You’ve got to love a nineties throwback. Listen to the Spice Girls, watch an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, go speed dating? Well, sometimes good things come in threes, and sometimes it’s more of a mixed bag. The latest ‘retro trend’ (which seems oxymoronic) is speed dating.
For those who have never experienced this strange dating ritual, allow me to explain. Speed dating is when a group of people meet up and take turns having brief conversations with each other, switching tables and moving on to the next potential partner every 5 minutes or so. At the end of the night, everyone ranks their encounters and decides if they would be interested in switching phone numbers, with the plan to organise a longer, more conventional date.
Although the term was officially coined in the late 1990s, the concept has actually been around for much longer. In the 19th century, batchellors would come to visit unmarried women on new year’s day and they would each be allowed to have a quick chat before moving on to other prospects. Something similar occurs in Brigerton, if you’re less interested in history but know that Rege-Jean Page licking a spoon is the most fascinating and erotic thing you’ll ever encounter.
So, although speed dating as we know it is now close to 30 years old, it’s still popular. An online search shows heaps of events in major cities and even some smaller areas are keen to help people find love. It’s impressive that speed dating has continued for so long, even though the way we date and socialise has changed so dramatically recently, with more and more people using the internet to find prospective partners. But it is clear that speed dating must hold some appeal, so let’s look at the pros and cons.
Firstly, speed dating is a good way to find out if you find a prospective partner physically attractive. It’s widely understood that anyone using a dating app will use a photo from five years ago, when they were ten pounds lighter, and add a few inches to their height. Speed dating gives you the opportunity to see people as they really are and work out if you’re actually attracted to them, as opposed to a highly edited, carefully curated set of pictures. Superficial? Perhaps. But there’s no point in spending time getting to know someone who, honestly, you don’t want to sleep with. Unless you’re asexual, of course, but that’s a different conversation.
It’s also kind of convenient. You can be upfront about the type of connection you’re looking for, the events are designed to allow you to speak to all of the attendees without seeming rude, and some speed dating events are designed specifically for different religious groups, members of the LGBT+ community or polyamourous people who are less likely to meet organically. Now, this might seem hideously unromantic, but honestly, who wants a tortured Shakespearean love saga when you could find someone you like quickly and easily.
Now for the cons.
I think that it’s difficult to judge someone based on a three minute conversation. A person might talk non-stop when they’re feeling anxious, or they might stay absolutely silent, or they might have put on a talkative and confident persona, and none of those things are actually what they’re really like. Sure, committing to going to dinner with someone might be more time consuming, but you’ll also get a better picture of what they’re actually like, instead of a confused impression of a brief facade.
It’s also going to be hugely draining for introverts. Whilst I think that the whole ‘introvert vs extrovert’ is a false dichotomy and that we all have the potential to be outgoing or shy when faced with different situations, it’s undeniable that some people are naturally quieter and would find speed dating situations to be, at best, exhausting. Endless fast conversations get tedious and after a few ‘dates’ it’ll probably be hard to work out who you’ve spoken to and who you like.
So, final verdict? I don’t think that speed dating is for me. It seems artificial and rushed and for people who want to be in a relationship but don’t actually care who they date. Clearly, though, there’s something appealing to the experience, as events continue and people look for love over a drink, half-waiting for the shrill whistle that notifies us that the conversation is over and you must decide, somehow, if you’d like to see this person again or avoid them, probably for the rest of your life.