At first, the weird, artificial construct of all these “dates” seems too awful to bear. Even though the guys I’ve talked to thus far have been way better than the smirky frat boys and weepy divorcés I envisioned, I still plan to escape at the intermission. But then, sometime around the fourth date, I start to sense a camaraderie developing among some of us, a sort of silent compact to soldier on through four more rounds of small talk in search of a genuine laugh or two. So I grab a couple of cold chicken wings from the hors d’oeuvres plate to fuel up for another half, and I stay.
By the time it’s over, I’ve marked six men as potential friends, and none as dates — could anyone be more than a friend after eight minutes? I log on the next day and find that four of the six men agreed to friendship. One e-mails me; one calls. The other two are MIA, and I don’t wonder where they are. See, the real problem with speed-dating isn’t the cheesy venue or the enormous effort it takes to perform eight acts in a first-date cabaret show. No, it’s that after the flurry of tables and faces, I honestly don’t even remember who they are.
THE WRITER FROM Match.com cancels our Monk’s date the next day; he has to work, and wonders if we can reschedule. I’m still tired from speed-dating, and I don’t mind, especially given the daunting week of dates coming up.
What happens after that is a bit of a blur. First, still having heard nothing from Waffles — the crack in the shield widened to a chasm — I finally decide to e-mail. It’s a cheery note about how I think winking may be passive-aggressive, and so hello, your profile caught my eye. I toss in a Mrs. Butterworth joke. I wait. And this time, within minutes, he e-mails back. I clap. (Word spreads in the office — contact with Waffles, hooray!) There’s a little banter; it’s good. I still like his smile. Within a few days, we set up a date for the following week.
Meanwhile, I have a second date with a man I met — all on my own — in Rittenhouse Square a few weeks back. We had gone out before, enjoying a lovely dinner and then bowling at Lucky Strike. Tonight, it’s gorgeous out, and so we visit Parc for a late supper on the sidewalk, where I soak up the easy non-first-dateness of our conversation. It’s nice. Which might be why the next night — another first date, one of the Great Date Now set-ups — feels like so much work. Whatever the reason, something is definitely off. What seemed good on paper was obviously less so at Snackbar. There were, at times, crickets.