While online dating has totally shed the stigma that was long attached to it, speed dating is still largely seen as a last resort for desperate singles who have failed everywhere else in the dating pool...for clueless men and women who naively think they're going to meet their Prince Charmings and Snow Whites in a Times Square hotel meeting room. At least, that's what I went into it thinking. I pictured a snaking line of dolled-up girls changing seats at a dinging bell in front of a small handful of awkward, overwhelmed men. Somehow, that wasn't it at all. In fact, speed dating may actually be NYC's best-kept dating secret.
I signed up for a Monday night event with MyCheekyDate (because what else was I going to do on a Monday night?), and found myself in the restaurant of the Hyatt Union Square. Inside, it looked more or less like a restaurant preparing itself for regular dinner service (dim lighting, candlelit tables), rather than the morose, clinical vision I had concocted of name tags, clipboards, and other trappings of business conferences. People filed in one at a time and checked in with the hostess, who cleared their name from a list and handed them a card for keeping track of dates that night. After I was sure enough that the people at the restaurant were there for speed dating, I rose from the bar, took a seat on the ladies’ side of the tables, and waited for my first prospective match made in heaven.
The rules of the road are fairly simple. Women sit on one side of the table while men rotate from seat to seat in front of them. Each “date” is five minutes long. After five minutes, the men move to the next seat, and so on. After every “date,” you write down that person’s name on the card and rank them based on how likely you’d be to date them again. At the end of the event, you pick the top people you were interested in and return the card. Should there be any mutual matches, the organizers of the event will put you two in touch. If there are no matches, you’ll never know who liked you and vice versa -- somewhat akin to Tinder.
Far from what I expected, the majority of guys I met were… normal. Even, dare I say it, interesting! There was the guy who just moved here from Texas who taught college courses online and was going to Venice for the summer because he could work from anywhere; the man who was raised by parents in the UN who spent his childhood in France, Morocco, Dubai, Rome, and about six other places; or the man who wasn’t physically my “type,” but who made me smile with his over-the-top laugh. The constant flow of visuals in front of my face was also kind of like swiping through Tinder... but better.
But here’s where speed dating is completely different (read: infinitely better) than Tinder and any other dating app -- it accounts for chemistry. On Tinder, there’s no way to judge mannerisms, tone of voice, height (very important in the online dating world), and really, overall personality. How many times have you found yourself on a Tinder date with someone who seemed great online, but in real life wore a ton of man jewelry and pawed at you all night asking why you’re so afraid of intimacy? (Not speaking from personal experience or anything.) Or, how many times have you fallen for someone’s personality in real life, but known that if you saw their photo on Tinder you’d definitely, brutally, swipe left? With speed dating, you’re getting snapshots-in-the-flesh of actual humans, along with everything about their personality that accounts for that little thing we all so desperately need in order for a relationship to work (again, chemistry). And worse comes to worst, if it’s awful, you know that in five minutes, it will all be over -- unlike that horrific Tinder date you went on last week that lasted an hour and a half because you were too polite to leave.
So who else is doing this? With MyCheekyDate, people are limited to the age bracket 24 to 38. Surprisingly, there were more men than women -- most of whom were young, professional, and new to New York. Everyone was gainfully employed, sociable (mostly), and somewhat attractive (again, mostly). The best part is that, drastically unlike Tinder, everyone there was actually looking for a relationship, or at the very least a second date. Of course there were a few oddballs, like the guy who was obsessed with his karate prowess and kept insinuating that his skills would come in handy to protect me on our pending second date. But that’s how it is in any social/dating situation, and I’m sure there’s a Pink Power Ranger out there who would swoon over his high kick. There was also the man (whose job I can’t remember) who openly admitted that he loved being able to talk people into paying more money for things that he knew they didn’t actually need. I’m guessing he worked in sales.
