"I Tried It!" Speed Dating

First dates are awkward. And 20 or more of them in a single night? On the discomfort scale, I imagined it would rank somewhere next to getting a bikini wax and having a cavity filled. Simultaneously.

So when I first received an invitation to try out HurryDate — a New York City-based speed dating service that matches up women and men for several four-minute dates in a single night — I sent the email straight to my recycle bin. No, thank you.

But two days later I dragged the email back out of the trash and hit Reply. "I would love to take you up on your offer," I wrote. "When could I come?" I'm not sure why I changed my mind. But as I penciled in "7:30pm Tuesday" on my calendar, I figured, What have I got to lose? After all, I'd recently stopped seeing someone, and my dating blog was lacking in any actual dating material. Speed dating seemed like a good idea. Until Tuesday night…

A Metaphor for Life

When Tuesday night rolled around, I felt anxious; I admit it. It was as if I were going on a "real" date. I had only a vague idea of what to expect based on speed-dating scenes in movies like Hitch and The 40-Year-Old Virgin — but who really believes what they see on the big screen? With a few butterflies in my stomach and my friend Annie along for moral support, I hailed a cab to the Meatpacking District.

The bar was nearly filled when we arrived. After mingling (mostly with other women), Annie and I chose two overstuffed armchairs at the back of the lounge. Soon the host reviewed the instructions for speed dating and men began circulating the room, filling in the empty seats.

A whistle blew and the event got under way.

"This is a metaphor for my life," I told Annie. Our back-row seats at the HurryDate event may have offered the best vantage point for people-watching, but we quickly saw that the very last station came with one definite drawback: There weren't enough men to go around.

Dateless for the first round, we watched other four-minute couples and shared notes: "Dibs on the guy in the white button-down." And "If the sweaty guy touches me, ask me if my nasty rash has cleared up."

"How come no one else looks uncomfortable?" Annie wanted to know.

I scanned the room and shrugged. "Maybe because they're not. It is only four minutes. How many bad first dates have we been on that went all the way through dessert? And we survived those! How bad could this be?"

The whistle blew again. We would soon find out.

Enough about Borat

Sometimes you meet someone and just sense that you have nothing in common. When Number 26 sat down, the lack of chemistry was painfully obvious. We stumbled through the basics — name, age, occupation — and then hit a brick wall. After a few miserable seconds, I tried again.

"What do you like to do?" I figured as long as we were stuck together for four minutes, we ought to attempt to make polite conversation.

"I don't know. I don't really go out a lot. And I don't like TV. Except for the Ali G Show."

"Oh, I love Ali G! Borat is so funny," I said, sighing with relief. Finally, something we could talk about. We chatted for a minute or so about the hilarious TV character before Number 26 suddenly got serious.

"Enough about Borat," he said.

We spent the next two minutes in an uncomfortable silence.

Still Not Jewish

"You're Jewish, right?"

Number 33 hadn't even offered a handshake before sitting down and sizing up my religious background.

"Nope," I said. "I'm not Jewish."

"But you have a Jewish nose."

I had no idea how to respond to that. I glanced at Annie, who raised her eyebrows as though to say, "Oh, no he didn't." After that, I didn't have much to say. He rambled about the hardships of dating in New York, and I listened and nodded, all the while feeling certain that as a non-Jew, I wouldn't be making his "yes" list. Oh, cruel fate.

"I've been on a few online sites, but I haven't had much luck," he complained. "It's hit or miss. You know — you're on JDate [a Website for Jewish singles], right?"

"Nope."

Imagine that. Four minutes later, and I still wasn't Jewish.

A Match Made in HurryDate Heaven

Number 39 was the guy in the white button-down. I prayed he'd be normal.

"Nice seats," he said, smiling and offering his hand.

"Yeah, we chose them so we'd be able to sit and make fun of people." It was late in the evening. I was tired, hungry and bored of making nice talk.

"That sounds mean."

"I know."

"But a little mean is good."

Four minutes later, Number 39 and I both checked "yes."

A Dating Catalog

Most of the men at the speed dating event, while not a good fit for me, were perfectly nice, normal guys. Sure, there was a sweaty, twitchy would-be politician who wouldn't look me in the eye; a very hands-on plumber whose shirt was unbuttoned to his navel; and an accountant whose passion for Israeli folk music made him a perfect match… for Annie's mother. Overall, though, a decent sampling.

But the beauty of speed dating, it turns out, is that it's an awful lot like online shopping — only in person. You get a glimpse of the product and a quick description, and then you get to move on without too much wasted investment. And if you happen to like what you see? Well, then you check "yes" and make brunch plans for next weekend. Because after all, what have you got to lose?

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