Thursday, June 18, 2009

My experience with speed dating

Last year a friend of mine told me about speed dating. He had tried it and had dated a woman for a little while as the result. If you are not familiar with the concept of speed dating let me tell you about it. The way that it works is that you attend an event where you get to meet, for example, ten people of the opposite sex and have eight minutes to speak to each one. At the event, you are given paper and pencil to write down the names of the people that you like. Each person, of course, has a nametag. At the end of the event, you can go to the speed dating website and select the people that you want to be in contact with. If they, also, choose you then you have a match and you start communicating. Once the event starts, the organizers ring a bell at the end of each eight minutes, at which point, the participants move to the next table to meet the next person.

About four months ago, with reservation, I signed up for one of these events. I charged $35.00 to my credit card and registered for the upcoming event, which was in about three weeks. During the three weeks, I kept telling myself, I can back out at any time. I don’t have to go if I don’t want to. I’ll only lose the $35.00.

Finally, the day of the event arrived. That evening at about 6:00 o’clock, wearing a tight, low cut dress and high heals, I drove to the restaurant where the event was going to take place. As I was looking for the venue a part of me didn’t want to find it, but I did find it. I wasn't comfortable with the idea of meeting men this way. Anxiously, I entered the restaurant, followed the signs to the large room where the event was going to take place. I entered the room, and looked around. I checked out my competition. I had nothing to worry about. I looked at the men in the room. Except for two guys they were all at best average looking. I took a deep breath and relaxed. I was no longer anxious or intimidated. I approached the bar and bought myself a glass of cranberry juice and proceeded to sit on a couch by the wall.

A man in his mid-forties was sitting on a chair next to me. He introduced himself. His name was David. We started to talk. He was divorced and had an eighteen-year old daughter. He had some government job. I didn’t find him in any way attractive or interesting, but I continued to talk to him out of politeness. He was a pleasant guy. The event organizers announced that they had some appetizers at the other side of the room. David and I both got up and walked to the food table. Since the restaurant was a Japanese restaurant, they had a lot of great Sushi. So far that was the most exciting part of the evening, since I love Sushi. David was standing close to me and talking up a storm. At that point, I had been talking to him for about 15 minutes and I was ready to move on, so I put a few pieces of Sushi on my plate and walked back to the couch. David was still at the food table. As soon as I sat down a very good-looking young man in his late twenties sat next to me. He started talking to me. His name was Tim. He was a high school history teacher. As we were talking the event organizers announced that we were about to start the speed dating process. They said, “People under the age of thirty-five go to the next room and people over the age of thirty-five stay here”. Tim said to me, “Are you ready to go to the other room?” I said to him, “I’m over thirty five, so I have to stay here”. He surprisingly said, “Are you really?” I said, “Yes, couldn’t you tell?” He said, “No, I couldn’t”. He continued, “Can I write down your name? You may be the most interesting person I meet here tonight.” I said, “Sure”, but I knew I would not choose him. He was too young for me. I don’t like to date men more than five or six years younger than me. He wrote my name on his card. We said goodbye, and he walked to the next room.

I looked at the remaining men in the room. There was only one man who was attractive. He was tall and slender with great hair. He looked to be in his late thirties. Looking around, I knew that I would, probably, never want to date any of those men. I just didn't find any of them attractive in any way. The only guy I liked to meet was the good-looking guy. There were 10 men and 10 women in the room, but we were going to have eight dates. So I wouldn’t get to talk to two of the guys present. They rang the bell, and we looked at our cards to see which table we needed to go to. I went to the first table listed on my card. I met the first guy. He worked in carpet sales. We asked the usual questions, how long have you been divorced, how many children do you have, what do you do, what are your interests. The eight minutes were up. They rang the bell. We moved to the next table. I talked to another guy that I wasn’t interested in. He was a mechanic. The third date was with David. We talked a bit. He told me that he loved my hair, and then he said, “What kind of man are you looking for?” I said, “Someone kind, caring, giving….” He said, “I posses all those characteristics. You should pick me.” I laughed and said, “Oh, you’re so sweet.” I really didn’t know what to say. I knew I wasn’t interested in him. Our date was over, and I moved to the next table. The guy waiting for me was Chinese. We started to talk. He spoke perfect English. He had his own investment firm. He moved to the US to go to school when he was nineteen years old. He had a master’s degree from Yale. I asked him more questions about his job and his company. He was well traveled, cultured, and he was interested in me. I liked him, but I didn’t find him attractive at all. I thought if only he were better looking I would go out with him. Sitting there listening to him, I felt uneasy. If only I wasn’t so vain. I remembered my friend Charles telling me, “You are so picky.” I remembered my niece, Ziba, telling me, “you have so many hang ups and, don’t give a chance to the guys you should”. All of a sudden, I felt anxious. Why can’t I get over this and give him a chance. We continued to talk and soon eight minutes were up. I got up and tried not to think about him.

