Speed Dating – The Aftermath

As of this morning, neither of the guys I selected for my 8 minute dating experiment have selected me back, leaving me with no matches. It makes me a little bit sad, in a way I hadn’t expected: I thought I’d connected with both of them, at least a little, and it bothers me that I was apparently wrong. I wonder, in an uncomfortable sort of way, if some of the other men there felt that way about me, and are sitting around this morning wondering why I didn’t choose them back.

If I wasn’t clear enough about this in the last post, I am not made for speed dating.

Because I know many of you are living vicariously through me, I present the details:

The event started at 6:08 sharp (cute — they really liked their 8s), they told us, and was in a hotel bar. I arrived a hair after 6, and got myself a drink. There were several people at the bar, and I was nervous and not sure what to do, so I bought a drink and went to awkwardly perch on a couch. I checked my phone, totally being That Guy. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone, because eye contact was frightening. Once the event started, I told myself, I’d be engaging and warm and friendly. Just at the moment, I was a little too busy with being awkward and nervous. After five minutes or so, someone came and sat next to me, and I gave a hesitant smile and a, “Hi.”

“Hi, there!” Brandon said.

“Is this your first time at one of these?”

It was not. We spent a while chatting, me about my aggressive “make myself date” plans, him about his recent experiences. He was really nice, and extremely engaging — warm, easy smile, really good-looking guy. He works for a non-profit! I liked him. I’m really glad I started out with that conversation, because it was a nice warm-up to the event itself.

The event did not start at 6:08 sharp. It started at closer to 6:30, because there were a few no-shows they kept waiting for. This annoyed me. I like things to start on time! If people are late, let those people deal with it, not all the rest of us. Also, did the no-shows ever show up? No, they did not. So we waited for no reason.

The organizer explained to us how the event worked: we each had one card on which to record our thoughts and another card showing us our schedule. Whenever the bell rang, we’d jot down the person’s name and identifying number, a few reminders about them, and then whether we wanted to meet them again before we moved on to the next table. . We could choose meet again for a second date, for friendship, or for business. After the event, we’d log onto the website and fill in our choices. If two people picked each other in the same category, a mail would go out with contact info for both of us.

And then we were off.

I don’t want to give a lot of details about most of these guys, in part because I don’t have many — 8 minutes is not a lot of time, y’all — but I’ll share some highlights.

The first guy I talked to felt like he was giving a pitch for a new marketing campaign — he’d obviously perfected and practiced a thing about himself. I did not feel like I scratched below his surface at all: he was so polished and clean. He asked me questions (What do you do for a living? What do you do in your spare time?) briskly and efficiently, and it took me around 30 seconds to just be… done.

Funny thing about 8 minutes: sometimes, it can feel like a freaking eternity, and sometimes, it just vanishes.

When the time came for #4, I misread my card and went to sit at table 4 instead of my actual table. I realized I’d made a mistake immediately after introducing myself to Kyle and sitting down, and apologized, then went to my actual seat at table 6. In an awesome and fabulous coincidence, my table 6 partner was one of the no-shows, as was Kyle’s partner. So I went back, laughing, reintroduced myself, and we talked for a while. He was really nice, smart, low-key funny, and interested. He was very quiet, and table 4 was a loud place, so I had to strain a bit to hear him, but I wanted to strain, so it was all right.

We took an intermission. I got another drink. Next to me at the bar was Brandon! I chatted a bit with him again. I really kind of liked him.

Then the bell ding-a-linged, and we were back in the grind. I went to my 5th date, and it was… Kyle! “Hello again!” I beamed at him. “Where did we leave off?” And we talked a bit more. It was nice. And then the bell rang. Clean cup, clean cup, move down, move down…

The next three were pretty rough. One of them was this guy who really felt like he was trying to perform some kind of mind-control through the intensity of his stare. Break eye contact sometimes, guys! It’s really, really, really unnerving otherwise! You look like Hannibal Lector! The other two I can barely remember. I’d had a little too much to drink by then.

At the end, the organizer told us that since we were short one or two, she knew some of us had only met 7 people, and we were all going to get to 8! So she gave us a bonus cycle. I moved to my table and found… Brandon. “Oh, hello again!” I said. We’d already covered a lot of the preliminaries, so we dug deeper into things we liked. We talked TV: Game of Thrones and Arrow. We talked superheroes in general — Batman, Captain America, Green Arrow. We brought up Doctor Who, which he is not a fan of. We talked SF books. And then the bell rang.

At the end of the day, I wrote down two names: Brandon and Kyle. A 25% success rate felt okay to me.

But the website is telling me, “Nearly everyone at the event was selected by someone, but a match can occur only if you chose the people who chose you. At this time it appears that we do not have any matches to report to you.”

