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Speed Dating – Raul’s Take

Some of you will remember “Raul”… a friend of mine who guest posts from time to time.  The short version is this… we dated briefly…he was dead weight, so…I cut him loose… and he BEGGED me to write for my blog if only to have the fleeting contact of the occassional post-related e-mail.

Ha ha!  No…I keed, I keed… 

Raul is a dear friend.  We DID date briefly, but we had a comical (and mutual) transition into friendship, which you can read about here.  Since then, he’s chimed in from time to time on the guy’s perspective of the dating scene.  Today, we get to hear HIS take on the Speed Dating event we went to last week.  Do NOT believe his lies about me not “helping him out”… I’m a wingman to the end, Raul.  Don’t you forget it.


 

Speed Dating – the concept alone, I imagine, is enough to send a wave of nausea through most people that are not used car salesmen, carnival barkers, and other preternaturally extroverted types.  I’m not shy, but this kind of event is so far outside of my comfort zone that it’s not even in the same zip code.  Yet against all odds, the more I thought about it, the more my curiosity took over – what kind of people go to these things?  What’s it like? Is it awkward, or funny, or simply the most socially weird situation imaginable?  Eventually, I was intrigued.  A few days later, I signed up.  I’m glad I did.

I’m normally a pretty optimistic guy, and if this were a single blind date, I’d probably have my fingers crossed hoping for something along the lines of Monica Belluci’s long-lost twin, somehow separated at birth and shuttled away to the United States.  Ka-Pow:

Raul 1    

But this wasn’t just one date, it was FIFTEEN dates, and the law of averages being what they are, I ratcheted my expectations down to something closer to this:

Raul 2 

The event was held at Eighteenth Cocktail Bar, a speakeasy-themed place with knowledgeable, friendly staff and a relaxed atmosphere (even if the Prohibition-era cocktail bar is getting a bit clichéd at this point, it was still a nice bar and worth a visit in its own right).

Once just about everyone had arrived I surveyed the room and found that the mix of people there (both women and men) wasn’t nearly as awful as I had feared.  We were given 10 or 15 minutes to simply mingle while the last few stragglers arrived.  The fact that everyone was there for the same reason – for the sole purpose of meeting other single people – completely removed the potential awkwardness of simply walking up to a stranger and introducing yourself.  Only a few people seemed to be clinging to the bar or nervously staring at their feet.  Everyone else had little difficulty making introductions and scouting the field.  This was also a good sign – I didn’t want to have 15 mini-dates with people who struggled to carry on a conversation.

I used the time to meet several different girls and “work the room” a bit, and to be honest – it didn’t really matter who they were…to my mind, the important part was just to be seen talking to women; walking up, smiling, introducing myself, etc.  Why, you ask?  The thing about these situations is that eventually you’ll be judged on your own merits, but you must also understand that you will be judged relative to your peers – all the other men in the room.  If you are the guy standing at the bar alone staring into your beer or simply looking around the room without taking initiative and wishing someone would talk to you, my guess is you come off looking weak and hesitant; you get pegged as the “omega” male in the room.  You don’t want that.  So get moving and talk to people.  Unlike other bar situations where it’s always a coin toss as to whether a woman wants to be approached or not, here you’re basically guaranteed to find a receptive audience when you walk up to a stranger.  I would simply pick a girl, walk up, smile and say something like “Hi there…I hear it’s not really worth the price of admission if you don’t introduce yourself to anyone, so my name’s Raul…”  After that, a handshake.  And it worked.  Then I’d launch into my litany of knock-knock jokes and/or talk about my mother.  Just kidding!  There is a time and a place for everything, and that was neither the time, nor the place for either of those.

Then we transitioned into the actual mini-date portion of the evening – five minutes with each person.  Sarah’s already described the mechanics of this, so I’ll just move directly to the analysis. 

In a potential mate, we’re all basically searching for – in no particular order – 1) physical attraction, 2) personality attraction (can include faith, politics, and anything else one finds important in another’s beliefs and outlook), and 3) that mysterious, indefinable “something” that sparks a desire to really get to know someone better and spend more time with them.  For lack of a better word, we’ll call it “chemistry.”  The trick, of course, is finding all three within the same person.  And while those three characteristics – especially if reciprocal – may not be enough to equal “love,” my feeling is that they are the minimum prerequisites for establishing a relationship that is more than merely friends.  For those of you with a more quantitative mindset, here’s my breakdown of how the field looked at the speed dating event:

Looks: 

–          Very Attractive:  4/15     (27%)

–          Cute to Average: 7/15    (46%)

–          Not Attractive:  4/15       (27%)

 

Personality:

–          Great Personality:  5/15        (33%)

–          Average Personality:  7/15    (47%)

–          Marginal Personality:  3/15   (20%)

 

Chemistry:

–          Yes:  3/15    (20%)

–          No:  12/15   (80%)

 

All three in one package:  2/15  (13%)

 

In terms of both looks and personality, there was an almost perfect bell curve distribution.  But what does this mean in real life?  For me, it meant that half the women in the room were pleasant to talk to and reasonably easy on the eyes.  A few had – to this author – flat personalities or looks that, for whatever reason, just didn’t spark any desire or interest on my part.  But for all those that fell flat, there were just as many that I was definitely intrigued by.  And a select few were attractive, had charming personalities, AND possessed that something extra which meant I’d really like to see them again.  When you think about it from the perspective that it only takes one “match” to make it all worthwhile, this really wasn’t a bad outcome…especially when you consider that some of those on the cusp between ‘above-average’ and ‘really interesting’ might have been diamonds-in-the-rough that, with a little more time invested, might really be something special.