I didn’t end up meeting anyone special at speed dating, but I still felt like I’d tapped into this hidden sector of the NYC dating world. What makes speed dating in New York so interesting is part of what makes New York so interesting to begin with -- you’re able to meet people from all over the world, from different backgrounds, with all different kinds of careers, interests, and experiences (and best of all, they’re all right there, in one room, in front of you). You wouldn’t get that at speed dating in Kansas, and certainly not at a bar in Bushwick.
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Before entering Yale, Violet Woodward Pu had achieved a perfect score on her SATs in the writing and literature section and had learned to speak Mandarin. Later, she became an editor of The Yale Daily News and graduated with a degree in film studies. But compared with those achievements, dating seemed a tougher climb. She had been raised in Augusta, Ga., where she was taught the old-school Southern notions of courtship. “My attitude was: I am a lady,” she said. “Men must ask me out and make the first move. I didn’t want anything to do with the college hookup thing.” She assumed that by 25 she’d be happily married.
When she moved to Los Angeles in 2007, Ms. Woodward Pu’s attempts at dating did not go well. She was hired as a production assistant on “Entertainment Tonight,” and after one failed relationship, gave online dating sites a shot. “My rules were: I will not give a ‘wink’ to anyone or say hello first,” she said. After that approach yielded few results, to mark her frustration, she came up with pet names for the sites she was frequenting. Match.com became “Match dot Wrong,” PlentyOfFish.com became “Plenty Off-ish” and OkCupid.com became “Subpar Eros.” She concluded that the men she had encountered online had not behaved as she wished because communicating by social media left them unaccountable.
The solution: She joined MyCheekyDate, a speed-dating service, so she could engage would-be beaus face to face.
But before she signed up, Ms. Woodward Pu, the middle daughter of a Chinese-American father, Dr. A-Wen Pu, a radiologist in Brownwood, Tex., and a mother, Kathryn Christine Pu, who is Caucasian and a retired lawyer, wanted to feel more prepared. So she worked up a set of pointed questions and even studied videos of speed-dating interactions on YouTube. One of those attending the Los Angeles event that night in 2010 was Deepak Jain, a first-generation Indian-American who was on the rebound from a broken engagement
Indeed, a match between Ms. Woodward Pu, 25, and Mr. Jain, 37, seemed unlikely. Mr. Jain was a forensic accountant at TM Financial Forensics in Los Angeles. Ms. Woodward Pu, who aspired to write her own television show, was then working at a television-information website. And their temperaments differed. But when Mr. Jain sat across from Ms. Woodward Pu, he found her the most attractive woman in the room. “She made me laugh,” he said. “She was so blunt: What school did you go to? What do you do for a living?” “I want to think angels descended,” Ms. Woodward Pu said. “But I was overwhelmed. I do remember he was well educated, well spoken and had a good job. And he was one of the only ones who asked me a few questions.”
At the end of the event, they ran into each other, and Mr. Jain suggested they remain at the meeting place’s bar. Ms. Woodward Pu said: “I was beside myself. Here’s a guy in the flesh willing to buy me a drink and treat me like I’m on a date.” Mr. Jain invited her to dinner at a restaurant that specialized in Korean barbecue. Ms. Woodward Pu put another check in the “yes” box: He liked spicy Asian food. Her only reservation concerned their age difference. “But what was I going to do?” she said. “Sit there and be mad at him for being older than me?” Over the next eight months, they were rarely apart. Together, they ate and cooked spicy Asian food, took long runs and went to New Hampshire to attend the wedding of one of Mr. Jain’s cousins.
In July 2012, after Ms. Woodward Pu’s roommate moved out, she moved into Mr. Jain’s rented Playa Vista condominium. “This caused a lot of friction,” Mr. Jain said. Ms. Woodward Pu wanted to get married and start a family. He wasn’t ready. “I’d come out of a four-year relationship where I’d been engaged,” he said. “I was gun-shy. She didn’t want to hear that.” Undeterred, Ms. Woodward Pu secretly purchased a wedding gown featuring a dense ruffle of ostrich feathers at the Loehmann’s store in Beverly Hills, Calif., and stashed it in the back of her closet. And there the dress sat and sat, which led her to post on her blog, Violet on Orange, “Flightless birds are so 2012.” A year passed, and then part of another. The couple traveled to Singapore, Hanoi and Prague. They swam in Capri and Kauai. Mr. Jain continued to give her other reasons to believe. During one trip to Barcelona, Spain, she recalled, Mr. Jain read a sign at Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família stating that the seemingly unending construction on the church was to be completed by 2030. He casually stated that the two should plan to return for another visit after that.
