Exploring beyond the plethora of dating apps designed to connect individuals, I sought an alternative that didn’t involve extensive phone usage. Recently, an advertisement caught my attention—promoting a speed dating event at a local bar. Faced with mixed results in online dating, I was intrigued to discover if speed dating could offer a refreshing departure from the familiar swiping and tapping routines seen on apps like Tinder and Grindr.

The advertising image for this articles described event.
This event was being held at our local Hamburger Marys, which is a chain of restaurants focused on Drag Shows, Burgers (and other comfort bar foods), and at our location, a monthly speed dating event. They have both a Male for Male, and a Female for Female event.

The exterior of Hamburger Marys
Being a gay man penning this piece, it seemed fitting to join the M4M event. The advertisement hinted at around 20 eligible bachelors – not a massive crowd, but when you visualize putting faces to those numbers, the prospect of meeting them all at once might be a tad overwhelming.

Talking about what I’m anticipating, you’ve probably heard those speed dating stereotypes – like it’s only for the super desperate, encourages snap judgments, and can be a bit socially awkward. But, I’m going in with a positive attitude, to give myself the best chances of finding someone.

Writers Selfie, wearing a button up shirt, and jeans.

Starting the night out, I’m going for a casual look, something that you might see me in everyday attire. A nice button up shirt from a local artist, and a pair of jeans. Again, casual, but not overly dressed up. A bit more about me, I’m a 26 year old former midwestern living in south Florida.

I got there 15 minutes early and kept to myself, though I did manage to strike up a few conversations with some of the bachelors beforehand. Surprisingly, a couple of them were just as nervous as I was at the beginning, unsure of what to expect. There was one guy who mentioned, “I don’t know if this is my scene,” and he left before things kicked off. Being one of the youngest attendee wasn’t a big deal, but it did result in a few awkward conversations later in the night.

Interior of the bar

The setup for this event involved a circle of tables, and we had around five minutes to engage with each bachelor. After each round, we’d shift to the next table on our right. Towards the end, we could jot down the names of those we’d be interested in meeting for a second date. If the feeling was mutual, and the other bachelor agreed, they’d share their number with us. It was emphasized that as long as we stuck to the rotation, we’d have the chance to meet every potential bachelor.

Commencing the event, our discussions were fairly surface-level – guys sharing details about their jobs, hometowns, and other safe topics with no wrong answers. Adding a humorous twist, instead of the typical bell signaling the end of our time, the host cleverly used the classic Grindr notification sound to wrap up each interaction.

There were a couple of bachelors that, if I could’ve skipped, I likely would have. Fortunately, those five minutes flew by, but it seemed like most of the dates involved a bit of a struggle to squeeze in as much conversation as possible within the limited time.

Midway through, we took a break to grab refills, hit the restroom, and catch our breath – talking to so many guys was a bit overwhelming. I decided to steer away from the usual “what do you do for work” or “where are you from” chatter and instead threw in some unique questions. I went with queries like “If you could instantly acquire any skill right now, what would it be?” or “What’s your go-to karaoke song?” It added a fun twist to the responses and allowed us to inject a bit of creativity into the conversation.

By the end of the night, I had encountered 15 other dates, and regarding my responses

From a pool of 15 dates, I identified 6 individuals for potential second dates. Of these, 2 expressed mutual interest in a second date. Additionally, 2 individuals initiated a connection via Instagram, despite not being part of my initial selection of preferred profiles. 

My initial experience:

Engaging with numerous individuals within a brief timeframe was quite tiring. While there were guys I genuinely enjoyed conversing with, envisioning spending time with them beyond the bar was challenging. One individual, significantly older than me, remarked, “I could be your father,” a comment that didn’t exactly sit well with me.

Following the conclusion of the event, I casually indicated, “Hey, I’ll be outside if anyone wants to chat in a quieter setting,” leading to a connection on Instagram. If not for that extended conversation, we might have developed stronger connections with other individuals. Therefore, I’m glad I lingered to engage with those individuals. 

What to expect / prepare for:

  • Embrace the discomfort; awkward moments are part of the dating journey. If dating were a breeze, events like these wouldn’t exist.
  • Anticipate that forming a deep connection in just five minutes is a challenge. Conversations will often skim the surface of a topic during this brief timeframe.
  • Prepare enjoyable icebreaker questions to break the monotony of repeating the same queries like “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?”
  • While the event may have designated start and end times, consider arriving early and staying afterward for more meaningful conversations. I found that engaging discussions often occurred before and after the event, avoiding the rush before the bell.
  • Strive to be engaging even if the conversation doesn’t immediately click. Non-engagement puts undue pressure on the other person who may struggle to initiate conversation.
  • Avoid delving into heavy or negative topics such as politics, ex-partners, personal issues, or finances.
  • Maintain openness to conversations. During one date, I mentioned enjoying Broadway musicals, only for the date to respond with “Oh, I hate Broadway,” effectively ending the conversation.

Final Thoughts:

While I can’t assert that speed dating suits everyone, I do consider it a refreshing departure from current dating methods. It serves as a great opportunity to meet new people, even if only for a few minutes. However, the mental exhaustion from engaging with numerous individuals in a short timeframe while attempting to establish meaningful connections is undeniable.

Individuals with prior event experiences expressed a preference for speed dating over apps like Grindr. I can personally affirm that the absence of introductions featuring explicit photos was a welcomed aspect.

Reflecting on the experience, two questions linger: “Did I form any significant connections?” and “Would I participate again?” In terms of connections, there were some, and I’m planning a few second dates with my connections I’ve made. Regarding participating again, I would express curiosity, especially if new participants were to join.

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