Speed Dating: Jump Start Your Dating Life

As anyone who’s ever been single knows âÂ?¦ when it rains it pours. Raining men, that is! We’ve all been there, suffering through a long dry spell – and then all at once, the heavens open up and send us a downpour of masculine gifts! You meet several hot dating prospects within a couple of weeks and have to juggle a bunch of guys at once. During these rainy seasons, being single is more fun than any other imaginable situation. BUT, the dry spells that precede these rainy seasons and the long draughts that often follow can be brutal to a single gal’s spirits and social life. As one of those single gals, suffering through the long Chicago winter, I say – why wait for the rain? Why not create our own little storms? Why wait for fate, blind luck, Mother Nature, whatever? With speed-dating, we can jump-start our own dating lives!

I admit, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of speed-dating ever since I watched Miranda try it on Sex and the City. But participating in a couple of speed-dating events was much more interesting than I had anticipated. Here’s how it works: you sign up via website for a particular speed-dating company’s event. HurryDate (www.hurrydate.com) and FastDater (www.fastdater.com) were the two companies I tried. They are two of the biggest providers of this service and have a presence in several cities across the country. Companies differ slightly in what they offer – it’s best to check out a couple of different websites to see which events most appeal to you. Often events are age-range or lifestyle specific. For example, the HurryDate event I attended was for heterosexual men and women, age 25-35.

You simply show up at the venue (usually a bar) where the event is being held. Each participant is given a numbered nametag and a scorecard. Depending on the locale, participants take their seats on sofas or long narrow tables. When the whistle blows, your first 3-minute date has begun. The whistle will blow every three minutes and the men get up and move to the next lady.

If you like the guy you’re talking to, you find his number on your scorecard and circle ‘Y’. If you don’t want to see him again, you circle ‘N’. When the event is over, your scorecards get handed into event coordinators, or you might enter in your own responses on the website. Everyone’s Y’s and N’s are calculated, and if you “match” with a guy – meaning you said yes to him and he said yes to you, you receive each other’s email addresses. The next step is up to you!

The HurryDate event was held on a Tuesday night at an upscale lounge. The lighting was dim, the music low, and the drinks stiff. There were 25 girls and 18 guys so the girls had a break every few guys. When I was between ‘dates’, the coordinators often stopped by to say hello and make sure things were going well. The FastDater event had a very different atmosphere. It was held on a Thursday night in a huge sports bar. It was a specialized event where a Bloody Mary bar was set up in the bar so you could make yourself a spicy drink before the dating began. There were 43 girls and about 30 guys. We sat at long tables and moved to the next person when a bullhorn blew.

So, why speed-date? Well, it’s a great way to get out of a dating slump. The hardest part of dating – actually meeting available men – is taken care of for you. They’re just lined up, waiting to talk to you. Depending on the event, you can meet between 15-45 men in one night! Now granted, they’re not all going to look like Colin Farrell with the humor of Will Farrell, but it’s pretty easy to talk to anyone for three minutes. And who knows? Of 25 guys, maybe four will intrigue you enough for a second conversation. Even if just one guy turns your head, that’s still going to do more for your social life than another night of watching Law and Order.

Another plus to meeting so many men at once is that it might introduce you to a different type of guy than you normally meet or date. I was surprised at the variety of men that showed up at the two events I attended. I work in the financial industry, and the guys I normally meet are business-types – accountants or consultants. So I was pretty floored to meet an artist and a TV news producer at the FastDater event, and a pilot and a writer for Rolling Stone at the HurryDate event. I only circled ‘Y’ on my scorecard for the pilot and the writer, but I thoroughly enjoyed the three-minute conversation I had with each.

Also, if you’re naturally shy or haven’t been out on the dating scene for awhile, speed-dating can be great for your self-confidence. “Even if you don’t meet your soul-mate, it’s just good to see single men out there who are looking for nice women to date,” says Marissa, a 26-year-old systems analyst, whose friends dragged her out speed-dating a couple of months after a bad break-up. “It was great getting some compliments and appreciative glances from a bunch of guys. It made me realize that dating can be fun – it’s not something to dread.”

Cathy, my vivacious redheaded friend who attended both events with me, agrees. “I’m not sure I would do speed-dating regularly, but I think the concept is wonderful. Regardless of whether you make a long-lasting connection, you can definitely score a few a dates.” She laughs when describing a funny moment during her event. “Right after the FastDater event ended, I was standing at the bar, trying to get a drink. One of the guys I had ‘dated’ came up behind me and asked me if I had put him as a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. I actually had not decided on him yet and had a question mark next to his name and number on the card. So I told him he was a ‘Maybe.’ He spent the next 20 minutes joking with me, trying to negotiate his way up to a ‘Yes.’ It was a lot of fun.”

What’s the downside to this new dating phenomenon? Well, speed-dating is definitely a non-traditional way of meeting people, so the situation might seem uncomfortable. But hell, so are thongs and high heels and we’ve sure adjusted to those! I was so nervous when the first HurryDate whistle blew that my teeth were chattering âÂ?¦ but by the second or third whistle I was too busy chatting about my favorite movie and how much I love my dog to even think about the potential awkwardness of the “date.”

I think the stigma attached to non-traditional dating techniques is another reason that singles stay away from speed-dating. When I urged some of my friends to join me at an event, they groaned and asked if I really thought any ‘quality’ people would attend. I said I didn’t know, but I was pretty damn sure no ‘quality’ people were going to magically appear in my living room. You don’t know who you can meet until you try! And why not try in volume? As the slogan of HurryDate says, “Dating should be fun. And in mass quantities.” In my speed-dating experiences, I definitely ran into a few guys I would NEVER date, but I think I also found a few diamonds in the rough. I might be an optimist, but I think you can find “quality” guys anywhere. It remains to be seen if anything serious will come from my adventures, but I am excited about some impending dates – and I have three in the next week!

The last thing that might stop people from speed-dating is the cost. An event typically costs between $25 and $45 for an evening that lasts 2-3 hours. True, it’s a bit more pricey than a couple of movie tickets or getting a pizza. But don’t you owe it to yourself to splurge when the opportunity for making new friends – or more – is there?!

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