By Elizabeth Best
Let me just come right out and say it. Online dating sites and apps like Tinder are a collective dumpster fire that no amount of water will ever be able to put out. The focus on judging people’s looks, the insults if you don’t immediately want to drop your panties after one sentence, the carousel of unsolicited ‘d’ pics … the list goes on.
So when an ad for speed dating popped up in my Facebook feed, I paused.
Past Liz would have scrolled on by, but present Liz was so broken down by modern dating advice and trying to figure out how to find true love that she thought, “Why the heck not?” Surely it couldn’t get any worse than someone calling you fat because you took too long to text back.
I mean, when you compare it to delightful interactions such as that, speed dating has to be a better way to meet new people than online dating right? Right?!
And it was — on that night. But afterward? I’m pretty sure it crushed me more than any online dating stint.
Speed dating, with a twist
One of the main reasons this particular speed dating event piqued my interest was the way it was structured. In order to gain automatic entry, all speed daters had to bring a single friend of the opposite sex that they vouched for.
Now, this might not seem so revolutionary, but I’ve heard stories that make this little format tweak super enticing. Stories like how certain male friends of mine, even while already coupled up, have been asked to attend speed dating nights to both make up the numbers, and to flirt with the women to make sure they feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. Which is just gross.
I figured this idea of bringing along a friend you think is awesome but just not for you would, theoretically lower the douche quotient in the room at the same time as make sure there were equal numbers of men and women, negating the need for decoy ring-ins.
Before the event, I was super-excited. I’d get to meet a bunch of eligible bachelors, have chats in person instead of via text, and maybe even feel that chemistry zing that’s missing when you’re dealing with a photo and words on a screen.
I’d get four minutes per date, which I thought seemed pretty quick, but then again it’s called speed dating, not a reasonable amount of time dating.
The night of a thousand speed dating dates
Okay, so it was only 20 dates, but that felt like a whole lot considering I’d only been on one date for the whole previous few months.
Right up until the event I’d been super jumpy excited but when the night came, that turned to nerves. How would I seem cool in four minutes? How would I know if someone else was interested?
Most importantly: What should I wear? I’m both a fancy dress and jeans and heels kind of girl so I couldn’t choose which was more “me”.
Because I am indecisive, I put up a poll on Facebook giving the options of jeans and a nice top, and a dress. And because clearly, my entire friendship group is also indecisive, the results were almost entirely split down the middle. I went with jeans, heels and nice top to give a sort of casual but classy vibe. Last thing I wanted was to give off a high maintenance vibe. I literally had four minutes so impressions matter.
I wondered later whether the jeans had had any effect on my night. Because hi, my name is Liz and I’m an over-thinker.
When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. Far from the room full of nerdy, desperate and dateless people I’d feared, the trendy bar was full of cute, fun looking singles. I even was immediately attracted to one of them!
I grabbed a drink and then it was time to date.
Out of the 20 men I dated, there were only two that were “Definite no!”s. One of which, when he found out I was a dating writer, interrupted me abruptly to say “Okay, so how does a guy in his early 20s find a girlfriend in under three months then?” I tried to kind of laugh it off and say, “Oh you know, these days the bar is so low that …” He didn’t let me finish.
“What do you mean the bar is low? The bar?” he said, gesturing to the literal bar and puzzled bartender we were standing next to. “No, no,” I said, trying to add gestures so he understood my meaning. “I mean the bar is so low, like, you know the expression?” Mr. Abrupt continued to stare at me. “You mean the bar is low, like on alcohol?”
My inner English major cringed, and I just said: “You should be fine, buddy, just don’t be a jerk.” But no, he wouldn’t let that go. “Nah I don’t care about like how you act, I’m talking where do you go? Where do you meet chicks?”
My god, this was the longest four minutes of my life.
But the rest of the dates? The rest were awesome! The banter came so easily, and so many of the guys had excellent chat. I felt like I was on fire, having conversation after conversation that just felt so good. I was getting compliments left, right and center (“You have the most memorable face in the room”… my gawd, I was practically fanning myself!) and many of the men seemed really upset when our four minutes were up. Several said variations of “We definitely have to continue this conversation,” and made motions to write my name down on their match cards.
Out of my 20 dates, I ticked yes on 9 people. Solid four definite yeses, and five guys with definite potential that I wanted to explore. I walked out of there feeling like my ego was at its highest in years and went home to sleep with a smile.
Oh you sweet, naive summer child Liz. Winter is coming.
The speed dating fallout
I woke up to a message from my lovely male plus one I’d dragged along as my “vouched for” guy.
“How did you go with your matches?!”
