Sidewalk shopping

Valentine’s Day can drive people to do crazy things: buy sappy cards and ugly jewelry, eat massive quantities of chocolate, or attend embarrassing singles events. You can guess which of these I opted for this year.

Actually, since they were handing out boxes of candy to any women brave enough to attend the “Mile of Meet,” I knocked off two options at once.

That box of chocolate was the last good surprise of our evening. But I have to admit I wasn’t really all that surprised when my friends and I arrived outside the specified bar and found that the “Mile” was actually more like a city block. Still, it was probably the geographically longest dating event I’ve ever attended. The cops had even blocked off parking so that the desperate single men of the Philadelphia area could line themselves up on the street for review by the single women, who filed past in a slightly less awkward line of their own.

But that’ll never work, you’re thinking– how will you remember which guys you want to talk to at the mixer afterwards? Don’t worry, the organizers thought of that obstacle, so they helpfully supplied the men with large numbers to wear around their necks, as in a mugshot. And the women had clipboards on which to write down their “shopping list” (no, really, that’s what was printed at the top of it).

The organizers also had an answer for those overly demanding people who want to know something about their date other than his appearance and how low he’s willing to sink to get a date (yes, I’m talking to you, guy holding up a $10 bill next to your number). The men had filled out profiles before lining up, which were then available in binders for the women to review.

Liked the looks of number 69? Just elbow the other women out of the way to grab the 50-75 binder, look up his page, and you’ve got all the information you need: his name, contact info, occupation, age. (Which was a key issue– a lot of my shopping list turned out to be in their early 20s, probably because I was trying so hard to stay away from the sizable Baby Boomer contingent, whose presence inspired a conversation among my friends about when one is too old for cheesy singles events. “If I’m still here in ten years, shoot me or lock me in the house with my cats” was the general consensus.)

The men’s profiles also listed their favorite restaurants. Among the responses were a lot of nice, high-end places, but also Burger King and Wawa. (Suddenly, Olive Garden sounded appealing.) And, finally, they were given one sentence to describe themselves. There was the usual range of comments from illiterate to clever and charming, but my absolute favorite– for sheer incongruity– was the guy who wrote, “I embrace all that is wholesome.”

Ah, yes, that’s why I came here, too.

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