Speed Dating: Part 2

So I don’t think I’m going to go out of my way to do speed dating anymore.

This isn’t to say speed dating is terrible. I think it works for some people. Recently, I went with a friend who’s in town until the fall, and feeling frustrated dating-wise, and it worked out well for her, and so in that sense it was worth it for me to organize this for both of us.

We went to one organized uptown, and because my friend is a year older than me, it means that we ended up doing an event aimed at a slightly older demographic than I’m used to. By which I mean the ladies had to be 35-45, and the men 37-47.

In part, I was interested to see what that would feel like for me, since in the past five years I’ve dated younger (both relationships the other person was four years younger). For lots of reasons I’m now prioritizing maturity, but that doesn’t always track with age, but I was just curious to see if this would feel good or weird or interesting or just different.

And it was… just different, basically. It was slightly better organized than the TPL one, though also slightly less interesting. I’m not able to make genuine comparisons about more than just my two individual experiences, but the older crowd seemed to have their shit together a bit better. They also dressed a bit better. Most of the men I talked to were in insurance, or were headhunters. This is not a super important fact except that it always seems to throw people when I say I’m a grad student? Like, whenever I say this around people who are older, I kind of feel like I’m 20 again or something? I mean, I’m not the oldest grad student ever, by far, but somehow still ‘being in school’ makes me feel like I’m not old enough to be there. Not to mention the fact that I look young, which I’m happy about but at the same time, I think the combination of how I look and the grad student box means that I kind of seem too young for this crowd. At one point, the very handsome gentleman I was talking to leaned forward and said: “So, (my name), how … old … are you?” I think he was maybe just checking that I wasn’t in the wrong place (there was a parallel speed dating event happening next door for a younger crowd) or something but to be honest it felt kind of condescending.

There was a guy I heard about from some of the other ladies who was kind of aggressive and ‘touchy’ and kept offering to bring everyone to an oyster bar/his wine villa (or something), but I am still not sure who that guy was because apparently when I get nervous I just talk about myself a lot to avoid having boring conversations with strangers? I dunno. I’m not sure if that means more work for me, or if it’s a brilliant tactic, but it is what it is.

There was one guy who was pretty verbally aggressive, shouting about how dating is like looking for a job, and you have to know what you want, did I know what I wanted? Was I serious? Did I want marriage? Children? It was pretty near the bell-ring, so I thought I would just fuck with this dude, so I was like, “Lol, yeah I know what I want, I want a feminist.”

He sat way back in his chair and was like, “WELL WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? THAT I THINK WOMEN AND MEN ARE EQUAL? OF COURSE I THINK THAT. I THINK WOMEN ARE EQUAL.”

Mmmmmhmmmm. Sure you do, dude.

Anyway the main reason that I won’t do speed dating again is that I don’t trust my judgement. You see, if I’m presented with a string of people like that, I’ll choose the best ones out of THAT GROUP. (And by ‘best’ here, I just mean, closest to being a match for me/someone I’d maybe be interested in going on a date with.) And so I checked off two lovely gentlemen: a Scotsman living in Toronto and a doctor who talked about how he might be a novelist if he couldn’t be a doctor. Both handsome and interesting, at least from what I could tell from a 4 minute conversation.

And yet. And yet? And yet when the Scotsman contacted me I realized I wasn’t actually interested in going on a date. But I didn’t realize that until days later, when the reality of going out with one of these men sunk in. I mean, he’s not horrible, he’s perfectly lovely, but I just wasn’t interested. It’s like the context of the speed dating event tricks me into thinking I’d go on dates with people that I later realize I don’t, and then I need to say no when I’ve checked them off as a ‘yes’ which feels kind of mean, like I’ve developed buyer’s remorse or something and it’s just too damn stressful.

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Adventures in Speed Dating

A friend of mine suggested a few months ago that we try speed dating. I was actually up for this because most of the time, I can tell in the first five minutes if I’m interested in spending an entire evening with someone. In the case of speed dating, I can check ‘yes’ for the people I want to spend more time with, and I don’t need to commit to more than five minutes with the less interesting ones. Plus, this speed dating event was organized by the Toronto Public Library system, so it was FREE. I could meet 25 people and not spend a penny (nickel?). As a graduate student, I find this appealing, as well as the ‘literary’ theme: we had to bring a book (or a DVD) to promote conversation. Surely this would mean that the men who go have self-selected as people interested in things at least remotely literary?

In theory, it all sounded great. In practice, it was a bit more awkward than I expected. To start off, there were fewer people on the ‘men’ side of the table than on the ‘women’ side, so each person on the woman side got several breaks. (The library is actually pretty inclusive when it comes to genderqueer folk – they still use ‘men’ and ‘women’ labels, so it’s still fairly binary, but you sit on the side according to which you get to talk to the people you’re interested in dating.) There came a point when I appreciated the breaks, actually. I took advantage by grabbing a donut and a coffee, or reading some of my book which was definitely more thrilling than a lot of the guys I ended up talking to.

After the awkward beginning of mingling that was reminiscent of a high school dance (the men hanging out on their own, awkwardly, the women in groups chatting to each other), and then some awkward organizational work to ensure that the table-switching would work out, we began. Except, half of the men didn’t bring a book or a DVD with them. They didn’t know! they claimed. (It’s called Literary Speed Dating?)

I had a few good conversations, and many less good ones. One guy could only speak about his love of the band Rush, and seemed to deflate when I admitted I wasn’t that familiar with their music. Another guy started off by talking about Fight Club. When I admitted that I hadn’t seen it (I mean, I know what the movie is about but) he literally spouted OH MY GOD I HATE YOU. He started to say something about Brad Pitt, and when I went to say something, he cut me off and said YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF BRAD PITT? YOU ARE THE WORST. I have actually ‘heard of’ Brad Pitt, but he didn’t seem super interested in listening to what I was saying. I’m actually not sure if he was trying to ‘neg’ me, or if he’s just super awkward? Another guy had brought a Richard Dawkins book. To speed dating. I actually just unabashedly told him that he was going to scare off a lot of ladies with that choice, and he maintained he had to ‘be himself’, which, fair enough, but he might want to look up what a crazy old fuckhead Richard Dawkins has become in the last five years or so. To be honest, I think he was unaware of that fact, but that is actually a bad sign in its own way. (I checked that guy as a ‘yes’ though – maybe that says something about where my expectations were at that point in the night? Whatever he seemed nice, if a bit naive.)

At a certain point I started taking the absurdity of the musical chair aspect of the whole event into my own hands by greeting people by saying ‘Hello and welcome to my table!’ This amused some people, and startled others. I had other conversations, most of which were mediocre. After being a server for ten years or so (on and off), a teacher, and an actor, I consider myself a gregarious introvert – i.e. an introvert who has great social coping mechanisms, but by the end of the two hours I was exhausted. 

After the event was over, I was getting all of my winter gear on and struck up a conversation with some of the ladies who were also lingering behind. She asked me about a book my friend had just given me, and we started talking about historical fiction and history as narrative. It was the most interesting conversation I’d had all evening. And I realized that although speed dating is useful in terms of quantity, the quality is almost impossible to regulate. Even my bad dates usually are worth a drink or two. Well, most of the time.