And he insisted he loved her. “You see children doing wacky things with no boundaries,” said Mr. Jain, now 42. “She brings that kind of joy into my life: an excitement and creativity that comes out of left field. It was never a question of, is Violet the one? It was just, when?” Mr. Jain decided “when” was the day they had known each other for three years, Dec. 17, 2013. He booked a reservation at a chic restaurant, but he woke up feeling poorly. So he said if they ran together, he might clear his head. After he ran ahead of Ms. Woodward Pu, he circled back to her and doubled over, feigning a debilitating illness.
Ms. Woodward Pu was freaked out. She asked him if he was O.K. He said, she recalled: “I’d like to marry you. And I’m not O.K. until you say yes.” Then he got on his knees on the running path and offered up the ring.
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Two lucky daters who match the fastest at the event will win a “Speed Dream Date” where they are whisked away after the event by limo to enjoy a romantic dinner for two at Toro restaurant at the Scottsdale Fairmont Princess, all courtesy of Cox Arizona.
This event is open to the public. Anyone can sign up, yet you need to pre-register prior to the event to reserve your spot. To register and to learn more about the event, visit speedphoenixdating.com.
This event not only celebrates Valentine’s day, it also celebrates Cox Arizona’s 100 Days of Speed as a part of its 1G internet service rollout in the Valley. The 1G internet service, G1GABLAST, provides internet speeds 100 times faster than the average internet speed currently available in the U.S. today.
We pull up to STK and valet my car. This swanky restaurant / bar has been featured on Entourage, so automatically you know it will be populated with store mannequins dressed in the latest fashions, staring blankly at each other with plastic smiles and hollow souls. We saddle up at the bar and settle in. Soon it’s time for us to enter the adjoining lounge to begin our speed-dating. The host is a lovely young British woman who hands us our “score-cards.” The score-card has a rating system numbered one through five: one being “I’d fancy a go!” and five being “Not in a million years.” Did I mention that MyCheekyDate claims to be the “U.K. version?” No whistles or alarm clocks, just a British girl who gingerly taps you on the shoulder when it is time for us “blokes” to move on to the next “bird.” How “charming.”
I am sequestered to a table with some other guys, as a result of six girls not showing up to the event. It’s a sausage-fest, alright, and to bide my time while the rest of the lounge begins dating, I order another Jack & Ginger. I walk up to the host and ask her when I can expect to jump in the game.
“In a minute. Do you have a score-card yet?”
“Uh, yeah, you just gave me one.”
She looks at me, confused, and I realize not only doesn’t she remember me from moments ago, but that over her shoulder she is standing talking to another person. It takes me a moment to realize I am not already drunk and seeing double, but that she and her identical twin are hosting the event: “Woah, for a second there I thought I was seeing double,” I shake my drink in my hand, doing a lame Dean Martin impression. She looks at me with vacant eyes, bored with the fact that I exist.
Eventually, I am directed to Girl Number One of approximately fifteen. To describe each girl in detail would be a futile exercise for me and my friend Jack Daniels. But I can say that a majority of these girls are either Asian or Hispanic, with a few Jewish and Caucasians thrown in for good measure. The age-range was specified by the service as being 24-36 (prime coupling years) and they all appear respectable and educated, if not entirely head-turning. I am surprised, however, to discover that a majority of these girls are native Angelinos. Never before in my eleven years in this city have I encountered so many genuine female locals as I have now, and I try to figure out some sort of pattern. In addition, nearly half of these girls are either lawyers or in the process of becoming lawyers—what does it all mean?
