Speed Dating: Tips to Ensure a Fun Time

It has been a little over a year since I went speed dating for the first time. I was 28 years old and my friend talked me into joining her. It turned out to be an interesting experience and more fun than I imagined, so it might come as no surprise that I tried it two more times before the year was out. None of those outings led to anything serious, save for a friend of the female persuasion – we’re apt to take those new to Edmonton under our wings. Thus, I found myself thinking about the next step.

I’m now 29. I celebrated my champagne birthday in 2014. All of my friends know I’m single and willing to mingle, but here’s the problem: no one has single male friends to set me up with. The friend that dragged me along to speed dating has found someone for herself, so I’m feeling like a bit of a lone wolf. Now, I’m not saying that I must have a man in my life in order to be happy. On the contrary. But, hey, the notion of having a guy who’s there for me is still nice.

This led me to my latest attempt at the 5-minute date. I’m not saying it worked, but this was my one and only stab at it without a friendly sidekick.

Quite honestly, it had been a crazy week and I was running on fumes. However, I prettied myself up, put a smile on my face and headed to the venue. I couldn’t find the host when I arrived, so I grabbed a drink at the bar and then made fast friends with a couple of ladies that I quickly pinpointed as other attendees. Neither had ever gone speed dating before, so I talked to them about my previous experiences. Trying to dole out advice when you obviously haven’t had the best success yourself is kind of hard, yet people still want to know. I understand that mentality because I’ve learned from trial and error, and I know you can probably prep yourself for a better outcome.

Here are my tips for speed dating (some can even be applied to first dates in general):

1) Be yourself. You want the people you meet to like you for who you are, not who you’re pretending to be.

2) Don’t take things too seriously. This is a first meeting! Yes, you want to make a good impression, but you may come across as stiff and uptight if all you care about is finding “the one” and you don’t ease up a bit. In fact, you’ll probably scare the other person off.

3) Put some effort into your appearance, but refrain from looking like you’re extremely high maintenance. Keep things business casual in terms of dress.

4) Be polite. Shake the person’s hand and repeat his name when he introduces himself.

5) Smile because it’s more welcoming, and make eye contact.

6) Don’t be intimidated. This is especially the case when speed dating because you’re essentially seeing the rest of the competition. However, remember that you’re just as awesome as everyone else there and that you have a lot to offer as well.

7) Know that you will have to be “on” for probably two hours at speed dating, which can seem daunting. But, it goes by so much faster than you think it will, and you’ll find that the conversation and the laughs come fairly easily.

8) The speed dating company says to avoid asking what people do for a living. I understand their thinking. Not everyone is in love with their job. Yet, it seems to inevitably come up anyway, so just go with it. And, if you’re uncomfortable talking about it, try to steer the conversation elsewhere.

9) I never really do this, but maybe think of a couple of conversation starters beforehand. My go to topics are: where he’s from, where he’s traveled and probably something about food.

10) On the other side of that equation, do NOT come in with a script prepared. I’ve sat through a meeting like that and it was a very forced conversation. The guy was looking to check his boxes and that was about it. Conversation should feel natural.

11) Keep the conversation light. You have five to eight minutes to feel this person out. Try to get a sense of their personality.

12) If a couple of minutes go by and you’re not feeling that interested, DON’T zone out. It’s rude. Stay friendly, you’ll make it through. Also, concentrate on the conversation you’re having, not what those next to you are talking about.

13) Avoid getting your hopes up ahead of time. Keep expectations realistic. You might not meet your ideal soulmate and that’s okay.

14) View this as an opportunity to network and make friends.

15) Try not to divulge too much personal information to every single date. This is just for safety’s sake.

16) Sometimes it can get loud in the venue, especially when the space is small. You literally may have people sitting just inches away from you, so you’re going to have to speak up. Make sure to keep hydrated, so you don’t lose your voice.

17) Write the person’s name down on the card as soon as you meet. Make a few notes if you’re not certain they’re a “yes” or “no” for you and go back to those later. However, I’d suggest not leaving your decision too long because it’s easy to mix up names, faces and conversations when you’re meeting so many people (usually 10 to 12, but I’ve seen more) in one night.

