6 Minutes

I tried speed dating for the first time last night. It was interesting. I might even say it was fun, but the funnest parts were mainly before and after the actual speed dating itself.

My friend Sherry did it too, which was only mildly awkward as I'll describe in a minute. Sherry and I met for dinner at 6 PM at Stalzy's Deli on Atwood Avenue. This is the very same deli where I had a cameo role in a very low budget indie horror film called "Hag" a few months ago. They make great sandwiches, although my roast beef last night was a little chewy.

"We probably shouldn't have eaten right before speed dating," I said to Sherry as I wiped mayonnaise off my chin with a cheap paper napkin.

"I know, I thought about that," Sherry said. Luckily, we have been good friends for so long that doing a "teeth check" on each other was totally normal behavior.

"Is my tongue blue?" I asked, sticking out my tongue at Sherry.

"Why would it be blue?" Sherry inquired.

"Because I'm drinking Izze Pomegranate soda," I replied.

"That's purple," Sherry corrected me. I'm color blind.

"Ah kay," I said, tongue still out. "Eh mah dung pepah?"

"What?" Sherry said, a look of annoyance on her face. I withdrew my tongue.

"Is my tongue purple?"

"No," she replied, exasperated.

We got second opinions on our oral hygiene from the bathroom mirrors at Stalzy's before we drove separately to the Bourbon Street Grill a few minutes away in Monona, a suburb of Madison.

I was a little nervous because I had never done speed dating before and I was slightly out of my comfort zone. I had been mentally planning for the evening during the few weeks since I signed up for the speed dating event, so I was more intrigued than I was nervous, but there were a lot of unknowns. Sherry had done it before though and she had given me a decent overview at Stalzy's.

"I think I am more terrified of this than I was of bungee jumping," I told Sherry as we entered Bourbon Street and made our way up the stairs to the bar. "Isn't that weird?"

"When did you go bungee jumping?" Sherry asked.

"In New Zealand a few years ago," I replied. "I wasn't scared of it - I knew it would be perfectly safe - but there were so many unknowns. This seems even more alien to me, but it's basically the same, walking into unknown territory that is bound to be a thrill."

"Should we avoid hanging out with each other at this?" Sherry asked. "I don't want people to get the wrong idea."

"I don't think it matters," I said, nonchalantly, although I really had no idea. I also didn't especially care. I was mainly doing this because Sherry had spoken highly of it and I thought it would be fun to try. We might as well have been going bungee jumping. 

I had already told myself I didn't care if I got a match or not. I like dating, but I do alright in that department on my own, thank you very much. I socialize pretty regularly, in part because I play in a few bands around Madison that get me out to bars and clubs on the weekends, where I meet like minded people.

"It's pretty laid back," Sherry reassured me. "Don't sweat it."

I nodded. "I know. This is just one more way to expose myself to more people...wait, I should rephrase that...well, you know what I mean."

When we walked into the bar area, Sherry spied a mutual friend of ours named Abigail. Abbey wasn't there for speed dating, but she had some friends who were. We had arrived about 20 minutes early, so I ordered a couple drinks for myself and Sherry. Abigail introduced us to her friends, so I got a little preamble to a couple of the people I would be speed dating a few minutes later. They seemed nice, but everyone was a little stiff, probably nervous.

"Is it like cheating to mingle before the speed dating?" I asked. Everyone shrugged. No one really knew for sure what to expect. Sherry and I both made a point of telling everyone we were just friends, since we had arrived together. I am not sure anyone cared.

When it was close to 7:30, the start time of the speed dating, we all meandered into a private room off the bar that had tables and chairs set up. 

The way it works is you get a name tag with your name and a number on it. You find the table with your number and sit there to start off. There is a man and a woman at each table. Each person also gets a sheet to write down names and badge numbers, and take notes on each speed date of interest. 

When the speed dating starts, you have six (6) minutes to converse with the person across from you and find out as much as you can. At the end of the six minutes, the moderator rings a bell and people rotate in accordance with their badge numbers. At this event, the men were stationary at the tables and the women rotated after each bell ringing, but they apparently mix it up who is going to rotate, men or women, at each event.

Six minutes actually goes by remarkably quickly when you are talking to someone. In all cases last night I would say that I wanted to keep conversing with the women who rotated through my table; they were all delightful and good conversationalists. That said, I was only romantically interested in a couple of them. One was an athletic, outdoorsy, earthy type. She had a bit of a defensive tone, and I was on the fence about her, but I figured if she liked to do fun things outside, we might have enough in common to get something going. So I gave her a YES on my notes sheet. I was also quite taken by a sassy brunette who fit my "type of woman" profile well (it's basically sassy brunettes...hahaha).

It was by chance that Sherry and I both had the number 9, which meant we paired off first. We had hoped to be paired off last so we could compare notes and debrief, but it was fine to go first and get it over with. We'd have plenty of time to discuss details later.

After everyone had rotated past everyone, the moderator collected the top portion of our notes sheets where we said yea or nay to the participants of the opposite sex. Then we mingled in the bar while the moderator compiled the data in her computer. She said we would get the results via email later.

The bar mingling afterwards was probably the most awkward part, initially, because it was like a free period with no time limits and we had all just spent 6 minutes judging each other with no knowledge of the outcome. In retrospect, the speed dating part could probably have been eliminated entirely if we just skipped right to the bar mingling portion of the night.

After a couple of drinks went down, people loosened up. They were a nice bunch. One of the women I had given a hesitant thumbs down to during the six minutes of speed dating turned out to be quite interesting at the post mingle and I regretted not giving her a thumbs up, especially since I discovered in the results email later that she had given me a thumbs up. Dammit, Joe! All is not completely lost, though it is probably mostly lost. The results give you the email of the people who gave you a thumbs up, so in theory I could have another chance at this woman, but it seems like a long shot. I mean, who wants to think they were someone's afterthought pick, right?

Anyway, it was what it was. The two women I had been interested in rejected me, which was mildly disappointing for about five seconds, then it passed. It takes two to tango. Because I didn't get a match during this event, I get to go to a free session in a couple of months. A lot can happen in a couple of months, but assuming I am not tethered to my lifelong soul mate by then, I will probably go again.

I jokingly told Sherry I am undatable, but I was joking on the square. I have an awesome but busy life and I do tons of fun things like writing and music and biking and camping and socializing. It's hard to date when you have such an active lifestyle. I need to find someone compatible with that or at least equally pre-occupied with other things that they can do their thing while I do mine and then we can go on a "date night" now and then whenever schedules permit. I realize this is an atypical arrangement in the U.S. where it seems like a lot of people are relationship driven and neglect their own dreams and personal growth. I'll never settle. I know what I want out of life and I don't define myself by my relationships, but rather by who I am. I think being a better person makes all my relationships stronger and more fulfilling, but it is making time for relationships that is hard.

Lately I have had the idea to take some of my female friends out on dinner dates, not romantically, but just for fun to enjoy some good food and good company. So far it's been quite enjoyable. I took a friend out last Sunday and learned a bunch of things about her I didn't know. She even did RAGBRAI a couple years ago. Small world. I like the lack of expectation of it being anything more than a play date. I am even thinking about starting some kind of Platonic Dinner Date Club (Plate-onic...hahahaha...I slay myself!) where other friends can pare off and get to know each other one on one. I probably wouldn't be able to preclude romances happening via this club, but whatever.

But to be honest with you, my passion and motivation is in music and writing these days, so I'm not going to be able to prioritize this club any time soon. For right now, I'm just doing it on my own, but I encourage my friends to just ask someone out as a friend. Get outside the box.

I have such a date tomorrow night. We are getting sushi.


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