So what did you do this weekend? Among a laundry list of other things, I accidentally went speed dating.
They told us it was a dinner/dance, and lately I have this near-constant hankering for dancing. So I went. But before they cranked up the music and let us hit the dance floor, they announced the preliminary activity: not an ice breaker or a slightly awkward but well-meant game of some variety, but speed dating. And there was nowhere to run. So there I sat, embarrassed and aggravated, while a string of five or six guys settled themselves into the chair to my right and proceeded to tell me about themselves. Granted, it wasn’t all bad. I even had one downright enjoyable chat. (And then there was the guy who covered his mouth with one hand and leaned way in conspiratorially every time he spoke, like he was confiding some deep, dark secret. Him, leaning in: “I work in finance.” Me, leaning waaaay back: “Cool.” Him, leaning in even farther: “In my spare time I…” Thank goodness they called “switch” before he could tell me something even more confidential, like his favorite color or the make of his car, or I’d have been lying flat on my back.) But the whole thing felt contrived, and since I didn’t go to the dance to find a date (at least not on purpose), I felt false.
Fortunately, I have guy friends who are able to help me keep things in perspective. After kindly letting me rant about the awfulness of the whole thing over a small dinner with a few friends the day following the dance, two of them offered their defense of speed dating from their personal experience. (Neither of these guys was at the event in question, by the way.) Sometimes (okay–most of the time) I forget that there are two sides to the whole dating question. My perception is terribly skewed by my female-ness. And by my almost unhealthy obsession with keeping things “natural,” “normal,” and “non-awkward.” I guess the male half of the equation is equally important, isn’t it? And what relationship, whether it be friendship, rooming situation, a work relationship, or romance, begins without at least a teensy bit of awkwardness and artificiality?
Anyway, these two guys explained to me that the speed dating scene made it a lot easier for them to meet women in a relatively comfortable setting 1) without the gravity of a serious commitment to any one person, and 2) in a venue where “they knew the women involved were also interested in the possibility of dating.” You could keep it casual and friendly, and really you had to since you only had a minute or two per person. If there was interest, you could go back for a “real” conversation later.
I guess a jump start to the whole male initiative thing isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re a guy. Being a girl, I hadn’t really thought of it that way.
Okay, so after hearing what these two guys, both of whom are quite normal and pleasant, had to say, I am willing to recant my original “speed dating is always silly” position. In fact, kudos to those who are willing to make themselves vulnerable like that in the hopes of meeting someone. But I still cling to my insistence that springing speed dating on a group of people isn’t fair, if only because not all of us were “also interested in the possibility of dating.” At least not in such an open, obvious way. (*Blog post for another time: granted, maybe that’s my problem…)