An Insider’s Look at Speed Dating
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
“Look, Laura, think of it this way,” my bright-eyed, bouncy friend persuaded me several years ago while I was in one of my indecisive, overly analytical moments. “If it doesn’t work out, you can write an article about it!”
That was all the encouragement I needed to finally take the plunge.
In T minus 168 hours, Agent Bagby, investigative journalist extraordinaire, was about to enter the world of speed dating. I synchronized my watch, smiled mysteriously to myself at my upcoming mission… and struggled in non-agent fashion to outfit myself with just the right attire.
But before divulging the details of Operation Date, let me pause for a moment and explain how speed dating works for those who aren’t familiar with this style of relating. Now, speed dating rules aren’t set in stone, so take what I am saying as a guide of what you might encounter if you are itching to try it.
On the appropriate night, you drive to a local venue, perhaps a coffee shop, pay the very reasonable fee (much cheaper than popcorn and a movie for two), and then tell the organizer your age range, which might be 20-29, 30-39, or 40 and up. Each age range is awarded a specific time block in the evening in which to mingle with the opposite sex.
Then when the appointed hour comes, the single women are asked to disperse themselves around the room, one woman per table, and the single gentlemen are then asked to go from table to table when given the go ahead from the organizer. You have exactly six minutes to talk about anything that pops into your head with that person of the opposite sex.
Before the race begins, you are given a sheet of paper and instructed to write your name, phone number, and age category at the top. Then you write the name of each guy or girl that you meet that night on the numbered lines below. After the six minute conversation, you are asked to label each name with either “interested,” “not interested,” or “just friends.”
At the end of the evening, you are given a chance to finalize your thoughts and turn in the sheet of paper to the organizer, who tallies the results over the next couple of days. The organizer looks to see if there are any matches. If you pick, say, “Harry” as the one you are “interested” in on your sheet of paper, and Harry checks “interested” by your name on his sheet of paper, then you have a match.
The speed dating organizer then calls both parties and gives the corresponding phone numbers. From there, the girl could call the guy, or the guy could call the girl. Either way is fine.
OK, so now that you understand the guidelines, let’s go back in time to that particular night of my sting operation.
Now, you have to understand that part of the impetus for my being at that coffeehouse that night wasn’t just my persuasive friend. I had been in a dating drought for more years than I wished to count. I think part of the problem was that many Christian guys at the time had been told to “kiss dating goodbye” and hadn’t yet been encouraged to embrace the better concept of “kissing dating hello.” The confusion concerning courting versus dating didn’t help matters. And neither did my often worried and openly opinionated self that likely frightened many prospects away. I needed a Plan B, and I needed a little push from one of my good friends to see me off in a new direction.
So I headed out to the coffeehouse in my skinny jeans and brown boots, singing at the top of my lungs to some Shania Twain girl-powered song to bolster my confidence. I got there a bit early, but before long it was time for the 30-somethings to conduct their session.
Ding! The bell had sounded. I was staring down my first six minutes. I mentally told myself, Forget about this being a date. Forget about impressing the mystery man. Your main objective is to discover who this other person is, like a good journalist would do. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the results.
With this new perspective, I opted out of asking the popular questions most people would ask: Have you ever been married? Are you divorced? Do you have children? Do you want to have children? Do you have any weird hang-ups or addictions? Those went out the window. And I waited for the opportunity to ask or rephrase or possibly even drop questions of faith like Do you go to church? or Are you a Christian?
Since my concern was to get each individual man’s story and not scrutinize whether the man was date material or not, I decided to take a wait-and-see approach on many questions. I reasoned that I wanted to put the single guys at ease and not come across as pressuring, demanding, or intimidating. Besides, how can you get to know the real person in six minutes when you are cramming very personal questions into ever possible second? My relaxed outlook meant that the guy would also be more relaxed and free to discuss anything he wished without the threat of being rejected or bulldozed.
The more I focused on these guys as individuals with their own personal hopes and dreams, the more I sincerely wanted to know their stories. What started out as a challenge to “write an article” became a mission to relate to these single men as people.
And, man, what interesting stories I heard!
I learned that the baseball-capped guy wanted to run his own auto mechanic shop and own a horse ranch. But his main focus seemed to be a girl in his past that he was obviously still in love with. His main fear was her scary mother.
A rugged-looking guy wanted to create a book of his poetry and then open a greeting card line— something quite different from the day-to-day job he had driving a laundry truck. This guy also told me that he was convinced there was a God because when he was young and drunk, he drove into a house, totaled his car, and walked away without a scratch. I wondered what he thought about Jesus.
