The holiday season serves as an annual reminder to unmarried people that being single is, ultimately, a lonely lifestyle filled with hollow ache, long sighs and too much identifying with John Mayer music. While happy couples exchange thoughtful gifts and pose for photographs, Darwin’s rejects muddle through the holiday season vowing not to spend another year alone. It is decided; weight must be lost. Diet improved. New clothes shall be purchased. Most important, a decision is made to “get out there more.” No more relying on bars and clubs. This is the era of asymmetric warfare. The conventional battlefield is a thing of the past. As a man, you must go where the women are.
The women are speed-dating.
A speed-dating event, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this relatively recent phenomenon, is a group gathering where two dozen or so men and women pay for the privilege of meeting each other for five minutes. Rules vary. In most cases these men and women meet each other in a bar or restaurant under the supervision of a hostess. Later they enter information regarding who they would like to see again into a Web site. The daters remain anonymous until they choose to reveal their names, phone numbers or e-mail addresses.
One of my friends, Jen Jones, is a hostess for a speed-dating company called HurryDate. She has organized more than 100 events in Los Angeles. In the interest of full disclosure, we once had a relationship that survives today as a Jerry-Elaine friendship. I recently asked Jen to give advice to men who want to succeed at speed-dating. And by men, of course, I meant me. She was incredibly cool about the whole thing.
TIP 1: Relax
MM: Who succeeds at speed-dating?
JJ: I would say that whether guy or girl, the people who succeed are the ones who come with an open mind and try to look at it as a fun time and new adventure rather than a pressure-filled experience. Also, people who succeed are often at ease conversing with new people. They are people who can just sit down and talk to anyone about anything.
MM: What advice do you have for guys when they are in a five-minute dating session?
JJ: The people that come with lists of questions can often be intimidating for their dates. My advice would be to throw away the canned questions – Where are you from? What do you do? – and just sit down and see where the conversation goes. Speed daters are asked the same set of questions by just about everyone and it gets very old. Also, you don’t want it to feel like a job interview and that you’re pre-qualifying people. Let the conversation happen organically.
TIP 2: Women want to like you
MM: What are women looking at in addition to the words we are saying?
JJ: It seems like the general idea of speed-dating is forming an impression based on a five-minute date, so it’s probably the total package. What kind of vibe does the person give off? Did you have fun chatting with them or did it feel forced? Did you find him attractive?
MM: In your experience, is attraction instant, or can a guy win a girl over?
JJ: I think a guy can totally win a girl over. But from what I’ve heard, the opposite is not true.
MM: Why is that?
JJ: Guys make their decisions right away and stick with them, or so I hear. But with women attraction can build. The more a girl gets to know a guy, the more she may fall for him.
MM: That sounds like a microcosm of a relationship.
JJ: It took you like six years to become aware of my charms.
MM: Pardon me while I grab my collar and clear my throat nervously.
JJ: Sorry. You know I can’t resist.
TIP 3: Don’t be a douche
MM: How should a guy dress? Shorts and no shirt? Rock the “Jersey Shore” look?
JJ: Most women I know say a shirtless profile photo on the Web site is a HUGE turnoff. At the event, wear something that reflects your personal style and that makes you feel confident. Or you could also wear something that is guaranteed to be a conversation piece.
MM: Like peacocking, from ‘The Mystery Method.’
JJ: No boas!
MM: What about having an opening line for each woman?
JJ: It depends. Are you using the same one with all 12 ladies?
MM: Let’s say, yes.
JJ: Bad. But maybe you could have a few in the hopper if you sense that you need some sort of kick-start to the conversation.
MM: What about booze? If you do drink, how many should you have at a session? Is 15 beers too many beers?
JJ: Well, we do offer drink specials at HurryDate.
MM: Nice plug.
JJ: Many people also enjoy having a cocktail or two to loosen up and get in a social mood. Not that I advocate drinking to do so, ahem. But definitely drink in moderation.
TIP 4: Have realistic expectations
MM: How far can a guy get in one five-minute session? Has anyone ever kissed?
JJ: I haven’t seen a kiss, but many people do stay afterward and pair up.
MM: How about getting a phone number during the session?
JJ: The jury is out on that. Many women like the anonymity of the process. You are kind of putting a woman on the spot if you ask for her number, whereas if you wait to match up mutually online, you can do it the conventional way and still contact her. If you did stay after and chat for a while, I don’t see anything out of line about asking in that situation.
MM: What can you tell me, in general, about the women who go to these events? They all own 17 cats, don’t they?
JJ: They are women who are often ready for a relationship and, in a sense, want to ‘expedite’ the process. Or sometimes they are girls who are just doing it for a kick with their girlfriends and think it would be fun.
MM: Do any daters get married?
JJ: Yes, many through HurryDate. From my own personal experience, I know of one couple that got engaged in Paris that met at a HurryDate event I hosted.
TIP 5: Present your awesomeness subtly
MM: Are there things a guy can casually drop into a conversation to impress the ladies?
JJ: Women are like snowflakes; we all are impressed by different things.
MM: About your metaphors…
JJ: Admittedly, there are women who want to know your earning potential, etc., or what you’re looking for in your life, but for the most part women just want to enjoy the conversation, laugh and be excited at the potential of a date with the person. I realize I am not a typical woman in many ways so maybe you should ask several people!
MM: No, you are not a typical woman, you weirdo; you dated me.
JJ: (Laughing) For instance, some women might want to hear that you went to college, while others might be more impressed by world travels. Other women might be turned off if you rattle off every country you’ve been to. So it all comes down to being yourself and not trying too hard to impress.
TIP 6: Follow through
MM: What is the best way to proceed with mutual matches after the event?
JJ: Exchange one or two e-mails and then set up a date. Don’t flounder.
JJ: Often people will send vague e-mails like, "We should get together sometime," and nothing ever happens. Be definitive if you want to go out with the person.
TIP 7: Be cool
MM: Anything else the guys should know?
JJ: Well, just out of respect to the other guys, don’t loiter with one woman when the whistle blows. It creates a traffic jam and robs the dude behind you of his chance to meet her. You all only get five minutes.
Also, here is some advice. Write down your yeses and nos right away after a date. You would be surprised by how many guys don’t take any notes or circle yes or no and then can’t remember anyone afterward. It’s easy for everything to become a big jumble as the night goes on. Be liberal with your yeses. It’s not committing to anything other than possible e-mail correspondence with the person. I always say to convert any maybes to yeses.
(To learn more about HurryDating, and to pick up HurryDate freebies and discounts, you can befriend Jen Jones on Twitter at twitter.com/CreativeGroove. To learn more about HurryDate, go to www.hurrydate.com.)