And this is what’s leaving me feeling vaguely sad. This felt like a low-key, no-rejection scenario, but there is rejection in it, and it does sting a little, even with no real investment in the process. I like to think I’ve learned a little about myself, and a little about the real world of dating.

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Speed Dating

Do you know what I did tonight?

SPEED DATING.

Yes. For real.

So, I signed up with a service called 8minutedating.com. They have events where they pair you with 8 people for 8 minutes each.

My best connection was with the guy I sat next to before the event technically started, which I think is telling.

BUT. You want the dirt. This event was for “Professionals, ages 33-45.” I am a professional. I am 34. Sounded good to me. It was at a bar in the town neighboring mine. Did I drink too much at the bar?

…given that I was driving home, probably yes. But not so much that I felt really badly about it.

So. 8 dates. 8 minutes each.

Grover. Grover was a vegetarian, and very polite, but Boring As Dirt. He talked about how blind dates are rough, because you can usually tell in 10 minutes if it’s someone that’s going to work for the long haul, and then you’re stuck for hours. And I tried not to think, “Man, 10 minutes? I was there in 20 seconds, dude.”

There was a really scary guy whose name I don’t remember, so I’m not even going to make up a pseudonym for him, who talked the whole time about how much society sucked. That’s a no. There was another guy who complained about video game players, and how he was bullied too, dammit, and didn’t shoot people, so what’s wrong with everyone.

There were a LOT of guys who made Way Too Much Eye Contact. Seriously, dudes. At a certain point, it graduates to creepy, okay?

Also, eight minutes is really not enough. I don’t think it’s an accident that my only two yeses were a guy I wound up in two sessions with and the guy I talked to for 15 minutes while waiting for the event to start. We’ll see if either of them liked me enough to put me down, too.

Rediscovering Sexy

I bought a black lace bra last week.

I also learned that I am not a lace panties type of person, so I bought satiny boyshorts instead.

I have not been approaching undergarments as things that people, um, see.

For real, 100% true story here. Last summer, I went to my local Nordstrom’s for a bra fitting. “What are you wearing now?” they asked me. “38D,” I answered. “Yeah, that’s going to change,” they said. I walked out with 2 36Gs and a 36H.

For those who have never had to wear a 36H: those things are practically industrial equipment. They have steel reinforcements, and 5 clasps on the back. They cover around 40% of my torso. By the end of the day, they hurt: my ribs feel bruised. I cannot wear V-necks in them. Or anything sleeveless. Or anything with a low back. Or a wide neck. My sexiness level in these things is LOW.

So last week, in preparation for a (seriously? maybe?) overnight encounter, I went shopping. I went cautiously into my friendly neighborhood lingerie shop and said, “Um, hi. I am a 36G, and I want something sexy to wear, please?”

The lady was great, and helped me find the best options available. I have a really nice black lace bra, and I may order the same thing in white.

I think maybe I am more a white lace underwear person than a black lace underwear person?

But this is all just a part of a bigger matter, which is: I am feeling sexy again.

So a year ago, if you had asked me, I would have said, “I think I’m not a very sexual person. I don’t really experience sexual attraction. I don’t think of myself as sexy. I mean, I’ll do sex, to make my partner happy. But it doesn’t do anything for me.”

I was wrong.

I mean, I haven’t actually gotten to the sex part yet, but this last week has been a wild romp through fantasyland. I am definitely a sexual person, you guys. Like, OMG I am a sexual person. I keep getting hit by random physical memory moments at work and having to stop and catch my breath.

And it’s having interesting side effects on me.

I’ve started shaving my legs more often. I went clothes shopping. I scheduled both a doctor’s appointment and a dentist appointment, both well overdue. I am feeling… worth something. Desirable. And I want to be more desirable. I want to be fierce, and sexy, and amazing. I want to be wholly, absolutely, incredibly me. I am a woman, and I am young, and I am sexy.

And that is awesome.

Choices

One of the most empowering moments of my professional life was when I walked out of an interview I nailed, got to the parking lot, and thought, “You know… not for me.” I sent them an email the next morning withdrawing my application, and soared high for a few weeks off of it. I had choices. What was up with that?

A few nights ago, I sent an OKCupid message to a guy who responded promptly and warmly. We traded some messages back and forth, in which we talked about geeky stuff and about work things – he and I are in similar lines.

After about ten messages, though, I had nothing. He seemed nice! He could carry on a conversation. But he hadn’t asked to meet me.

So I decided to ask him. I started a message. “This has been really fun,” I wrote. “Would you be interested in –“ No. Not working. I deleted. “This conversation has been very–“ Yick. No. Delete. “Ha! That’s true. Hey, would you like to –“ Delete delete delete delete.

I couldn’t get the message to come out feeling right, and the reason, I realized at last, was that I didn’t really want to meet this guy. He was nice! He could carry on a conversation. But I was having polite smalltalk, and neither of us was feeling a drive to move beyond it.

