Built for comfort - not for speed (dating)

The principle of 'speed' dating is something that I appreciate, inasmuch that mating appears to be a numbers game in which every contact improves your odds. I only did it because Yvonne put me up to it. Really. She knows that I'll do anything and tell everyone all about it, so she specifically instructed me not to mention to mutual acquaintances that we had gone to the speed dating event at Rhythm together, seeing that she was comparison shopping on a significant other at the time. Rules: never do a 'singles' event stag, no matter how firm your self-delusory capacities, that you're just there for the material, that you have absolutely no expectations and a highly developed sense of irony plus the kevlar-dense armor of cynicism. It's just too painful.

Rhythm is a bar, non-smoking and tastefully wood-paneled new. The 'fun' activity before the carnage is a drum lesson. The instructor is emaciated and goateed, slapping at a rope-sided African drum called a hajimba or something. "Mmm-mmm-tastes like chicken," our first lesson starts, one slap per syllable. "Mmm-mmm-I want some more." This is too much double entendre for me, and I become flustered, and, if such a thing is possible, even more arrhythmic and uncoordinated. Yvonne drums admirably, and even critiques the instructor afterwards. I'm glad that we're through drumming, because at this point I just want to inhale my thirty bucks worth of salsa and pizza and flee. But no: we've already paid, we're there, we have to go through with it. The male selection is not impressive and I'm certain that the feeling is mutual. It appears that males generally prefer females who are smaller, cuter, younger, nicer and less intelligent than themselves. In my case, that means putting me next to one big, ugly, wicked smart old motherfucker. I have never found this type attractive, and have generally been drawn to looks and perceived potential stamina. And the intergenerational thing makes me want to scrub with a wire brush. These facts, unfortunately, also may not be the greatest of my social handicaps. But I do not dwell on such matters because I am not allowed to be sad. When I get sad, things become very dark very quickly.

The bar is dark, with all these darling little organically curving niches with low couches and tables. The format dictates spending eight minutes with each randomly assigned partner, and then checking off a box on a card to later enter onto the speed-dating site. I don't know how anyone managed any of this before the blissfully impersonal medium of e-mail.

I manage some decent human conversations, but no sparks. One individual is all Mr. Business and treats me as if I'm an interview candidate. When M.B.A. meets M.F.A., I'm tempted to explain that as a 'creative' I'm essentially a severely undercapitalized high-risk start-up that may or may not see returns after a decade or two. Then there's a mango wholesaler, an entrepreneur, and an African-American gentleman with a saintly public service position. I shake his hand and we discuss the utter impossibility and absolute necessity of trying to do good in the world. Apparently he complained about the lily-white nature of the event to Yvonne. A computer programmer with a beard, ooh-I'm-a-rebel gold wire hoop earring and small paunch asks me, "So, have you found your husband yet?"

"Already tried that," I explain, scooping up more salsa. "Had to throw him back" He laughs.

After our rounds, Yvonne and I bolt to her car and light light cigarettes. We compare lists and discuss our overlaps. "Yeah, that one guy was pleasant," she says in postmortem of an actor/waiter. "But I was telling him that I'd considered three-minute dating, but decided that it was too superficial, and he said, 'That's a funny thing to hear from someone on an eight-minute date.'"

"He may have a point," I reply. "But he was there, too." To me, the pheromonal component of courtship is non-negotiable and significant enough that three minutes would be adequate time to determine if there's any potential. Once they have e-mail with "scratch n' sniff" I won't have to leave the house.

- Erika Mikkalo