Are there singles events so ridiculous that speed dating seems normal by comparison? Yes, I learned at my first–and hopefully last–lock and key party. And no, this isn’t like the key/wife swapping parties that swinging suburbanites threw all the time back in the 70s, at least according to retro TV and movies (Old people: did these really happen? fill us in! (but not too much detail, please)).
The modern lock and key party was held in the back room of a bar. Each man gets a key and each woman gets a lock to wear around her………neck (really, I swear, the setup’s just Freudian, not dirty). Then, for the next few hours, you wander the room, trying to match locks with keys. When you find one that fits, you and your match visit the organizers to collect your prize (some raffle tickets) and a new lock and key.
The purpose, obviously, is to give people who would ordinarily be too shy to mingle at a cocktail party an excuse to do so. The problem is that it doesn’t really work. People who would chat up a stranger chat, and those who wouldn’t either hide in corners or run from girl to girl (I know I’m being sexist, but it’s true) trying locks with a minimum of conversation.
You’ve probably gathered by now that I didn’t have much dating luck at this event. The first guy I ran into was my sparring partner from Thai boxing— yet another indication that I’ve met, if not dated, every fish in the Philadelphia sea. The next guy seemed nice and our lock and key actually matched. But in the time it took to collect our new set, I had learned about his unemployment, his residence with his parents, and his recent lack of dating luck. (Bonus “Don’t say that”: If you don’t have a job, don’t start the conversation by asking what hers is.) I didn’t feel like we were a match, but our new lock and key disagreed, fitting together perfectly. He saw it as a sign, and I began to see that one of the major advantages of speed dating is the clean exit strategy.
I had mine, though, in the group of normal, non-lock-wearing friends I had left out at the front of the bar and needed to “check on.” I did make a couple passes more through the party, to eat some free hors d’ouevres, meet some guys angry about their lack of unlocking success, and chat with a girl who had already heard through the grapevine about my “fated double match.” I was there for the grand finale, too: a drunk girl jumping up and down in excitement over winning $25 for having had the most matches.
You know it’s a lame party when the happiest person there is the one who just got a refund of her admission.