On a recent Friday night, I entered a wonderland of flying monkeys, cowardly lions and tin men. Still, some in the Oz-fest actually had a heart.
I was speed dating for the first time, and based on the other 200 or so people there, I wasn’t the only one investigating a new dating trend.
In four minute increments, I had a series of mini-dates with Brian and Nigel and Carl, oh my! Carl and I chatted amiably before he spit out, “I don’t talk to the ugly girls.” I hesitated wondering if he was enlightening or insulting me. I gambled the former and begrudgingly gave him kudos for honesty -- a reaction he seemed to appreciate. He then wrote down my speed dating number.
The music played indicating I move on down the road to my next date. Fortunately, he was kind and became the first of a few sweet poppies. In the end, I saw the benefits of dating in bulk.
Essentially, it’s old style Jewish matchmaking remixed for the millennium. In the late 1990s, Rabbi Yaacov Deyo noticed that non-Jews outnumbered Jewish singles in large cities. He revived the old custom of holding chaperoned gatherings to encourage meetings and marriages within the faith and dubbed it “speed dating”.
Also called round robin dating, it’s flying high in popularity in the U.S. and has caught on in the UK, Australia, Canada and Malaysia. A Beverly Hills café housed the first speed-dating event in 1998 but the concept really gained momentum after being woven into a “Sex in the City” episode in 2000.
The large number of daters I encountered demonstrated that modern matchmaking has a home in D.C. I talked to many women who said it was their first event and they would willingly attend another, while most of the men I asked were already experienced speed daters.
I wondered if the women were actually first-timers or if they generally felt uncomfortable admitting to previous speedy date nights. Is it possible the double standard applies whether it’s one-night stands or four-minute dates? Do women feel too many make us discounted grocery meat?
Something tells me women will embrace speed dating as fast and furiously as we did online dating. Both have appeal because they save time, and speed dating offers men and women a good return on investment for a date dollar.
Events generally cost between $20-$40, an amount that is easily spent on drinks in a bar with the hopes of meeting someone. Speed dating provides a built-in icebreaker and guarantee that you will. The amount is also less than what you’d spend on one date, and if you get 10 speed dates you’ve paid just a few dollars a dance.
Even if you seek love matches online, you still have to work through a series of e-mails, questionable photos and ultimately a powwow, activities that still require an investment of time. Speed dating accelerates these processes by marrying the high-speed connectivity of online dating with a face-to-face chat. Basically it’s a live chat room.
Locally, there are several companies that host speed dating events in and around Washington, D.C. A company that produces various activities for area professionals, thingstododc.com, provided my speed dating experience. It included a round of speed-dating at a local club with free drinks for one hour after.
The event brought together a fine mixed bag of professionals ranging in age from mid-20s to 40s and culturally diverse. Everyone I talked to said they enjoyed the event for its entertainment value. However, some added that it was loosely organized and the open bar was better described as slightly ajar since many drinks were off limits.
Therefore if you want the best possible speed-dating experience consider reviewing the Web sites of a few companies to find the best one for you. Several exist only to organize speed dates. Some even use questionnaires to screen attendees, while others coordinate niche events for people with specific interests, within targeted age groups, or based on sexual orientation.
While looking for love, there will always be a few faux wizards but if you pull back the curtain on speed dating you just may find a date with heart, courage and a brain.
The Mechanics Of Speed Dating
Speed dating events will vary but certain elements apply.
- Daters pre-register for an event in their age group and area. All can be done online.
- Cost ranges between $20-$40; discounts offered for early registrations.
- Held at popular clubs, bars, hotel ballrooms or private rooms in restaurants.
- Attract 20-200 participants.
- Most target specific age groups, some provide niche dates.
- Daters check-in and receive an ID number and a scorecard
- Daters pair off for a series of mini-dates within a 1-2 hour span, lasting between 3-10 minutes each.
- Date ends when a signal sounds to indicate rotation.
- Larger events feature additional opportunities to mix with people you didn’t date.
- Daters mark down names/ID numbers of people they want to meet again after a completed round.
- Organizers collect cards and forward contact information only if there’s a match.