Okay, so I’m not going to act like speed dating is desperate or whatever, because you know you clicked in to read this because you’ve always kinda wanted to do it. So even though we all think it’s a little weird, we also all find it a little bit intriguing.
Weird. But intriguing.
Anyway. Since you’re here for details, let’s jump in:
Before last week, the only thing I knew about speed dating was what I’d picked up from Facebook pop-up ads and that Pysch episode. (Which IMDB tells me was titled, “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, Oops He’s Dead”… man, wasn’t Psych great?)
So based on that very in-depth research, I had a rough idea of what to expect: I would sit at hightop tables at a bar and talk to strangers for a few minutes at a time. An energetic, well-meaning woman would run the whole thing and match me up with someone at the end of the evening.
Turns out I was spot-on.
I also had very, very low expectations for the men. Despite the website saying everywhere that they strive for 50/50 male to female ratio, I knew there was no possible way that dudes were signing up for this. And I had no idea what the guys who did sign up for this would be like. (I mean, if the caliber of dudes I meet in real life, or my friends meet on dating apps, is so low, why would guys who voluntarily sign up for speed dating be any different?)
Turns out I was pleasantly surprised.
So let’s set the scene:
A couple weeks back, I used this blog as an excuse to bite the bullet and sign up for this thing – I’ve seen signs at local sports bars, and honestly, that is one of my favorite episodes of Psych, so I figured why not. I Googled “Atlanta Speed Dating” and wound up at Pre-Dating.com. The next event was booked for women (they were still accepting registrations for men,) so I looked at the date of the following event in my age range. Before I really let myself think about it, I had registered for the next local Speed Dating event.
I then immediately regretted it.
So I told a friend about it, and instead of pointing and laughing at me (which I totally expected,) she jumped at the chance to join me for this trainwreck and immediately signed up too.
As the date (well, I should say dates, really,) approached, I started receiving e-mails from the organizer of the event with details. She was excited and checked several times that I was 100% attending, since she didn’t want no-shows to upset the 50/50 balance (that I didn’t believe existed.) But I will admit, her e-mails actually helped ease some of the nerves over the whole thing and get me a little more excited. The more prepared you are for something, the less nerve-wracking it is.
The week of the event, I got an e-mail with a ten question survey. The organizer’s e-mail said it was a way to help her get to know us better, and get our juices flowing for some conversation topics. A sample of these questions:
- Choose one: College Degree, Advanced Degree, No Degree
- Choose one: Nightclub or Lounge
- Have you traveled much? Yes or No
- Do you have children? Yes or No
- Do you want children? Yes or No
As you can see, it goes from basic to very serious, very quickly. I think the basic questions are intentionally vague just to give you an idea of sample conversation topics. And the more serious questions basically save you time from being matched up with someone you definitely won’t be compatible with. But a note: When the options are nightclub or lounge, the option is always “neither.”
Arriving at the Event
Anyway, so they day finally comes. I arrive at the sports bar and am told by a hostess that the room’s not ready yet. I have to say the words “I’m here for speed dating” out loud, and I wince more than I had anticipated. As I’m waiting, I start bonding with a girl who’s throwing back some liquid courage in anticipation for the night’s event.
She seems normal. This is encouraging.
I look around and the bar is pretty packed for 7:30 on a weeknight, and all with relatively normal-looking people. This is also encouraging.
The hostess finds us in a few minutes later and ushers us to a back room. There is a sign there that says Speed Dating. Even though I committed to doing this so I could write about it, I completely forget to take a picture as I am rushing to get into the room as quickly as possible so no one sees me entering.
Once inside, I see that the room has about 15 small tables with a few people milling about. I check in with the organizer who gives me a name tag with my name and a number on it. She explains that all the tables also have numbers on them – I sit at the table with my number, and the guys will rotate from table to table, spending 6 minutes at each.
The tables are prepared with a form (pictured below,) a few postcards with info on upcoming Pre-Dating events, and a coaster that has even more contact info.
My friend and I circle the room a bit, awkwardly eye the guys who have already arrived and are camped out on their phones in the corner, and mingle with other awkward girls at the bar. And we immediately bond with every girl there, because we all collectively agree this is an awkward situation, and nothing brings strangers together more than collective misery.
