At first, speed dating sounds like a gimmick: you are thrust in front of a series of strangers for six-minute quickie conversations. It’s a merry-go-round of first impressions, but if you arrive in the right mood it’s pretty fun, if not downright wacky. I arrived at Pre-Dating Speed Dating being held at Waterplace Restaurant with hesitations because I haven’t successfully dated since the end of my last long-term relationship. After signing in at the table and getting a nametag and number [hyah, mule!] I headed to the bar to have a gin and tonic to accompany me through the gauntlet of women. Two of my female co-workers had offered some advice earlier in the day: “Don’t drink beer... you’ll have beer breath. And do not carry around a glass of wine.” Righto.
I had 15 minutes to kill before the festivities began. After making small talk with a dude at the bar (the competition), I spotted the Bruins game on a TV in the corner. Hallelujah, a port in the storm. I walked over to watch, and nearby were two stylish cougars sharing a bottle of wine. The age range for the event was 24-35, which explains why they didn’t have any name tags. One looked over her shoulder and asked, spying my nametag, “So Dan, why are you single?” Yeah, tell me about it. The second woman then asked who I thought the “hottest” woman in the room was, saying that she thought it was a woman in a green dress. Hmm... an aunt doing some reconnaissance work, maybe?
Then, each woman was asked to sit at a different table with a number card. And... you’re off! Conversations ensued, interrupted every six minutes by a little dinner bell, when the guys would get up and shuffle over to the next table. Extroverts had the advantage. There were a couple of doctors from Hasbro Children’s Hospital; a shy woman from Pawtucket who explained that she didn’t date often; a chipper woman from Fall River who said she speaks four languages and then grilled me about my knowledge of French; a 25-year-old who owns her own photography studio in West Warwick (who when I mentioned that my dad’s a psychologist said, “You know what they say about the children of therapists.” Yikes.) and a cute Brown grad student going for her PhD in BioMed. It was weird. It was enjoyable.
At the end, I circled the names of the women with whom I wanted further contact. Later that I night I got an email of responses broken down into two categories: the mutual interest list (there were two) and the list of women who liked me (there were four). From there, the ball was in my court for responding to those women. I had a first date four days later with the Brown grad student: a glass of wine at Red Stripe. Speed dating? Hell, why not.