As I near the end of this project, I've been trying to think of clever ways to make the time go a little faster. As my mother always says, "Let's speed up the process!" Enter: speed dating. Twelve men in two hours. Now we're talking!
I've struggled with this entry because I don't quite know how to categorize it. Some have argued that they can't each be considered a separate "cup". To them I say that Chardonnay was involved so it counts. Others have pointed out that each date only lasted 5 - 6 minutes. To them I say that more often than not, that is ample time to figure out if you want to get to know someone better. There is also the question of how much money I've spent on this project thus far and I will tell you point blank that women do not pay any less than men to go speed dating so I have made a sufficient contribution to the cause.
That being said, let's get right on down to the good stuff! I've been kicking this speed dating idea around for a while, looking at the different dates, venues and age ranges, trying to find the perfect fit. Seeing which friends I could coerce into going with me. Debating in my head the cost of the event versus what I'd actually get from it. I finally decided it'd be a good time to stop procrastinating, get off my ass and DO IT!!! Which is how I ended up at a lounge on Bowery and Houston on a Wednesday night.
None of my girlfriends were able to come with me for various reasons. This one had school, that one had a work thing, the other one faked a sore throat to get out of accompanying me (just kidding honey, love you!) thus I was on my own. In the spirit of being early for things (it's this new approach I'm trying out), I arrived almost an hour before the scheduled start time. Fortunately for me, being a dorky bookworm means that I've always got reading material with me so I headed to a cafe on the corner, book in tow. I ordered a brie & apple panini for sustenance and a peppermint tea to calm my nerves. I know that many of you reading this think that I'm the bravest, strongest, most confident woman on the planet (and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for those sentiments) but throw just about any girl into a situation where she's potentially meeting men who might reject her now / break her heart somewhere down the line and I promise you, she'll be as nervous as a cat at a dog show.
At precisely 7:10, I packed myself up from the wooden cafe table, stopping briefly in the ladies room to check my make up and hair. I was dressed very casually in a kelly green top and jean pedal pushers with wedge sandals. My long blonde hair was scraped up into a high cheerleader-style ponytail and I applied a quick swoosh of dark pink lip gloss. I went into this gathering knowing that every girl there would be wearing a dress and / or heels of some kind. I assumed that they'd all blown out their hair and made a huge effort to look presentable. Frankly though, this was two days before "the storm of the year" (I think weathermen get paid commission every time they use that phrase) and the humidity level on top of the climbing temperatures was simply unbearable. Leaving my hair down ensured a sweaty neck and a very uncomfortable subway ride. Heels are not practical for travel purposes and I'm a comfort over style girl just about any day of the week. I did spend time going through my entire closet, trying to come up with the perfect ensemble but honestly, I'm not the sort of girl you like for what she's wearing. I prefer to be seen for my sparkling personality!
At 7:15, I discovered that in fact, every other woman there got dressed out of the same mindset this morning which was simply: little black dress and very big heels. Most of them had their boobs pushed up to their eyeballs and a few were even wearing false lashes. Now, I know it's only a few minutes of meeting time, but wouldn't you rather fall for a real girl than a chick who probably turns into a troll the minute the lights are off?!?! Just me? Oh well...
The host encouraged everyone to grab a drink at the bar as he handed out name tags and assigned tables. It would work in the typical round robin fashion. Women got to remain at their seats the whole night while the men rotated through. With twelve guys and only ten girls, they even got a built in break halfway between mini-dates! Women had to maintain their smiles and energy the entire time. And it took a lot of energy...
Date #1: Jeff - the most socially awkward, uncomfortable man in the whole place. The poor kid, I swear this must have been his first time talking to a girl. Seriously, ever. He sat so far back on his stool that I had to lean halfway across the table to hear anything he said. On top of a very quiet voice and a face that practically screamed "get me out of here," it was like being back at a bad junior high dance. He managed to ask me what my job was and where do I live and what do I do for fun... questions so rapid fire that I don't think he was necessarily paying attention to the answers! I finally managed to ask him what he likes to do for fun and he said swing dancing. I LOVE SWING DANCING!!! Mind you, he must've been 100 pounds soaking wet, so not the ideal partner for lifts but still, could be a good time. I asked him where he goes because I haven't found anywhere in the city to dance besides Central Park Bandstand on Sunday afternoons. He wouldn't tell me. Straight up said that if I wanted to know more, I'd have to email him. I'm sorry but sooooo not worth the torture of even five more minutes with this man. I Googled "Swing Dance NYC "myself and have come up with a list of places to go. Now all I need is a normal partner!!!
