Interesting article on "Speed Dating". Most matchmaking services usually charge the guys higher fees or the only fees; it's amusing to see only the women paying the fees/donations in this case.
Toronto Star Jul. 30, 2003
Close encounters of the fleeting kind
by JENNIFER BAIN
And an excruciating time was had by all who speed-dated a room full of firefighters and cops last week ... excruciatingly horrific, excruciatingly delicious.
Where to start?
Well, how about by packing a room with 25- to 45-year-olds. Arm each person with a beer and set them loose to prowl among free pizza, spinach dip and eye candy before giving them three-minute dates with each other.
Yes, this is a food story. It happens in a restaurant (RD's BBQ & Blues on Duncan St.). And speed dating is just like cooking: you prep, cook and eat, and wind up either hungry, satiated or ill.
Don't agonize over your prep. Jeans or a dress? Whatever. What matters is your attitude: You'll need an open mind or the ability to shoot men smouldering looks.
How about drafting questions or an opening line? Speed dating is like being in labour: Once the pandemonium begins, your script (breathing exercises) will be forgotten as you grapple with pain.
There's likely no way to prepare for a date who announces: "I'm an alpha male. I'm with ETF and I like to DFF." We all know what the emergency task force is about, but DFF? It's a slogan for what this guy likes to do: "Drink, fight and ..." (you figure the last one out).
Even if someone charms you in three minutes, it's possible he'll leave saying: "It was nice meeting you. I've got to go pee."
I offer up three, hard-earned certainties in speed dating:
Three minutes is long enough to recognize zero connection.
Three minutes isn't long enough to separate the maybes from the yeses.
Beer is essential.
Really, what can you say, with the clock ticking, to a stranger that doesn't sound contrived, cheesy, picky, pathetic or dull?
And is chemistry really an undeniable force that ripples between people in an instant, or is it just a power tool wielded only by those who present well?
Food for thought. And if you're prepping to speed-date, you'll do more heavy thinking than eating.
So let's get cooking, but remember this isn't your typical speed dating event. It's run by the Web-based 25dates.com, and tickets are about twice the usual price, since the money's going to charity and only firefighters and police officers are being offered up.
For "Red Hot & Blue" we pay $100 (plus GST!) for 25, three-minute dates. It's not until later that I realize the guys pay nothing since they're "donating their time." We women (just call us "meat") are clearly at a disadvantage, but 25dates.com says we can come back to another event for free if we don't get a match.
We're separated into three, colour-coded groups and given a sticker with our first name and a number. The only rule is that "everyone respects each other." The women sit. The men must rotate.
We get scorecards to vote "yes" or "no" for each date. Any mutual "yeses" is a match (if you get any, the organizers send you their e-mail addresses a few days later).
But first things first. Savvy women reserve prime seats when they arrive, or as soon as they're told to sit. Those who don't know the game get sent to a dreary back room when the seats fill up.
That's where I wind up — separated from the next woman by a cardboard box, feeling like a polling station attendant.
The first 10 dates are a whirlwind with no breaks between men. At the break, four of us pool notes to figure out who's who.
"Just surrender to the process," urges one of 25dates.com's people on the break when I complain.
I vow to be better organized for round two. You can salvage a meal with a few kitchen tricks, so surely you must be able bring order to a chaotic dating binge?
Not this time. Everyone's hyper and babbling. One guy confesses he's so confused by the process he's not voting. "I never said I was smart," he says with a cocky grin.
Some of the men are frat-boy flip, but others are earnest, cataloguing their divorces, offspring and property holdings. At least one admits he's actually a doctor.
I surrender to the frosh-week vibe and start egging the alpha males on when they want to talk about turns-ons and stun guns.
I had crafted one question to serve only to possible yes-men, and practised it on my hairdresser Joe Day beforehand while getting tousled curls as armour.
Joe also armed me with good advice. "Seventy-five per cent of first impressions revolve around hair. You meet someone with a mullet, they have a mullet."
Yet out in the dating fray, there's no time to notice hair or pitch my question at the interesting guys. Instead I toss it at the no-men to fill time. (The only man who gets the question — "Bass, pickerel or trout?" — is Joe, the hair guru.)
Suddenly it's over. Time to hand in our scorecards. We frantically compare notes and realize we've only had 19 dates. Yes, ticket sales go to the Ross Tilley Burn Centre and a hospital, but we've paid a business for a service.
Some of the guys are too drunk to date, we're told, and others "jumped tables." Crudely put, they didn't like our team and defected to another. (25dates.com later admits it can't prevent no-shows and reminds me "there were also 50 other firefighters and policemen for you to meet" at the post-dating party.
Right. Anyway, speed dating stops for nothing, so we join the party. My friend wants to scope out her yes-men. Bad idea: one has swapped name-tags, another is surrounded by fawning women. Even worse, the flood-gates have opened for more women who pay $15 to join the party.
It's all fun and games until someone loses a heart — so keep yours in check. Some intriguing guys lurk on the fringes of the room (a Billy Bob Thornton look-alike, a Sam Roberts clone, older men), but we leave them be.
I'm engulfed in post-dating euphoria. It's over! I survived. (It's cooked — it tastes sublime.) I got what I wanted for my $100 (actually The Star's $107): the rush of knowing I have the guts to speed date — and a good story.
But here's the rub. I check "no" to all my men, until my friend forces me to change one to a "yes." So I do with a nagging feeling that I'm forgetting someone.
That someone is #37, a firefighter who I rediscover on the fringes and chat with as women toss him sultry looks. He's a clever storyteller — and he lives on Euclid (it's a great street, ergo he must be a great guy). But when he moves on, I discover my friend has slipped him my e-mail address on a note.
The horror! This clinches speed-dating certainty #4: Get out before things turn ugly.
So we do. We cab over to the Communist's Daughter on Dundas St. to reminisce (from a safe distance) about our night over a round of drinks and a plate of hummus while Frank Nevada croons on the jukebox.
This e-mail arrives 36 hours later: "Thank you for attending our 25dates.com event on July 24th! We hope you had as much fun as we did, it was great to see you there! This time around you didn't receive a match. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that you weren't chosen, but only that you did not pick the people who picked you. Sometimes finding a connection can take a little time, which is why we invite you back to our next available event at 25% off."
Well, what do you know? No match. No free future dating event. (25dates.com has invoked its disclaimer on this offer.) After haggling over the six-date shortfall, they offer to return my "donation."
No need. I've bought a shocking insight: Money can buy 19 introductions, a beer and a defiant haircut, but it can't buy love.
Jennifer Bain is The Star's food editor. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.