I reach the end of the line and mark all dates as number fives, aka, “not in a million years”… except for Girl Ten. Call it a “lone impulse of spontaneity,” but if I had to choose any single girl from this bunch, it would have to be Sophie. Why the hell not? Let’s stay in the spirit of things. I hand my card in to one of the twins, efficiently weave my way to the bar and order another drink. As there are more men than women, I have time to kill for Sophie to finish her rounds.
“How’d you do, champ?” the female Puerto Rican bartender asks me with a smile.
“Sweet girls, but not for me. Besides, I’m here on assignment.”
“Oh? What for?”
“I’m a writer. This is for an article.”
She laughs and serves my drink, “Get out! I don’t believe you.”
The next evening I find myself neck-deep in this very article. I’m feeling inspired and confident…until now. I have no ending. No conclusive epilogue to wrap things up and make sense of being single in L.A. That is, until I receive an e-mail from an “Anoush” the owner of MyCheekyDate. Her e-mail is as follows:
I hope you had fun at STK last night and that Jade & Nikita took good care of you. I must say I found your Scorecard to be very sweet, as I know you brought Sophie along as your friend. She didn’t seem to be enthused about anyone at the event either, however I do not have a match for you. I am happy to help in anyway I can if you feel uncomfortable letting her know or asking her out on a date. If she is like me or most women, then she is probably completely oblivious to your affections. I am always available for advice. Let me know.
Needless to say this was an unexpected, and amusing, turn of events considering I was not expecting any e-mails from the service. How this woman could read so much into a score-card is beyond me. Anoush’s caring seems to go above and beyond the typical business owner’s, even if the business happens to be love. Despite the possibility of making things awkward between my colleague and myself, I feel inclined—as a dutiful journalist—to include this development as a humble summation of the event. The irony that the owner of the dating service e-mailed me personally to offer her support in pursuing the girl I walked in with, is not lost on me. Irony truly makes the world go round.
As the traffic roars around us, as we find ourselves divided and isolated in this giant neon mecca called home, I am convinced that the people of Los Angeles might not be so doomed, after all. We can choose to abandon these concrete islands with a little whiskey and a lot of faith. We can choose to reach out over the widening fault-lines and connect with each other.
How fast you want to go, is entirely up to you.
I promise you speed dating isn’t creepy. What started as a dare has led to a slight personal fanaticism in the realm of pre-fab matchmaking.
I’m not a serial dater, I don’t online date, and I rarely (if ever) go to bars to pick up a guy. Still, I found myself nervously perusing the LA speed dating institutions (mycheekydate, fast life, cupid.com, pre-dating.com, dateanddash…) to find a service that would let me hide amongst their droves of perky singles and figure out how creepy speed dating actually is.
All the young, tanned blondes with bouffants (guys love bouffants), clutching each other with one hand and cupping their drink in another in photos splashed across the sites made this kind of thing seem tolerable, almost fun. Still, I’m not blond. I don’t hit the clubs or the glitzy nightlife scene, like, ever. Was speed dating too cool for me? Will anyone actually LIKE me? Stop me if I sound like Carrie Bradshaw, but I was stewing; I was nervous and excited for the opportunity, but still felt like a total dork, a total desperate, single dork. Was I alone? Was I wrong?
After scouring the Internet I found one company that promised to accommodate my inquisitiveness: MyCheekyDate (or, cheekydate, depending on the pen, the personal tattoos that they give out, or the website). They offered an intimate speed-dating environment with a genteel, British, twist.
I thought: I like British People. Let’s do this.
I made a plan to go to one of their many events (and they ARE many in number). MyCheekyDate has specific events depending on your age, affiliation with the entertainment industry and sexual preference.
I was so, so nervous.