And then a group of 3 guys show up, all openly discussing how awkward the whole thing is, and we chat with them. And bam! Instant connection with these guys, too. They seem pretty normal and are doing this because they thought “why not.” Already, I’m looking forward to when they hit my table, because we already know we can fill 6 minutes worth of conversation.
And then our ringleader says it’s time to take our seats, and it’s time for this thing to start. All of us new sisters in arms say our goodbyes and good lucks and head back to talk to the first guys assigned to our tables.
The Actual Speedy Part of Speed Dating
I gotta be honest: It is very, very easy to fill 6 minutes talking to a stranger. I was in the middle of a sentence with the first guy when the leader rang a bell to tell the guys to move to their next table. (Just like in the Psych episode!! Y’all, that little detail made me so happy.)
And y’all – it was actually pretty interesting talking to a bunch of these guys. True, a handful of them were duds (as you would expect anywhere,) but for the most part, it was just fun to talk to such a random assortment of guys.
In the 30 seconds that the guys are switching between tables, everyone makes a quick note on their sheets about the person they just spoke to. You jot down their name, a line about what you discussed so that you can remember them, and then in the final column, either circle “Let’s Talk!” or “No, Thanks.”
For politeness’ sake, everyone refrains from commenting on someone while sitting at their table – the girls waited until the guys were shifting between tables, and the guys marked their sheets once they’d moved to a different table.
And then rinse and repeat for everyone!
About halfway through the evening, our leader has us take a 10-minute break and everyone mingles with people they’d already spoken to and enjoyed, or hits the bar. Either way, you’re now talking to a lot of guys you hadn’t spoken to before, and you’ve moved on to real topics as opposed to just discussing the weirdness of this whole thing.
Then it’s time to go back and finish this party, and the guys finish their circle through all the tables so by the end of the evening we’ve spoken to every guy. Then we get the wrap-up signal from the leader and she makes a few brief announcements about upcoming events and asks to collect our sheets.
You tear off a part of your sheet where you’ve written only the names of the guys you’re interested in – you get to keep your notes to yourself. And then you turn that baby in, and wait for true love to find you.
What Happens Next*
(*I wanted to call this section “The Aftermath,” but it felt a little too violent.)
So the next morning, around 10 a.m., I get an e-mail from the leader including the name and e-mail address of everyone I had “matched” with from the night before. A match happens when both he and I said “Let’s Talk” for each other. I was very, very stingy with my “Let’s Talks” – I only listed two guys, and it looks like only one of those guys said it for me. As a result, I was only matched with one person.
And then at the bottom part of the e-mail, she included a list of names and e-mail addresses who had said “Let’s Talk” for me, but I had said “No, Thanks.” She said she had passed these guys’ e-mails along, in case I felt like I wanted to give any of these guys a second chance.
It turns out there’s a third option – the friend I went with received an e-mail from someone she didn’t match with, but he wanted to share that had a friend he thought she would like, and would she mind if he passed along her e-mail?
We’ve both been actually really impressed with the follow-up from these guys. I guess it makes sense, though. If you’re doing a dating app, there’s no reason to be interested in commitment; you literally have hundreds of people you can swipe through for free. But if you commit to doing something like Speed Dating, or any other singles’ event where you actually meet in person, you’re probably fairly serious about wanting to find someone.
Okay, this is all great and whatever, but… What were the guys like?!?
First of all, there were MORE GUYS THAN GIRLS. Just think about that for a minute. Girls living in Atlanta, I ask you this: When was the last time you were anywhere – and I mean anywhere – where there were more guys than girls? Nowhere, you say? Is it because there are 80,000 more single women than men living in Atlanta? Probably.
Anyway, yes. Apparently there were a few no-show girls, which created the disparity in our ideal 50/50 ratio. I was annoyed at those girls on behalf of the organizer who had politely e-mailed us multiple times to avoid this exact situation.
So there were a total of 13 guys. A few observations:
- More than half of them had only moved to America in the last 5 years, from countries all over. I have no idea why that was so prevealent at this event, and if that’s common for all speed dating events, but it’s definitely a conversation that kept coming up over and over.
- Nearly every single one of them – 11 out of 13 – to be precise, seemed to be honest, nice guys. I had no trouble having a conversation with any of these guys, and it wasn’t awkward at all as the 6 minutes flew by. I didn’t instantly fall head over heels with any of them, and I could tell pretty quickly if they were someone I would or wouldn’t be interested in dating, but I was still easily able to talk with them. I could be friends with any of them.