So I started over. “Ha! That’s valid. At least I got out on time. I need to do a load of laundry, too, but at this point I think it’s waiting for tomorrow.

Best of luck with things here!”

“Yeah, you too,” he said.

And that was all. And that was enough. I have choices. I can walk away.

Loss of Momentum

I am not wanting to spend energy on looking for dates right now.

I have something set up for next week with a new guy, and I am sending out a lot of tentative OKCupid feelers, but overall I’m just kind of brooding over how hard it is to carve out real time from my schedule.

Reality is hard.

So, I have 3 kids, aged from 4-9. They are fantastic and fabulous. One weekend out of every three, they are with their day from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, and I can frolic and date and be merry. An additional weekend, they are with their dad from Friday evening through Saturday evening, which gives me one evening and one day. The third weekend, they’re with me.

I think I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m living with my parents while waiting for the divorce to fully shake out (December 14 is the day it becomes final and permanent!). This carries a whole host of problems with it, one of them being awkwardness around childcare. Since we are obviously imposing a huge burden on them by occupying part of their home, I don’t like to add to that burden by asking for childcare for dates. If I were paying a babysitter, I would be totally okay with hiring someone to show up at 6PM and stay until 11PM, which would be enough time to have a fun evening out.

This is coming up in part because I am having a hard time feeling like I want to spend my precious time I can scrape loose doing things other than chasing happiness with a good-date find. But I see myself spiraling down a tricky path — I’ve known him for a week, and seen him twice. I really need to not be worrying about things like how our living styles might mesh, or how he’d be with the kids. This is not a long-term relationship (at least, it isn’t yet, and I don’t want to think about it that way), and I don’t want to lock myself down. I want to appreciate that I feel good and beautiful with him, and keep looking for other opportunities to feel good and beautiful in other ways, as well.

Next week, I am setting myself a goal to make contact with at least twenty guys through dating sites, and to finish setting up my geek 2 geek profile. I have a whole mountain range to hike and explore: I cannot stop forever here because I found a pretty waterfall.

Yes, but… why BAD dates? or: Isn’t this a little mean?

So, I’ve heard a bit back about this project from various people. The biggest question I’ve received was why I’m doing this. “Why are terrible dates going to help you?” Or, “Aren’t you sabotaging yourself with this attitude?” Or, “Isn’t this really unfair to the guys, who think they’re going on a date, not participating in some weird social experiment?”

So, here’s the thing… dating is always a weird social experiment. No matter how you play it. You take two different chemical mixes, shake them up, and see what happens. Most people judge success by the times they get the bright sparks and the pretty smells and the heady feeling. I’m judging success differently. I’m looking for the thing where they spray vile-smelling sludge all over the room, or — more often — just sit there and turn murky.

Why am I doing this? I talked a bit about my motivations in my first post — it lowers the stakes, it makes it easier to try things I otherwise wouldn’t. But there are other reasons, too, reasons that are hard to articulate but which I keep brushing up against. I find myself leaning in to my conceit for comfort: “Because this is six months of bad dates, it’s okay if I…”

There was an article I read in the Onion a month or so back, called Date’s Flaws Coming At Woman Faster Than She Can Rationalize Them. I laughed at the article, but it was one of those uncomfortable laughs, the kind where you’re thinking, “This is so my life, and it is funny only because if it’s not funny, it’s too sad for me to deal with.” It talks about a woman who is coming up with rationalizations to balance out her date’s negatives. And I have been there.

I don’t want to do this again. Part of the advantage of my system is that I’m looking for the signs that it’s not going to work, instead of trying to rationalize them away. I am seeing people a lot more clearly, I think.

Here’s what this doesn’t mean: I’m not cheating. I’m not deliberately seeking out people I know I’ll be incompatible with. I’m not suggesting first dates that I know will make me miserable. I’m trying to make them work, and I’m going into each date with the attitude that it will be fun. I genuinely want to like the guys I’m meeting.

Another motivation, which is even quieter in my mind, but which I’ve run up against just this last weekend — I met a guy. I’m not going to talk about him here, because per my own rules for me, I’m not going to discuss any work in progress until the end. But I like this guy. We’ve already had a second date, and it’s going to be a while before our third, but we’ve decided we want to have that third.

Without this experiment, I’d just be sitting around thinking about him. Mooniness is not a good look on me. I don’t want to send him fifty text messages, or internet-stalk him, or anything else. So what do I do?

Well, we’re not exclusive. And I’m still trying to get bad dates. So I’m still talking with people on OKCupid. I’m still planning on a speed-dating event. I’m still scoping out the local meetup groups for events I can get to. I’m still looking for the next bad date. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get another good one. Maybe I’ll find someone perfect.

Or maybe I won’t. Either way, I’ll have the stories and I’ll have the experience. And that is the real answer to “why.”