The Fast and the Curious 

It was an affair to remember. Thirty, actually.

Page 2 of 2


"Interesting," he says, with understandable sarcasm. He picks up his pencil and scribbles something on his match-sheet next to my name, while quietly uttering "writes stuff."

By my eighth date, I've learned that most of the men are engineers or work in the tech field, and range from 27 to 32 years old. Some are stereotypically nervous and socially awkward, but most are not. They are ordinary people who are busy, or isolated, and looking to meet people in a way that feels casual and non-threatening. I haven't felt a strong connection with any of them, but there are some I could imagine having a beer with after the event. The women, I later learn, ranged from 23 to 32, but most were 26 or 27. Their occupations were much more diverse than those of the men -- I talked to a student, a teacher, a designer, a nurse, and an architect, and a few women in accounting and marketing.

My ninth date takes his seat. Unlike the others, he looks bored, but he has the dry, deadpan wit of Woody Allen. Unfortunately, when we reach a lull in our cynical banter, he begins staring at me strangely. He has the eyes of a crazy man.

"I'm weird," he says, as his eyes narrow slightly. "Really weird."

For the first time all night, I recognize the true advantage of speed dating: The weird dates are brief and, to my relief, chaperoned.

By the end of my tenth date, I've only checked "yes" to Rolando, a financial analyst for Levi's. The next day, his name and e-mail address are in my inbox. Good thing, too, because he'd promised me free jeans.

I'd always imagined spending my twenties as a casual dater with few attachments and even fewer expectations. Instead, I spent the last four years isolated in a series of monogamous relationships. After my last one ended, I discovered that the Internet had radically changed the singles scene. At 28, I felt like a dating novice.

Lured by curiosity and my freshly single status, I tried out speed-dating for the first time on a Friday night at Whisper, a San Francisco bar. It hosts monthly events by, a Los Angeles-based online dating service boasting 150,000 members. Click2Asia began organizing Asian-focused speed-dating soirees last year in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Its monthly Bay Area events usually draw in eighty singles. Once the group is split into two categories -- under thirty and thirty-plus -- each participant has twenty seven-minute dates in less than three hours.

Despite the success of Click2Asia, speed-dating is still plagued by stereotypes of a desperate and pathetic clientele. Even Henry Kim, a Click2Asia volunteer who buys me a drink before the event, says there are two types of speed-daters: "The ones that want to have fun and try something new," he says, suddenly lowering his eyes, "and the ones who need to be here."

But looking around, it doesn't seem like anyone at Whisper is from the latter category. I see an eclectic crowd of young, fashionably dressed hipsters sipping cocktails. It also helps that the environment is familiar: bartenders in black, a DJ spinning records, candlelit tabletops. Sans the numbered stations and nametags, the event has the feel of a regular night out.

When the event commences, I sit at a table marked "A-12." For the rest of the night, I am identified as "A-12" on my nametag and on the match sheet. Chris Oh, Click2Asia's regional director, starts barking off the rules: seven minutes per date; and when the bell rings, the men switch to the next station. He then offers some advice: "Be original. Don't ask the run-of-the-mill questions."

One of my early dates takes this advice seriously. Sitting down, we shake hands and introduce ourselves. "Do you live to work, or work to live?" my date asks. In the context of speed dating, it's refreshing to hear a new approach. But before I can answer, our date is interrupted by a waitlisted participant who has to leave because a slot didn't open up for him.

"Sorry, man," the waitlisted cock-blocker says to my date. He kneels next to me, handing over his business card and speaking at the speed of light. "Call me, think you're cute, would love to chat, here's my number," he says, before bolting for the door.

I slip the business card in my purse and smile at my date. "I'm sorry, but what was your question?"

"Oh nothing," he says. "So, where are you from?"

In junior high, I once played a kissing game called Seven Minutes in Heaven. For seven minutes, I was locked in a hallway closet with a boy classmate, where we were supposed to make out while all our friends sat on the other side of the door with a stopwatch. Unlike my other girlfriends, I wasn't yet interested in boys, so my classmate and I ended up sitting in silence. I remember feeling like those seven minutes would never end.

After an hour at Whisper, the luxury of seven minutes of silence sounds appealing. By midway through my fifth date, fatigue sets in and I nod and smile at the appropriate moments even though I have no idea what my date is talking about. I do the same as my eighth date describes the zombie movie Evil Dead. My twelfth is a former classmate whom I hadn't seen since we graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1994. He looks embarrassed to be caught speed-dating and I feel like reminding him it's been ten years since high school. It doesn't matter anymore what people think.

My thirteenth date, a dentist, compliments me on my clear T-zone but tells me that smoking cigarettes has discolored my teeth. "You know smoking is bad for you, right?" he asks. I simply nod and flash my nicotine-stained teeth. I could really use a cigarette now. After trying to memorize twenty names and professions, all I want to do is crawl into bed -- alone.


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