Flavor Of The Week: No Need for Speed

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If my fiancé hadn't left me for a woman he'd meditated with at a martial arts conference in London, that would have been the week of my honeymoon. Instead, I was staked out at a deli in Chelsea wearing heels and my best jeans, sipping a Diet Coke so I would have an excuse to leer at people walking into the bar where I was going speed dating at 8 p.m.

Across the street from my deli stakeout, a guy wearing a too-tucked-in rugby shirt walked toward the bar. I held my breath, hoping he was just passing by. He walked in. Ugh.

Once inside, I got a nametag and a table assignment. After getting a drink, I booked it to my table and glanced around at the men I’d paid $37 to meet. Most of them stood in clusters, talking to other guys. It was like a junior high school dance with booze.

Golda, our host, explained the details of how we would manage 20 dates in one night. First, the men would move from table to table, and then there would be a 15-minute break for mingling, and the women would move. After each three-minute nano date, she would ring a bell. We had forms to fill out our dates’ names, followed by a “Yes/No” check box.

“Please move on when the bell rings,” she said, her voice taking on that do-not turn-over-your-paper-until-I-tell-you teacher tone.

My first date was forgettable. My second date, Dmitry, told me seven times, “I just love people.” My fifth date was rugby-shirt-guy, who was from Wyoming.

“In Wyoming, you can leave your car unlocked for days and no one will touch it,” he said, his forehead sweating. 

The music was loud, and I hated that as the guys passed through my station, I had that feeling I have when looking through sales racks with unappealing clothes: Maybe we had all been left behind for a reason. 

Then there was an IT guy, a middle school teacher and a guy whose most notable quality was the gel shellacking his hair in place. Still, I wasn’t having a terrible time. My gin and tonic was helping. 

Alex I. opened with “Where you coming from?” I didn’t understand the question. Did he mean where was I from originally or where did I live? I tried to clarify. But he just repeated, “Where you coming from?”

Chris H. was a lawyer, and Juan L. was a graphic designer with a sweet smile. Scott K. complained about the pricey drinks.

I ate lo mein with a woman named Kathleen during the break. She was a teacher who exuded a confidence I found attractive, though I imagined she might scare off some of the men. “Eat,” she told no one in particular as she sucked down a noodle. “The guys will still go out with you if you feed yourselves.”

After the break, I met Jude, my favorite of the night. His mother had named him and his brothers after saints. “If you’re having a bad day,” he said, “you pray to St. Jude.” I made a stupid joke about the Beatles song and moved on to James, the scariest man of the evening, who launched into a three-minute monologue ending with: “I have a lot of old in me. I appreciate things like battlefields. I’m fairly physical.”

Ben S. showed me the elaborate notation system he was developing to remember the women he liked. Jens K. had a scary accent. Joel K. had bad jokes. Then it was over.

Later that evening, I logged on to the speed-dating site and saw the list of men and their last-name initials. If I checked a guy and he checked me, we would both get the other’s email. I clicked on Jude, who had hugged me good-bye after the dating was finished. I didn’t know it then, but St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, the one you pray to when all hope is lost.

I did feel like a lost cause, scrolling through names of men I’d just met when—had my life worked out differently—I might have been sunning myself on my honeymoon. My life had become a mess of pining away for the past and trying to speed date my way into my future.

I took a deep breath and looked away from my computer screen. I wasn’t ready to call upon any saints.

So I un-clicked.

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