Smile Politely

The Before: Speed Dating at Boltini

SpeedDating has arrived in Champaign-Urbana as the latest way for busy single people to meet busy single people. I will be a participant at Boltini Lounge’s version soon, and will provide a full report afterward.

Here’s how it works. We will couple-up and spend 3–8 minutes face to face at a table. Signal sounds, and we move on; musical chairs-like, to the next candidate for another hasty once over. That’s barely enough time for me to say something stupid, or to allow the perspiration to dry before my sweat glands get their next call to action.

I’m uncertain how I’ll do. For one thing, my default facial expression says “I’m grumpy, leave me alone”, so I’ll need to practice smiling and looking warm, safe and accessible. You know what they say; authenticity is everything, once you’ve learned to fake that, you’ve got it made.

That “safe” part is important. In my dating experience I’ve learned that women are wary. There are men out there who are character deficient. I’m a marriage counselor, so that fact is no shocker. But what I was not prepared for was getting, on first dates, “that look.” The one that says “Yo dater-boy, you got a ways to go before I trust you enough to even walk around the block with you.”

I understand. Men have betrayed them, broken promises, hidden their debts, and lied about appreciating sunsets. Maybe a disclaimer tattoo on my forehead that says “I am NOT your ex-husband, so stop glaring at me that way!” would help.

SpeedDating will be fun. But not a venue in which I expect to shine. I am an acquired taste, like sardines or bagpipes. I hate small talk. If I don’t memorize some shallow chit-chat lines, I’m likely to open with “Hi, I’m Larry, lately I’ve been reading ‘Passionate Marriage’, and I’m wrestling with the paradox of self-validation vs. healthy expression of neediness within the context of strong desire for healthy passion and intimacy…… hey, where are you going…..please stop crying…. it’s only been 2 minutes…. come back…… I’m sorry….we can talk about Kierkegaard if you want….”

While new to SpeedDating, I am a 6 week veteran of What an education! I have learned so much about myself and divorced American females. We all have a profile with photos and a self-description that includes what we’re looking for in a partner. After a while, many of the “here’s me” essays begin to blend into a composite of Americana femalia. I think by now I could write them myself in less than 8 minutes. Maybe I could call my profile writing service “SpeedProfileCreation For Women Over 45.” “I want an honest man who doesn’t play games”, “I love Yoga”, “I don’t like rap music”, “I exercise 3-5 times a week”. Oh, and then there’s “I’m spiritual but not religious”.

After talking with hundreds of clients, male and female over the last 30 years about the deepest issues of life, I feel well informed about what women are looking for in a partner. Add to that what I’ve learned on Match.Com, and maybe I could be a real charming candidate, at least for 3-8 minutes. Plus, I have a supportive choir of dating coaches and fashion advisors. One thing they all agree on: I need to take that nerdy appointment book and pen out of my shirt pocket. Against my better judgment, I actually took their advice. On a date, I carried the little book into the restaurant because I could not bear to leave it in my car. I was capable of 2 hours without it’s comforting presence against my bosom, but I needed it at least nearby. Wouldn’t you know it, I lost it, and spent 2 frantic hours the next morning locating it.

The best advice i have received so far came from my 9 year old daughter Kaitlin. After looking at a profile photo of someone on, she looked at me and said “She’s a hottie, Papa, but just make sure she’s pretty on the inside too.” This is the same girl who, at age 6, gave it to me straight as we were on our way to a special Daddy-Daughter date. “You’re not going out with that pencil stuck above your ear, are you?”

I wonder if Boltini’s would let me bring her with me. I could use the support. And someone to hold my appointment book.

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