It was more than mere curiosity that made me try speed dating for the first time.
I had just gotten dumped, for a second time, by a boy 11 years my junior who was on again with his oft-off-again long-distance boyfriend.
Somehow, Chris (not his real name) was always off-again with his boyfriend after I’d stop calling or texting but was suddenly on-again with him immediately after I’d help him achieve orgasm.
Having dealt with the highs and lows of the chase and all the drama associated with Chris, I was more than eager to meet new guys and push the previous three months out of my scope.
Convinced that he too needed a dose of fresh possibility, I roped my good buddy M into coming along with me. M was struggling to come to terms with the notion that he may have been getting the brush off by a guy who was always “busy” but had been seen out with other boys.
I figured speed dating would be the perfect cure, or at least a fun distraction, from the sting of rejection plaguing us both.
M and I were the first to show up. Sipping on our gin and tonics, wearing nametag stickers which, for the moment, felt rather redundant, we psyched ourselves up for the night’s events by recounting the disappointments which had brought us here.
As I recounted the weeks of getting to know Chris’ girlfriends, of flirtation, laughter, mutual attraction and hot sex, M interrupts my wistful remembrances to state his opinion.
“Well, I’ve met the guy, and I just think he’s a pretentious asshole and a drama queen.”
In fact, all of my friends who met Chris offered up similar observations. This should have been a sign but I didn’t mind how different he was from my friends. I adored his quirks and may have even found his eccentricities refreshing.
“I’ve already got you guys in my life,” I’d explain. “Maybe I need something totally different.”
Having fully vented to each other, M and I stood up and looked over the crowd of about 20 under-29-year-olds (yes, I had snuck in) who filled the lounge.
I smiled at M, eager to embrace the rush of unknown possibility, when suddenly something all too familiar appeared by the door.
Chris walked in looking a bit worse for wear. I smiled and nodded his way but he was clearly not in the mood for smiles. M had no idea that I’d already made contact and turned to me and announced, with an audible gasp, “Chris is here!”
Through a toothy smile, I squeezed out a tight, “Yep,” still trying to appear relaxed and hopeful when I really just wanted to scream.
“Are you okay?” M asked me consolingly with a hug.
Like a cornered hedgehog, I pushed him away with my words: “Why are you hugging me? Stop. Don’t hug. Don’t hug!”
I may have been dumped twice but I still needed my dignity.
After some initial hesitation, Chris and I found our way to each other and he confessed that he was on a drinking binge because of his ex-again-boyfriend.
“Oh,” I said, trying to appear as casual as possible.
“What are you up to tonight?” he asked with sad eyes.
“Well, actually, I’m here with my friend and we’ve signed up for this speed dating thing and so, yeah, that’s what I’m up to,” I said while trying hard to resist getting sucked in for a third time.
That’s when the facilitator announced that we were about to start.
I turned to Chris: “I’d really like to talk about this [a lie] but I gotta be here,” I told him. “If you wanna talk with me, why don’t you sign up for speed dating? We can talk there.”
It was a stroke of genius! This way, I could appease my need to be there for him but keep it to a safe five minutes. Surprisingly, he was game.
As he recited the latest list of disappointments and betrayals from his dysfunctional relationship, I tried to suppress the shit-eating grin tugging at my lips. I couldn’t believe I was getting away with this plan.
From this distance, I could see him differently. In his hurt and pain, through his posturing and mugging, I was finally able to witness the truth of M’s words — Chris was a drama queen!
I suddenly saw that unless it was life or death it wasn’t not real for him.
The bell sounded and it was time to change partners. Chris left saying he was going to a friend’s place to get “fucked up.”
As the evening continued, I did my best to re-engage with possibility, but my mind was elsewhere. In between conversations with guys who had prepared monologues listing their best qualities, needs and desires, I texted Chris and his friends to make sure he was okay.
By the end of the event, I had closed the lid on the evening’s possibilities. They all seemed like nice guys but speed dating is a lot like porn: it’s too easy to pass on guys until you get exactly what you want. What I wanted had showed up and then walked out the door.
Without any prospects, M and I continued the night at Numbers where he made out with the cast of some travelling musical and I nursed a vodka cooler, too distracted to drink.
The evening ended at Denny’s with me scolding a drunken M between mouthfuls of fried cheese for moving in on an old crush I had pointed out at the Odyssey.
So ended our attempt at pursuing fun and avoiding drama. As I considered the possibility of one without the other, I remembered the words of a very dear friend: “No drama, no fun.”