February 14, 2014
Three kinds of people attend Hamilton Speed Dating. The people who show up drunk with their friends, looking for a laugh. The bemused people who have the distinctly uncomfortable look of someone not quite sure how they ended up here. And, of course, the small group of people who are both excited and hopeful that this might actually lead to something.
I’m comfortable counting myself in the second group. However, no matter how precisely defined these break-downs are on paper, a minute and a half into a lively conversation with an obviously buzzed hockey player about the relative advantages of Macs versus PCs, these careful constructions break down until it’s just a room full of people, trying their hardest to be liked.
I attended Speed Dating for the first time last semester, the fall of my junior year. A friend and I talked each other into showing up, and each of us wrote down a few names. If you don’t know, the way the program works is that you spend two minutes talking to each person, then you have the opportunity to write his or her name on a list. At the end of the evening, the organizers (the lovely Emily Palen and Ashley Williams, hosted by the endlessly encouraging Mitchell Sher) compare everyone’s lists. If you listed someone and they listed you as well, the organizers send you an email with that person’s contact information.
It’s a low stakes way to figure out if that math major from Albany who loves The Hangover is open to boning you. Neither my friend nor I got any matches, but we didn’t really care. I’m not one to regret an evening when it includes cookies and people forced to listen to my jokes.
I’m the type of person who is best in two minute increments; it gives me time to make a few puns, give a few compliments, and the conversation ends before I can do anything too weird to fill awkward silences, like pulling out my phone to share pictures of my dead dog. Describing me as “quirky” would be the kindest way to put it, but this works in my favor in situations where simply keeping the conversation going is the goal.
Regardless of which of my contrived categories of Speed Dater they fall into, every person I’ve been on a “date” with has been immersed in the conversation and has expressed genuine interest in my life, or else has put in the effort to fake it well. This is not a testament to my feminine wiles, as great as they may be. Perhaps it’s just due to each of our deeply ingrained need for affirmation, to be liked. However, I like to think that it’s due to our inherent inclination to connect with others. It’s a need that’s easy to ignore in winter, as we pass each other with heads bent against the snow on Martin’s Way. Sometimes we need to be reminded by some ’90s pop music and a timer.
Addendum: Sabrina got a match at speed dating! She also claims that she’s “way too much of a wimp to do anything about it,” though her editor respectfully disagrees.