JERRY: I still can't believe, you're going out on a blind date.
ELAINE: I'm not worried. It sounds like he's really good looking.
JERRY: You're going by sound? What are we? Whales?
ELAINE: I think I can tell.
JERRY: Elaine, what percentage of people would you say are good looking?
ELAINE: Twenty-five percent.
JERRY: Twenty-five percent, you say? No way! It's like 4 to 6 percent. It's a twenty to one shot.
ELAINE: You're way off.
JERRY: Way off? Have you been to the motor vehicle bureau? It's like a leper colony down there.
ELAINE: So what you are saying is that 90 to 95 percent of the population is undateable?
ELAINE: Then how are all these people getting together?
From the Seinfeld episode "The Wink."
Let's face it folks: if you are a twenty- or thirty-something in Lexington and are not in a relationship, it can be tough out there. Most of the people your age are married or engaged, while you are most likely working long hours (pretty much limiting your opportunities to meet someone to the weekends), and if you do not have some friends or co-workers who are constantly trying to set you up, you've got an uphill battle.
A brief bit about myself: I am a 27-year-old male, a non-smoker, single, and an attorney. I am apparently one of the few men my age who has never: (1) been married, (2) been engaged, or (3) fathered a child. Many consider the late 20s to be a man's optimum age for dating; not too old to date women in their early 20s, and not too young to date a woman in her early to mid-30s. Although it seems like the percentages are supposedly in my favor, at the time I volunteered to try "Speed Dating" (or "Express-o Dating," as Joseph-Beth calls it), I had not been out on a date in almost two months. I'd like to think that this is largely because I have been out-of-town for at least half of the weekends during that span, but of course, that might be blind optimism.
You might be asking yourself: Why is a young professional with no "baggage" of note having such a rough time out there? Well, once you get out of college, meeting women becomes a little more complicated. For one, most of the women you meet after college, or at least when you enter the workforce, seem to be in relationships, so there are fewer fish in the sea. Also, now you have a job, and so do your guy friends. So you spend five days a week at work and once you get home you're tired, and all of your friends start going to bed at 10pm. So that pretty much rules out meeting anyone from Sunday-Thursday. Twenty years ago, the solution was simple, meet someone at work, and thanks to members of my profession, dating someone at work can now involve litigation and collecting unemployment. So that pretty much means you are left with meeting someone on the weekend.
Then comes the next dilemma: everybody says they don't want to meet someone at a barbut everybody goes to the bars on the weekend. My friends and I spend most of the cold weather months at Roy's and The Rosebud, and the warmer weather at Cheapside, Atomic Cafe, and well, err, The Rosebud. Of course, with the usual clientele at these bars, it would sound more original to say you were a high school dropout than an attorney. Just about all of the guys in there are young professionals, and the girls have heard it all before. Most of the time it seems like there is a better chance of a cute girl sustaining a head injury and stumbling into my living room delirious than actually meeting one in a bar.Let's just say, I did not need too much arm-twisting to give Speed Dating a shot.
What is Speed Dating?
Speed Dating is an event held in the cafe at Joseph-Beth where you have multiple six-minute "dates" with a series of women (and yes, a buzzer does go off when the time is up-makes it seem like getting in one last joke is a "buzzer beater". Everyone is on a strictly first-name basis. After you have had a chance to talk to all of your potential dates, you turn in a sheet of paper with their names on it, and select those persons who you would like to get to know better. The women have similar lists of all the guys they met. If two people both mark each other down as someone they would like to meet again, then a day or so later, you get an email with that person's first name and email address, and the other person also gets an email with your first name and email address (if you had more than one "hit," you get an email with multiple names and email addresses.
I had a few friends do something very similar about two years ago, so I had some advice as to how it might play out. One friend suggested that I mark down everybody I met, just to see how popular I was by seeing exactly how many women selected me for another date. One of the more obvious drawbacks to this strategy is the potential blow to my ego if I went zero for the event. Statistically unlikely, but why risk it. I decided instead to go for the expected technique and only select those who I could see myself out on a date with, after this first drill.
