There's been some interest in hearing about my speed dating adventure, so I figured it was time to tackle that one. It was almost 3 years ago so my memory is a little hazy, but I'll do my best to express the full awfulness of the whole thing for you.
I went because that summer, I was spending a lot of time with a girl I'll just call A. She was an incredibly friendly, outgoing person who was, like me, divorced and struggling in the dating world. The summer we met, I happened to be in a perfectly content single state, but I had a lot of fun dressing up and going out with her, playing wing woman, sharing dating stories and woes. I thought I'd found a kindred spirit and finally a close girl friend who lived just a block from me so we could spend time together.
That friendship fell apart after a few months, and I won't go into that out of respect for her - I've seen her since, and she's changed a lot. Unfortunately it turns out we happened to meet during a really difficult, dark time in her life, and she wasn't her true self. The disappointment I felt when we parted ways just after my 31st birthday was akin to the heartbreak of a romantic relationship breakup, and I still occasionally feel a pang of regret that we never reconciled.
Tangent over; one night A really wanted to try speed dating. She and a male coworker, whom I'd met before and thought was rather nice, were going and she insisted I come along for support. I in turn insisted she pay my entry fee. Fair's fair, bitches! I reeeeally did not want to go. I had no interest in meeting anyone at the time and how much could I really play wing woman when we were always at separate tables?
We arrive, and there are two lines to sign up, divided by age. I believe the cutoff for the younger group was 36 but I could be wrong... I do remember that the guy we were with was a year older than that but went to the younger group anyway because he didn't want to end up talking to 50 year old ladies.
Before we were sent to tables, there was a little mix time. The 3 of us stuck together, but talked to a few other people. There were at least 2 guys there in those hideous "banker's shirts" ... you know, the ones that are a color but with white collars and cuffs. Holy fucking Christ, I hate those shirts.
When A and I went out on the town, she was earnestly seeking a connection with any men we met; however, since I was just along for the ride, I often gave a fake name and made up weird careers. I almost had a guy on her kickball team convinced that I photographed nostrils for anatomy textbooks for a living. He kept trying to trip me up with questions and I kept answering. He was stumped. One night I informed a guy wearing a t-shirt with pancakes on it that I was going to call him Pancake all night and had no interest in knowing his real name. While A and the other fellow chatted about their real lives on the other side of the table, Pancake and I (going by Waffle) just told funny stories.
I used my real name at this event, but the career I chose was embroiderer. Hard to say, but I felt it was sufficiently dull enough that I could avoid my part of the 5 minute conversations I was going to have to endure with all these random strangers.
This particular event chose to make the women move tables. We had numbers assigned when we signed up, and that was our starting table. Everyone had a little card and pen. After 5 minutes, a bell rang and one of the event coordinators hollered out, and we moved to the next table. Some people lingered; I practically leapt from my seat every time and then meandered to the next. I don't recall how many tables there were, but it felt like 50. I kind of (really) hate 1:1 interaction with new people unless it's some cute guy I want to flirt up, and here I saw none. (Those of you who know me "in real life" have probably noticed how often I sidestep invitations to hang out 1:1 and now you know: I get wicked anxiety about it. I'll try to invite more people if at all possible to reduce the pressure I feel about OMG WHAT DO I TALK ABOUT. Ridiculous, yes, but no one ever said I wasn't insane.)
For the most part, my plan worked - my supposed career was dull enough to not get any questions past "what's that?" From Genie I've learned how to ask loads of questions about anything thrown my way to just keep the other person talking, so I stuck to that. Most of the guys were perfectly happy to yammer on about themselves. One guy whose first language was definitely not English was actually genuinely interested. He asked me question after question - how did you learn that? how do you get into that kind of work? what are the busy times of year? ("a nice older lady I met when I moved here taught me." "she retired and gave it over to me." "oh, you know, Christmas is crazy, and wedding season of course - monogrammed robes and towels.")
There was another guy who I suspected had also lied about his age, and whom I could barely understand. It wasn't just that English wasn't his first language; I'm pretty sure he had just started learning. That conversation was stilted and difficult, so I just tried to ask a lot of questions and nod a bunch. The room was really loud so everyone practically had to shout to be heard, which didn't help. Those 5 minutes felt like 30 and I felt awful for the poor guy.
A weird moment was when I cycled over to the table with A's coworker, because we already knew each other. I tried to just joke around with him, but he surprised me by asking genuine questions about myself and seeming sincerely interested in my answers. He kept deflecting my jokes and steering me back to actual conversation. That sort of thing is really uncomfortable for me with new people, despite how nice he was, so I was grateful when the bell rang.
Another one who stood out was the last guy I had to talk to. By then I was grumpy and bored. He was wearing some fancy button-up and had gelled hair and was clearly a bro. He was also pretty full of himself, so I think I may have said 3 words - "hi, I'm _____." At least he bought me a drink!
There was an intermission (hooray!), and I sprinted for the bar. A was driving so I didn't care. In line I began joking around with an older guy - probably close to 50. He ended up buying my drink and was definitely the most fun and interesting guy I talked to the entire night.
The cards everyone was given were to write down the names of anyone they wanted to see again. If two people wrote down each other, it was a MATCH! YAY! and the coordinators sent out emails to everyone letting them know if they got any matches. The deal was that they could release your email address and/or phone number to someone you matched with so you could keep dating and fall in loooooooove. I know A had a couple of matches and went on a few dates, but I wrote down exactly no names, so I got a sad rejection email about not having any matches at all, woe is me.
So there you have it! Speed dating! A boring, sweaty (it was so fucking hot in that stupid little room), loud way to spend a super awkward evening - AND pay for it!