for exactly 6 weeks.
The other question always is, would I do speed dating again? Absolutely not. Eight minutes is a very, very long time.