Melanie had agreed to be my wing girl that night at Hurry Date’s big Speed Dating event in Hollywood. While it was an event designed specifically for single Jewish femmes ages 35-45, my Catholic, 25 year-old partner in crime was up for the adventure. It didn’t take much convincing Melanie when it came to meeting men.
I had chosen Melanie for this particular adventure because this dark-haired, brown-eyed beauty was an exceptional wing girl. In fact, it was Melanie who had suggested we hit a bar near my house called The Arsenal at 12:45 am, the previous weekend, after an unsuccessful evening of man-hunting. Within minutes of stepping on the dance floor, I became lost in the amber-light reflecting bits of orange and pale pink on the exposed shoulders of the doe-faced eager women also engaged in the hunt. It was then that Melanie began her approach, zeroing in on one of the 20-something men wearing a white baseball cap. I too danced, grinding, moving my hips to the pulsing hip-hop beat. Looking for someone to call Mr. Right Now, I met Eric and while we danced, our twisting torsos attracted towards one another like two magnets, I noticed Melanie nearby in the midst of a passionate kiss with baseball boy. Melanie was a closer. I was a closer. She was the perfect wing girl. The best fit to accompany me on this dating experiment- the one thing I had yet to try in the five years I had been single.
We approached the restaurant in Hollyood where we were promised to meet 20 eligible Jewish men in 80 minutes. It was 7:30 pm, thirty minutes before the speed dating would begin. While I hoped that perhaps I might meet Mr. Right, I was mostly eager to meet someone with whom I could date casually. A man with whom I could have dinner when I didn’t have custody of the kids, or sit next to at the movies on a Saturday night.
Martini’s, designed to give liquid confidence to the speed dating participants, were just $4.00 during this thirty minute pre-event “social.” The bar was dark, quiet. Too empty. Red barstools lined the 6 foot bar, the mirror behind it reflecting rows of half-filled bottles, lonely tables covered with red polyester tableclothes and the vacant smiles of the two girls standing behind a four-foot registration table, lines of nametags set perfectly before them. The scene did not bode well. Where were the men? How desperate had I become?
Melanie, the effervescent optimist, grabbed my hand, pulling me, smiling as she walked confidently towards the bar. As a non-drinker for more than 20 years, I didn’t see any possibilities that this night could improve, but I had committed to Melanie. I would stay. I could speed date. It was me who was, after all, the single Jewish female between the ages of 35-45.
Ordering a martini, then a 2nd, Melanie beamed, watching expectantly as the men began to enter the bar. As a Jewish woman who has dated few Jewish men in 43 years, I knew what the men might look like. However, as an avid “JDate” (an internet dating sight for Jewish men and women) customer, I was hopeful. I had, in fact, met several men who didn’t fit the stereotypes associated with Jewish men. Yet as they entered, one by one, I felt my optimism fade. Too short. Oh God. Balding. Was this really was who participating in speed dating in Hollywood, CA? The men began to file in more quickly as it became closer to eight o’clock. Bad skin. Again, too short. I turned to Melanie, begging her to leave.
“Meli Mel. Melanie.” I pleaded, trying to turn her attention away from her martini class, as she decided if having one more might take her too far past open-minded. “Let’s go. We’ll get dinner. Go to Venice. Puhleeeze….”
“It will be fun,” Melanie said, her eyes beaming, perfectly drawn liquid eye-liner lifting the corners to match her smile.
Then, a referee whistle blew, as the two girls from registration table hailed us speed daters up a dark, carpeted staircase to a private room. The room was not large, yet somehow managed to fit five evenly-placed rows of four, two-top tables. Tea light candles glowed, half warming the room. It seemed like fake romance to me. It seemed horrid. I wanted to leave.
The registration girl blew the whistle, inviting the 20 men into the room. She then asked the crowd of women to take their places at the tables. Once seated, we were each given a tent card with a bold black number typed on it, and the perky Registration Girl then explained this number was our number. She asked us to put it prominently on the table at which we were sitting. She then told us the men also had a number, and explained that we should write down this number on the speed dating card we had been given if one of them was someone we wanted to date. If so, we would then go home, login to the Hurry Date website and put a checkmark in front of those numbers representing the men in whom we were interested. Then, if there were a match, Hurry Date would send us an email. This way each person could be rejected in the privacy of his or her own home. She also told the speed daters the men would circulate, spending four minutes at each table. When the whistle blew, the men would then rotate to the next table.
The prospects seemed horrid, yet I was trapped. Melanie had Martini-induced self assurance, enthusiasm and hope. I had nothing more than a bad attitude. Nevertheless, I sipped my diet coke, waiting for the whistle to blow. Waiting for speed dating to be over.
I met Dave. He was probably no more than 4 feet 10 inches tall. He wore a grey suit. His nose mushed when he spoke. Dave asked me if I liked the beach. Then, I met Ed. His khaki pleated pants bunched as he walked towards me. He pushed his glasses up further on his nose, sitting down as he fired questions at me pertaining to my hobbies, books I liked to read and my favorite movie. Ugh. It was Jdate live. An internet chat in which I couldn’t just click on the “x” to escape. While Ed droned on, I noticed movement near the stairs. A rustling. Mumbling. I turned my head quickly, noticing the two late-comers. Two men. One nametag said Steve. One was called Eric. Both handsome. Both smiling. Both had potential. I leaned back, relief infiltrating my cells, sending the corners of my mouth into a smile, changing my bad attitude into something resembling good. I leaned into the table, feigning interest in Ed, knowing the whistle would soon blow.
Epilogue: I went on three dates with Eric. He lived in Playa Del Rey, watched hours of World Series of Poker on TiVo, and was, in fact short, but good -looking, in a slightly bohemian sort of way. He was not looking for a relationship. He was, however, looking for sex. Melanie went on one date with Steve, which turned into dozens. She now lives with Steve and his eight-year-old son in Hancock Park. They are engaged.