One Filipino fellow was considering joining his friend in Ecuador on a mission trip. He sounded like he might be a Christian, or at least a churchgoer.
And then there was the guy who worked at the Edgar Cayce Institute. He looked like he wanted to duck under the table when he found out that I worked at CBN! However, he mentioned that he watched The 700 Club from time to time because he liked the perspective of CBN News. I played dumb and asked him what Edgar Cayce was all about, knowing full well that it is a cult founded by a man people claimed was psychic. He mentioned how Cayce had a sick son and after going into a trance and following some higher power, his son got healed. So, that’s the draw, I thought. I found myself feeling sorry for this guy because I knew that he was lost. I decided that yelling at him or telling him that he was going to hell was the wrong approach. So much just couldn’t get said in six minutes. I just chose to listen and be his friend. Before our time was up, I also discovered that this guy had talent as a standup comic. He shared some jokes with me that were very funny.
Then it was over. I was disappointed I couldn’t hear more from these single men. I gathered my list together and went to turn it in. I recalled I hadn’t gotten my free drink, so I got behind this guy in line to get my coffee. I noticed him when he walked in—tall, blonde. Kind of cute, I thought.
I don’t know how I got on the subject of staying for the 20-somethings hour. I think I asked that cute guy ahead of me in line, “Hey, are you doing the speed dating?” I think I mentioned that I had just finished my speed dating session and I couldn’t stay because I wasn’t a 20-something. That is when the lady behind the counter said I could stay and play again free of an additional charge! I got my caramel coffee and waited for round two.
What hidden dreams and doubts lie beneath the surface of this younger crowd of men? The agent in me was about to find out.
The first guy I talked to was an attractive submariner with the Navy. I found out he was Jewish and had some hard times with the church, so he didn’t really do the church thing anymore. I wondered what had happened.
Soon followed a skinny guy who mentioned he used to go to church. He liked playing volleyball, so I told him to call my church because one of the members there played in a city league. Maybe the guy would call, sign up, and get saved!
Then came the blonde-haired guy who I had eyed earlier walking in. I liked him instantly. I think it was because he had a good sense of humor. We joked much of the six minutes, although I was able to ask him, “Do you go to church?” He said he didn’t. I asked him why. Without flinching, he told me he didn’t go because he found the preaching boring and ill-prepared. He seemed the intellectual type. And then he added, “I am not against going to church.” I couldn’t tell if that was an honest answer or just a way to please me.
Then on to the 21-year-old who was studying massage at the Edgar Cayce complex. (What’s with the Edgar Cayce connection – two in one evening!) Makes perfect sense, I thought. As they massage your back, they can also massage your mind to believe in their ideology. While you have your eyes closed, you are getting brainwashed.
At the end of round two, I took out my paper, folded it so no one could see my answers, and handed it in.
Several days later, I learned the coffeehouse wanted me to call back because I had a match. I instantly thought of the blonde-haired guy. Of all the folks I talked to, he and I had the most fun and most natural conversation.
I called that afternoon, being sure to close my door at work. I had told none of my coworkers about what I was doing.
Turns out I had four matches! At this point, my jaw dropped to the ground. I had only checked “interested” on four of the guys I met that night, figuring that it really couldn’t hurt. Now, I came to find out all four had checked “interested.” Shock of shocks! I wrote down the phone numbers for the four guys, hung up the phone, and tried hard not to die laughing. I couldn’t believe it. I had to contain my goofy smile so none of my coworkers would suspect.
A couple of hours later, the phone rang. I searched frantically for my paper with the guys’ numbers on them. Ring. Ring.
OK, who is it? Close the door as discreetly as possible.
Ring. It’s the blonde-haired guy.
“Hey. I would like to take you out to lunch tomorrow.”
Wow! This was a date. This wasn’t going dutch. This wasn’t just “hanging out.”
I was hooked.
That was it.
I spent a nice hour or so with “Blondie.” I asked him what he thought about the whole speed dating thing. I wasn’t fishing for a compliment. He told me, “Well, there was really only one girl I was interested in. I only checked one box. I guess you can’t figure out who I am talking about.” He smiled knowingly.
I played along, smiling the whole time. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was one of four on my list.
Over the next month or so, I proceeded to go out with all four of my matches, and though none of those official dates led to anything long term, I gained a valuable takeaway. I learned that perspective is everything. It is so easy to pass judgment on someone before getting to know them. But if you are willing to discover that other person’s unique story, sharing in their experiences can be fun and enlightening and may even offer an opportunity to discuss what’s ultimately important – the issue of faith in God.
More articles by Laura
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