Monday, January 30, 2006

Small world speed dating

I made an informal New Year's resolution for myself to go to one more speed dating event. I think I've now done four in the past three years with no success. Sometimes I still regret not dating Tan a little longer. He was a very well-mannered and great person. I just couldn't get past his short stature. I feel so bad about that. If I were taller and we were similar height, no big deal, but I can't stand the idea of both of us being 5'4" and under.

So last week I received an e-mail offering me a potentially free opportunity to attend a C2A event. I had had good luck with the previous event they sponsored. I couldn't help thinking my chances of being selected were potentially low. As a woman, I would assume they want to recruit more women who are younger than the men attending. Let's be honest, I'm not a spring chicken anymore (though maybe I can get away with that on paper for a couple more months). Well, it doesn't hurt to throw your hat in the ring so I registered not expecting to hear back.

On Friday, to my surprise, I received an e-mail saying that I was registered for Saturday's event. I was pleasantly surprised. It was also great that it was on my way to a Chinese New Year party so it wasn't out of my way. (Yes, I like optimizing my travel to the city.) I know I shouldn't be so cheap about opportunities to date when it's such an important goal in my life. It's just that these events are so unpredictable I'm unwilling to "invest" in something if I don't think I'm going to get any value out of it.

Saturday was a quiet day of organizing personal stuff. I tend to get very into the details and by 4:30pm I was pulling myself away from the computer. The time flew by and the next thing the clock read 5:20pm. I had hoped to be in the car already. When I finally pulled the car out of the driveway it was 5:45pm.

Normally that would still give me plenty of time to get to the city. Unfortunately, the lack of weather to the south was deceiving. Heading north on 101, the road became wetter and wetter. Traffic slowed for no apparent reason in many sections. It was clear that I was going to be late. The e-mail clearly reminds people that they must arrive on time or forfeit their seat without refund.

As I sped up the freeway I debated my options. Since I didn't pay and the party I planned to attend was not until 7:30pm I figure I could at least stop by the event. If I was challenged by traffic, how many more could possibly be late. Plus, even if I didn't get to participate, I was curious to see what guys turned up that I would have met. My curiosity kept me determined to get there.

At 6:30pm, I was within a couple miles of the bar. And by 6:40pm I was parking my car. It was funny to arrive and see dozens of people, mostly men, standing at the bar in pairs. It was a wall of Asian men in black coats waiting for someone to give them any command. I spotted a guy writing down names on a sheet. He explained to me that the organizers were stuck on the Bay Bridge and he was hoping the event would start by 7:30pm.

If the event did start by 7:30pm I figured I'd stay. So I bought myself a drink and sat off in a side area. None of the guys were particularly distinctive. One taller guy I noticed only because he wore prominent, black-framed glasses. He peaked my curiosity but my best guess said he was younger. There were a good number of taller guys. I just didn't have the nerve to approach anyone. Then again, neither did anyone else.

As I sat holding my drink, I found amusement in scanning the room. It was a classic example of what is the social limitation of Asians. Virtually everyone seemed to have some with a friend of the same gender and was tightly closed in conversation. I knew I was just as guilty as the rest of them, but I wasn't going to do anything about it.

The tables were being rearranged so I got up and moved over to the lounger area where people were sitting. I thought maybe I'd have a better chance of striking up a conversation with a person at another table. This group had it pairs but it also seemed like many of the loner men chose the cave in hopes of remaining out of sight.

I was getting pretty bored. One new guy who arrived late was the only person who seemed to be making a good effort at introducing himself to people. He knew he couldn't stay so he made the best of his opportunity. Kudos to him.

Fed up with sitting around, I decide to do a couple, slow laps through the building. Fortunately half way through the first one, another single woman crossed my path and we began to talk. Twin introduced herself. She lives in EB and is currently job hunting after finishing her MBA. We chatted about work, life and dating. It was nice to meet someone new and always to learn about other people's interest.

Twin asked me a difficult question - so what are you looking for? I paused when I tried to think up an answer. I told her my honest thought, that as I've gotten older, I'm not sure what I want. I explained to her my theory that there are elements I want that cannot coexist in the same person so I must choose one over the other when I meet each man. It's hard to give a specific example, but I think most people would agree. How often would you expect to meet an ambitious man who is also artistic and compassionate? How's that for a random example?

