What you need to know after my experience with speed dating


What you need to know after my experience with speed dating


So how did it end up here?

I often questioned what other options there might be for meeting people as a woman in the final year of my twenties who has spent most of her adult life online dating.

Many of us have lost the connections we had before the several lockdowns, which means that we aren't randomly seeing individuals the same way we used to, after two years of a pandemic. I am not, at least.

It's a genuine story, but I'm not satisfied with making out with the neighborhood fuckboy while listening to Calvin Harris' "Bounce," and I'm bored with the repetitive conversation that comes with online dating. My friends haven't arranged anything for me to meet anyone, and all of their supposedly close pals are married. The issue still remains, dear reader: what else is there?

I'd always considered speed dating to be a little out-of-date, much like the dating profiles that people used to record on VHS for potential dates. What, for five minutes each, as I expected to talk to a million strangers in order to meet someone cool? A plausible tale!

So, it was with a hint of skepticism that I started searching for "speed dating Melbourne" on Google. I chose the first choice (a sponsored Google ad) and bought a ticket for the following session for singles between the ages of 25 and 36.

Since the male tickets had sold out, I was honestly unsure of whether this was a great sign or a bad indication. One revolving swivel chair would be placed in the center of a room full of guys sitting in a circle, according to a joke made by my pals. I laughed while covering my toes.

Creating the scene

A few weeks later, among a sea of other single people, I found myself at a little bar tucked away in one of Naarm's well-known side streets, feeling uncomfortable sober. The event coordinator handed me a card with my name on it and informed me that table 12 was where I would be sitting.

Every five minutes, a new man would arrive for a brief conversation, and it was my responsibility to sit. We were advised to jot down the other person's name and circle a box that indicated either "yes" or "no" at the conclusion of each quickie. Like Tinder but with less screenshottable content for @beam me up soft boi, the organiser would let us know if two of us responded "yes" to each other and we would receive each other's contact information.

I instantly recalled having always been instructed to cover the top of my drink when talking to unfamiliar men - lest they try to roofie me - as I sat at my designated bar stool and waited for the first five-minute session to start.

Before I knew it, it was time to talk to some bachelors. I was thinking of those date rape scrunchies they advertise on TikTok, which unfold to reveal a fabric covering for your drink.

The Singles

The first three five-minute meetings were agonizing as each man questioned me about my job and hobbies. These weren't really ideal questions for someone who works as a copywriter and binge-watches an excessive amount of television for entertainment.

Most of the five minutes were spent trying to describe what copywriting work comprises, which made me realize that perhaps I don't fully understand what I do for a living. I quickly learned the knack of attempting to sell myself to a new stranger every five minutes. It was somewhat similar to a job interview but with alcohol. My thoughts got more clear, and I began to pay more attention to those around me.

The types of people who showed up to this event really piqued my interest. There were a few endearing nerds and one guy who somehow managed to project bravado while donning a skin-tight polo shirt tucked into a pair of cargo pants, but the majority of the men who attended speed dating that evening were people of color.

The more we talked, the more I realized that many of them were from out of state or abroad, and speed dating was a means for them to meet others.

I also remembered a recent discussion I had with a man I was corresponding with online. He claimed that because he is bi-racial and appears to be of multiple ethnicities (like myself), women frequently mistake him for being Italian or Greek and are immediately repulsed when they learn he is truly Indian.

I noticed that most of the other males in the room shared my appearance and were all South Asian, so I questioned whether they had also experienced racial bias.

As I got into the chats, I quickly discovered that many of these guys, like me, were quite frightened and only wanted to explore what was out there. I made an effort to be polite and patient, and I believe I was successful for the most part. However, there were a few really difficult situations. There was the man who sat down and proudly stated that the meaning of his name is "the god of love."

I said, "I'm Sienna. We both smiled when we learned that it meant "reddish-brown". The more we chatted, the harder it was for me to hold back from saying, "You are tearing me apart, Lisa!" There was a guy who reminded me of Jay from The Inbetweeners, and another guy who spoke like James Franco was channeling Tommy Wiseau.

I noticed that the woman at the table next to mine had ordered a platter of grilled calamari, which is almost as perplexing to me as Tony Abbott biting into an onion with its peel on. First of all, I was unaware that the bar we were in had a menu. Second, wasn't it odd to consume a plate of food while participating in conversations that you had paid for?

She couldn't possibly be receiving the best value for her money. Thirdly, I think it's daring to eat seafood on a first date when your other dates aren't eating anything at all (but also, fish).

By the time the night was over, I had spent the entire evening attempting to be affable and friendly with eighteen different strangers. The god of love, who I had just had a conversation with, insisted on speaking long after our allocated five minutes had elapsed, and I awkwardly uttered the phrase "I just have to run to the bathroom."

Discussing with the girls

The debriefing I had in the women's restroom was by far the most intriguing portion of the evening. I had the longest poop of my life after downing two pints of cider without using the restroom breaks, and as I wrapped thin toilet paper around my hand, I heard the voices of women speaking.

By the time the night was over, I had spent the entire evening attempting to be affable and friendly with eighteen different strangers. The god of love, who I had just had a conversation with, insisted on speaking long after our allocated five minutes had elapsed, and I awkwardly uttered the phrase "I just have to run to the bathroom."

The women who circled "no" next to all 18 names in that bathroom didn't connect with many of the people they had spoken to, which is particularly noteworthy. We made a joke about how one of them confessing that she liked the event's organizer should put that on her business card.

She appeared reluctant and added squeamishly that she had scheduled another session for the following week after having tried speed dating twice in as many days. Despite not placing a checkmark next to any names, she did note, "If I don't return, I'll sit in my room reflecting on how awful it was. I could just close up my vagina. I was impressed by her tenacity and fortitude.

Two of the other women I spoke to were ringers who had been added by the organizer to balance the gender ratio and ensure that no one would be left alone. Although it appeared to be a good gesture, it also had a dishonest impression. I began to question whether I had taken the situation too seriously and whether I had been foolish to say "yes" to a few guys.

After all, why would I like any of them if this informal focus group of women didn't? When the last woman revealed that she had also circled "yes" on a few guys, the fear quickly vanished. However, we wouldn't know whether anything would actually happen until the following day.

What After This?

Two of the three (or maybe four; I can't recall) people with whom I had shown interest shared my interest in me. I received texts from both of them a day after learning the results, and this weekend I'm going on a date with one of them.

The most important lesson I learned from my speed dating experience was how many people I clicked with but never would have spoken to if I had only seen their dating app profiles.

We all have prejudices when it comes to dating; whether we won't cross the Yarra, or we won't go out with someone who uses bad language, or we eliminate people based on their occupation. Like how I avoid going to the dentist because I love chocolate and detest flossing, I personally swipe left on accountants because I'm shocked with money and I don't want to be judged.

Perhaps speed dating is the solution since online dating profiles often miss the subtleties that emerge when we meet someone in person? Time will only tell.

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