Dating events for singles can be scary, but the speed dating game can be an efficient way to meet dozens of daters without spending a lot of cash.
The lights were dimmed low at Michael’s, an upscale restaurant and bar lounge located a block north of the Santa Monica Promenade as the staff from SpeedLA Dating cheerily greeted guests — single men and women between the ages of 25 and 40. A woman wearing a tight green dress and high heels asked where she needed to go for the free makeover — really just a quick touch up of powder and lipstick — as others nervously clustered into gender-specific groups to make small talk as they waited for the series of mini dates to begin.
There are numerous speed dating companies operating in Los Angeles, but this one claims to provide UK-style speed dating. “Traditionally, speed dating has been held in coffee shops or venues that don’t exactly exude romance,” says Tina Allman, of SpeedLA Dating. She says most speed dating events involve the use of cheesy nametags and tacky bells or whistles indicating the next date transition. “We take a subtle, low-key approach with fabulous perks,” she said. Those benefits include hosts with tony British accents, gourmet appetizers a complimentary “makeover.”
One guest, a woman in her early 30s, made a comment to her friend that the evening resembled a middle school dance with all the boys grouped together near the bar while the women huddled on the other side of the room, seated on couches or standing in the opposite corner. Those who were more outgoing formed a circle in the middle of the lounge area, chatting with the men or women to their right or left. One man even made a beeline to a particular woman he found attractive. Another woman was overheard recommending drinks to another woman over at the bar. “You probably don’t want to get anything fruity or chunky,” she advised. “You don’t want anything stuck in your teeth.”
Jordan Harbinger, who runs The Art of Charm, a Los Angeles-based charm school for men, says most guys use speed dating as a last ditch attempt when nothing else seems to work. He says he’s trying to change the stigma of speed dating in light of his own experiences and believes more men should try it.
“Any kind of dating event is a last resort for most men because of our egos,” Harbinger says. “Guys want to feel like a lady’s man [not a dud]. But really, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s a solid way for a guy to approach a woman without the pressure because he doesn’t have to break through any shields or barriers — the women are expecting to meet new men.”
A SpeedLA Dating event works like this: During the check-in, each participant receives a date scorecard with a number. The men rotate between the women for four-minute “dates” before moving on to the next. On the back of the scorecard are columns for the men and women to write in the names of their dates and assess their interest level based on five criteria:
– Definitely fancy
– One more drink, maybe
– Not really my cup of tea
– Oh dear, never mind
– Never in a million years
At the end of the event, both men and women turn in their scorecards along with a list of their favorites. The speed dating hosts will then contact each participant within 24 hours to let them know if they have any matches. If not, you receive a courtesy e-mail and wishes for better luck at the next event.
One bizarre aspect of this particular event was the campy scorecard itself. On the back is an image of a woman on the hunt. In one hand, she holds a man’s head flat on the table. In the other hand is a fork, and in between, a plate with chunks of raw meat. It’s a peculiar image, meant to be amusing, but it depicts the harsh reality of the situation. In the land of speed dating, the women are the choosers, but they also outnumber the gents.
SpeedLA Dating says their events sell out quickly to women, but they made no comment about why men don’t seem to have the same level of interest. It appears that getting men to these events is more of a struggle in light of the social paradigms mentioned earlier by Harbinger. One man even commented that he’s purchased tickets to speed dating events, only to be told the event was cancelled because there weren’t enough men to go around.
On this particular night, by the time the first round of mini dates began, most of the guests were working on their second or third cocktail. But no matter how much liquid courage was sipped, four minutes could feel like an eternity if there was a lack of interest in the eyes of the person across the table.
There was a brief break for guests to mingle before completing the final round. While some replenished their drinks, others remained seated or went to talk to a particular date to help ensure a potential match in the making.
It was obvious that some women were not interested in any of the men in attendance, but most were good sports and stayed for the duration — unlike one gentleman who left in the middle of the event, leaving women “dateless” as the four-minute dating cycle resumed. Still, by the end of the evening, every participant had an opportunity to go on at least a dozen mini-dates.
Amy, a 28-year-old woman who works in the music publishing business said this was her first speed dating event and that she received four potential matches. “You have to go in with an open mind,” she says, “You can’t have too high of expectations. Just have fun and see where it goes.”
Copyright © Niki Payne /2012 Singular Communications, LLC.