Speed dating? Really? I thought the plan was to not date anybody this summer and now I’m making up for it all at once. Although this wasn’t really dating. I was with Luke for two years ‘til he dumped me and with that now behind me, I’ve been single for less than a month. But I promised to do everything Ella had organized so, as freaked out as I felt, there was no turning back.
The bus ride downtown did not calm my nerves. Neither did the bright sign on the door of the café. “Welcome to Teen Speed Dating!” Did I mention not interested? Not looking? Happy solo? Ella was right about that. Being on my own is almost restful.
Ella and I checked in with the organizer. Macey was a cheery 20-something lady, and the only laid-back person in the café. I scanned the room. These were my potential “dates.” Everyone looked nervous. Uncertain. Even petrified, like I’m sure I did. Macey asked if anyone had speed dated before and we all looked down at our shoes or were suddenly fascinated by the pictures hanging on the wall. I instantly felt better because I was not alone in being new to this thing. Macey smiled warmly and explained how it worked. Ladies sat at tables in a row like an assembly line. Gentlemen travelled. A bell rang every five minutes. You had those five minutes to get to know the person in front of you and to see if there was chemistry. Guys rotated tables. Six “dates” in a half hour. Ella and I grabbed tables next to each other. For comfort? For safety? Probably more so that we could overhear each other. I felt like rolling my eyes and laughing, but I didn’t. I was determined to survive dating boot camp if it killed me.
Macey rang the bell and the “dating” began.
8:00pm My first date sat totally silent. Looked at the walls. Gazed at the table. Stared at his hands in his lap. Hello? He tried uttering a few words but none of them were comprehensible enough to hear or understand. It was the longest five minutes of my life. DING!
8:05pm My second date seemed less nervous. After introductions we made small talk. But it felt forced and unnatural. He was trying too hard and maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Awkward! DING!
8:10pm My third date was totally different. Nathan inundated me with millions of questions. Name? High school? Best subject? Favourite food? Summer plans? Life goals? The questions kept coming and coming, and my mouth went dry as a desert. It felt like some type of job interview or maybe a police interrogation! I wasn’t sure if I was going to be hired, arrested or asked out. DING!
8:15pm My fourth date was Suresh. We chatted easily about school, family pets and summer holidays. Just as we got into a good conversation about movies, we were sadly interrupted with a DING! I could have actually dated him.
8:20pm While I was still thinking about Suresh, Jerome slid into the seat. My fifth date complimented my hair, my top and my smile. Said I was beautiful. Said I was smart. He didn’t even know me. Creep vibes. DING!
8:25pm My last date was a sports nut still in love with his ex. Mitchell took her to baseball games. Basketball games. Hockey games. Concerts. He described all the good times that they had. I told him it sounded fun and I was sure she enjoyed it? What else could I say? Baggage. DING!
It was 8:30pm and I had survived speed dating! I was relieved and intrigued with this fascinating new experience. I’d never do it again, but it opened my eyes to seeing the different ways people do some of the most basic things in life. I looked over at Ella but she didn’t see me. She was still talking with date number six. Ella was like that. Connecting came easy; she could let her whole self out there any time. It was one of the reasons I loved her. Eventually we linked arms and walked out to the bus stop. As we laughed and shared stories of our dates, our conversation flowed freely. Easily. So naturally. Happily single BFFs.