When the Manor announced its first speed-dating event, I was ecstatic. As a gay man, I've always had an infatuation with speed dating, so the idea of having a homo-friendly version was instantly appealing.
"Relay Dating" is a gentler name for speed-dating. It brings to mind a sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship. Sure, you essentially have to pick "yes" or "no" after spending a measly two minutes with a complete stranger, but it's still good, clean fun.
Starting early at 7 p.m., like-minded, long-term-relationship-oriented individuals gathered in the main lobby of the Manor. After signing in, we received a nametag and were provided with two-for-one drinks. This obviously helped break the ice and emboldened us somewhat nervous attendees to mingle until the secondary dating room opened. Though not for us to speed-date, the bartender in the main lobby was charming, attractive, and easily one of the highlights from the night.
After sitting down at our respective seats, we were instructed on what to do in a conversational bind: i.e., ask the standard questions, like "What do you do for a living?" "Where are you from?" "What kind of music do you like?" Cupid's referee whistle was blown, and the boys were off.
"Where are you from?" asked my first date.
"Fort Lauderdale," I replied.
"Yeah, but where were you born?"
A little nervous (I was still a speed-dating virgin at this time), I said, "Here." Judging by the look on his face, he must have either thought that I either meant the room in which we were sitting or that there's something seriously strange about being a native. The rest of my dates followed a similar suit. After the initial shock wore off that I was, in fact, from South Florida originally, the conversations opened up.
If there was one thing I learned from last night's speed-dating, it's that no one is from Florida. This is common knowledge if you've been living here for a reasonable amount of time, but for some reason, I still get blindsided by it every now and then.
When I asked one date where he was from, he replied "Jupiter." This gentleman drove all the way to Wilton Manors from Jupiter on a Wednesday night for blind dates. He said he just googled "speed dating Florida" and voilà, here he was. I didn't see this as desperation; rather, as commitment, persistence, and open-mindedness. Not many people would do the same, let alone admit it to a total stranger, so props to him.
One man told me I looked like Edward Norton. I'm not sure if this was a backhanded compliment or not.
As everyone left, only a few from the group stayed to congregate. Most of the bachelors made their way back home -- remember, these people are looking to date, not rage their way through Wilton on a Wednesday night. Half of them were from Miami, with 9-to-5's to go to in the a.m. With the mix of professions and perspectives, relay dating seems a wonderful addition to the growing community of Wilton Manors.