As an aside – all of this is subjective, of course; I tend to focus a lot more on what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside, so a different guy may have graded things on a different curve, or might have been more harsh or lenient with respect to some of these criteria – or possibly had different criteria altogether (for example, a guy with a foot fetish might have been scrutinizing feet – I didn’t notice if the women there that night even HAD two feet.  But hey, different strokes…) 

So my mini-dates all went well, and I ended the evening by staying behind and having a great conversation with a lovely woman that – to my mind – was in the very top echelon of participants that night.  Over the next several days, I was contacted by several girls I had met, which was also nice. 

Now, some general observations about the event itself:

1)      Guys, don’t kid yourselves – these speed dating events are designed for women.   Specifically, it is designed around making women feel secure and comfortable.  Much like “ladies’ night” at a bar, the promoters know that if women feel comfortable and show up, the guys will naturally follow.  This is not a complaint, just an observation, and I understand why Match, for reasons of liability and risk management, would want it that way.  For example, guys are discouraged from handing out business cards or asking for contact information other than the girl’s Match.com “screen name.”  There’s even a bathroom break in the middle of the speed dating portion so that the girls can cluster together out of earshot and compare notes.  And also pee.  But trust me when I say that there is no such caucusing in the guys’ bathroom during this break.  [By the way…I realized at this time that if you go with a female friend to one of these events, you can have an accomplice on the inside that REALLY talks you up in the girls’ bathroom during this time, significantly augmenting whatever you bring to the table …I likely got no such help, but I’m just saying, if you want to game the speed dating system, you might consider working as a team.]  J

2)      What you get out of speed dating is as much a function of your expectations as it is the pool of daters that show up.  If you’re suspicious of speed dating events as potential horror shows, don’t be.  If you think it will be incredibly awkward and filled with stilted, forced conversation, it won’t be.  The people are essentially normal and well-adjusted, which means your odds are decent of finding at least a few people you’d like to know better.  So go in with a positive attitude and expect that there will be several people that are at least pleasant to spend some time with, along with some duds, and a few that just might be exceptional.  And if one of the exceptional ones happens to view you in the same light, well buddy that’s definitely worth the price of admission.  At the same time, this IS a gamble – there’s just no way around it.  You don’t know what you’re going to get until you simply show up. 

3)      Price.  This is a very slight quibble.  At $38, I felt like this was asking just a bit much for what, as I just mentioned, is a complete gamble.  I can imagine countless better ways to put that money into a first date with someone from Match (or anywhere else) that I already know I want to spend some time with…but if there’s no one like that on the horizon, then you might want to re-draft your profile and take out the shirtless mirror pics speed dating may just be the ticket to getting back out there and justify the cost.  But because speed dating provides such useful practice at striking up conversations with people you’ve never met – which is a significant real-world skill to all single people – I ultimately felt that it was worth the price.

4)      Don’t show up with a canned script, but DO think ahead of time about the more interesting/compelling aspects of your life or personality that you’d want to get across.  At the same time, think of some of the important characteristics you’d like to find out about someone else.  Weave some of these points into the otherwise natural conversation that you have with each mini-date.

5)      You’re going to have to make some conversation, so make sure your “is this appropriate to say” filter is in place.  By way of example, here’s an “icebreaker” question that’s OK to ask:  “So tell me something unexpected or interesting about yourself – is there something you do or enjoy that people who don’t know you might be surprised by?”  People light up and talk about travel, skydiving, collecting this or that, hobbies, interests, etc.  For comparison, if your idea of an icebreaker opening question is “So, what’s your safe word?” or “Do you carry pepper spray in your purse?”…you should probably definitely come up with something else.

6)      Watch your alcohol intake.  I didn’t want to seem a bit quiet on mini-dates 1-4, gregarious on dates 5-10, slurred speech through dates 11-14, and close out the session by vomiting on date #15’s shoes.   So I didn’t do tequila shots all evening.  I wanted to be consistent, in control, lucid, and charming, so I just sipped on a glass or two of water all evening, and had a beer after the final mini-date when there was additional time to mingle.  If you’re a more reserved or introverted type that might feel the need to have a drink at the start to “loosen up,” then that’s fine, but please pace yourself and remember that you drove there.

7)      Finally, if you’re one of the countless people that have a problem with walking up and introducing yourself to cute girls/guys at a bar (or a grocery store, or at church, or anywhere else), an event like this is VERY good practice to help you get over that anxiety.  Sure, the audience is rigged in your favor, but you’ll learn a lot about different things to say to break the ice with a complete stranger, how to have a decent conversation in just a few minutes, and how to exit a situation with tact and class.

Well, that’s my take.  To anyone who has even the slightest interest in such an event (and even those, like me, that had ZERO interest)…there are worse ways to spend an evening, and worse ways to spend 38 bucks.  Do yourself a favor and don’t be afraid to give something different a try! 

-Raul

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