Most of us have only seen speed dating in movies and TV, where it’s portrayed as possibly the most godawful experience on the planet. It makes sense, though. It’s easy to make a joke out of a quick interaction with a weird character we never have to see again. But in real life, that kind of makes it exciting.
Here’s the lowdown on what speed dating is like for real people:
1. How does it actually work? An equal number of men and women (usually 10 – 12) sit down at a table, armed with a name tag and a piece of paper. You meet someone, you talk for 5 minutes, and afterward you circle “yes” if you liked them or “no” if you didn’t. If you both circle yes, you get each others’ contact information in an email the next day. Sounds relatively painless, right?
2. And that’s fun for you? Totally! You get to make snap judgements on people (we’re humans, we all love to judge and you know it), and you also get to meet a ton of interesting people you never would otherwise. Last week I went speed dating and I met two Australians who had only been in the country for five days, a soldier who finished his service in Afghanistan three days earlier, and a guy who works for Time Warner and was afraid I would hold that against him (I didn’t. Well. Maybe a little…).
3. So… what makes that different from online dating? When you date online, you pre-screen. You scrutinize over little things. “This person’s profile looks awesome but… oh. They love to watch reruns of ‘Making the Band?’ It can never work.” Speed dating gives you the chance to meet people who are also looking for a date, but instead of learning everything about them up front, you have a conversation with them and see if you get along. So you’re not brushing someone off for some interest they have that probably wouldn’t even effect your relationship with them, you’re getting a slight glimpse at whether or not you might actually enjoy their company.
4. But I like pre-screening and scrutinizing! I deserve someone who is up to my standards. It’s good to have standards. Online dating can be a lot of fun, and can yield some great results. But sometimes it makes us forget that meeting people with different interests and different backgrounds is fun and exciting. I would never have looked twice at someone who was in the military when perusing dating sites, assuming we were too different. But meeting him in person, I found him fascinating and really enjoyed our conversation.
5. Okay, sounds great! Sign me up! How many friends should I bring? No friends! This is your dating life, go alone. Bringing friends along might help you feel relaxed going into the speed dating event, but it could result in the pack mentality. At the event I went to last week there was a group of four girls, all of whom handed in their sheets with nothing but “Nos” circled. I’m sure that all four of those women have varying taste in men, not to mention the degree of different types of men who were in attendance. Yet, they somehow all convinced each other that no one there was good enough for them. I’m sure this was a combination of feeling embarrassed to go against the grain, and also the intimidation factor that came with four women who were clearly good friends, all scrutinizing the same guys. The guys probably felt ganged up on.
6. Right. Four friends is excessive. But surely it would be fun to just bring along one friend? It’s definitely better than going with a big group of friends, but keep in mind there could be a jealousy factor. I went speed dating about four years ago and brought a good friend with me. Afterward, I had three matches and my friend only had one. I know it made her feel insecure. We are two very different types, and we have different taste in men, but still. It’s human nature for things to feel like a competition.
7. I get your point. But, I still think I want to bring a friend. We’re adults, we can handle it. I’m sure that’s true, but there is such a thing as being too good of friends. Two of my matches from that same event four years ago ended up being friends. I learned on my date with guy #1 that they had gone speed dating together, but it wasn’t until my date with guy #2 that I realized they were not just friends. These two were BEST friends, and they did absolutely everything together. They played soccer together, they took improv classes together, they even told the same jokes. I did not learn a single new thing about guy #2 that I hadn’t already learned on my date with guy #1. It was a super awkward situation and I do not recommend putting yourself in that possible position.
8. Okay, any last advice? Don’t take it too seriously! It’s just an hour of your life. You know you’ve spent much more time than that on HowAboutWe looking for a date. Spend the time enjoying talking to new and interesting people, rather than wondering whether or not each person you meet is your soul mate. Contrary to what you might believe, you cannot tell that from five minutes. If it doesn’t work out? No big deal. Those were ten strangers. Try again with a completely different group of ten strangers. Who knows what will happen?
Okay, there you have it. You are ready to go out and start speed dating!