Over the past month or so, I’ve realized something pretty important: I’m 100 percent frustrated with dating. I said it so you don’t have to, because I’m positive that everyone feels this way at some point. There’s something so weird about the cycle of hope and disappointment that seems to be built into it. Trying to meet someone that you have a connection with (or at least some common conversation topics) can feel pretty impossible. So I got super brave and signed up for a speed dating event. It was equal parts terrifying and unsuccessful, but on the upside, I learned a ton about myself.
- I can talk a lot. At the event, half the participants stayed seated at a bar and the other half moved around when a bell rang every three minutes. Three minutes is fast, it turns out (who knew?) – even if the person is kind of dull. I like to think I’m a pretty friendly, outgoing person, and no matter what person was sitting across from me, I was able to find stuff to chat about. Even if it was just small talk, I was comforted by that fact because now I know that I can talk to just about anyone.
- Attraction matters. Speed dating is kind of like a real life version of Tinder. Someone sits down across from you and you basically know within mere seconds if you’re attracted to them. Then you make the choice: do you want to politely chat so you don’t spend the three minutes staring at them awkwardly and silently, or do you want to actually try for a good conversation? If it’s the latter, it’s similar to thinking someone’s cute on a dating app and then wanting to talk to them. Except, you know, this is actually happening in the real world. This made me realize that physical attraction is super important – without it, you have zero base for a real connection.
- Chemistry involves personality, too. There were a few bright points during the evening when I found myself talking to a truly nice guy, someone who made those three minutes go even faster. The more time that passed, the more interesting they seemed, and I was looking forward to talking to them more if given the opportunity. I initially found these guys attractive and realized that chemistry definitely involves the whole package: looks plus a sparkling personality. You 100 percent need both.
- It’s a numbers game. Like any other form of dating that begins not with an in person meet-cute at a coffee shop or on a tree-lined fall street but with an app, site, etc, speed dating is ultimately all about the numbers. Out of 22 mini-dates, I wanted to see 4 again. Out of 2 matches, I had 1 date, and ultimately zero chemistry. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. These kinds of events are much smaller pools than online because you literally have no idea who’s going to be there and you can’t filter by age, hobbies, interests, etc.
- First dates matter. You can never be certain that you want to be with someone after a mere three minutes. This experience definitely made me realize how crucial first dates are. Sure, we complain about how boring they can sometimes be, but we need that first date test: Are there butterflies in our stomach? Can we actually have a great conversation? It occurred to me that if you can chat about something more than just how awkward speed dating actually is, then you’re probably doing pretty well. The first step is learning how to survive that dinner date. Beyond that, it’s kind of up to the fates.
- No one system is perfect. This event made me realize that if you want to meet someone, it’s a good idea to have a bunch of different dating tools at your disposal: swiping like mad on Tinder, crafting hopefully witty messages on OKCupid, etc. At least then you won’t get super discouraged when one app or site doesn’t get you true love right this second, because you have something else to try. Dating is frustrating and tiring enough. Ultimately this speed dating round didn’t work for me, so I just turned around and focused my efforts elsewhere.
- There’s something to be said for online dating. I can’t believe I just typed those words. But my speed dating experience made me realize that I don’t actually hate online dating as much as I thought I did. Sure, people don’t always look like their photos and there’s a real issue with building someone up in your head before you’ve even met. But at the same time, you can figure out who you find attractive, chat a bit to see if you hit it off, and if you get a weird vibe you never have to meet them at all. Pretty simple system.
- I hate awkwardness. Basically, speed dating can be pretty awkward. Someone (or more than a few someones) is rude to you, your throat is super sore from talking so much, you basically feel like crying at the halfway point. It’s just not realistic to think that we could possibly be able to speak to every single person that crosses our path. My feeling is that real life has the potential to be awkward enough (hello first dates), so why put yourself into that kind of situation?
- Small talk doesn’t mean it’s a real connection. At the end of the day, speed dating is just another way to meet someone. Not good, not bad, it just depends. I realized that just as small talk at your BFF’s party doesn’t mean you’ve met your One and Only, it’s really hard to get a feel for someone in three minutes flat. Long live Tinder?