Is 4 Minutes Enough for Love?: A Speed Dating Essay

By Glenn

Love is something far more than desire for sexual intercourse; it is the principal means of escape from the loneliness which afflicts most men and women throughout the greater part of their lives. -- Bertrand Russell
Like most atheists, Bertrand Russell was able to see through more than just the haze of organized religion. Our modern culture and its "He's Not That Into You" mentality would be well served to recognize the clarity of the above statement. I carried that quote with me recently as I embarked on that long night's journey out of loneliness and into love that we call speed dating. What follows is a tearfully accurate portrayal of that night and its aftermath.

Speed dating, based on what my fourth date said, was actually invented by Confucius in the late 18th century. This appears to align with his famous quote "What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else in the span of four minutes." Speed dating, based on what my fifth date said, was just a way to have fun and meet people. Just like in life, whatever creation story you choose to believe is irrelevant. What matters is how many "yes"-es you get.

The ground rules were laid out before we got there:
  1. Bring a photo ID.
  2. Dress comfortably, but appropriately
  3. In order to accommodate the large group of 84, we will begin promptly at 6:30 PM and may continue past 9:30 PM, but will conclude by 10pm.
  4. We will be serving wine, beer, soda and hors d'oeuvres. Please note the longer time above and eat dinner prior to the event! Also, please bring cash if you wish to purchase drinks beyond the two-per-person maximum.
  5. There will be hosting an after party to the event at 10 PM. There is no cost to attend, and everyone is welcome.
  6. We would also like to point out that due to a number of factors, we have condensed age groups: new groups will be 18-35 and 36 and above.

My use of the word "we" was as intentional as the tie and argyle sweater I wrote to the event - I was not alone on this adventure. Nate, from this website and my own life, was my partner-in-crime (though we did not commit any crimes unless you count breaking someone's heart or second degree assault). It was his idea to speed date originally, but once he explained the basic idea to me I was invested. It makes sense: short, rapid fire dates with people you don't know, thus no one can get hurt. At least that's what we thought.

Nate and I were the first ones there, which gave us a perfect view of both our competition and prey as they entered the building. Nate will have to comment after reading this as to his thoughts, but my eyes darted to each woman as she entered, thinking "Are we the same age and will we have anything in common?" My eyes then moved to the men in the room, while I thought "could I take a human life if I had to?" Both of those questions had the same answer: yes.

The open area filled with ostensible singles and we all mingled to try to mitigate the nervousness of looking for love in such a contrived manner. Some people seemed to have come in groups, but it wouldn't be a singles mixer offshoot without those few male loners lurking about near the vegetable table or in the corner, depending on which would mask their greatest inadequacies. I choose the vegetable table. Thankfully Nate knew two women from before we decided to become professional speed daters, and we chatted with them while the romantic tension in the room grew as quick as - if not quicker than - the line for drinks.

Once the radio DJ emcee took the microphone, it was time for the actual dating to begin. We were divided into three areas - Nate was put into the "mature women" room and I was put into the "younger people" area. This was ironic because I'm older than Nate but I didn't mention this to any of my dates for fear of being labeled an ironic hipster. Each table had a list of "conversation starters" on it for those awkward initial moments a date began. Some questions made sense, like "What is your favorite horse?" and "What did you get on the ACT?" but others seemed oddly invasive, such as "Are you able to achieve climax in a room full of strangers?" I wouldn't get a chance to use any of the conversation starters because I never had an awkward moment (besides the climax), nor did I ever ask a question, period. I wanted this night to be all about me and I wasn't going to let them get a word in edgewise.

My first date with Jessica went surprisingly well. We started a bit early due to some start time confusion and I think that preemptively helped cool my jagged nerves. When I get nervous I sometimes make up lies to keep the conversation going, but there was never a need with her. We talked about anything and everything: church, how hard it is to meet people after college and speed dating itself. This probably set the bar a little too high since the first thing my next date said to me was "You aren't Jewish, are you?" I am, but only on my birth father's side, so I side-stepped the question and turned the topic to Oscar nominated films. This worked out fine until I accidentally brought up the Reader.