My best guess is that a half hour passed where Twin and I stood at various places within the bar open area. The event guy had announced that we'd probably start the speed dating around 8pm so she wanted a drink. We ended up standing with range of the front door as we continued to chat.

I mentally debated leaving as this guy walked by. He looked our way with a friendly face, so I threw out a hook and commented, "you guys giving up on this?" He walked over and introduced himself as Larry. His friend was a little past me, talking on his cell phone. When he finished talking, he joined Dave and introduced himself as KT.

Ah, so this is nice, finally meeting a few strangers since I wasn't going to be meeting anyone else. I think we all got along pretty well. Larry was a bit quieter, so there were many times it felt like a three-person conversation. I know we learned that KT was househunting. Twin and I were encouraging in the respect that the market has slowed so prices are better. We also chatted a bit about Chinese New Year and Alam.

In the midst of the conversation, I think Twin had asked where I was from. When I told they Sdo, KT inquired where. Now normally when people ask this, they have no idea of these smaller cities, so I wasn't sure why he was curious. I told him North County and followed up by asking him whether he once lived in Sdo. He explained he lived there during med school. To my knowledge there's only one, and somehow my mouth connected that with JB faster than my brain. I immediately asked when he had been there. You could see him pulling a dusty old file from his brain before he recalled 1993 to 1998. My brain said "wow" that those were the exact years JB attended. I then asked if he knew her plus a slew of other names and explained that I was her high school friend. While he recognized the names, it did not appear he was close friends with any of them. Still these small world encounters are entertaining. Twin was astounded as this cosmic coincidence.

I didn't want to alienate Twin or Larry from the conversation so we moved to another topic. Somehow again, the spotlight turned back on me. Somehow, someone asked where I went to school and I told them EB. There went KT's brain again doing more mysterious calculations. My guess is knowing I was probably the same age as JB, he shared that I must have gone to EB during the years when they lost the rivalry game. It seemed a bit odd to recall, but I turned it around and optimistically topped that by reminding everyone that those loses were followed by three bowl games victories.

KT was a bit quiet. I asked if he went to EB and he replied that his sister did. I wanted to ask him where he went to school when it hit me that his non-volunteering demeanor could only mean one thing, "you went to the other school didn't you?" He very diminutively said, "yes." From there we got into some random discussions about the R band and the like. He has a cheery smile on his face as he reminisced about watching his band perform. Yeah, whatever. He tried to be very neutral and a matter a fact about the band when we explained to Twin. (Like I said, sometimes you didn't notice Dave.)

Larry did get attention for a little bit. I asked him what he does. He works for a company in Sdo but lives here. We asked him a little more about the logistics of working remotely.

A five-minute warning sounded from the organizer and are foursome began to rustle. KT looked at me (and maybe Twin) to ask if I do any hiking. He pulled out his wallet and wrote an e-mail address on his business card and then handed one to each of us. Twin has come around and moved to my left so that she was standing next to KT to give him one of her cards. I also pulled out my last two cards, wrote down my personal e-mail and gave them each one.

As we all began to pull away, I asked one final question, "by the way, how do you two know each other?" Twenty minutes had passed and we never asked the guys this. They looked at each other and KT answered, "church and tennis (mostly tennis)." Dave confirmed that response. A little alarm bell went off in my head at the church comment. I don't want to say there's no chance, but certainly it's a dealbreaker if he a devout Christian.

And with that, I swung my coat over my head to prepare to leave. Twin implored me to stay for the dating, but I knew it was time to go. I had kind of hoped that maybe I could time my departure to leave with the guys, but they were busy filling out refund cards.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


So I tried Yahoo! Personals for a couple weeks to see if I could meet anyone new. Frankly, I'm kind of burned out on Internet dating. For me personally, it's too hard to get a feel for men you meet this way. Most people can write a decent e-mail. What's challenging is adding in the correct emphasis to tell whether someone's joking or something else. I find that if the person seem decent, I just like to arrange a coffee meeting to test the chemistry. If you write someone for more than three weeks without meeting, I think the expectations that develop can set you up for disappointment.

