Fourteen dates in 84 minutes

A few nights ago, I attended Poly Speed Dating, an event put on by a few hot local organizing types, some of whom also post on this blog.

The event format was, I expect, typical for speed dating events. After registration, and a discussion of how the process was going to work, schedules were distributed to everyone. Tables were numbered; for each date, you would run over to the assigned table, sit down, and start going. At approximately four minutes, a warning was shouted; at five minutes, the date was over, and it was time to sprint over to the next table. At the end of the night you turned in a sheet indicating which people you would be willing to exchange contact info with; if they also indicated you positively, you were matched up and email was sent to both parties.

Because it was a poly event, there were a few twists. For example, one could register to date either as just oneself or as a group of any size, and request to be matched to only “single” persons, only groups, or both. Due to space constraints, only two chairs were provided per each date spot, and groups were instructed to sit on each other’s laps, or otherwise crowd in around the table. Some people were confused about how they wanted to date. I met one person who told me his partner was going through the speed dating separately (so they could meet more people overall), but that they planned to date the people they found as a couple… probably. Another person was trying to date as a couple, but came without his partner. Several couples attended the event together, but were dating completely separately; this definitely poly behavior seemed to work reasonably well, at least in the cases I observed.

This night was the second time the event was held. Because the first time was so successful, even more people attended the second (something like 85 people). It almost reached the level of “success disaster”, especially when all the participants crowded into a small back room for a rules and suggestions discussion while the organizers frantically tried to generate schedules for the night, but we did all fit, and most people seemed good humored about it. The race from five-minute date to five-minute date was more comical than tragic. Somewhat frustratingly, the tables and chairs were crowded so close together that it was sometimes hard to hear the person or persons you were trying to date versus, say, the ones next to you, especially if their date was going well and yours poorly, or if they were really hot. It was a toss-up whether it was better to be crowded at the tiny two-person tables, or the larger eight-person ones (each of which had four simultaneous dates, but were set further apart than the tiny tables).

This event was my first attempt at speed dating of any kind. I have to say that I’m not particularly good at going on “dates”, specifically dates with people I haven’t met before, but since I’m trying to meet new people it seemed worth a try, despite my reservations. Thanks to the event, I had fourteen dates in a ridiculously short amount of time, with only a ten-minute break halfway through. Unsurprisingly, by the end I was pretty much exhausted and overwhelmed.

I didn’t end up matching with as many people as I had hoped. Although I speed-dated many people, and they were even within my specified demographic with regard to age, gender balance, and single vs group status, I was certain very quickly that I didn’t want to do anything further with a fair number of them, even as little as going out to coffee (or in some cases, finishing out the five-minute date). Of the others, there were a couple of people I had met before, but not considered as potential dating material (and in this, the speed dating definitely helped put me in the right state to consider that), a person who seemed quite interesting but had zero interest in kink, and someone who had just started writing to me on OKCupid (I probably would have gotten around to meeting this person anyway, but this was faster). In all of these cases, my decision was fairly clear. There were, however, quite a few people who I couldn’t say “definitely not” to, and who I could easily have seen myself on a coffee date with… but who I couldn’t imagine things going further with. Perhaps I was a bit too selective, or pessimistic, since I ended up not requesting to be put in contact with any of those people. On the other hand, I have no idea how many of them were interested in me.

Was poly speed dating a win for me? On one hand, perhaps it could be considered that I saved an enormous amount of time by rejecting all of those people, a process that would have taken months if not longer had I actually needed to meet all of them separately. But what if I was too selective in the process, and ruled out tons of people that might have worked out for me had I given them a fair chance? The flip side of speed dating is that a bad night on my part could take out a huge number of potential partners. For the people I eliminated instantly, yes the speed dating saved me from a bad (longer) date, but would I have even agreed to meet them had I seen, say, a profile for them or exchanged some email? I don’t actually know.

There were a few people there that looked cool, but that I never got to talk to. I didn’t see them early enough in the evening to catch them beforehand, and we didn’t end up on any dates together. I do wonder whether they were outside my demographic (possible), I was outside of theirs (more likely), or whether my schedule was just too damn full (very likely). I considered trying to chat with them afterwards, but given my condition decided that it would be counterproductive. Hopefully some of them will turn up again somewhere… perhaps at the next poly speed dating event?


  1. […] can see my girlfriend Debby’s chronicle of her speed dating experience at the second event here, or Luke’s report of the first event […]

  2. A very interesting concept, this speed dating! Sounds sort of like the real thing, at least in terms of first impressions.

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