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ISSUE 116 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2003

Speed dating prevails in world of singles

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 14, 2003

Fast food. The information superhighway. Instant messaging.

Speed dating?

Has America managed to fast-forward one of the most meaningful rituals of human behavior?

The newest dating trend to take the singles world by storm claims to help singles find true love by going on multiple three-minute dates in one night.

Speed dating, which originated in 1999, introduces singles to one date after another. Services around the world have advertised speed dating as “fun,” “convenient” and “safe.”

As crazy as it sounds, the speed dating movement has become increasingly popular. Its success has been credited to its detailed method, which boasts extreme efficiency.

Daters usually meet at a cocktail lounge, bar or café after the nine-to-five workday. Typically, daters arrive on the scene and socialize freely while they wait for others to arrive. Once everyone has arrived, daters check in to receive a nametag or dater number and a scorecard. After check-in, daters begin the dating process. Each dater meets with another individual for an allotted amount of time. Any topic is up for grabs except for addresses and careers. After time is up, a whistle blows and daters rotate to the next station. Before the next date, each dater marks on his or her scorecard whether or not he or she would like to see the previous date again. Breaks and time-outs are held occasionally so daters can eat snacks and refill drinks.

At the end of the night, daters hand in their scorecards to speed dating organizers. If two daters have expressed interest in one another, the dating organizers release contact information to the two parties. After that, the singles are on their own to make the next move.

Although the speed dating method remains consistent among most services, the number of daters and time spent on a date varies. Dates typically range in time from 3 to 10 minutes. Different companies invite varying amounts of people; while Montreal-based Quickie Encounters invites only seven or eight daters, national company Hurry Date includes 100 daters at each event but each individual goes on only 25 dates. With several events occurring each month at cities across the country, daters are sure to find time to attend these events. And, as suggests, matches are quite common.

What are the benefits of speed dating? Daters claim that speed dating takes the guesswork out of online dating and the torture out of blind dating. Not only can people not lie about their physical appearance, but chemistry cannot be tested on pen and paper like it can in person. And instead of suffering through the four-hour-long awkward blind date Uncle Rudy set you up on, three minutes alone with even your arch enemy can’'t be nearly as bad.

There are several other benefits of speed dating. Everyone at the event has registered because he or she claims to be interested in beginning a committed relationship, so speed dating takes out the risk of meeting yet another commitment-phobe. Also, each dater feels comfortable expressing interest because even if it is unrequited, it remains confidential. Only speed dating organizers know who has found a match.

Critics of speed dating claim that it is impossible for two people to establish a connection with one another after less than 10 minutes. Several daters were once skeptics themselves, and this remains a viable concern for all parties involved. For as many companies that advertise online, it is important to remember that daters define a match simply as a hope to see another dater again – not a marriage proposal. Matches have, however, evolved into engagements for some daters. These numbers are not high as of yet, but still significant considering that the speed dating movement began only four years ago.

The origins of the speed dating movement can be accredited to the Jewish rabbinic community, according to Rabbis had grown increasingly aware of Jewish singles marrying outside of their faith and hoped to prevent this trend from growing. To make dating more accessible to Jewish singles, rabbis held speed dating parties to introduce them to others. The success and popularity of the events spread to the secular arena, and speed dating eventually took off with the professional world. Instead of a busy professional going out on a lengthy date after work, he or she can spend time with friends and meet others in a relaxing environment.

Until March 12, few speed dating opportunities existed for St. Olaf students. On Wednesday, 60 students participated in a speed dating party sponsored by the Wellness Center. The event, held in the Pause at 8 p.m., was organized by student coordinator Jenna Kubat and Wellness Center Coordinator Renee Sauter.

“Speed dating is the new thing in the cities as far as dating trends go, and when we talked to students about it, they said, ‘Oh! that sounds cool!’” Sauter said.

Although the organizers expected a large turnout, they did not expect such a wide gap in interest according to gender. “We had twice as many women sign up as men,” Sauter said. This could be due to more interest from women or the larger population of women at St. Olaf.

Certainly both advantages and disadvantages to the speed dating phenomenon. Fortunately, however, with this new dating trend there is still hope for those who are looking for a friend or a companion.

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