Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Quest For Love

How well can you get to know someone in ten minutes or less? If you believe the claims of the many speed dating companies springing up all around the country, the answer is "pretty well." Well enough, in fact, to justify another meeting that many of us bipedal mammals refer to as "dating."

It's a fair claim for the most part; it really doesn't take that long to get to know somebody on a topical level. Many of the dating services I've researched have gone as far as to provide a list of suggested questions, as opposed to suggestive ones, to get things rolling. This name, rank, and serial number approach to meeting people usually consists of learning about the other person's profession and their various like and dislikes.

I recently decided to take the plunge and try out this alleged utopia of single souls that, for one reason or another, weren't meeting people the conventional way. I still find I am arguing with myself over what finally made me whip out my credit card (as opposed to something else I'll leave to the readers imagination) and sign up for a session of speed dating.

My favorite reason is curiosity. While that's partly true, it's also a convenient excuse to avoid admitting I'm particularly bad at meeting women unless I have a non-romantic reason to speak to them. I don't know if that's because, in High School, my humor got me by and most of the girls I dated approached me, or that I'm rather self-conscious and don't want to come off as a letch on the make.

The next reason that comes to mind is the hope of meeting "the one." It's a good reason and probably quite valid, but it's something the pessimistic part of me put somewhere in the odds of finding intelligent life on the set of American Idol. That's more a comment on my pre-conceived notions on the whole idea of speed dating than a comment on the people involved.

The third and final reason wins out - the simple desire for companionship and someone to share my life with. No matter how introverted and shy I've become, I still, like the majority of people, feel the need to share myself with someone. It's the one mystery of existence that constantly plagues and motivates me at the same time.

I soon found myself at a random Martini bar in the central part of Denver, Colorado. I walked into the bar with my fight or flee instincts sumo-wrestling in my head and approached the greeting table. I was given a nametag that also contained a number that would help match me with potential "second-dates" online after the event was over. It was part of the rules (who knew there were rules to dating?) to set up a post small-talk second date with the help of the dating service.

Everyone was instructed, several times by my count, to mark "interested," "not interested," or "networking" on the provided score card and let the service put you in contact with anyone who felt the same. This is, of course, because speed dating is a business designed to make the owners some coin, and not the noble humanitarian effort it should be.

The particular event I attended was centered around a series of eight-minute dates. Each participant was given a card with eight table numbers. When the event began, we were paired with one other person for a short session of Q&A. A pretty simple concept fueled by the two-for-one drink specials. It wasn't nearly as intimidating as I imagined it would be.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the evening for me, being a single male who was a feeling a bit desperate, was that none of the eight women I was paired with was in the least bit unattractive. Seriously; I'm not being generous in my opinion here by any means. Most of these women were amazingly attractive and it perplexed me that any of them felt the need to use a speed dating service.

The first thought that crossed my mind was "This has to be some sort of a scam," but I soldiered on. One of the women I was paired with did admit she was a friend of the organizers and a "fill-in" to make up for an uneven number of "sign-ups," but all the other women seemed genuine in their desire to meet someone.

The second revelation of the evening came from the realization that I do have a set of standards for a potential date that extends past checking for a pulse. All of the women I met were nice and none truly rubbed me the wrong way. Again, I'm not being nice; my intolerance for people's stupidity and self-absorption probably has a good deal to do with my inability to meet new people.

Still, while I could easily see myself being friends with some of the women I met that night (and maybe more, given some time to gel), only one of the eight dates really bowled me over to the point of checking off "interested" on my tally card. Sadly, according to my online results, the feeling wasn't mutual.

At the end of the night I couldn't help but wonder if I was just extremely picky or just had a solid grasp of the kind of person I wanted to date and hadn't found them yet. I'm still a bit undecided, but in the end I think I'm just a hopeless romantic looking for that one person who I really click with. I felt like a learned a lot about myself, and while I don't envision paying someone to set me up on a blind date again in the near future, I had a good time and feel just a little bit better about the possibility of finding that special someone.

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