I’ve discovered a new breed of speed dater: the ringer. The first time I thought it just one of the many strange aspects of the particular event I was attending. The location was usual– my speed dating buddy’s and my favorite leopard-printed basement. But when we arrived, we discovered that everyone else at the event was under 25 and black.
Being adventurous thirtysomething white girls, we plunged ahead. I was learning a lot about undergraduate life in New Jersey when I started to notice another commonality– all of these guys knew the organizer of the event (who turned out to work at Rutgers). In fact, they seemed a little mystified by how I had found about it. (I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t admit to them: I have a Google alert for speed dating in Philadelphia, so as not to miss another one of these.)
Then, one of the guys, in the context of telling me about his past relationship (um, yeah, another don’t say that), said, “I’m thinking about starting to date again sometime soon.” I pointed out to him that he was actually dating at that very moment, but it seemed clear that he and the other guys were there to help out their buddy, not find a relationship.
It could have been a one-off, except that a while later, it happened again at a more official event. After I confessed to being a veteran speed dater, a guy told me he was, too. He had come on a lark the first time, but more recently, the organizer had been calling him when he was short on guys, and offering to buy his drinks if he would speed date. How unfair. I speed date a lot, and end up with bar tabs and pitying looks (“How’d it go tonight?” that same organizer asked me while patting my back), while thanks to the speed dating gender imbalance, guys who do the same thing are making out! (And probably in both senses of the phrase!)
I think it was the fastest a speed dater had ever ruled himself out. (Even the weird-looking ones get a few seconds to confirm or disprove my impressions.) He was just sliding into his seat as he said, “You’re probably wondering why I’m staring at your nametag. It’s because 7 is a sacred number. Yes, the great number 7. It symbolizes completion.”
And now Speed Dater #7 is completely sure she doesn’t want to date you.
I was on a speed date, kind of liking the guy I was talking to, when I decided to try out my new question on him. I’m always on the lookout for interesting questions that will help me avoid the dreaded “Where do you live/work/go for fun?” trifecta and I thought I had picked up a pretty good one from another speed dater: “What are three things that you like that most other people don’t?” (My answer is blizzards, contemporary country music and watery beer, by the way.)
Little did I guess that his answer would eliminate my interest in him with mind-blowing efficiency. “That’s a tough question,” he said. “Ok, I like to go to church every Sunday. I like to shoot guns. And I like to clean up my dog’s poop.”
When you promote your speed dating event as “Casual Elegance for VIPs,” you’re just asking for me to make fun of you. Especially when the VIP room turns out to be the basement of the bar. Not just any basement, but one decorated with mirrored walls and animal-print lounge furniture. As one attendee described it, “sort of like the set to a ’70s porno.”
The organizers had brought in a violinist to class up the joint (if you’re impressed by screechy violin in a confined space). He overheard some other attendees and me making fun of the event before it even started, and jumped in to defend it. “These events are great,” he said. “I mean, I’ve never had the chance to participate in one, but I’ve been at some others and people always seem to enjoy themselves a lot!” We all smiled politely and wondered why the violinist would be so delusionally gung-ho.
Fast forward to an hour later. I’m ensconced in my enormous leopard-print armchair. In a weird design touch, the back of the chair points up on the sides, creating the appearance that I have furry spotted horns coming from the back of my head. A series of men have come through, each spending their few minutes squatting on my footstool while taking notes about me on the top of a speaker. Apparently, the VIP room is too cool for normal chairs and tables. It’s the sort of ridiculousness that every Speed Dating Girl dreams of.
And then the violinist appears at my feet. He’s filling in for a missing dater. I make some jokes about the situation and then I ask about his violin career, trying to politely determine whether people pay him on a regular basis to play like that. (If so, it’s time to get my high school viola out of storage.) “Uh no,” he says. “I’m part-owner of the company that organized this, so I fill in wherever’s needed. Last time I played the guitar.”
So that’s why he was so positive about speed dating! A metaphorical lightbulb blinks on between my horns, and my dreams of a musical career are dashed.
This week’s story comes from a female reader whose experience shows that you don’t even have to go to a speed-dating event to meet a weird, sleazy dude. He could be right down the street.
She was sitting in a park reading a book when a guy sat down on the bench next to her.
She looked over and noticed that he was reading a journal in which was written (and underlined several times), “Ever wonder what it’s like to have sex with a stranger, no strings attached?” He kept the page open toward her for quite some time, until finally she asked him, “Does that ever work?”
He played innocent and claimed it was a total accident: he was just working on song lyrics. Then he asked if she thought it might work.