I signed up for a Monday night event with SpeedNY Dating (because what else was I going to do on a Monday night?), and found myself in the restaurant of the Hyatt Union Square. Inside, it looked more or less like a restaurant preparing itself for regular dinner service (dim lighting, candlelit tables), rather than the morose, clinical vision I had concocted of name tags, clipboards, and other trappings of business conferences. People filed in one at a time and checked in with the hostess, who cleared their name from a list and handed them a card for keeping track of dates that night. After I was sure enough that the people at the restaurant were there for speed dating, I rose from the bar, took a seat on the ladies’ side of the tables, and waited for my first prospective match made in heaven.
The rules of the road are fairly simple. Women sit on one side of the table while men rotate from seat to seat in front of them. Each “date” is five minutes long. After five minutes, the men move to the next seat, and so on. After every “date,” you write down that person’s name on the card and rank them based on how likely you’d be to date them again. At the end of the event, you pick the top people you were interested in and return the card. Should there be any mutual matches, the organizers of the event will put you two in touch. If there are no matches, you’ll never know who liked you and vice versa -- somewhat akin to Tinder.
Far from what I expected, the majority of guys I met were… normal. Even, dare I say it, interesting! There was the guy who just moved here from Texas who taught college courses online and was going to Venice for the summer because he could work from anywhere; the man who was raised by parents in the UN who spent his childhood in France, Morocco, Dubai, Rome, and about six other places; or the man who wasn’t physically my “type,” but who made me smile with his over-the-top laugh. The constant flow of visuals in front of my face was also kind of like swiping through Tinder... but better.
But here’s where speed dating is completely different (read: infinitely better) than Tinder and any other dating app -- it accounts for chemistry. On Tinder, there’s no way to judge mannerisms, tone of voice, height (very important in the online dating world), and really, overall personality. How many times have you found yourself on a Tinder date with someone who seemed great online, but in real life wore a ton of man jewelry and pawed at you all night asking why you’re so afraid of intimacy? (Not speaking from personal experience or anything.) Or, how many times have you fallen for someone’s personality in real life, but known that if you saw their photo on Tinder you’d definitely, brutally, swipe left? With speed dating, you’re getting snapshots-in-the-flesh of actual humans, along with everything about their personality that accounts for that little thing we all so desperately need in order for a relationship to work (again, chemistry). And worse comes to worst, if it’s awful, you know that in five minutes, it will all be over -- unlike that horrific Tinder date you went on last week that lasted an hour and a half because you were too polite to leave.