When I got there, I was ushered into the back room of the trendy Bungalow Club. Anoush, my gracious hostess (and the woman who had to put up with all of my cancelling and rescheduling due to pure chicken-shittedness) greeted me, and walked me to the bar. My dress was really short, and I sort of felt like I was wearing a leotard. People started drifting into the back room, nervously eyeing one another. Would there be connections tonight? A couple of men (seasoned speed-daters, I imagined) started up conversations with more of the nervous-looking girls (yes, I fell into that group). The girls seemed decidedly more attractive than the guys (though this seems to be a trend with every speed dating service, one which I still find odd). I thought, was this against the rules, pre-talking? What can I possibly talk about with all these different men? And this one, getting heady, is already trying to get out my good material (e.g. where I’m from and what I do).
Then, the game began. It works like this at MyCheekyDate: You get seven minutes with each guy, and then you write on a card if you liked him. If they like you, Anoush sends their email to you and vice versa.
My initial nervousness soon turned into confidence. There’s something about guys listening to you, flirting with you (even if it leads to nothing) and getting a single serving of your quirky awesomeness that really makes a girl feel like hot shit. And even if the guys hated me and my coolness seemed all in my mind, I rationalized; I’d never really know it until the day later, when you get the match email. At the end of the event, I put down every guy I could and scuttled out of there.
The next day I got, according to Anoush’s proud email, 4 matches! 4! They liked me, they really liked me!
I mean, I’m not hideous, but I’m not a supermodel. I’m a normal, single girl with a bit of social anxiety. Soon, she asked me to go again, and I did. I also tried some other companies, though I preferred Anoush and MyCheekyDate (call it first timer’s loyalty, the cute accents, I don’t know). The result of all of them was the same: I didn’t really meet anyone whom I could call boyfriend material (and I don’t think, inversely, anyone was smitten by me) but it was fun as hell. And fast. And made me feel hot. And that’s incredibly important, it seems, to find one's self attractive, in a town that makes one feel so decidedly unattractive, even inadequate.
Speed Dating more and more made me feel hotter, and though the conversations get repetitious, you start gleaning some great personal histories from the people you meet. Maybe I’ll keep doing it and will find someone I can date. Who knows? I promise, it can only help.
Story by Rebecca Mendhelson Leib.
A few weeks back, I, along with a couple dozen other young professionals, was cordially invited to forget everything we’d ever been told about getting into cars with strangers.
The occasion was the Chevy Drive ‘N’ Date, a one-of-a-kind evening sponsored by General Motors and SpeedSeattle Dating. The evening’s premise was simple: Each lady hopped into her own GM car and was joined by a rotating cast of gentlemen. Think of it as a typical night of speed dating, only at 25 miles per hour. To see what I mean, watch the video above.
The night kicked off at downtown Seattle’s perennially cool Hotel 1000. Since no one ever truly escapes high school, the evening began with the ladies huddled together in one corner of the room and the gentlemen in the other. After some delicious appetizers (and a bit of liquid courage), a few bold folks broke the ice, and soon everyone was mingling. Once our hosts explained the way the night would run and introduced us to the super-secret scoring process, it was time to begin, and I was ushered into the 2014 Chevy Cruze.
The loop we drove each time was a brief tour of familiar Seattle spots – Seattle Art Museum’s hammering man, the Hard Rock Café, Benaroya Hall and more. It was the dates themselves who were full of pleasant surprises. Some were speed-dating pros, others were newbies like me. There was an air traffic controller, a real estate manager and plenty of software engineers – it’s Seattle, after all.
And while the icebreaker questions provided seemed cheesy at first – for example, “What’s the sexiest thing about your car?” – they proved surprisingly revelatory. You learn a lot from the sheer confidence of a man willing to claim the sexiest thing about his car is, well, him.
The surprise MVP of the night was my driver, Steve. I jokingly asked him how the first date went, and he responded with honest, supportive feedback. From then on, conferring with him post-date became a ritual, and the evening was less intimidating with an ally in the front seat. “Did I actually introduce myself?” he asked, just after my last date. “I’m Steve.” “So nice to meet you, Steve. I’m—” “You’re Lauren,” he interrupted. “Born in Nebraska, raised in Seattle, and Singin’ in the Rain is your favorite movie. I was just your chaperone on six dates. No introduction necessary!” I laughed, thanked him, and said good night. Back inside the hotel, a few daters lingered, making plans for the rest of the evening. Some gathered on the deck of the hotel’s Boka Bar for drinks and late-night snacks, while others planned to finish the night guilty-pleasure style with Diet Cokes and Big Macs at McDonald’s.