Date #2: Maurizio - the Italian who doesn't eat pasta. I know what you're thinking, it couldn't possibly be true. But when he sat down and shook my hand, I correctly pronounced his name and he was very grateful. We started talking about where our respective families were from in Italy and how much of the language we could speak. Turns out that he's a MMA fighter in training and therefore, only eats lean proteins. As we all know, Italian foods are high in carbs so he avoids them like the plague. Shame. He had such potential!
Date #3: Andy - not his real name. His real name is Indian but when he moved to the States, he changed it so as not to be associated with any pre-conceived foreign notions. Except that he pretty much talked about Bollywood dancing the whole time so it's difficult to NOT think of India in that case. Also, when I told him I was a writer, he insisted that I was actually a celebrity in hiding and I promised him that I am not (yet) a celebrity. Even if I was, the beauty of being a writer is that we are unrecognizable to the general public! You could spot Jennifer Aniston or Julia Roberts from a mile away but JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer? Sitting next to them on a plane, I doubt you'd even know who they were. He went on to tell me about how he's a doctor with his own apartment on the Upper West Side with the most spectacular view of the city. That the scene from his terrace is breathtaking and not to be missed. I should come over to see for myself. Dude. Seriously??? And I quote: "I'm living like Hugh Heffner up in there. The only thing I'm missing are my bunnies. What do ya think? Wanna be a bunny?"
Date #4: Shannon from South Korea - has only been in New York for two years. Speaks very little English. Wants to marry an American girl but doesn't know how to meet them. Pretty much smiled at everything I said. I'm guessing he understood none of it. Was very timid and answered my questions quietly and with such limited information that all I can really tell you about him is his name. And that's only cause I wrote it down.
Date #5: Charles - the business man. I was actually really looking forward to my five minutes with him because he was the best looking of the bunch I'd had so far. Seemed normal and nice with no real odd behaviors about him. We had a very pleasant conversation about how he started from the ground up and now owns his own design company. Check "yes" for want more time with him!
Date #6: Sef - the name I couldn't forget if I tried. This is a question that was just begging to be asked and I appreciate a man who comes with a conversation starter on his name tag. Apparently, his dad had a friend named Josef in college and they stayed very close, growing up and playing in a band together. Nobody called him Joe, everyone called him Sef. Thus, Sef's father named him after the friend. I explained how I had a weird name too. He looked at me strangely because I suppose Kimberly seems normal to the naked eye. I told him that my parents named me after their kitten, Kimba, which has stuck as the nickname for me amongst my friends. Check "yes" for getting to know this one better...
Date #7: David - the Jersey stoner. While I have no real proof that this man does drugs of any kind, he looked like he'd just stepped off the set of a movie where he plays a dirty hippie. His shoulder length hair fell in front of his eyes, making it difficult to see his face through most of the mini-date. Also, his only topic of conversation was how Long Islanders give New Jersey a bad name. That they're all really good drivers if we'd only give them a chance and learn how to properly use a jughandle. I'm sorry. I'm from a state where we're allowed to make left turns. And never the twain shall meet.
Insert 15 minute break for trips to the bathroom and / or the bar. During this time, I was pretty much trapped by Doctor Heffner who decided I was the prettiest girl in the room and he was not leaving that night without my number. Fat chance. I enlisted the help of the host (who was very, very cute) to escape back to my seat. Why can't he be one of the guys on these dates instead of the losers I'm sitting through?!?!
Date #8: Mark - the psychologist. Now here was an interesting way to spend my time. He dissected the other girls he'd already sat with and sized me up in terms of competition with them. I learned that there was another writer (but don't worry, she doesn't write in English), a police officer whom he thought would've had a stronger voice, and three girls named Lauren who were virtually indistinguishable from each other. Apparently, I came across with a big smile and lots of energy which was endearing and intriguing. We sort of joked around about the whole speed dating / online dating process for most of our time as (in his words) "I'm just tired of talking about myself already and it's like pulling teeth trying to get information out of women!"