It was time for a fifteen-minute break. I dashed to the food table trying to distract myself. I put several pieces of Sushi on my plate and stepped aside to eat. As I was eating, a man named Mike introduced himself to me. He seemed like a nice guy. We talked for a few minutes. I couldn’t decide whether I was interested in him or not. While we were talking, in mid conversation, he stopped and said, “Soheila, you are really pretty, you really are. You’re not offended by my saying that. Are you?” I thanked him and told him that I would never be offended by a compliment. Soon the break was over and I found my next table and my next date waiting for me. On my way to my table I saw David. He was smiling big and said, “This is exciting, isn’t it?” I replied, “Yes, it is.” My next date was with a Fund Manager who worked for a financial firm. I asked him a bunch of questions about what a Fund Manager does. It was an educational date, but I didn’t feel any chemistry. The next date was very unremarkable.

When I sat down for my seventh date, I noticed that my date was very young. We introduced ourselves, and immediately I asked him how old he was. He said, “guess”. I said, “twenty-five”. He said, “I turned twenty-one two nights ago and have been partying ever since. I only had three hours of sleep last night.” I replied, “You turn twenty one only once. You might as well make the most of it.” My next question was, “Why are you in this group?” After a couple of minutes, I found out that for the thirty-five and older age group they were short one guy. So the organizers grabbed him from the bar and bribed him with free drinks so that he would participate in the event. That way all women would have a date at all times. We both laughed about it. He reminded me, so much, of my nephew, his demeanor, the way he talked and his attitude. I guess, there are a lot of similarities in young men in their early twenties. I felt maternal towards him. He, surprisingly, said a few times, “ I can’t believe you’re here”. He said, “You are the best looking woman here and, I can’t believe that you are single.” I explained to him that I was divorced. We talked about relationships and how complicated they can be. He told me about his last girl friend who recently broke up with him and how heart broken he was. I thought to myself he’s only twenty-one. He’ll probably have many more heartbreaks. A part of me wanted to spare him from all that. At the end of our eight minutes he said, “Can I tell you something?” I, curiously, said, “Yes”. He said, “OK, I’m gonna put it out there”. He sheepishly smiled and said, “You have great boobs!” I laughed really hard. That was not what I was expecting to hear. He asked if he could give me a hug. I said, “Sure”. I gave him a light embrace and wished him luck.

As I was walking to my last table, I saw the good-looking guy. He gave me a big smile. My last date was not memorable at all. I went through the routine of questions until the eight minutes were up. I was not interested in him.

The bell rang and I thought I didn’t have a date with the only guy that I thought was attractive. The organizers announced that the event was over, but there was still some food left and invited us to hangout and chat. I was still sitting on my chair when the good-looking guy came and sat next me, put his arm around my waist and said, “It’s, finally, time for us to meet.” I was surprised of his easy approach. We had started to talk when one of the women, who had attended the event, came to him and started flirting with him putting her fingers through his hair. I thought she really likes him. She was so obvious about it. He wasn’t at all interested. He pushed her hand away and continued to talk to me. Apparently, she had been trying to get his attention all evening. We talked for about thirty minutes. As we talked, I realized that we didn’t have anything in common. He was more of a beer-drinking sort of guy who likes to go to sports bars. He didn’t seem very interesting or engaging to me. When we were talking I said, “One of my favorite places in the world is a bookstore.” He replied, “That’s one place you’ll never find me. I don’t read.” I thought how could someone say, "I don’t read". To me, it would be like saying I don’t eat. I can’t go a day without reading something. That’s how I relax. It was clear to me that there would be a huge part of me, my intellect, that I could not share with him. For me three components would have to exist in order to become attracted to someone. I have to have an intellectual connection, an emotional connection and a physical attraction. If any of the three is absent then it is not going to work. By the end of our conversation, I was sure that I didn’t want to date him, but he seemed so into me. He insisted on walking me to my car. As I was leaving, I saw the Chinese guy. He said, “Every body here is going to pick you. I’ll definitely pick you. I hope you’ll pick me too.” I said, “I’ll see.” I said goodbye and left with Doug, the good-looking guy. Doug walked me to my car. He was nice and sweet. He said, “I’m definitely interested in you. I hope you’ll pick me.” I said “OK”. I had no idea what to say. We said goodbye. I got into my car.

Driving home, I thought it was an interesting evening, definitely something different, but I didn’t meet anybody I wanted to date. It was like picking eight random guys off the street. What are the chances of me liking any of them? I thought how just a few short years ago I was married and I thought I was going to be married forever. How things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to turn out. I really hate going through all this dating, again, at my age. It was hard enough in my twenties. A part of me felt mad at Jason, my ex-husband, for an instant. I thought it is because of him that I have to go through all this. But I, immediately, reminded myself that he did the best he was able to do. I said to myself, this is life. Life is complicated and, we don’t always have control over what happens to us. We just have to be resilient and make the best of things. I thought at least, in my life, I have experienced great love. Even if I never love again with Jason, I experienced something that forever has a hold of a part of my heart, which is sweet and precious to me, and for that I am grateful. I remembered how when we were at our best, I experienced true intimacy and oneness with him. That was an amazing experience, that coming together, that understanding, that acceptance, that pure love, that unity of heart and mind, what we call love, what I believe to be the cause of creation, I experienced a form of it with him although for short durations. My life is richer because of it.