By Karen Koch
Internet sites such as Match.com and eHarmony have revolutionized the way the modern woman meets, and dates, in the 21st century. In fact, with nine-hour work days (plus commuting time), crowded bars, and an increasingly ego-centered lifestyle, it’s a wonder that anyone had the time or patience to date at all before the invention. But for those cynics who don’t believe in the romantic possibilities of such an impersonal process (and still aren’t finding much luck on their own), we invite you to try out an alternative, more traditional way to meet men: Speed dating. Beauty News sent Karen Koch out on the field to find out if speed dating is still a viable option or a thing of the past. Let’s see what she had to say…
Armed with a new outfit and a few icebreaker questions (“What’s the scariest thing you’ve done lately?” and “If you could be anywhere else right now, where would you be?”), I slip into the trendy People Lounge. It’s about 7pm and there are already a handful of singles waiting for the night to begin. Some people are mingling, but for the most part it feels like a middle school dance with boys standing awkwardly on one side and girls nervously on the other. After making my way to the bar for a cocktail to calm my nerves, I pull up a chair next to the most non-threatening guy of the bunch. His nametag reads “Dave.”
Dave and I manage to get a nice conversation going. And while we don’t hit it off romantically, there’s a connection and it’s nice to have a friend to share my hesitations and expectations for the event with.
An hour later, we begin. I part ways with Dave vaguely more at ease with how the night will go. I slap on my nametag and sink into a semi-secluded couch in the back corner of the lounge, readying myself for the 20 four minute dates that will follow. This should be a piece of cake. After all, how long could four minutes be?
A few rounds into it I figure out the drill – name, occupation, and the ever popular “What do you do for fun?” Honestly, I’m bored. A handful of “dates” resemble what I imagine you could call engaging banter, but during others, I can feel each of the 240 agonizing seconds that passes. This is truly awkward – how can anyone find enough romantic fuel to pursue a relationship in just four minutes? Especially when you have the same boring conversation over and over, and over again? Add in the constant shuffling of men as they rotate from table to table and too much noise to consider the venue intimate and what you end up with does not equate the perfect first date.
Midway through the night, we take a brief break to stretch our limbs and refuel (thank you for buying me drinks, Guillermo and Ahmed). I exchange some words with the girl sitting closest to me who shares my diminishing enthusiasm for the night. And before the break is gone, so is she.
Eventually the event wraps up, and I scribble down a few names down on my “potentials” sheet. In one last-ditch effort to make the most of my experience, I linger in the lounge to get a better taste of the oh-so-charming Pete. As I make witty conversation with my favorite single, however, I become increasingly disillusioned and realize that he is no more looking for a steady relationship than any other guy at any other bar. Suddenly I can’t get over the awkwardness of the situation and say my quick goodbyes and leave.
Overall, I can’t say that the speed dating experience is an impressive one. It’s too much noise, too much forced conversation and way too long. But again, it could just be not the right thing for me. I like element of the chase, meeting people without being met with an intrusive line of questioning that includes “Do you have children?” and “What are you allergic to?” It’s not anything I can picture leading to a meaningful or lasting relationship. Still, I’m glad that I had a go at it. It’s a great way to meet new faces and try new things, some of my bigger resolutions for 2009. And as I finish this, I’ve just ignored a call from Eugene, the friendly Brooklynite who asked me one of the best questions I got all night. (“Which do you prefer, the sun or the moon?”) Maybe I’ll even call him back. Maybe.