Pictured: Dating.

I have had a lot of unpleasant dating experiences (as well as some good ones, but who wants to hear about those?). One of the reasons I moved to Portland last month, in fact, was because I wanted to get away from the concentration of exes that is Southern California for me. Every other time I have tried to start anew with my dating life, I wind up in relationships with either emotionally unavailable stoners (my “type”, if you’ll recall) or attempting some depressingly stressful long distance thing. Now, however, I’ve finally begun making an effort to actually change my dating life in three steps:

  1. Moving away from the toxic cycles and situations I have continuously put myself in throughout the past few years with the same people over and over.
  2. Not going for anybody who is excessively similar to my typical type (and therefore bad for me).
  3. Meeting people in ways other than just through other exes or in my ridiculously incestuous friend group.

Since being here, I have primarily focused on making friends and working — though I did meet somebody nice recently and told him he was dying — so dating hasn’t been too far in the front of my mind. So, when my housemate Ethan’s married friend told us during dinner the other night that she would be going to “observe” speed dating and support one of her friends, he and I decided to go. It was held at a pizza place super close by that I had already been to once before for a trivia night, and the price of admission included two drink/pizza tickets.

Plus, it was specifically directed towards “geeks looking for other geeks,” and that sounded oddly appealing. Having grown up with two brothers who taught me to play Warcraft II as a 7-year-old and, when I ran out of Ken dolls for Barbies, let me use orcs as prom date substitutes, I am pretty comfortable with my own geekiness and anybody else’s.

So last night, Ethan, myself and another friend show up to speed dating, grab some pizza and beer and sit with some of his other friends while we waited for the event to start. I wasn’t sure how to dress, so I was wearing a giant orange cardigan, a purple satin shirt and some black leggings — I looked like a 5’7″ pumpkin, but it is my most comfortable outfit and I figured I’d be doing a lot of moving around. As I looked around the room, however, I noticed that many people were a bit more dressed up; in particular, many of the guys were wearing vests, nice sweaters and even the occasional suit. Apparently, speed dating attracts some snappy dressers, but I brushed it off and just hoped nobody would notice I hadn’t washed my hair that day.

After an adorable fantasy-themed band called The Broadsides played, the host of the event explained the rules to everybody. Basically, the women sit on the outside in established chairs while the men rotated around the room every four minutes. You wrote down each person’s name on a piece of paper and checked “Yes” or “No” for whether or not you’d like to see them again, and if you both checked “Yes,” you would be emailed one another’s contact info at a later date. Plus, you would also get mailed any additional people who had said “Yes” to you with whom you may not have reciprocated, and then see if you might want to reconsider them. Sounds fun, right? It totally was… mostly.

I settled myself into a corner of the room, as I really hate loud places where I can’t hear anybody and it seemed like the best way to ensure a decently audible conversation. After a few minutes of the guys getting settled, everybody introduced themselves and the host gave the room a starting topic to break the ice. The first guy I met seemed totally nice, but the second guy started to behave in a way that made me a little uncomfortable.

“You know, I have a confession: I only came here tonight because I saw you post on Facebook and you’re the most beautiful person here so I decided to come for you.”

First of all, never tell anybody you came to anything for them if you do not know them already. Second, I need to work on my response skills because instead of saying the above, I said, “Awww, that is so sweet!” But more on that guy later, because he pops up again at the end.

After Confession Guy, everything went super smoothly. There were about 12 girls and 20 guys, so it was kind of exhausting to talk to so many people, but each person was surprisingly easy to talk to. I had forgotten how much I love talking about video games and D&D, and there were so many people who gushed and geeked out with me, as well as multiple — well, like 3 — guys I would totally hang out with in a potentially romantic setting.

I wound up sticking around for a bit afterward and having a couple beers with my friends who came along as well as some of the guys who had been doing the speed dating. As I was having my drink, Confession Guy accosted me and insisted that I tell him whether or not I wrote “Yes” or “No.” He kept saying it was fine if I didn’t, and that he’d find out later anyway, then showed me the list he had taken which had all our numbers on it anyway — ?! — so I felt super awkward and didn’t know what to say. I wound up uncomfortably saying, “I mean, you seem nice, but I wrote ‘No,’ I’m sorry.” I have no idea why I apologized; I just really hate being put on the spot. He acted super disappointed, said it was weird and then left.

I proceeded to just drink a few cocktails with the rest of the lingering group and actually really enjoyed my extended conversations with them, so I would say the turnout was overwhelmingly good guys who don’t corner women and make them feel weird. And while I strongly doubt readers of TheGloss are the type to generalize people’s appearances, I will say that the geek crowd had quite a few lookers.

Overall, I would strongly recommend speed dating to anybody who is sick of trying to go about romance in other ways. Granted, I only got to talk to these fellahs for about 4 minutes each plus some time after with a few of them, but I think it doesn’t actually take all that long to decide whether or not you’re interested in somebody. Think about it: if you’re at a bar or party and somebody you don’t really know approaches you, you know within about a minute if you want to keep talking to him or her, or simply walk away. Our instincts are surprisingly decent sometimes, and speed dating forces you to trust them more than most situations.

Additionally, the pressure of having to approach people in the first place is taken out of the mix, and that is fantastic, particularly for people who are not great at talking to strangers. While I love meeting new people, I have an impossibly hard time walking up to somebody I’m attracted to unless I am drinking or I get some signal to do so. With speed dating, you have to talk to each person and since it’s so fast, you wind up propelling your conversation forward at an extremely productive rate. And if you happen to find an event that is themed as this one was, you’ll already know you have stuff in common with the person. It’s a win-win, dammit.

So, speed dating tips for potential speed daters!

  • Keep an open mind. You might wind up meeting somebody totally awesome, or at least some really great new friends.
  • Wear something memorable. Why? Because at the end, I remembered all the people’s names who had something distinctive about them, like a great jacket or even a nice hairstyle.
  • Drink beer or water. You’ll wind up finishing it much slower than a small cocktail, which is good when you can’t get up for like an hour and a half.
  • Don’t corner people or ask what they wrote. Because seriously. Just don’t.
  • Don’t be a douchebag. Being polite and friendly is so important, even if you’re not interested in the person. Remember that they’re there for similar, if not the same, reasons you are, and you would never want somebody to be unkind towards you in that situation.

Having fun is the most important thing, of course, because if you can’t enjoy yourself as a single person while “dating” like 20 people with zero real pressure, then shit is shitty. Oh, and if you live in Portland and see me at speed dating (because I will totally be doing this again), say hello!

Photos: Psycho Al / Flickr, Community.