Speed-dating. Not even Hunter S. Thompson had the nerve to plumb the mysterious depths of this modern mating practice. I assembled my most passively flirtatious, responsible and tasteful summer dress, one that exuded a breezy-yet-cautious vibe. Eyeliner, but no eye shadow. Blush, but no lipstick. Definitely lip gloss.
I made a bee-line straight to the restaurant’s bar for obvious reasons. I was greeted there by several nervous-looking women who made similar decisions regarding the wisdom of pale lip gloss. The ladies uniformly and emphatically agreed — speed-dating, where participants spend an evening engaging in a succession of five-or-six-minute talks with a series of possible prospects — is far more preferable to online dating. Many of my fellow ladies have busy lifestyles where they do not get to meet people, were recovering from recent divorce or lived in more isolated areas with a sadly diminished dating pool. Admittedly, I was nervous, but my outgoing nature and overall disdain for a relationship at this time in my life eased my discomfort. I was specifically not in it to win it, so I could sit back and enjoy it.
I plastered a name tag on myself and was seated at the table where I would remain for the duration. A litany of male suitors purporting to be in the 39-49-year-old age bracket visited my table, one by one, for six minutes until the speed-dating hostess would mercifully ring the bell to end the “date.” We were given papers to record their names, badge numbers, notes on them and circle whether we would like to see them again. Our final results were emailed to us the following morning.
7:22 p.m. — Ron
If Ron — his name, like all the names in this story, save the author’s, has been changed to protect the innocent — was in the 39-49-year-old age bracket, it was because he left his walker and slipped into some cosmic wormhole through which he traveled back in time and space about 15 years. If I was not immediately sucked in by his charms of an aggressive, pushy, condescending personal style, his gushing compliments and attention directed to my “natural assets” might have sealed the deal. As if my heart could possibly withstand swooning any harder throughout the remaining five minutes, Ron then posed the clincher, “So are you deep?” “What?” I replied. “You know, are you a deep thinker? I only date deep thinkers. Can you think deep or what?” Ron had clearly transcended the need to know anything “superficial” about me; he didn’t ask where I lived, if I had kids, what I liked to do or what I did for a living. He didn’t seem remarkably interested when I volunteered the information. What piqued Ron’s interest was Ron, and understandably so. He had a fascinating job doing something blindingly brilliant with computers, enjoyed fine dining, ogling modest cleavage and controlling all facets of conversation. Most of all, Ron enjoyed Ron.
7:28 p.m. — Roger
Roger was deceptive. His warm, gentle smile broadcast hope that the rest of my dates might not be as “transcendent” as Ron. Roger was a small-business owner in his hometown and not a bad-looking one either. He was down-to-earth, humble and good-natured. He politely asked about my background and kids. He filled a few of the minutes having that typical, “Well do you know where the [insert name] building is, right next to the old [insert name] store, behind the [insert another name]’s property … ” conversation that make men feel so comfortable and competent in their zone. He was very mild. Very, very mild. What Roger lacked in zip, he made up for with unapologetic sanity. I am sure that Roger talked about other things apart from local geography, but I didn’t really hear much of what he said. It all just kinda sounded like, drip drip drip.
7:34 p.m. — Brian
Brian wore a thick gold necklace around his neck with a huge, hulking military symbol from his service. My eyes hovered on it the entire time — not because I was admiring it, but rather in efforts to avoid direct eye contact with a man from whom I desired nothing. I recognized the need to control the flow of this conversation if I ever wanted our six minutes to end before eternity did. And so I drilled Brian on a host of benign questions regarding his children’s schooling and past military posts. Brian seemed to know little about his own children, but was emphatic that the Asian countries were his favorite place to travel. Did I like kids? Love ‘em. He explained a lot of women do not even like kids or want to date someone with kids. Well I love the heck outta kids. Good, he said, nodding slowly, knowingly, scheming and plotting deep in thought for a moment. I let it go. Brian did not seem to know a lot about his kids. He also did not feel compelled to inquire into my life beyond a breezy, “You got kids?” Nothing about my background, or lifestyle other than I might make a suitable nanny figure. The bell rang. That was OK.
7:40 p.m. — Wes (the ringer)
In all fairness, Wes was there because I dragged him there. He volunteered to go, in the same way a prison inmate volunteers to spend the day swinging a hammer under the Southern summer sun on a chain gang. When Wes walked in and surveyed his competition, his gait changed from saunter to swagger. He was the speed-dating-alpha-male-of-the-moment, and knew it. He’s a good-looking guy. No one here even compared, and every woman’s eyes hung on him. Wes is my best friend who has helped me move, move again, repair hot water a dozen times, build garden beds, listen to divorce rants, move furniture, kill bees’ nests, pickup topsoil/furniture/lawn mower for his pickup truck, dispose of mouse traps, field 2 a.m. anxiety attacks, hang my hammock, do birthday dinners and pick up my antibiotics, all while we abuse each other with playful sarcastic jabs. He tolerates my high-maintenance (where could they possibly have gotten that trait from?) kids who are constantly haranguing him. He’s actually sainted. Every speed-dating woman there was sweating Wes. He’s such a smooth, cavalier and collected man. He sat down at my table and smirked. “So. Wes … tell me something. What deviant things would you do to my body if I select you on this form?” I quipped, trying to shock and intimidate him with a crude candor in which we never talk. He busted right back. “Wash it,” he teased. “You smell like a goat’s ass. And what’s up with your hair? Having a bad hair day, I see. And didn’t you just wear that dress on Friday?” Touché, Wes. Touché. Don’t you have another date in a few minutes?