This is why I've given up on Internet dating. I'll have to stick to putting myself out there through speed dating. [Ugh] I need the face-to-face experience. Even speed dating can guy you the wrong initial impression about the person, but at least you can filter out the obvious duds right away.

So two of the guys who wrote me were divorced. Never in my life have I allowed myself to consider this group of people. It's like buying something that been returned and taped shut by Target. You have no idea what's been touched and what pieces might be missing from the package. Come on, admit it, you've reached back on a shelf to get a fresh box that no one else has touched.

In the past few years, I have met people where one of them was divorced. Not that I know these people terribly well, but it opened my mind that some people are mature enough to realize something didn't work and moved on. They are competent, good people who deserve a second chance.

Well, I still have some work to do on this topic. This guy's picture seemed decent, but I felt like he got a little pushy waiting for my response. I very quickly shy away from people that become too aggressive. It reminds me of a guy I met a friend's wedding years ago. Man, he just got to close to me at the wedding. When he asked my friend, the bride, for my contact info, I politely declined a date. He must have talked with her, because she then wrote me another e-mail trying to convince me to give him a shot. What I wrote back to her as my reasons for saying "no" I think got forwarded to him. He wrote me a follow up e-mail that seemed annoyed and maybe angry that I was being so stubborn. Eeck so much for wedding dating.

Anyhow, so the divorced guy, J, he wrote a couple times trying to convince me to respond. But the more he wrote, the more uncomfortable I got. Maybe he was simply trying too hard, maybe I was interpreting it the wrong way but he just got overly confident about himself and it left a bad taste in my mouth. You be the judge... in hindsight I was probably to quick to judge. The original e-mail said a little about himself and then asked me a laundry list of questions that overwhelmed me.

"Hey, Welcome home. Too bad you couldn't combine business with pleasure while you were down south. Maybe next time.I have to admit that I nearly deleted your email. As I get lots of spam, the To field threw me off. :-). Also, the subject line was abbreviated in my web browser, so I only saw Have a great trip. Sure looked spammish. I'm glad I took the time to actually read the email.Sounds like you had yourself a great weekend. Yes, the weather was beautiful today, so I did manage to get out and hit the driving range. As I'm not a big football fan, I didn't catch a single game. I'll probably tune in when March Madness rolls around, or when baseball season starts.I realize that I was a bit verbose in my last email, so take your time absorbing all that I said. In re-reading my email, I discovered that I was a bit dyslexic, leaving out words left and right. I guess I just type too slow, or my mind works too fast, or maybe I have dyslexia and just don't know it ;-).I can relate to taking classes at night, sort of. As I've mentioned before, I'm trying to learn some Argentine Tango, so I've been taking classes as well as working with someone. I never really thought of myself as anal, but I do realize that I have a tendency to try to get good at something I'm interested in, or at least proficient enough. So I'll probably keep at this tango thing for a bit longer, or until something better comes along.I can totally understand about not having enough time. Sometime we just have too much to do and not enough hours in the day to do them in. Family, friends, work, and ourselves. It's even more difficult when trying to date, trying to weed through the good and bad apples. I'd like to think I'm a good apple, great for some but not right for others. Should you want the opportunity to practice your Mandarin, I'd be happy to be your guinea pig. My Mandarin isn't great, in terms of depths of knowledge, but my pronunciation is pretty darn good. As least that's what my parents tell me :-). And good for you, for wanting to learn Mandarin. I can tell you, from personal experience, that it's handy to be able speak and read Chinese. It's the only way you'll get the special menus at Chinese restaurants ;-). Have yourself a great week. I look forward to continuing our conversation. J"

Five days later...

"Hi, Just wanted to touch base and see if you've had a chance to digest my past emails :-). I realize that you have a busy schedule, with work and classes, and of course, dating. I certainly hope to have an opportunity to get to know you better and to answer all your questions. I'm sure you have your doubts about someone who's been divorced before. Maybe I can or maybe I can't alleviate your concerns, but I think it would be worth your while to at least find out. The worst that could happen is you'll prove your concerns are valid; the best is, of course, that you'll find out what a great guy I am ;-). Have yourself an awesome weekend! J"