This was originally published at BlogHer by Hilory Wagner. Reposted here with permission.
This is the conclusion to an article we posted last week titled “I Organized Speed Dating Events And Felt Like An 8-Minute Madam.”
My final events played out like the fitful struggles of any star-crossed relationship. My Halloween-themed “Dating’s Not So Scary Party” at a brewery was well-attended and lively, but the management was soured by the unimpressive amount of beer purchased by participants. The final event, though, was a two-month disaster in the making, and I blame myself.
Throughout my short career as an 8minuteMadame, I regularly received e-mails from singles over 40 wondering why there weren’t more events for our age group. Example: “Please plan an event that will enable me, a 56-year-old woman, to participate in the speed dating. I want to be honest and therefore will not crash the event planned for 47-year-olds.” Another woman wrote, “Please tell me what it is wrong with being over 35? Everything seems to revolve around younger people. Why? I just turned 40 and after reading the age group for your event I was offended.” Over 40 myself, I empathized and promised these people—my people—that I would be the one to turn this ship around.
I found another “olde taverne” type setting and arranged an event for the 42 to 54 age range. The day it was posted online was the day it sold out for women. Ticketmaster would have been proud. E-mails asking to be wait-listed blew up my inbox.
Only one man registered.
Days passed. Only one man was registered.
I sent word out to former customers. I asked friends and colleagues to alert their more distinguished single male friends. I posted and pleaded and marketed and advertised.
This is the point where I should have apologized to My Girls and cancelled the event. But I wanted so much for it to happen that I had another of my now-famous bad ideas. I would find the men where they lived—on Match.com. All I needed to do was search a reasonable radius for men in my target age range looking for women in that target age range. But because soliciting the men to pay for the event in this manner would not be appropriate, I offered them a free coupon for the event.
Yes, typing it out makes it sound so much worse than it did in my head, but I wanted so much for this event to happen. Offering free coupons meant this event would be pro bono for me—it would cost me money, actually. It was a literal labor of love. I did not blanket suitable suitors on Match.com but instead read every profile in this age range and explored their interests and personalities. Then I personally e-mailed them (after reinstating my own account—on my dime) and discussed the opportunity with each. I spent more time researching dates for these women than I ever did for myself. Eventually, I had my crew.
In the 24 hours before the event, I was out four, almost five, women. One wrote me the day prior asking if she could still get a refund, and I explained that because she was confirmed this was not the policy. “I’ll just show up then,” was her one-sentence, resigned e-mail reply. Three others cited sickness and a work obligation, and one was a no-show. This is when life takes a funny (in hindsight) turn, leaving me with too many men. Oh, the irony.
And although the men were as friendly and talkative as I had hoped they would be, the majority of them thought it appropriate to tell their dates that they were attending for free. Seriously? Let me tell you, the women had a hard time seeing my side of this story.
“According to the men that I spoke with, they all informed me that they were recruited by you,” one woman wrote me after the event. “This indicates to me that they were not seriously looking to meet anyone and they were just there because it was a free evening. Even though I did get a match, if anyone asks what I thought of the whole experience, I will inform them that I would not do it again as the men were there under false pretense, and certainly not with yourself as the Event Coordinator.”
Clearly, my well-intended enthusiasm was not well received, despite the fact that this woman actually got a date out of it. But whatever. I was tired, and felt like my 8minutes was up. I realized it was time to turn in my bell.
Love Lessons Learned
First: Cupid I am not. A yenta, or a Dolly Levi, I shall never be.
Next: Not so much a lesson as an insight. Speed-dating is one of many ways to meet a new love, but it is not right for everyone. When I consider why the concept attracted me so, and look back at the several men I met and dated—briefly—while serving as EO, it becomes clearer. I was a fan of the eight-minute date because that is what worked for me. At that time, as a single parent of two kids and two dogs, with a full-time job and a home to run, a speed date was all I could manage; all I could commit to.
To those of you newly looking, or still looking, or in the midst of packing up your bells and staplers, I say: Keep an open mind. Whether you speed date or slow date, you will likely get what you expect. If you show up expecting a freak show, you will meet a sideshow act. If you approach your encounters mindfully, you may find a rare common interest or a shared passion.
Although it might not be right for you, I think speed-dating represents the essence of why we date, despite our pasts, despite our disappointments. Hope keeps us on our toes. And every eight minutes, there’s more to hope for: that maybe, someday, there will be no need to ring for assistance.
Hilory Wagner is an author, national magazine contributor, and social mediaholic who blogs about the impacts of new age communications on our lives, work, and relationships. Visit her blog, “The Social Medium” (hilorywithano.wordpress.com) and follow her on Twitter (@hilorywagner).