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How to speed through 10 dates

Venturing outside your dating pool is scary and rewarding

Speed dating can often feel like roulette — and that comparison isn’t necessarily wrong.

When it comes to dating, I try to close as few doors as possible. Dating sites, apps, introductions by friends and, yes, even the club scene — I’ve tried them all with varying degrees of success. I like to think I’m pretty open to different dating experiences, and now I’ve put that claim to the test by trying my luck at speed dating.

I made the decision on a whim and have to confess that, if not for randomly coming across a company that offers these events online, I would never have pursued this. Speed dating to me was a trend that had come and gone and was almost exclusively for straight people.

I got it wrong. Speed dating is still here, and it can be quite queer.

Speed dating has been kicking around as a cultural phenomenon since the late 1990s. The format typically includes 10 to 12 blind dates, each lasting three to eight minutes. Several speed-dating companies target specific communities, and the LGBT community happens to be one of them.

I saw that for myself when I ventured out to an event run by Single and Eligible. There were 12 of us in total when I attended. Two women had called in sick, so what should have been two events became one 19-plus event. The venue is spot on: fancy and discreet. The small candles at each table made it all the more intimate.

Several of the women mingled before it all even started. I mostly kept to myself and observed, and I can’t help but wonder now what impression that gave off. I suppose I was getting in the zone. After all, I did have 10 dates to go through at only seven minutes a pop (I realize now I somehow missed out on one date).

Turns out there was nothing to be nervous about. I got to park my butt down and watch as women approached me. With speed dating, you either sit or rotate — I got off easy.

“There is research that suggests you’re better off being a receiver – having people come to you and approach you,” says Samantha Joel, a PhD candidate in the psychology department at the University of Toronto. “The people in that position tend to be choosier than the people doing the approaching.”

Ashley Magalas, CEO and founder of Single and Eligible, says that when she started the company, 70 percent of the events were geared toward a heterosexual crowd. The company has offered LGBT speed-dating events in Toronto since 2013 and in Vancouver and Ottawa since 2014; by 2014, 80 percent of Single and Eligible’s events were for the LGBT community.

“I found that singles who attended LGBT events really appreciated the overall experience and gave a lot of referrals to friends and family about them,” Magalas says.

This doesn’t surprise Joel, who studies decision-making in romantic relationships. “There’s kind of an opening to experience that tends to be higher among the [LGBT] community,” she says. “People will do whatever they can do to meet more people, and speed dating is certainly a great way to meet more people.”

In a little more than an hour, I had gone on 10 dates with ladies of every stripe: students, financial professionals, a nurse, a massage therapist, a firefighter and even a soul healer. Their ages ranged from early 20s all the way up to 60. I wasn’t fishing from my normal dating pool; it was a welcome change.

But Joel was right — I did get to be choosier, and sometimes those seven minutes were all I needed to make up my mind. I used the provided match card to say yes to four women. I’ll admit I was a bit trigger-happy and put down a yes or two too many. But I stand behind my nos.

I expected to match with only two of my dates. Thankfully, that’s exactly what Single and Eligible reported in an email the next day, along with my matches’ contact information.

Am I going to ask for follow-up dates? No, probably not. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely.

It might seem like roulette with warm bodies, and that perception isn’t wrong. It’s daunting to think that you have only seven minutes to figure out a person. Scarier yet is that someone will judge you in that same time frame.

“I understand that with the blind-dating format you may not romantically click with the singles you meet,” Magalas says. “Having said that, when you do meet 10 to 12 singles in one night, you do have to remind yourself that’s more mini-dates than some people go on all year.”