When my coworkers were looking for a female volunteer for a speed dating event at , suddenly I was 7 years old again.
My hand shot up in the air. I squirmed in my seat. "Oo! Oo! Me! Me!" Not that everyone was jumping at once, but I really wanted to be picked. A room full of single people my age? Not inebriated? All looking to meet new people, possibly future significant others? Yessir, sign me up.
I've been in the single world for what feels like a very long time. My dating history is dotted with relationships (some long-term) and failed attempts. I've learned a lot, loved more and lost plenty. And I'm a little tired of it all. The idea of speed dating excited me mostly because I'm sick of guys circling my group of friends at a bar. I'm annoyed with the chase, the game—the volley of it all. It's just ... exhausting after a while.
So why not fast-forward a bit and sit down to a few guaranteed "first dates"?
Unlike my coworker and fellow speed dater Editor Ryan Fitzpatrick, it wasn't my first time. I had previously tagged along out of curiosity and as moral support for a friend.
For me, there's nothing all that intimidating about the idea. The nature of my job makes the basic concept seem less formidable. I talk to people, all the time. I ask them about their lives, and make observations. The evening would be spent simply doing the same with each potential suitor.
I never felt uncomfortable throughout the evening (could have been those fabulous fruity $1 cocktails). But others' discomfort levels were obvious. Through the darting glances, nervous laughs, and shifting in the seat across from me, I did my best to give off calming vibes. The women were in the somewhat peculiar position of waiting for the men to rotate to our tables. (Some women might say we're always waiting for men to come around.) From the looks of it, each treated sitting down across from me like appearing before a judge. Several seemed to struggle to make eye contact, and one appeared afraid to shake my hand.
But I wasn't there to scrutinize—I was, admittedly, grappling blindly for a love connection in a dark bar (which has hardly proved successful for me in the past).
While I rarely found myself flustered during the event, I struggled with the tendency to put too much weight in each encounter. When the sparks didn't seem to fly, instead of a let-down, I convinced myself it was an opportunity to make a new friend.
Bachelor No. 1 told me about his favorite outdoor concert venues and most-loved bands. Bachelor No. 2's speech quickened when he described his aspirations of becoming a Chicago firefighter. Bachelor No. 3's love of travel was matched only with that for his employer, Southwest Airlines. Or there was the statistics professor who lowered his glasses on the bridge of his nose and quizzed me on this website's readership (I think I flunked).
And my favorite: a divorce attorney who has seen spouses turn on each other in a heartbeat, who professed his undaunted belief in love and marriage.
The bar was brimming with genuinely good people, all giving it a go any way they could. Though almost all were strangers, the night inspired an underlying kinship that kept most milling around after the final date.
I didn't leave with a prospect, or glimpse of my future boyfriend, but I felt a renewed faith in fate. He's out there. Perhaps in another bar. Or another relationship. Or in a room full of single, mingling folks.
But if I keep searching frantically, I might miss out on the people around me—or the ones sitting right across from me.