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Dating On Speed 

The search for Mr./Mrs. Right in four minutes or less

It only took 45 minutes to eclipse the number of first dates I had been on in the previous 1,250,000 minutes of my life. That could be a sad fact, but after going speed dating, along with Branna Calloway (who will be offering her perspective later on from the female POV), I remembered why I've been on so few first dates: I don't enjoy practice job interviews.

HurryDate, a speed dating service that just started in Charlotte, takes the polygamist approach to dating: One date is good, 14 are better. The dates, however, last four minutes, which is about how long it takes me to floss (and that's only giving my molars cursory attention).

Before the dating began, I sought some advice from the foremost dating expert in the world. Dr. Phil told me (via www.drphil.com), "Don't put pressure on yourself. You don't have to be married. It's not required. Stop telling yourself you have to get that ring on your finger." But I want it real bad.

Before the dating began, I asked fellow dude daters for strategy techniques. An older gentleman told me there can be no strategy, one must possess a certain, intangible charm.

Since that isn't really usable, I went back to Phil.

In Dating Do's and Don'ts, Phil says, "Do smile and laugh at his jokes. It will make him think you are both having a good time. Don't reveal too much personal information. Keep the conversation positive and light." To Phil, a good conversation is like a gelatinous flan or a stroll through a garden. Instead of telling her about my confidence issues or religious convictions, I should giggle playfully and perhaps show some cleavage.

Speed dating is like going to Old Country Buffet and eating everything on your plate all at once. Afterward, if someone asks you how the roast beef au jus was, you might get it confused with the pot roast or the meatloaf. Ten minutes after HurryDate had ended, I couldn't remember many specifics about my dates, just the composite of all 10: Her name was Hilaurissa. She had plain features, was a teacher who was new to Charlotte, considered herself over the club scene and liked water sports.

Bored of the standard introductory conversations, I resorted to asking random questions. "Who's your hero?" and "What's the craziest thing you've ever done with a T-square?" An artist told me she made out with someone in a cemetery recently. I asked her if it was with a ghost. It wasn't, and when she told me the real story, I stopped paying attention.

On my ninth date, I broke an awkward silence by asking Carly or Monica if she liked my new mustache. When she said she had never seen how I looked without one, I put my hand over it for the remainder of the date (18 seconds) and said, "Like this."

The highlight of the night was when I got to date Branna. I asked her who her favorite CL employee is (other than me, of course) and if she kisses by the third minute. She doesn't. Prude.

Speaking of Branna ...

I spent the first four minutes talking Jared down from the ledge as he let his so-called social anxieties cover him in an avalanche of "I don't know what to say."

"Play it suave," I said. "Like when you burst into that Bojangles commercial shoot and made the director pay attention." He seemed to buy the pep talk but still drained his free Red Stripe for extra nerve after eyeing the next table.

Of course, I was the only native Charlottean in the place. After a while, I just got used to the shocked faces I received every time I revealed that information. I countered with, "So what brings you to my city?" The universal answer was work. One guy recently left the beautiful beaches of Hawaii to slum in this hopelessly landlocked city. He told me he was looking for a "first mate" to take deep-sea fishing on his boat. I passed.

The next guy had me in stitches from the time he sat down. Sam said his line of work was real estate. In between sips from his draft, he made fun of the whole situation and the kinds of people who need events like HurryDate to hook up. Then, before I could get back my composure and have a real conversation, the bell sounded and time was up. Throughout the night, when the bell tolled, it could be a saving grace or a damned annoyance.

Indeed, the bell was a saving grace when it signaled the end of my next two dates. Luke and John were both very nice in their own ways. Luke, a recent transplant from Atlanta, was all about the party. He was good-looking and had strong conversational skills. However, when I mentioned interest in moving to Atlanta, he strongly advised against it, which made me wonder what went down in ATL with old Luke? A murder/kidnapping, perhaps?

John had a plastic smile and a freakishly intense stare (this guy put Tom Cruise to shame) ­-- a product, no doubt, of years in sales. The last straw was when he said my facial expressions reminded him of a co-worker's. Rule: Never compare one woman to another; she's wonderful in her own right.

The whole time, there was one guy I wanted to meet above the others. I noticed right away there was a bit of disparity at this HurryDate, namely a lack of color. So, being the alert black female I am, I zeroed in on a tall, bald black man dressed in a three-piece black suit with no shirt. Heavenly. I remembered that I had seen his profile on the Web site: thirty-something, educated, Jamaican-born businessman with a love for history and art. On paper, he was perfect. Then, he opened his mouth and the life I had built for us in my mind shattered into a million little pieces. The voice I expected to be resonant and charismatic was shrill and off-putting. He bragged about being a bad boy in Miami. Four minutes, it turns out, is ample time to judge a person's character.

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