Originally I was going to do a rundown of all the dates, but I thought that might be a bit monotonous (plus I lost the sheet with the names). There was a break midway through the speed dating process, so I mentally divided the women into group 1 and group 2. Group 1 was full of mostly good experiences. There was a bit of racial and intellectual diversity, and I didn't meet anyone who immediately vomited in response to hearing a) I had a career in politics and b) it was for the Democratic Party. I wish I could say the same for group 2, but two of those women welcomed my political beliefs about as warmly as the House Republicans did the stimulus package. One of them actually worked for our outgoing Republican governor! We were friendly, but both of us were just looking for the other to slip up and then blog about it. High stakes politics is not that different from high stakes love.

The stakes were high with many of these women. There were only a few (in wheelchairs) where I immediately knew things wouldn't work. For the rest, the pressure was on me to put the pressure to on them to have sex in under four minutes. You can read that either as I had four minutes to pressure them or I had to pressure them to have sex for less than four minutes: both are true. That isn't a lot of time for me to smile and turn on the charm. My story about dating a sociopath, if I cover all the lies, takes at least ten minutes. I also didn't have the time to explain my unemployment or my career goals for the future, but it does give me more than enough time to explain what I do while I'm not working: "chat online." I know that's not necessarily attractive for women to hear, but neither is hearing about their first periods - a tale three of them offered unsolicited.

At the end of it all, I decided to say yes to five of them. One was Nate's friend that we met beforehand (with whom I had a pleasant speed date), but the rest had been strangers before the night began. I said yes to the first woman I dated, to a woman that happened to be of a different race than me, and two others who I've already forgotten and will never see again. You might be wondering why I'll never see them again, especially since I wrote their license plates down. The first reason is that the police have stopped giving me vehicle registration info when I call in phony accident reports. The second reason is that they didn't say "yes" to me. All five of those women got MY information emailed to them, but I didn't get theirs because they didn't say yes, except for Jessica (the first date).

Once Jessica's email address was provided to me I searched for her on Facebook, but what I found made me less interested in pursuing things. I won't say what here, but joining the "Hey Dude! Was Literally The Best Show On Television" doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in a long term future together. Yet I still responded to her email and suggested that we at least see Oscar-nominated film The Reader . We saw it, went to dinner and that was that. We could see each other again, but I'm not going to force it. The last time I tried that the police stopped believing my phony accident reports.

I guess what I learned most from the whole experience was that you actually can get to know someone in four minutes if you ask the right questions, but judging appearance alone will do most of the work for you. To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, they saw me and thought "An aging hipster?" But I saw them and thought "Why aren't you?" Without a hipster pool to drown myself in, this speed dating experience overall was a little disappointing. But it could have been worse: Nate speed dated a woman who had a kid actually older than he was. I only had to deal with the humiliation of knowing, no matter how hard I tried and no matter how many speed dates I went on, I will never be happy together with another person.


  1. Glenn, this is a fantastic article and definitely one for the highlight reel. I laughed, cried and pleasured myself (three times!) to this article.

  2. I really had a hard time reading this because I've spent the last few weeks dealing with the rejection and repressing the memories. NOT ONE WOMAN said "yes" to me, so I didn't get their email. There were no follow up dates. I will never love anyone again.

  3. this was fascinating glenn. next up, eye dating?

  4. I agree with Jake, this is definitely Best Of OYIT! I hope you do find love especially more than four minutes. Also, you should keep that story about how you dated a sociopath until at least the third date unless you suspect them as being sociopaths as well

  5. Um, three of them seriously told you about their first periods? Without being asked? After months of speed dating and blogging about it, that's the first hint I've ever seen that the girls at these events might be as nuts as the guys.

    1. speeddatinggirl, my prediction that I would never love again came true. I have been single and celibate for over four years now. This comment (hoever oblique) was the last interaction I have had with a female. You are now my only hope. All I ask is for four minutes alone with you. Please respond posthaste.

  6. I am in love with speed dating girl.