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Field Study: Speed Dating

Locked in the sheltered campus life, it is hard to see what real people do to date and mate. Once you are out of school, it’s really hard to meet eligible bachelors/bachelorettes. In order to find out how real people meet each other, I decided to sign up for a speed dating event in Palo Alto, CA this summer.

Apparently, this speed dating thing is becoming very popular in NYC, Sillicon Valley, London, and other metropolitan areas. I found out that even my alma mater Georgetown University Alumni Club of San Francisco is organizing a speed dating event for young graduates. Speed dating is an event, usually organized by a for-profit organization, where equal number of men and women meet each other for a few minutes each. The one I tried was called Hurry Date (www.hurrydate.com).

Their catch is “Go on 25 dates in one night!” Yes, I got to meet 25 gentlemen aged 25 to 35 for 3 minutes each. So you first sign up and pay the $35 participation fee online. The event takes place at a bar in downtown Palo Alto with a nice outdoor patio. When you sign in with the organizer, you receive a name tag and a score card. You get a drink (drink is not included in the price) and try to mingle before the event starts, but it is very awkward because people are totally checking each other out. Then the event starts with the organizer’s explanation of the rules. Basically, girls sit in one place the whole time and guys have to rotate every 3 minutes when the organizer blows the whistle. You do this for 75 minutes and after the event you simply go home. When you get home, you log into their site again and fill in which guys/girls you liked.

If there is a match, you can find out on the site and you can email the person to start correspondence.

First of all, I have to confess that I entered this event solely for the purpose of research because I have a loving boyfriend that I now cohabitate with. I wanted this to be a controlled experiment. One of the things I wanted to test out was the effect of the H-bomb dropped by a woman. (Note: “dropping the H-bomb”= telling the other party that you go to Harvard) The general belief is that the H-bomb works against women because men, being the insecure beings that they are, feel threatened by the status. So to examine the true effect, I was going to drop the H-bomb to half of the people and disguise my true identity to the latter half. However, in the end, I found it extremely hard to drop the H-bomb in a sensible manner especially in the matter of 3 minutes!

You can’t be like “Hi, I’m Reina, I go to Harvard”. So I would be like “Hi, I’m here for the summer but I actually go to a business school in Boston”-some people pick it up but majority just let it go. In the end, I only managed to drop 8 H-bombs which is about 1/3 of the men I met that evening.

My general impression of the men was that they were nice, fun, educated people. None of them fit my initial fear of them being a freaky computer nerd who’s never dated a girl. During the 3 minutes, some men have a list of questions prepared (weird one was “what are you committed to?”) but most conversations ended up being the generic “hi, where are you from? What do you do?” I furiously took notes (which probably scared these men) to jot down my impressions and key facts I learned about them. Back in my apartment, I logged onto the site and checked off “yes” to all 25 of them. What’s the point of the experiment when I can’t find out who liked me back, right? Result: 12 matches! (Yes, a nice ego boost!) And some of them even wrote me asking me out on a date later that week. So, here’s the little table I constructed with comments:

So as you can see from the table, 5 of the 12 people who said yes to me were the H-bomb survivors. That is more than 50% of the H-bomb victims who said yes to me. (5 out of 8) Granted that this experiment was not exactly scientific, this is a positive message that H-bomb from a woman is not necessarily a bad thing if used properly. Especially in a large pool of people, as in this event, dropping the H-bomb allows you to differentiate yourself from others and make a lasting impression. This can give you some kind of credibility in an educated group like this and can also be a good conversation topic.

All in all, I had a lot of fun during and after this speed dating event. Since I wasn’t looking for a relationship for real, I never responded to the nice emails I received from the gentlemen but I can totally see that it can be a great way to meet people for a single and looking person. As you can see from the list, you get to meet a wide variety of people-software engineers to plumbers. So, people, isn’t it about time that you got out of little Harvard land and explored a little?

September 22, 2003
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