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For coupling up every couple minutes, try speed dating.

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Seven dates with seven men in less than two hour's time. It's enough to make Wilt Chamberlain fall over in exhaustion, and it was my latest assignment here at the Flyer.

The upside for me was that I'd get a free meal, meet a bunch of people, and get to write about something that has nothing to do with law, policy, or corruption. That was all the convincing I needed. Besides, I was curious to see if I was even capable of keeping up. But after hearing that speed dating had been the focus of episodes of both Frasier and Sex and the City I reasoned that if sitcom characters can do it, then I can too.

However, I'm already happily in a relationship. Hmm, problematic. Funny how the whole "going on dates with seven men tonight" thing doesn't seem to go over well with a significant other. After pondering this dilemma with me, another staff writer noted that this could be kind of like my own Temptation Island. Suits me.

So I called the organizers and told them to sign me up. They asked me a few semi-personal questions: first name and last initial; age; occupation; zodiac sign (yeah, that one was kind of hokey). The next few questions required more thought: Smoker? well, um Drinker? I guess Interests? I prattled off the first few that came to mind Dating goals? I said that I just wanted to have fun, only to later realize how that comment could be taken.

Move over, Mandy, I just became the whore on this Temptation Island.

And that was it. They told me to be at Melange at 6:30 p.m., dressed in "business-casual" wear -- which to us workers in "casual-casual" offices meant my leather pants and a sweater. Maybe I really am the whore here...

I parked on the street and walked into the bar at Melange promptly at 6:30 p.m. That's when I realized that this really would be like Temptation Island. There was even a Fox film crew.

As one of the first women to arrive on the scene, I felt like a bacon-wrapped filet dangling over a crowd of hunger-strikers. Heads turned and I was being scrutinized, so I quickly ordered a drink and sat down at the bar. The man next to me, an attractive, well-dressed gentleman in his 50s, seemed unsure whether he should talk to me or not. He was also there to speed date, and we didn't know if we were allowed to meet before the event began. But we started talking and soon agreed that the presence of Fox cameras was doing nothing to assuage our reservations. He said something like, "I don't want everyone I know to see me doing this," and I echoed that sentiment.

Seriously, I felt like pulling a Billy and turning to the cameraman to say, "This doesn't concern the show, man. This is my life." But, in fact, it wasn't my life, it was research for this story. Besides, the crew was just there to do a quick spot for the Fox 13 evening newscast. So I kept myself in profile all night and vowed to decline an interview if I was asked. I wasn't.

However, the Fox cameras zoomed in when I had my date with -- let's call him Kaya -- a very attractive man with an adorable British accent. Oh my God, I really am on Temptation Island.

We talked about Memphis, our jobs, and ate a shrimp appetizer. It was all said and done in 10 minutes time. Oh, Kaya, I'll never forget you. I even got to relive part of our date the next night during the Fox 13 newscast.

Truly playing Mandy the Whore, I had six other dates that night with extremely interesting, polite, attractive men. In fact, I met as many interesting, datable men during those two hours as I have in the year and half I've been in Memphis.

When all of the "dates" were finished, the organizers brought each of us a checklist with the names of everyone who participated. We were instructed to check the name of anyone we wanted to see again, and the organizers would see if any love connections were made and then contact each party with the other's digits. This was probably my favorite aspect of the whole speed-dating process. The element of rejection is completely removed. No one gets rejected and no one has to reject. Hassle-free dating, and who can argue with that?

After leaving the restaurant I told my boyfriend all about it (slutty Mandy didn't do that), knowing that he'd likely see it on Fox the next night anyway. As for Kaya and me, well, we'll always have, er, Melange.

For more information on Speed Dating, call 335-3152.

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