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Speed Daters Find Love Among Dead Ends... Sometimes

01/06/2012 09:01 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST
alamy

"Have you ever done this before?" he asks, staring deep into my eyes.

"No," I lie breathlessly. "This is my first time."

It was my fourth, actually. But why should I intimidate others with the knowledge that I am already a veteran at speed dating?

Speed dating is a strange but strangely practical beast. Participants rotate through a number of singles over the course of one evening, getting to know each other via brief mini-dates. If you're interested in getting to know the person better, you mark YES on your scorecard. It's one part social experiment, two parts sporting event.

"Speed dating is a great way to meet people," says Ragna Stamm'ler-Adamson, co-founder of www.25dates.com. "If there is no connection, you'll have only spent three minutes on your date, instead of with online dating where you email for a while and meet, only to discover that there is no chemistry."

Considering everyone's time is at a premium these days, the sheer efficiency of speed dating makes it a highly compelling option for busy singles.

"Speed dating gets you out there," says dating pro Rachel Machacek, author of the book The Science of Single (Riverhead, 2011). "You're meeting people who are definitely interested in dating. This doesn't mean you'll walk away with a date, but you certainly have a hell of a better chance than if you stayed home with your cat reading your Facebook newsfeed. Not that I've ever done that before..."

Speed dating has never worked for me. The scads of men I've met have been unfailingly lovely, but as I tend to gravitate toward arty, emotionally stunted weirdos with commitment issues, these stouthearted IT experts and bankers with their button-down shirts and chinos and mortgages are not exactly my thing. (Therapy, anyone?)

Happily, others have fared far better than I.

Six years ago, Samantha Moens went speed dating on a bit of a lark.

"A friend of mine wanted to go and needed someone to go with her," Moens says. "I thought it would be an experience, at the very least. Internet dating hadn't worked out for me, and I figured it was an evening out."

Before the event had even officially begun, she met Peter Helsdon.

"I was sitting with my friend at the back of the bar before the event started," Helsdon recalls. "Sam and her friend were sitting nearby. So we all started chatting. I thought she was cute, had a good sense of humour and was smart. After our real three-minute date, I knew that I wanted to go on a real date with her."

The pair are now happily married.

Machacek suggests that speed daters will get more out of the experience if they remain open-minded.

"You have to go into speed dating with the idea that this is just going to be a fun thing to do and expect nothing more," she says. "Not even a date. Once you start to put expectations on it, you stop having fun... Also, do yourself a favour and pick more than two people."

I took Machachek's sage advice and picked three men: a chatty prepster, a punk rocker and a nuclear physicist (for real). I didn't click with anyone especially well, but I found this trio interesting enough to warrant lengthier chats.

When www.25dates.com emailed me with the results, I learned that 11 men wanted to get to know me better, but I was zero for three on my picks.

Which is a shame. My mom would totally have been impressed by the nuclear physicist.

A version of this article originally appeared in Sun Media newspapers