- The two weirdos weren’t “weirdos” so much as they clearly are single for a reason.
I’m here for stories about the weirdos. Tell me about the weirdos.
Okay, fine, but let the record show that I made a point to say there were a lot of nice guys.
Weird guy #1 would benefit from reigning things in a little. He sat down and said these exact words to me:
“Okay, I’m going to tell you 5 things about myself and you have to tell me which one is the lie. Ready? 1. I make 6 figures. 2. I have an 800 credit score. 3. I work for a Fortune 500 company. 4. I drive a Porsche. 5. I’m 43 years old.”
I just stared at him for a minute before going, “Well, since this event only goes up to 39 years old, I’m gonna bet it’s number 5.” He proudly grinned and goes, “Yep!” And then just waited for me to, I don’t know, bask in his brilliance I guess?
I did not. I just kind of sat there and let him slowly realize that I wasn’t responding by falling to my knees and worshipping him. He eventually started talking to just fill the dead air. I politely nodded and asked him about his job and his car, since clearly that’s what he wanted and I just wanted to speed this thing up. Then our time was up, and I fully expect that to be the last time I ever see that person. (Fun fact: He used the EXACT SAME OPENING with my friend. She chose to answer by saying “I’m assuming this is a trick question and they’re all lies.” He apparently didn’t react to that answer any better.)
Weird guy #2 was clearly working through some stuff. First of all, he was drunk. And I don’t mean a little buzzed, I mean completely drunk as a skunk, but still capable of stringing sentences together. His opening line was asking me why I wasn’t drunk. He didn’t give me too much time to respond before explaining why everyone should be drunk… And then that quickly became a long, rambling monologue about how he thought everyone should be on drugs. And then came the second* most interesting line I’ve ever heard in my life: “Do you like cocaine? You look like a cocaine girl.”
After staring at him in stunned silence for a moment, I wrote out “HECK NO” on my sheet in all caps, circled “No, Thanks,” all while sitting right in front of him, then sat back and enjoyed the show. He didn’t notice at all. It’s worth noting that I watched him leave about halfway through the night and go to the bar, where he sat for the remainder of the evening, drinking alone.
Again… He was clearly working through some stuff.
*The first most interesting line I’ve ever heard was from an 80-something year old gentleman at a now-closed dive bar called Southern Comfort. It was, “I’d like to take you to Long John Silver’s and treat you like a lady.” One day I’ll write a post, and then a book, and then an entire television series, about this one line.
How to Enjoy Speed Dating:
- Do not go in with the expectation that you will meet your soulmate. You will get out exactly what you put in: I went in with the expectation that I would get a really good story to write about, and I got a story. My friend went in sorta, kinda hoping to meet some guys. She was matched with 6 guys and is now talking with several of them.
- Go with friends. Make it a girls’ night. These things are held at sports bars for a reason. Get there early and have a drink with your friends and bond with other people who are already there, waiting. You’ll enter the room way more confident and carefree than you would if you just walked in there cold. Afterwards, if the whole night is a complete trainwreck, head back to the bar and order an appetizer to compare notes with your friends.
- This may be a little intimidating if you’re a very shy person – but it can also be a great way to challenge yourself. Listen, I’m unbelievably extroverted (Obviously. I have a blog.) Talking to strangers is my #2 favorite thing to do, right below arguing about sports with strangers. So this was really fun for me – I had one-on-one conversations with 13 strangers and got to hear and enjoy 13 life stories. But if you are someone that finds social situations like this particularly intimidating (and I don’t blame you, it’s not an easy thing!), you may find this a little challenging. All the more reason to go with friends – they’ll support you and help you get a little more comfortable. Plus, what a great way to challenge yourself! Honestly, I would recommend speed dating for someone who’s trying to improve their public speaking skills, or psyching themselves up for asking for a raise, or any other situation where you have to be comfortable speaking in uncomfortable situations. This is literally a no-risk scenario, and it feels a little like a bunch of mini low-stakes job interviews.
- You will feel like The Bachelorette. Maybe it’s just because the finale was so recent and everyone has had Bachelorette fever, but I was having definite Bachelorette vibes the entire night. It’s kind of a power rush, sitting there as man after man cycles through, vying for your affection. They did everything but interrupt one another, saying “Can I talk to you for a sec?”