Hello, Awkwardeers. My best friend and I are heading downstate on a road trip for the next few days and I will not be taking the internet with me. So be nice to each other and enjoy this guest post about a speed dating event from a fellow blog reader. See you all Monday(ish).
Background: A frequent reader and commenter wrote me a letter about whether or not she should go to a speed dating event and listing pros and cons. I answered the email with “Obviously you should go because it might be hilarious.” (Tag = OVERTHINKING IT). She provided the following account as a guide to others. There are footnotes.
Please enjoy An Introvert Went to a Speed Dating Event, by “Expert Singleton.”
I wasn’t going to tell anyone where I was going, but I panicked and texted my sister (1) from the bus on my way there. It went something like this:
I am doing something RIDICULOUSLY out of character. Don’t tell. And wish me luck.
Lol what r u doing
Speed dating, of course.
Not just speed dating, but a geek-focused speed dating event. I made my way into the pub, exchanged $15 for a name-tag that stubbornly refused to adhere to my clothing, and headed directly to the bar. Armed with a drink (2), I wandered into the crowd and tried not to act like a terrified alien.
See, I somehow tumbled past the age of thirty without starting to date. I say somehow as if it was some sort of freakish accident, but it wasn’t really. I very deliberately did not date because I had some stuff to work on, and I was busy, and, well, I can procrastinate like anything.
So what were the attractions of speed dating? My half-Vulcan jerkbrain kept trying to talk me out of going, so I made a list:
- Meeting new people! In the tribe of immoderately enthusiastic people, even.
- Dating practice! Without feeling unethical. I wanted to experiment with people, not on them.
- Context is unambiguously dating! Am absolutely pants at detecting pantsinterest from others, so this was oddly reassuring.
- Rejection practice! Both in saying no and in hearing it.
- I got a Facebook invite! Never underestimate the allure of convenience.
The only real cons were that it would be a decidedly hetero evening (bi-invisibility = meh) and oh the CRUSHING TERROR. But if I waited until I knew what I was doing, I’d never get anywhere (3), so I went for it.
Before I melted into a puddle of uncertainty, someone with an incredibly loud voice (and an equally loud handbell) cheerfully called us to order and provided the evening’s instructions.
- The tables were numbered. Women would proceed through tables in numerical order, and men would stay at the same table throughout the evening.
- Five minutes, delineated by the bell, to talk to each person.
- No last names, contact information, or telling where we worked.
- On the reverse side of the number signs were nerdy-awesome questions in case we got stuck.
- We would receive cards and pens to write down the name of the people we talked to, and where they fell on the three point scale:
- Black Hole (never again)
- Solar Flare (friends maybe)
- Supernova (hell yes)
- We’d be informed of any matches within three days.
So I had conversations with about eighteen guys over the course of two hours. It was like this:
- SO VERY LOUD. I spent two hours half-yelling and asking people to repeat themselves.
- I didn’t receive my card until halfway through date-the-second, and didn’t write anything down until table-the-third, so I played catch-up throughout the evening. I am dreadful with names, so I’m still not sure whether I got everyone written down. Learn from my terrible example; I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.
- Five minutes is not enough to know someone well, but it is enough to know whether you want more than five minutes to get to know them. Go ahead and be Judgey McJudgerson. You have all the permission you need.
- Monosyllabic answers may be motivated by shyness, but they will be interpreted as a lack of interest. If you act like you are not interested, you will be believed.
- If I ever do this again, I will not bring a purse (too many things to carry – I kept losing track of my drink) or wear a skirt (too much worry about wardrobe malfunction when dismounting barstools). Trousers with pockets, for sure.
- Also next time I will try not to leave my drink behind when I switch tables.
But what you really want to know about is the dates, right? I admit that my immediate reaction when I left was I HAVE ALL THE STORIES. I obviously like lists, so let’s go with more of that.
- Some of the men in this city own truly excellent fedora-type hats and wear them well. Kudos, fellas.
- When someone asks, “So, what exactly are you looking for?” you may want to respond quickly. Otherwise? They might start to list all the ways they are certain they are not exactly what you are looking for.
- I say you may want to respond quickly, but an early warning system may be exactly what you are looking for.
- The second time I was asked this, I was prepared: “I haven’t dated in forever. Most of my single pals are straight women and gay men, so I figured I should meet more people.” (4)
- If left unchecked, topics of conversation kept veering back to Avengers, Game of Thrones, and Big Bang Theory. This was not my fault. I tried talking about gardening and time travel.
- There are only five minutes. Do not spend three of them talking about your last few exes and how painful your breakups were.
- You have five whole minutes. You don’t have to fit a complete bio into the first 30 seconds, and infodumps are overwhelming. Allow time to take in the details, please.
- For example, finding out that someone is more than five years younger than me when I’d pegged them at more than five years older WILL distract me from the rest of their run-on sentence.
- If you’re lucky, your partner will think that wordlessly staring at them is soulful and deep. If that partner is me, you are not that kind of lucky. I like words.
- I had to apologize for not recognizing one of my coworkers (5). He accepted graciously, and small talk ensued. Awkward, but survivable.
- I am a curious person, and enthusiasm is my jam. I am thrilled when someone is passionate about something offbeat and new-to-me.
- For example, if you mention involvement with the SCA (6) or that you’re a magician? YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION.
- If you tell me that you quit your so-called passion because you didn’t like the attitude of the younger generation that was joining in, I will swiftly lose interest.
- If you offer to show me a magic trick (yes, please!) and then fumble it? You will break my heart (7).
- Impatiently yelling “NOT ENOUGH TIME” when the bell rings does not help. At all. Speed dating is not for you, my friend.
I did encounter several people who made excellent conversation and became more attractive the longer I talked to them (8). My results indicate no starborn matches (9), but there are a few sunny new friend requests. The organizers are thrilled with the response and want to do this again, probably twice a year. They’re also considering one around Pride week. I might even go.
- Meet more people = SUCCESS
- Practice = SUCCESS
- Owning awkwardness = IN PROGRESS but prognosis is excellent
Many thanks to the Captain for her gentle reminder to not overthink things, and to the many members of Team Awkward who have posted comments in recent months about, well, not overthinking things. You are some lovely people. Without you, I might not have dared to try this. Now I am hoping you will use the comments section to share your own stories about trying scary new things that turned out to be awesome and/or hilarious. DON’T HOLD BACK.
(1) I have tried and tried, but I cannot get her to write complete sentences. My heart, it weeps.
(2) Just ginger-ale. Booze makes me sleepy, and putting my head on the table for a mid-date nap would have been a Bad Idea.
(3) Credit where credit is due: this is misquoted from Muriel Duckworth, who was probably paraphrasing G.K. Chesterton.
(4) This flummoxed them long enough for me to redirect the conversation to interests, and it was true, so I’m considering it a win. Feel free to borrow/steal/modify the line for your own scripts, and do let me know if it works for you.
(5) He did look vaguely familiar, but nearly everyone in this city looks vaguely familiar. I have yet to encounter my own doppelgangers but I receive regular reports that they have been sighted about town. This is exactly as frustrating as you think it is.
(6) Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s kind of like medieval cosplay.
(7) I could see that the spoon had a hinge. It’s difficult to recover from that kind of crushing dismay.
(8) Not that they were unattractive to start with. Wowzer, etc.
(9) Some of the attendees were too terrifyingly awesome for words. I might have been one of those.