I opted for quick round of good-byes, some last minute flirting, and one last cocktail for the road, and then I walked home, wondering which gentleman I’d get the chance to take for another spin.
Dating events for singles can be scary, but the speed dating game can be an efficient way to meet dozens of daters without spending a lot of cash.
The lights were dimmed low at Michael’s, an upscale restaurant and bar lounge located a block north of the Santa Monica Promenade as the staff from MyCheekyDate cheerily greeted guests — single men and women between the ages of 25 and 40. A woman wearing a tight green dress and high heels asked where she needed to go for the free makeover — really just a quick touch up of powder and lipstick — as others nervously clustered into gender-specific groups to make small talk as they waited for the series of mini dates to begin.
There are numerous speed dating companies operating in Los Angeles, but this one claims to provide UK-style speed dating. “Traditionally, speed dating has been held in coffee shops or venues that don’t exactly exude romance,” says Tina Allman, of MyCheekyDate. She says most speed dating events involve the use of cheesy nametags and tacky bells or whistles indicating the next date transition. “We take a subtle, low-key approach with fabulous perks,” she said.
One guest, a woman in her early 30s, made a comment to her friend that the evening resembled a middle school dance with all the boys grouped together near the bar while the women huddled on the other side of the room, seated on couches or standing in the opposite corner. Those who were more outgoing formed a circle in the middle of the lounge area, chatting with the men or women to their right or left. One man even made a beeline to a particular woman he found attractive. Another woman was overheard recommending drinks to another woman over at the bar. “You probably don’t want to get anything fruity or chunky,” she advised. “You don’t want anything stuck in your teeth.”
Jordan Harbinger, who runs The Art of Charm, a Los Angeles-based charm school for men, says most guys use speed dating as a last ditch attempt when nothing else seems to work. He says he’s trying to change the stigma of speed dating in light of his own experiences and believes more men should try it.
“Any kind of dating event is a last resort for most men because of our egos,” Harbinger says. “Guys want to feel like a lady’s man [not a dud]. But really, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s a solid way for a guy to approach a woman without the pressure because he doesn’t have to break through any shields or barriers — the women are expecting to meet new men.”
A MyCheekyDate event works like this: During the check-in, each participant receives a date scorecard with a number. The men rotate between the women for four-minute “dates” before moving on to the next. On the back of the scorecard are columns for the men and women to write in the names of their dates and assess their interest level based on five criteria:
– Definitely fancy
– One more drink, maybe
– Not really my cup of tea
– Oh dear, never mind
– Never in a million years
At the end of the event, both men and women turn in their scorecards along with a list of their favorites. The speed dating hosts will then contact each participant within 24 hours to let them know if they have any matches. If not, you receive a courtesy e-mail and wishes for better luck at the next event.
On this particular night, by the time the first round of mini dates began, most of the guests were working on their second or third cocktail. But no matter how much liquid courage was sipped, four minutes could feel like an eternity if there was a lack of interest in the eyes of the person across the table.
There was a brief break for guests to mingle before completing the final round. While some replenished their drinks, others remained seated or went to talk to a particular date to help ensure a potential match in the making.
It was obvious that some women were not interested in any of the men in attendance, but most were good sports and stayed for the duration — unlike one gentleman who left in the middle of the event, leaving women “dateless” as the four-minute dating cycle resumed. Still, by the end of the evening, every participant had an opportunity to go on at least a dozen mini-dates.
Amy, a 28-year-old woman who works in the music publishing business said this was her first speed dating event and that she received four potential matches. “You have to go in with an open mind,” she says, “You can’t have too high of expectations. Just have fun and see where it goes.”