Smile Politely

The After: Speed Dating at Boltini

If you read my recent Boltini’s Lounge SpeedDating preview article, you know I promised a follow-up report. And you remember my ventures into the dating scene have left me feeling vulnerable without the presence of my trusty nerdy old-school appointment book in my shirt pocket, and the comfort of my nine year old daughter/dating coach/fashion advisor Kaitlin.

I had a great time SpeedDating. Boltini Lounge is a very nice little bar in downtown Champaign, and manager Robb Tobias was a very gracious host. Not quite as flashy as Bob Eubanks on the ‘60’s TV show “The Dating Game,” but he got the job done with efficiency and warmth. His warmth was welcome, since I was a little nervous. I registered at 6 p.m. and walked around for a half hour to calm down. Then I went to Merry Ann’s diner for a sandwich. I hesitated before ordering a patty-melt, and engaged in internal dialog. “It’s high fat, and tonight you want to look thinner.” “Too late to worry about that.” “Should I salt it?” “No, you’ll retain fluid.” “French Fries?” “No, you know how you always drip ketchup on your shirt.” “Eat the onions?” “NO, STUPID!”

I am not into one-night stands, so I did not bother to do a frantic house-cleaning before I headed out for the evening. And it’s a good thing I had no intention of bringing anyone to my house. Kaitlin’s gerbil had escaped from its cage and I couldn’t catch it before I left for the evening. There’s nothing like a screaming woman at the front door to get the neighbors tongues a waggin’. That reminds me of my good buddy Troy, who loves to tell the story of an experience he had as a single man when he was entertaining a young woman in his mobile home in the woods. Shortly after she went to use his bathroom, he heard her frantic screams. Evidently, she had heard noises coming from under the bathroom sink. She opened the cabinet door to discover a ‘possum that had crawled up from underneath to find warmth. Possibly a providential event, as Troy is now happily married to someone else.

Back to Boltini. Only four people signed up for this event, which was specifically for people over 45. Robb told me afterwards that at previous SpeedDate nights, some men registered, paid the $15 and left. I wish he had told me that first, then I would have felt like a brave man. In the previous article I mentioned women who are wary on first dates. Now I’m thinking that in comparison to these men who ran away, they were courageous just to show up. Or maybe the cowards were Narcissists with low self esteem who didn’t think they could do themselves justice in eight short minutes. You know the ones; they apologize for talking about themselves too much by saying, “Sorry, I may not be much, but I’m all I think about…”

I survived both my eight minute, “Hi, tell me about yourself, OK, my turn, OK, bye, this was fun” dialogs just fine. No, I’m not telling you anything more. But, I’ll say this: no ketchup stains, no onion breath, and today, no disrespectful public disclosures about private conversations. It’s bad enough having to calm women’s fears about me psychoanalyzing them after I disclose that I am a psychotherapist; I don’t want them worrying that I’m going to write about them too.

It is impossible to evaluate SpeedDating without exploring the concept of “chemistry.” All daters, whether Fast Speeders or Slow Parkers talk about it. Some believe in love at first sight, and others are wary of the value of first impressions, perhaps because in the past they had quickly fallen deeply in love with sociopaths. I’m somewhat ambivalent about the usefulness of my initial reactions at a first meeting. In any relationship, there are so many important things to know that can only be learned over a long period of time.

Perhaps due to my Social Worker training, it’s a habit to resist locking into any particular initial perception of anyone I meet. I have been wrong too many times in both directions. When I first met my high school best friend Bill, I thought he was a total loser. He’s turned out to be a long-term winner. A diamond in the rough. And conversely, I have judged people positively initially, only to altar my thoughts later. A dear San Diego friend recently married a man I probably would have strongly endorsed if I had met him. He turned out to be every woman’s nightmare. A pebble in the rough. After they had over two years of long-distance phone conversations and countless e-mails, they finally spent a weekend together and got engaged, and married one month later. That marriage lasted five months, and should have been put out of its misery after a week.

Many people seem to be attracted to the idea of “love at first sight.” My parents were in love from the time their eyes met, and they were happily married for over 50 years. But for every one of those stories, there’s one from someone who wishes he/she had included other considerations besides that intoxicating feeling we get when we fall in love. It’s my favorite feeling too, but I’ve noticed it can have a blinding effect. It contributes to our natural tendency to be selectively attentive to only positive things. When the chemistry at a first meeting is off the chart good, we will look for things in the other person to justify the investment our heart has made.

What if I had fallen in love at Boltini within eight minutes and the woman had told me she has always dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist? I would have thought, “Wow, what a wonderful thing, such a sense of adventure! She’s just as quirky as I am!” But without chemistry, I’d encourage her to swing over to the next table to meet Bachelor #2.

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