“Let’s sign up for speed dating!” read the text from my friend Charlene. I bit my lip, paused, then replied, “Sure,” before I had any more time to reconsider. In the age of online profiles, the idea of speed dating freaked me out. I’d been relying on my computer as my matchmaker for four years. The thought of meeting 25 strange men for the very first time face to face (rather than through carefully chosen profile photos) was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Charlene and I are both in our 20s and have been friends since our first year of university, when Charlene was a certified prude and I was a wild child. We’d both been single for nearly two years, so on a wintry evening, we put our game faces on and got ready for date night.
6:15 p.m. LORA: I arrive at Charlene’s apartment 15 minutes late, dressed in a black top, dark skinny jeans and knee-high boots. Charlene is running around in her underwear, tearing through piles of clothes. We consider bailing; instead, I frantically search for some liquid courage, only to come up with two beers. We down them before rushing out the door.
6:48 p.m. CHARLENE: Lora and I arrive at the bar. First impressions: Every single woman is wearing a version of Lora’s outfit, we have to pay for our drinks, all the men are sporting tacky dress shoes, and wait — did I hear that dark-haired girl in front of us just say her name is Charlene? And she’s also Korean? That won’t be confusing.
7:03 p.m. LORA: Date #2, a cute guy, begins by introducing himself as an engineer. He tells me his planning for early retirement. I congratulate him and his face drops as he explains that he meant he’s going to be unemployed. Awkward.
7:18 p.m. CHARLENE: Date #13, a teacher with a PhD in physics, joins my table with so much energy and excitement, it takes me by surprise. I try to match his enthusiasm by asking him three questions (name, age, occupation) in a row. He responds by throwing up his hands defensively. “Whoa, what is this? A job interview?”
7:33 p.m. LORA: Date #5, a smiling man with a shaved head and an expensive suit, takes a seat at my table. He doesn’t miss a beat before he tells me, “You have beautiful eyes.” I’m flattered for a moment, until he continues to pepper me with compliments for the entire session. I start to wonder if this is his schtick with everyone. (My suspicion is confirmed when I see him picking up a random woman at the bar later — during the break.)
7:41 p.m. CHARLENE: Date #27, a reporter for an Iranian newspaper, impresses me with his ability to keep a conversation going — no awkward silences. He shares his age, 31; I tease him for having a baby face. A cute one. I tick yes.
7:47 p.m. LORA: The first cool guy of the evening, #15, a record producer, takes a seat across from me in a button-down and jeans, a welcome change from the parade of suits. We hit it off immediately, discussing our shared interest in Canadian music and our mutual industry contacts. I tick yes next to his number.
7:56 p.m. CHARLENE: A drunken #41 joins my table and, before I can say hello, immediately shares his name, age and job — along with his hobbies, likes and dislikes. I’d tell you what he said, but it was hard to understand through the slurring.
The verdict: We left the bar feeling more confident about our conversation skills. We didn’t find love but we did find out that we’re way better at this whole dating thing than we’d thought. Having only three minutes to make an impression on someone is like dating boot camp: Get your flirt on or get left behind.
Tell us, have you ever tried speed dating? How did it go?