My Preconceptions about Speed Dating
The first thing that struck me as a positive about the "speed dating" proposition is that it has limited the playing field to women who want to be met. Heck, they had to pay $25 to sign up (all the money goes to The Arthritis Foundation), so I was assuming that I could expect a reasonably receptive audience. Little is more frustrating than meeting somebody you seem to have a connection with, spend 20 minutes or more flirting, etc. with the person, only to later learn that she has a "serious boyfriend," (although apparently not so serious that she felt uncomfortable getting hit on by another guy for 20 minutes).
Next I thought I had better try to keep reasonable expectations. I would prefer to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed. I figure if I expect to meet a Gwyneth Paltrow lookalike who has her master's and writes for ESPN.com, this is not likely to go well. My friends, on the other hand, were all very excited and were doing their best to inflate my expectations. I'm not sure whether it was because they thought I might meet someone nice or because they thought it would all go horribly wrong.
Another comforting thought was that if I dorked out and put my foot in my mouth, at least the evening wouldn't be a total lossI'd still have a couple of other dates.
The Moment(s) of Truth
As I was driving to the event, I had a few minutes to kill in the car, so I called one of my married buddies. I asked him if he had any last minute advice. He said, "Give him the heater, Rickey!" referring, of course, to a classic scene in the movie Major League. With dating advice like this, it's a miracle I am still single.
As you would probably expect, the toughest part of the "date" is the first 30 seconds or so. Once the ice is broken with some introductions, the time actually goes by very quickly. My first date can definitely vouch for that. She decided to break the ice by getting me to talk about myself a classic interview tactic. I played along, and I just barely got out the words, "Well, enough about me, tell me about yourself," when the buzzer went off. I had managed to talk virtually the entire time. "Congratulations, Shevlin," I thought to myself, "this girl is convinced you are the most egotistical man on the planet." Well, live and learn.
In six minutes, you actually don't find out that much information about the other person. For instance, one of the suggested questions, (and one I thought would come up frequently) is "What kind of music do you listen to?" a pretty standard first date question. This did not come up on any of my dates. Six minutes is just long enough to give you a pretty good sense of a person's personality and whether they were easy to talk to or not. I mean, you don't have to propose to somebody at the end of it; at best you're going to get a few email addresses.
The event usually has between 10-20 persons of each gender. However, on the occasion I went, three women backed out at the last minute (perhaps news of my attendance was leaked to the press), leaving only four women for six guys to "date." Obviously, the more people who attend, the more likely you are to meet someone. It was the first week for the event, and better numbers are expected once the word gets out. Overall, I thought it was a positive experience. All of the women were engaging, interesting, and seemingly eager to hear what I had to say. Definitely a nice change of pace from trying to figure out which girl at a bar who is playing hard to get, is actually interested in you. Give it a shot. What have you got to lose?
Express-o Dating takes place in the cafe in Joseph-Beth in Lexington Green. It is $25/person (cash, check, Visa, or MasterCard) and all money goes to The Arthritis Foundation. It starts at 7PM and goes until roughly 8:30PM. 21-35 year olds meet: Sept. 2nd, Sept 23rd, and October 7th. 31-45 year olds meet: Sept 9th, Sept. 30th, October 14th. You can reserve a spot at one of the upcoming sessions by calling 971-1517.
HE SHOOTS, HE SCORES!
Well actually, I don't know if I scored, but you're reading anyway. The day after the event, I got an email from the organizer saying that the woman I was most interested in had selected me as well. I then got an email from the woman I selected saying that she would like to get together sometime. Eager to get this "dating" out of cyberspace and potentially into a restaurant or a movie theatre, I emailed her later that day saying that I would like to do something too, and provided my cell phone number, but stated that email was fine for now, if she preferred.
To be totally honest, I was unsure on the etiquette in this situation (I am a rookie at this remember. I do have a friend that actually asks to swap email addresses with girls he likes, but I consider that "dorking out for the digital age.") If I had met her out and she had given me her number, clearly, I would not have attempted to contact her for 48 hours (or at a minimum, wait until the 2nd calendar day, i.e. meet on Saturday, no call till Monday). But with email...people tend to exchange a lot more emails than they do phone calls, so if I applied the 48 hr. rule, I might not go out on a date with this woman until my early 30s. This is all a long way of saying, I have not heard back since my initial email and possibly blew it by responding too quickly. It may be that my six minute relationship never sees minute seven.
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