18) You’re going to meet a lot of people – it’s like The Bachelorette during the first episode of the season – so you may need to step out of your comfort zone. If it eases the situation, bring a friend you know can reassure you.

19) I wasn’t always the most outgoing person, so these types of events aren’t necessarily my favourite. But, try going it alone at least once because it does push you to converse with others. It’s like dating practice and the confidence you’ll probably attain from making it through the situation will most likely help in other facets of your life.
I hope that these tips help in your dating endeavours. After all, if you’re going to put yourself out there, make the process as painless and entertaining as possible for yourself.

Looking to go speed dating? Check out these local organizers:

Fastlife – an international company that specializes in speed dating and singles events

Rendezvous Club – North America’s premier singles company

Troop of Foxes – Alberta based speed dating hosted at Red Star Pub. Watch their Twitter page (@troopoffoxes) for updates on their next event.

Being Alone Does Not Mean Being Lonely

A reflective selfie taken on a trip to Toronto.

A reflective selfie taken on a trip to Toronto.

I’m very aware that my writings have become very food-centric these past several months. Chalk it up to having a goal to try as many top 100 Edmonton restaurants as possible and sticking to it, which I’ll have you know is actually a difficult thing for me. To my friends, it may look like I tend to have my ducks in a row, but, more often than not, I find myself procrastinating. The fact that I started on a journey, so to speak, and have managed to continue with it this long is a feat. I talk as if I’ve never accomplished anything in my life, but that is not true. I saw through finishing my undergrad and masters programs, things I can be proud of, but I’m sorry to say that I’ll probably never have a musical career because I gave up playing the guitar after two years of lessons.

That intro is a convoluted way of saying that I’m amazed I’ve run a marathon with this whole blogging thing thus far, and while I love eating and writing about my food adventures, that is not the only topic I want to discuss on my site. The name of my blog was a thoughtful combination of the things I really enjoy in life, and my articles or stories have evolved to incorporate happenings or interests that have come up along the way. I want to get back to making this a more well-rounded conversation, one that isn’t entirely focused on dining and/or an Edmonton-only audience.

Therefore, my chat with a co-worker/friend after work this past Tuesday gave me an idea for something that I feel is important to talk about.

The discussion came about because she was wondering why I was still at the office past 5pm. I told her it was because I was going to the Bahamas concert later that evening at the church across the street, and I was going to kill some time on the computer until the show. Of course, concerts being typically social things, she asked who I was going with. My reply was that I was going by myself. While friends, including her, were originally interested in joining me, none of them came through with purchasing their tickets, and it left me attending solo. I could easily have lied and said someone was meeting me there, so I wouldn’t sound like a “loser,” but I went with the truth because there’s no shame in doing anything by yourself. Her response was that “I was so cool” to do that, which I take as a great compliment because, I guess, it means I’m a secure enough person to not need anyone else. It also made me question why she thought it was such a unique thing. I used to regularly sit in fancy restaurants eating meals alone. The dishes were delicious. Not having anyone to go with wouldn’t stop me. I’ve gone to plays or to see films as a single. I’ve traveled without others and discovered what was unknown to me in cities by using my own direction-challenged mind. The thing is, I hadn’t done that in quite a while. This week’s concert was the first time in months, maybe even a year, that I’d find myself alone.

Sitting by myself inside McDougall United Church, waiting for Bahamas to start their show.

Sitting by myself inside McDougall United Church, waiting for Bahamas to start their show.

I’ve spent more time out and about this year than I can remember, and usually with other people. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a social butterfly, appreciating the time I get to spend with all of my friends (goodness knows that life is fleeting and things change so quickly, so take whatever you can with those that matter – I’ll miss you my latest food buddy!). There are plenty of benefits to spending time with them and my family. One situation is trying a new restaurant as there is only so much you can eat on your own, but with multiple people you can usually taste a little bit of everything. However, when I think on it, I do feel that I have missed ‘me.’ I’ve become so accustomed to having a companion for everything that I’ve forgotten how great it can be to do things on your own. Whether it’s getting dinner at an eatery, seeing a live show, watching a movie at the theatre or attending a conference, there is a kind of power to doing something by yourself without the need to present an image of who you believe you should be to those who think they know you. This not only applies to in-person situations, but the virtual world of social media as well. I don’t require that each acquaintance know my every move and can judge me for it. You shouldn’t crave that either.

