Dating at the speed of lite

When it comes to dating and mating, everybody has at least one worthwhile story to tell. A girl I knew in high school met her husband-to-be while she was working in a sunglass hut at the mall. He walked by her hut, she liked what she saw and blurted out, “Hey! I think you’re good-looking.” Evidently, he’d been waiting for an assertive woman who could articulate her desires.

Another couple I know met through a personals ad. The kicker? When they got together for coffee the first time, it came out that she had actually meant to answer another guy’s ad and was there by mistake. Nevertheless, they clicked and ended up happily married.

Yet another friend met her fiance through match.com.

Apparently, there’s more than one acceptable way to meet potential dates. With this in mind, I embarked on the adventure that is Speeddating, Asheville-style. Speeddating, for those who may not know, is an organized, rapid way to meet several potential dates during the course of an hour.

Here’s how it works: An even number of men and women pay a fee to be “fixed up” — for seven minutes each — with members of the opposite sex. Typically, each woman is seated at a table by herself; each man, in turn, makes his way to all the tables, conversing with each woman for seven minutes. An alarm goes off when the seven minutes are up, and the men change tables/partners. At the end of the evening, each participant hands the event organizer a card indicating which of the dates he/she would like to see again. When two people indicate a mutual attraction, the organizer gives each one the requisite contact information.

Some of you might have seen the rather bleak Sex and the City episode in which Miranda endures a nightmarish Speeddating event. Poor Miranda keeps meeting handsome but boorish investment bankers who tune her out when she tells them she’s an attorney, then perk up when she lies and says she’s a flight attendant. You might imagine that the Asheville version of Speeddating would be just as horrible. I’ll admit I wasn’t overly optimistic. But I finally decided to participate for the sake of the article; I also theorized that it might help me burn off any bad dating karma I’d accumulated.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the Asheville version of Speeddating isn’t a new form of relationship torture. The participants were all pleasant, articulate and fully dressed (they even seemed to have their own teeth). As we moved through the roster and I asked people why they’d decided to try Speeddating, almost everyone said they’d found it difficult to meet other dateable singles in Asheville. One fellow commented, “For $20, I get to meet seven women who want to date. I could go to a bar and spend $20 and not meet anybody at all.”

Some of the attendees were Speeddating veterans who were back for more. I even spoke with one couple that had met at a Speeddating event in December and are now dating the traditional way. “She and I were the first to meet that night, and I kept wanting her to come back,” the gentleman explained. For her part, she said, “I had a list of questions; I figured I’m not wasting my $20!” As their seven-minute date progressed, she says she discovered, “We had some things in common.” By the end of the evening, both had indicated a wish to see the other again.

Speeddating organizer/host Erik Field says he first heard about Speeddating while visiting friends in Seattle. “It had become popular out there, and I thought it sounded like something that might go over well here,” he says.

After doing some research, Field realized that while there were similar activities in Greenville, S.C., and other places, nobody was Speeddating in Asheville. “It seemed to be going on everywhere except here,” he says. “I mentioned it to the owners of the Bier Garden, and they seemed open to trying it.”

Field held his first Speeddating event on Oct. 16. Since then, he’s hosted eight more Speeddating nights at the Bier Garden and says he hopes to work up to two events per month.

So far, the only requirement for participants is that they be within the specified age range. “I’ve hosted a 55-and-older event, an under-40 event, etc.,” he reports.

Upcoming dates: The next hetero Speed Dating event happens Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the Bier Garden (25-39 age range; start time 7:30 p.m.). The first lesbian event will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Tressa’s (upstairs; start time 8 p.m.). The entry fee is $20.

Anyone interested in participating in these events can contact Field at 254-1011 (e-mail: ashevillespeeddate@hotmail.com). And in case you’re wondering, I did match up with one of my “dates.” Maybe in a few months our friends will be telling people about the crazy way we met.

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