Geek love: Adventures in speed dating at Comic Con
This is what our sci-fi speed daters were looking for over the weekend.
People go to Comic Con for all sorts of reasons: to dress up as their favorite characters, to meet their heroes (Oh heyyy Sean Astin, Goonies never say die!), to score a rare comic, and... to find love.
When perusing the Comic Con schedule and plotting out my attack plan for hitting various panels, I stumbled across the description for something called "Love in the Air." What was it? It was speed-dating, with a sci-fi twist. My interest was piqued.
"Are you looking for love in Alderaan places?"
That tagline left me in stitches. How had I never heard that poor, destroyed planet's name used like that before? Alderaan... all the wrong... brilliant! Wait, did I actually get geek humor? Maybe it was a sign; this could be fun.
I've never been on a blind date, and I've never done anything like speed-dating before. Did I have to get fancy? Dress up like Harley Quinn? Would there be drinks there?
In the end, I decided to play it low-key in a mostly black outfit and some Totoro-themed tights. If someone got the Studio Ghibli reference, we'd have something to talk about. Plus, if anybody would recognize Totoro's wide-eyed, toothy face -- they'd be at Comic Con.
The session started at 5 p.m., and I was running late, nervous I'd be shut out after having put some effort into my look and what I had to talk about.
There was a long line of guys outside the door. As I made my way to conference room M100A, a really tall Jedi greeted me.
"Interested in speeeed dating?"
"Step right in!"
There were about 40 chairs spread around the room in a square-within-a-square formation. Women were sitting in the outside rung, numbers pinned to their chests.
I looked around at the girls, most clad in costumes. Hermione was laughing with a girl in plainclothes who had pointy ears. The little kid from Up chatted with Superman. Captain America and Batman were there, too, and so was a midriff-baring Supergirl. They looked good.
I found myself getting really excited to meet new people and, in hindsight, I wish the ladies in the room could've met each other for a little bit, too.
A few minutes went by, and it was like waiting for the floodgates to be released. Suddenly, I had time to think about why I was there. Should I have brushed up on my geek lore? Could I remember enough Whovian knowledge off the top of my head to get through three minutes of a Doctor Who gush-fest?
Finally, it was time for the menfolk to join us.
"We've been doing this for four years," said the Jedi host. "We've had 19 engagements, five marriages, and three babies -- some of which were conceived during Comic Con. I know, because I did the math." He went on to crack a few jokes at the guys' expense, but it wasn't mean-spirited. We were all there on the same level, putting ourselves out there to meet new people.
We each got a note card, a pen, and a badge with a number on it. We'd get three minutes with each person. When that time was up, the men would move down a chair. We'd both have a chance to write the other person's number on the note card if we liked them. At the end of the session, the guys would go write their names, badge numbers, and phone numbers or emails on sheets marked with the girls' numbers. The girls would get to do the same thing on the other side of the room. Afterward, we'd each get our sheets and see if we had any matches.
"If you get stuck," our host began, "just ask, 'What's your favorite movie?'"
Sometimes that worked, and sometimes it didn't.
The question I most got was, "So, is this your first con?" Maybe it was a good way to break the ice or maybe I just looked out of place. Luckily, I'd been to some before and was able to tell some stories.
The guys had different methods of broaching topics, and sometimes I took the lead on steering the conversation. "Who are you excited to see at the con?" was my go-to question if the conversation slowed. All of them had fun answers, and I'm so glad no one responded, "You."
"Seen Office Space? You know that guy Bob? That's kinda what I do for a living," one guy said. We all got to talk to people from vastly different backgrounds, including graphic designers, guys in IT, students, and more.
One guy just listed random topics in rapid fire until we found something we shared a common interest in: Anime? Ehh, not a lot. Orphan Black? Well... Doctor Who? Yes! This method actually worked quite well. We were able to share our favorite Who villains (Daleks and the Weeping Angels, if you were curious), and bond over what made them so evil, and so great.
Another guy pulled out a list of bullet points about himself he made sure to write down (lest he forget how to talk about himself?). "I'm looking for a serious relationship... I'm introverted... I like spanking role play... I'm going back to school..." Record scratch. Wait, what? Spanking? We then proceeded to talk Disney movies.
Can you find everlasting love like Aragorn and Arwen while sci-fi speed-dating? Maybe!
Oddly enough, Disney movies were a common theme among the group, which is awesome, because I am well-versed in the old animated films. Finally, my knowledge of the Sword in the Stone and Dumbo came in handy outside of trivia night at the bar.
Three minutes isn't a lot of time to meet the love of your life, but sometimes things click. And sometimes that three minutes was more like two minutes, and we all complained that it seemed like things had randomly started speeding up. When you want more time to chat? That's a good sign.
Like anyone who's done speed dating (or any kind of dating, for that matter), it's nerve-racking at first, but once you settle into a rhythm, you realize you're just meeting people. Some of them might turn out to be potential romantic partners, some of them might become your friends, and some you might never see again -- save for an awkward glance in the exhibition hall and thoughts of, "Oh, shoot, what number were you again?"
The host reassured everyone that even if they didn't get any numbers this time around, they should come back and meet more people. He told a story about a woman who went through NINE rounds of speed dating at New York Comic Con -- where the rooms are filled with 70 guys and 70 girls -- and she didn't get any callers. She came back a 10th time... and got 64 numbers. You go, girl.
For all his joke-cracking, the host made it crystal clear that if any of us felt remotely uncomfortable, we could give a secret signal, and he'd put an end to whatever it was that was bothering us. Later, after the guys had received their numbers and gone on their merry ways, he made sure to tell us that we could always drop him a line with any concerns we had if we went out with any of the guys and they were
creepers less-than-stellar dates. It was reassuring to say the least.
"You're like our big brother!" said one girl.
"Oh, I got brother-zoned," the host groaned. "That's way worse than being friend-zoned. Thanks a lot." The room erupted in laughter. Then we got our slips of paper with the guys' names and numbers and disappeared off into the con again.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I learned a lot about fandoms I have no connection with -- from Assassin's Creed to The Art of War -- and I got to gush with someone about how amazing Miyazaki films are (thanks for the conversation-starter, stockings!).
Those three minutes aren't meant to be spent impressing someone or proving you know more about this fandom or that movie, it's to show off how passionate you are about something and share that with the person in the chair across from you. And vice versa. Passion for something you believe in can be a turn on and, sometimes, that can lead to a different kind of passion.
Check out our photos from Minneapolis Comic Con!
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