Now, I’m not saying that I think you need to lock yourselves indoors and become hermits. Alone time can always be in the presence of other people. What I’m talking about is the intention of experiencing something without the company of close friends or family. It’s a deliberate attempt to step out of your boundaries, be independent, confident in being on your own, allowing yourself an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of who you really are, and possibly creating new connections. I know some people might be self-conscious in front of strangers, but that’s what they are, strangers. They don’t know you, so it shouldn’t matter if they think it’s weird that you’re on your own participating in things usually relegated to pairs or groups.

Heading to the Toronto City Hall during a visit in 2012. Doing one of the things I love the most - photography!

Heading to the Toronto City Hall during a visit in 2012. Doing one of the things I love the most – photography!

Expectation is that you can’t be alone forever, and showing up without a plus one is sort of sad. I fall victim to that mentality at times. I know it becomes comfortable having a friend with you by your side because society puts so much emphasis on getting out there, being social and having a relationship (if you don’t have a date or some sort of online existence nowadays, you suddenly become an outcast), but I believe that taking the time to discover who you are devoid of the influence of others is crucial in building our character and finding out what we truly like or don’t like. I wasn’t born thinking this way though. As someone who grew up being pretty introverted, it was always a challenge for me to allow myself to be free and willing to do what society dictated. I wasn’t a talkative child. I wasn’t outgoing. I was quiet and shy. Yet, I have moved past that. I’m no longer the wallflower that prefers to stand back, but I have also come to terms with the need and want to do things alone when I know I must. More people have to understand the importance of that to one’s psyche. Whether you’re single, dating or married, I think it’s pertinent to do this throughout your life.

Movies always show people going off on some retreat to “find themselves” as if a weekend away is going to lead to some epiphanies. It goes without saying, real life doesn’t always work that quickly. It requires a constant willingness to evolve and an understanding that answers don’t always come so easily. Yet, if you spend the time to get to know you for you, what you may need might not be or seem so out of reach.

A beautiful shot of the entrance to Somerset House in London. Taken on a solo excursion to see the Valentino exhibit in 2013. I needed a break from my family who had accompanied me on the vacation.

A beautiful shot of the entrance to Somerset House in London. Taken on a solo excursion to see the Valentino exhibit in 2013. I needed a break from my family who had accompanied me on the vacation.

This week’s realization was like a collision of Tuesday’s conversation and the book a couple of friends and I are working through. We started a book club to help each other through our ‘aloneness’ stemming from singledom in what feels like a sea of couples of late. Calling in ‘The One’ was the chosen tome. Still tackling the included exercises, we have just completed Week 5 out of 7, which ends on the idea of cultivating solitude, so should you be uncomfortable going out in public to do things often meant for two or more, work on carving out 5 to 15 minutes or an hour during your week to do nothing at home.

Shut everything down, sit in stillness and listen to what your mind and body say. Most of us have been programmed to think TV, video games and music help us to fill time and drown out boredom, but all of that is really white noise. It is good to veg out with a favourite show once in a while; however, it often becomes our go to. Instead, take your inner monologue to heart and build a clearer picture of what will create a more fulfilled life. Try to use your alone time to be productive and nurture the ideas that you think may become your passions. It can be a fun process that may include learning how to cook wonderful meals, writing an actual letter to a good friend, painting a watercolour, working on a DIY project, focusing on a healthier lifestyle, among many things. One of those growing passions may push you to venture outside on your own, so you can further explore those personal ambitions.

Communal events, when experienced as a singular individual, serve as reminders that there are so many more things and people out there in the world that we have yet to discover and that are simply a step away from the circles that we have already established. You might be surprised to see that you can go to an event without a companion and have just as much fun because there’s nothing wrong with being alone. In fact, it’s pretty darn cool.