Speed dating: Who has time for dinner and a movie anymore?
Illustration by CK Wolfson
What began as an iffy night for some attendees ended as an unexpectedly fun night last Thursday at Outerland's first Speed Dating event. Hosted by Island character Marty Nadler, this was the first Island singles' event for as long as most could remember.
The atmosphere was kept humorous with Mr. Nadler at the microphone, entertaining the 50 participants with jokes along the way. "As we know, it's not easy getting through the winter single. We all let our standards down sometimes."
In addition to the question sheet that was given out, Mr. Nadler gave the speed daters sample questions of his own. "You can ask a guy, will he carry in wood this winter? And you can ask a girl, will she shave her legs this winter?"
The event resulted from a brainstorm by Outerland owners Barry and Mona Rosenthal. "We look for different things in the off-season, things that are fun, that appeal to the sense of humor in people," says Ms. Rosenthal. "I think the people on the Vineyard are a very Bohemian demographic." Like the participants, the Rosenthals did not know what to expect. "This could end up being an awkward event," Mona said during an intermission. "There are a lot of ex-lovers, ex-husbands. That's why we have Marty, to keep things light."
The daters were set up at tables for two scattered throughout the dance floor. Each person wore a name tag with their first name, last initial optional, and a sheet with rules and space to write their dates' names with either a "yes" or a "no." If both people on the date wrote "yes," then the event organizer at the Outerland would contact both people by e-mail. If there was only one "yes" among a pair, then no one was notified. The rules prohibited anyone from asking for phone numbers, last names, or for a date, and encouraged people to have an open mind even if they were not interested romantically.
Emcee Marty Nadler enjoys his time on stage. Photos by Susan Safford
Though the night started out awkward for some, it progressed in an amusing and entertaining way.
Steve C., who has a house on the Island, came to the event with low expectations, "just because it's a weird thing." Leon, a past employee of the Hot Tin Roof, was asked by the manager to help even out the higher number of females who pre-registered.
Curiosity and the love for Marty's humor lured most people interviewed to take part in the four-minute dates. "I came because it sounded fun and interesting," says Sandra. "I suppose Marty also talked me into it. It's a place to meet new friends, no matter what their age." Mary G. was "curious. "I've never been to a speed dating event. At least we'll all laugh with Marty."
As the night progressed, some people filtered out, and the dates were shortened to three minutes. The majority of daters remained, and had many positive remarks to make during intermissions, after shying away from earlier questioning. "This is a lot of fun, it's better than Disneyland. Each person you come across serves a different purpose in your life," exclaimed Sandra. "It's beyond any expectations," said Karen. Patrick elaborated, "I'm here to have fun, and I'm having a good time. I've written mostly "yeses." I'm not looking to get married, just someone to have dinner with."
Not finding a perfect match did not take away from Mary G.'s night. "It's going really, really well," she said, although she had not written down anyone as a "yes." For Ari, the crowd was a bit too familiar. "Most of the people I'm sitting with I've known for years."
Last weeks' event stems from the worldwide "8minute Dating," founded by Tom Jaffee in 2001 and is currently the world's most popular speed dating service. The closest venues to the Island are in Boston, at restaurants and bars such as Fire & Ice and Felt.
Daters share info, but not their identities.
As age is an important factor in dating, other speed dating scenes are broken up with age groups. Because of the size of this community, the debut event was for all ages, which deterred Caroline Miller, who is in her 30s, and her friend, who is in his mid 20s. "We sat and watched, and it was a pretty big crowd, but the average age was probably 42 to 44. We didn't stay," Caroline said. "I think if they did set age limits, it would have been good."
Towards the end of the night, Outerland operations manager Cory Cabral sensed the night was a hit. "I think it's a success," Mr. Cabral said. "I think people are here for the same thing. No matter how old, there's always conversation. As we progress into the winter, the Vineyard is a different place. Hopefully, we'll build this into a haven for people to meet."
And if helping people meet was the goal, speed dating was a success for one Times reporter who attended the event somewhat undercover.
Aubrey Gibavic went through the dating rotation, meeting men and gathering information for her reporting double that watched from the sidelines. She learned Tuesday that many male participants were quick to add a "yes" next to her name.
After one night and two glasses of wine, Ms. Gibavic received an email from an Outerland organizer with the names of six men who would like to see her again.
Speed Dating 2 will take place Saturday, Nov. 11. It will be similar to the first event, featuring three-minute dating with a $10 admission charge and free appetizers. To register, e-mail Cory Cabral at firstname.lastname@example.org.