Date #9: Marlon - the air host. No, you are not allowed to call them stewards / stewardesses anymore. No, you're not even allowed to call them flight attendants. Apparently, the term is air host. Which I found out when I mentioned a friend of mine who works for the airline he's employed by and that I have family that work in the airline industry. He then told me he probably doesn't know any of them cause he actually works on the finance side of things. Then why were you grilling me for names? Makes no sense. Guess he didn't have much else to talk about.
Date #10: Alex - also not his real name. Another Indian who came to New York to make a life for himself in America, though he came through way of London. Ok, I lived in London for many years, maybe we'll have a connection there. Nope, this guy sounds like Austin Powers which is perhaps the fakest sounding British accent. On top of which (and I swear this is true) his bottom lip NEVER moved. Not once. He had great big huge horse teeth on top, all of which were bared but I couldn't even tell if he had bottom teeth because his lip never moved. What is that?!?!
Date #11: Oleg - the asshole. That's actually what I wrote down on my checklist they gave out. There are spaces for you to write down everyone's name, a descriptive detail about them to help you remember who they were, and a check yes or no box if you'd like to see them again. On Oleg's detail line, I wrote asshole. First of all, when he sat down, I extended my arm to shake his hand as a polite greeting which is what everyone did all night long. You shake hands, smile and introduce yourself (so as to avoid the awkward staring at the chest / name tag issue.) When I went to shake his hand, he threw his paper at me instead and said "Here, is this what you want?" Um, no, I was trying to introduce myself. Whatever. Ok, let's move on. "So, Oleg, that's a really unusual name. Can I ask where it's from?" He tells me to guess. I guess Swedish. He says no, but I'm close. I guess Norwegian. Nope. Danish. Nope. Finnish. Nope. Russian. Nope. Fuck this, I give up. He laughs and says I'm very good at geography. So it's a torture the girl sort of game, eh? I sooo don't need this bull shit. I sit back and cross my arms away from him, the sure sign I'm not interested. He tells me he's African. From Zimbabwe. Excuse me, but I'm guessing that's more bull shit. I ask what he does. He replies "What? To make the money? I make the paychecks, don't worry. I bring home the money. You don't have to worry." Alright, I'm done trying to make nice with this dufus. Please ring the gong, host, please, ring it, ring it now, RING THE GODDAMN GONG NOW!!! Thank you.
Date #12: Cesar - the man who brings hope to this entire evening. He's cute. He's really cute. He's funny and sweet and has a really enchanting smile. It's hard to concentrate on anything he's saying cause I'm trying not to stare at him. We fall into this easy small talk mode where everything is comfortable and unforced and feels natural and I'm finally just starting to enjoy myself when the stupid gong rings again. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO... Crap. Definitely check "yes" to spend more time with him!
Date #13: Tokudata - another angry Jersey boy. He's last on my rotation and I'm torn between hating the time I spent with Oleg and wanting more time with Cesar. Shaking off the last two hours and knowing that it's almost over, I ask Toku what his name means. He tells me it's a Japanese combination of loyalty and faith. I think that's such a lovely sentiment. Kimberly means Princess or Ruler (is anyone surprised?) He then asks where I'm from and I say Long Island. He immediately stands up and says "we can't be friends" and starts to walk away. What?!?! He comes back and says he was just kidding but really, have I seen the spoof video for Nassau County State of Mind? No, I haven't. Have I seen Real Housewives of New Jersey? No, I haven't. Have I seen anything? I'm sorry, I didn't know that crappy pop culture was a pre-requisite for dating in the city. The gong rings (thank goodness) and he goes back to talking to the chick next to me about skiing in Lake Tahoe. Good, I'm glad they have something in common cause we sure as hell don't!
Phew, it's over, I can breathe again. There is an informal meeting of the minds circling around the women's bathroom where we relive the harshest moments of the night with the worst dates and agree on who was cutest and we want to see again. I know that essentially, these girls are competition but it doesn't feel like that. It feels like we just survived something together and are all glad it's over with. A speed dating sorority of sorts. I can't wait to get home, throw on pajamas and write it all down. Of course, before I do that, I slip the host my number on a napkin. He's cute and single. Now I know it hasn't been a complete waste of time!
Copyright Kimberly Spice 2010