“Oh yeah!” I thought, springing up in bed and checking my email. I’d had such great interactions with these guys, and at least five of them had indicated in person that they really wanted to see me again, so I was pretty confident.
My inbox refreshed: newsletter, newsletter, social media update, bill (ugh) … That was it. No email from the speed dating company.
I asked my friend when he got his matches sent to him and he said late the night before. The night before?! I told him I had no email.
“Oh,” he said. “Well, maybe they’re just doing the people who didn’t get many matches first? I only got two, so maybe they’re taking longer to process yours?
It was a lovely thing to say, and I tried to believe it but … I kind of didn’t. Also, my anxiety was sitting on my shoulder telling me that absolutely wasn’t the case, the little jerk.
I went to work that day feeling anxious, refreshing my email like a crazy person. By the middle of the day, when I still had no email I decided to contact the company.
“Hey guys,” I wrote. “Had such a fab time at the event the other night. So I hate being “that girl” but hello anxiety! I was just wondering… two of my friends who went to the Brisbane Speed dating event got their matches sent to them already but I didn’t get an email yet. My overactive derp of a brain was wondering if you just haven’t gotten around to sending them all through, or if it went technologically missing?”
I felt like such a desperate, pathetic idiot, but I just had to know.
About an hour later, my phone pinged with a reply. “Thanks so much for getting in touch! Something might have gone wrong, because we definitely sent your email over. So sorry you didn’t get it! Can we send it to a different email for you?”
I let out the breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. “Yes please,” I typed. “Thank goodness. I was beginning to get worried!”
Seconds later, I opened my inbox, and there it was. The email with my matches … Or should I say match. As in, singular. With one guy. Who I couldn’t actually remember meeting at all.
I ran through my mind all the guys I’d ticked yes on and this one didn’t ring a bell. At all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I had ticked yes on anyone with the name staring out at me from the screen.
And suddenly, the massive high I’d had from the night before came crashing down. Out of nine men – nine! – I got one match, who I was pretty certain I’d not actually picked. Maybe the organizers felt sorry for me and had given me a pity pick?
My mind was working overtime with all the dates from last night.
Mr. You Have The Most Memorable Face In The Room ticked ‘no’? The guy I was instantly attracted to said ‘no’? Every single one of the guys who had told me, unprompted, that they 100 percent definitely wanted to see me again, had all ticked ‘no’? Even the guys I was “meh” on, but was not opposed to seeing again, ticked ‘no’?!
And all of a sudden, all the feelings washed over me and I started to tear up. Granted, I was PMSing really bad, but I just couldn’t help but wondering what was wrong with me that not even one out of the nine I picked picked me back? Was it the jeans? Was I too forward? Were the men intimidated by my confidence? Suddenly all my self-esteem fears that never entered my mind while online dating were flooding me and I felt like I was drowning in self-doubt.
See, with dating apps I expect it to be a terrible cesspit of human grossness and it’s a pleasant surprise when it isn’t. Which is rare. With online dating I know my value, I know what I will and won’t accept from people, and when people are jerks I feel like that’s on them, not me.
By meeting in person and having what I thought was a good rapport and connection with so many people, I got my hopes up so high only to have them crash down. The men I meet on Tinder are usually crass right out of the gate. The men I met that night at speed dating seemed so lovely, and all told me exactly what I wanted to hear. I felt played. I felt lied to. I felt like I just got dumped nine times.
Worst of all I was questioning if something was wrong with me at a level I hadn’t done in years.
I did end up texting my match and after a few back and forward messages, he ghosted me on the last message.
So, would I go back to speed dating?
You may think I am utterly crazy, but I’d say yes to going back. Except this time, I would go in with the same level of cautiousness and realistic expectations that I approach online dating.
I think if I’d have seen it more as a fun night out that might end up with a date or two I’d have not felt so crushed the following day. I needed to have realistic expectations that essentially speed dating is the same as just going to a bar and chatting to people; not everyone you have a good conversation with is going to give you their number.
Next time I would go in knowing my value, too.
I know I’m a high-value woman when I’m online dating, but somehow that went out the window in person. It’s more vulnerable to talk to people in person and harder to hold on to your self-esteem when things go wrong.
After all, I reminded myself, I did have a fantastic night that was much more enjoyable than online dating. It was only the results that brought me crashing down and that was because I had unrealistic expectations and has subsequently doubted myself.
If those guys didn’t tick yes, they’re not for me. And that’s okay.
I mean, they all suck and they don’t know what they’re missing, but that’s fine.
Elizabeth Best is a journalist and editor who’s great at providing relationship advice — for everyone but herself. For more, follow her on Instagram.
This article was originally published at SheSaid. Reprinted with permission from the author.