I’m sitting across from Boba Fett while Darth Vadar is breathing down my neck and a Jedi is counting backwards from five. I have to figure out if I would like to have a nice dinner with Boba Fett by the time the Jedi reaches “one!” and his seat is taken by Casey Jones. Is this a dream or a nightmare? Well, its actually my first encounter with Speed Dating at New York Comic Con.
I received my marching orders from Joey V, our fearless leader, to report to the second of seven total sessions of speed dating the convention had scheduled with a company called Lightening Fast Speed Dating. You don’t question Joey V. When he says ‘Speed Date’ you say ‘Yes, sir. I will date all of the boys, sir’. And truly, I was curious about this set-up. What kinds of people go to Comic Con expecting to meet a mate? The socially awkward who believe they couldn’t find a date anywhere else, or the self-assured nerd who has the confidence to demand nothing less than someone of identical niche interests? I hoped to find out.
They were hurting for women. While I took my place at the back of the line of potential daters, I was pulled out by our Jedi MC and brought to the front with the rest of the womenfolk. There had been a pre-registration on the comic con website that left very few walk-in spaces available for men, but a generous void of pre-meditated female participation. I exchanged nervous glances with a Cammy, Babydoll, and FemSpock before someone offered that they had only signed up for the blissful opportunity to sit down and take a load off their fantastic but uncomfortable heels. With the ice broken, we launched into congenial girl conversation about glitter, Superman, ponies, and Felicia Day before our gaggle was ushered into the room reserved for speed dating. Jedi MC provided us with a protective disclaimer that any ungentlemanly behavior would not be tolerated, and some instructions as to how to deal with such circumstances. Once the men had entered and were threatened them with the same disclaimer, we took our seats.
Women had the luxury of staying in the same seat, while the men were expected to rotate. The dates were three minutes long, with that length strictly enforced under penalty of public ridicule by the Jedi MC. “Gentlemen, she does not need a list of every job you’ve ever worked. This is not a job interview. Ladies, he does not need to know your clock is ticking. Gentlemen, for the first time in your life you’re sitting in front of a girl who CARES about your comic book collection. You have a common interest! Start with that!” Annnddd … we were off!
In the course of an hour, I went on nineteen ‘dates’. A rough half of them were in costume, though all courteous enough to have removed their masks or helmets. Through those nineteen dates, I was never made to feel uncomfortable. The ratio of keepers to creepers was solidly weighted in the former. The three minute sets never felt endless. I was pleasantly surprised to be put at ease by each date, whether it was through a common interest or a true patience in explanation if i had never heard of their interest. I found the hardest part to be putting down a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on my scorecard for each. I was absolutely surprised at how difficult that was, mainly because the dates were so pleasant. The distinction I fought to maintain was that I was here looking for dates, not friends. When you get down to that point, the whole experience is far more rational. I had a lot of great conversations with people that I could easily see fitting into my friend group. But this was not speed friending. Do you seem like a cool person that would love to see my homemade cardboard Hylian shield and speculate on Joss Whedon’s hidden time machine? Yes. However, are you listening to me as much as you’re talking? Are you seemingly motivated in the same ways that I am? Are our personalities connecting? These questions are harder to answer, and in this situation must be answered quickly and intuitively. Its all about trusting your instincts to give the green light to the couple of potentials who made the most companionable impact. It in no way indicates that those who didn’t receive a ‘yes’ on your paper packet scorecard are inferior or un-dateable, destined to spend nights as alone as Dr. Manhattan on Mars. It just means that you were given a brief once-over by a stranger that didn’t fit you.
After we had dated for a full hour, the men and women returned to opposite ends of the room to write down their contact information for everyone they had said ‘yes’ to. No names had been shared, you were identified by a number on a nametag and thus ended up with a sheet of paper titled with your number containing the contact information by everyone who had given you a ‘yes’. In the blink of an eye, the MC commanded the men to their seats and the women to quickly sit down in front of their ‘perfect match’ – meaning a situation where two daters said yes to each other. A sense of panic gripped me. I had to make a choice between a few of these perfect matches, and quickly. Flipping between pages to review my notes of who was who while keeping a wary eye on the other women moving towards seats, I moved instinctively towards the ‘perfect match’ who had left a strong positive impression. From here the matches were given a few moments to talk while those that were still unmatched gathered their things to leave.
There were some dejected faces among those who left by themselves. I understand how easy it is to feel disappointed or rejected at the end of this kind of experience, but the old cliche of ‘its all fun and games until somebody gets hurt’ applies. So my advice is this: don’t get hurt. Realize the value in this experience. You just talked to a line of strangers for a solid hour. You were brave, you were yourself, and you survived! You wore your costume and revealed to a potential love interest that you know Klingon. Maybe no one in this room is going to tell you they love you right before you’re frozen in carbonite, but if you step outside and show the confidence you proved you have by speaking to a potentially intimidating stranger, that next stranger might.
(As for my match and myself, we spent a significant amount of time together that day and the following day at the con. We’ve remained in contact and have seen each other outside the con. It is fantastic to have walked away from the speed dating experience having met a worthwhile person.)