Last week, I set out to interview “Millionaire Matchmaker” Patti Stanger. My plan was to go in, impress her with my wife-ability, and be home in time for wine and “Parks and Recreation.” So I’m still not sure how, an hour later, I found myself sitting on a bar stool, roped into speed dating by the kind people at HurryDate.com. “There’s an odd number of men,” the publicist said, rationalizing why I needed to participate.
Being a serial online dater, I have had my share of awkward first dates. I liked the idea of spending five minutes with someone, rather than wasting a whole night to realize we were incompatible. Plus, I thought maybe I might meet a few people I wouldn’t necessarily think to go out with. Even though I had the lowest of low expectations, I was still sweating and self-conscious. Are they noticing how big my head is? Can they smell me sweating?
See, I’ve always been a bit of a loner who takes a while to warm up to people. Not to mention that my friends and I have one thing in common: we dislike a large portion of the population. Long before the (legitimately gorgeous) women sat down before the parade of men, I’d decided which men I might get along with—the slightly annoyed-looking brunette, the hot Asian guy who looked like my high school English teacher, and the guy with the nice eyes who was audacious enough to wear a purple dress shirt. Oh, and the really hot tattooed bartender I shared pleasantries with between “dates.” Being hugely judgmental, I’d also written off nearly everyone else as “not my type” based on their outfits, their presumed professions, and the annoying habits I’d observed … like drinking Appletinis and not being cute. I’ve never seen a more diverse crowd at a bar though — all races, ages ranging from 20 to 40. Many people were there with platonic friends of the opposite sex. I like to imagine that it was a sneaky way for the girls to pawn off guys they weren’t interested in dating. “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to go speed dating? I can be your wing-woman!”
I’ve never truly appreciated how long five minutes was until I was forced to spend that time with someone who, in a more impolite setting, I would have rolled my eyes at and run away from. There were the guys who sat down and recited their internet dating profile: “So, I work in real estate. In my free time I enjoy tennis and hiking. I’m allergic to cats and shellfish,” which was usually followed by them staring at me as if I was supposed to offer up my story. Is it possible that they’ve never had a conversation before? Then there were the dawdlers. One man spent the first minute of our “date” filling out his score card for the last girl he met and another, whose eyebrows were manscaped about two inches too far from each other, stopped to talk to a woman at the next table before bothering to sit down with me. There were the askers, who refused to answer any of my questions and just kept asking me what else I liked to do in my spare time … which, as far as I’m concerned, doesn’t really tell people that much about each other since no one wants to tell the truth and say that they watch a lot of TV and compulsively masturbate to internet porn. And do that many guys really play tennis? There was one guy, who, as he was sitting down, said, “I’ve been waiting to talk to you all night,” which was very sweet. But when, after five minutes, he’d told me I was a catch about 15 times, I was bored with it. I was so depressed that if I had thought to bring a platonic friend, I would surely be making out with him by now.
Before my second-to-last date, the bartender asked me how it was going. “Awful,” I answered and considered another bourbon to numb the pain. But then my Asian knight in shining armor sat down. He was a chemistry teacher at a high school in Hollywood, adorable, and well-dressed, with a good smile. Plus, he was not socially disabled. We talked about directors (his favorite is Tarantino and mine is Jean-Pierre Jeunet), and tennis (by that point I was telling men that I was a semi-pro), and food. We kept talking even after they blew the whistle for the end of the date. I circled his number on my score card three times and thought, “Maybe this wasn’t the worst experience of my life?”
When the “dates” were over, I had a headache, no voice, and achy bloodshot eyes, which I figured out was from maintaining eye contact for 75 minutes straight with 18 different men, unblinking and feigning fascination. I looked around for chemistry man, hoping that we could continue our chat. But everyone around me had scattered. I got in my car and drove home, where I was to sign onto HurryDate.com, enter my number, and see which of the guys had marked me as a “yes.” To be honest (apparently I have a pretty high opinion of myself … must have been that guy calling me a catch?), I kind of thought I would get a lot of guys who liked me since I am super awesome. And to my credit, seven of the 18 men had thought I was worthy of talking to again. The only problem was, I’d kind of screwed up the numbering as I went through the dates and couldn’t tell if Asian chemistry man was among them. It took me half an hour to figure out where I messed up, and I looked at the screen again hoping that now I would see a big, fat “yes” by his number. But alas, the one guy I thought I had a connection with, I actually didn’t. I checked back again a few times before accepting that it was over.
In the end, I’d say that speed dating is like being in a bar full of men, but instead of making eyes at the ones you like, you have to pay to have each and every one of them come talk to/at you. It was an interesting experience, one I would need several extra layers of deodorant and a stiff drink for should I try it again. It was exciting to see who wanted to see me again, but for the gentleman I desired, it was almost worse than waiting for a phone call—this time I knew that he simply just wasn’t that into me.
That said, I did receive a freelance writing job offer (from annoyed-looking guy), a bit of a confidence boost (until the inevitable heartbreak), and perhaps most excitingly, I made a new female friend! Maybe it’s just me, but now I really appreciate online dating. I’d rather email the guy I know I like rather than “kiss a lot of frogs” just to get to a first date.