By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Last Wednesday I called my boyfriend and asked if I could go speed dating. "It's for work," I pleaded. "I'm going to go undercover. PUH-leeeze."
"Um," he said.
"It will be fun. You can come too and pretend to be a photographer. There's free booze and sushi."
Want more speed dating stories? See Beth Walton's REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK.
He took the bait. We had a date.
While speed dating had always sort of appealed to me, I never really had an excuse to go, since I have been with the same guy for the last two and a half years.
Suddenly realizing I had no idea how to act single, I turned to my co-workers for help. They told me I should adopt a bunch of put-on personalities—you know, pretend I'm a cat lady, claim that I used to be a lesbian, mention how I just recently got out of jail and I really miss my bitches.
And so the day came. I snuck out of work early to change into going-out clothes and do my hair. I even put on heels. I psyched myself up, practicing lines in the mirror. I'll admit it, I was totally nervous.
My boyfriend and I walked into Nami Sushi downtown. We were in. Now it was time to mingle.
I'm not sure what happened, but as I scanned the crowd of mostly attractive twentysomethings dressed to the nines, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't lie to these people. I couldn't make a mockery of the thing they believed might change their lives.
As one guy told me, "Meeting people at bars sucks, meeting people at work sucks, and I'm here for the same reason everyone else is: I'm single and am unhappy about that."
Craig would have been cute enough, if he wasn't so nervous. He actually told me he wore a red shirt just in case he spilled wine on himself.
As Craig fumbled for something more to say, I met Chuck, a chubby older man in his forties. Chuck worked at a law firm. I told him I worked in advertising.
"Advertising, huh? A lot of women work in advertising. That's a field I should have gone into, har har har." He actually scratched his belly as he said that.
I needed another drink. I slid into an empty seat next to a girl and ordered more Cabernet. "If we're going to do this, we might as well get a little tipsy," I said.
She agreed and ordered one of her own. Caroline had a law degree and taught paralegals at a local university. She was really pretty, with perfectly manicured nails, a Prada bag, and no visible dark roots on her dyed blond hair.
Then it was time for speed dating to begin. For the next eight minutes, I would talk to a stranger. Then we'd take a moment and write down each other's name and identification number and decide whether we liked each other enough for a second date. The following day we could log on to www.8minutedating.com to find our matches.
Date No. 1: Tom had blond hair, blue eyes, and was so nervous that he accidentally broke the Mardis Gras beads that were decorating the table. He talked like a bullet train: He worked construction to pay the bills, but was trying to be a writer. He used to be a film student and was working on publishing a children's book about some little kid who overcomes some sort of childhood adversity and ends up happy in the end.
"When you're writing, it's sort of a strange thing," he explained to me. "Ideas just come to you and you don't really know what to go with, but then you just know."
Right, Tom, right.
Date No. 2: Roberto spiced things up quickly. "I want to meet someone new," he said in a high-pitched Southern drawl. "All the woman I meet say they aren't married, but then they are. They all say they don't have a boyfriend, but then they do. I want to find someone who is single."
I sat there for a minute staring at Roberto, a pudgy man in a yellow Polo, who sounded like a 12-year-old kid calling a phone sex line. I found myself wondering: Who were all these adulterous women throwing their relationships into the grinder for this goofball?
"I'm in the medical field, I draw blood for a living," Roberto continued.
By this time, I was on my fifth glass of wine. I looked over at my boyfriend and he was happily chatting up some hot girl. I started to think that maybe this wasn't such a great idea.
Date No. 3: Bruce was the football player I never got to date in high school. He was thick, well-muscled, and talked about sports nonstop. This excited me at first; I'd been a total nerd and here was my chance to retroactively be cool. But while dutifully listening to the 12th description of his winning play, I realized there was a reason my high school self didn't date jocks: I don't like sports.
Date No. 4: "Wow, look at you," Chuck said as he sauntered over to the table. "I remember you."
Right, Chuck, I remember you too. Advertising, ladies, har har har.
Chuck told me that he graduated from St. Cloud State and wishes he had gotten sloshed more often because every time he goes on a job interview, they just assume that he's a hardcore partier anyway.
"Nobody ever asks about my GPA," Chuck lamented.
I told Chuck that in college I was in a sorority.
"What did you have to do to get in?" he asked, leaning forward so far he nearly knocked over my eighth glass of Cabernet.
"Pillow fight," I said.
"Really? Just like on TV? In your panties and stuff?" Chuck's eyes rolled back as he drifted into his own little world. "That's awesome. Wow! That's beautiful."
"Chuck," I said. "I was kidding. It's not really that way."
"That's okay, I was just fantasizing for a moment," Chuck said. "That just made my night, that visual. Thank you. I'd like to say 'cheers' to that."
Right, Chuck. Cheers.
Ding, ding, ding. The bells were ringing and the night was over.
Caroline, it seemed, had broken the rules. She hadn't had a fresh date since intermission, instead spending her time talking to a living Ken doll. She was blushing like a bride on her honeymoon.
Almost everyone seemed to have found someone special. Bruce, the football stud, was leaving with an ex-cheerleader. Craig was snuggled up in the corner with some shy girl; Chuck was trying to look down a woman's shirt. Even Roberto was reclining in a booth surrounded by a swarm of giggling girls.
At that moment, I wondered where my boyfriend was. I found him off in the corner, dutifully taking pictures for my story. Speed dating was fun, but I already had a date and it was time to go home, just the two of us.
On the drive back to Uptown, I proudly boasted that I had gotten someone's number: Caroline's. I can't wait to hear all about Ken.