Students flocked to not one, but two, on-campus speed dating sessions this past week, braving the snow with varying levels of sincerity as the infamously stressful Hallmark holiday drew closer.
Barbour Lounge — Thursday night
Press status was the only thing that got me past the long line crowding the stairway leading into the pink-tinted room strung with streamers.
The throng was accumulating in anticipation of East Campus Speed Dating, an event organized by East Campus Community Assistants — who are based in Barbour, Perkins, Graduate Center, King House, Vartan Gregorian Quad and Young Orchard residence halls — in conjunction with the Office of Residential Life. Brynn Smith '11, a CA who helped organize the event, received a report that 50 people had been turned away.
Tables were set up in a U-shape around the room, with soft drinks and a DJ booth spouting out the likes of "Stacy's Mom." Metallic heart confetti lay sprinkled on the tables between expectant speed daters.
Participants received numbered labels to stick on their shirts, along with a pen and paper so they could record the numbers of prospects in columns labeled "friend" and "love interest."
After one minute to exchange a few words, participants had the option of writing down the other person's number if they were interested. If two participants' interests coincided in either column, they were considered a match, and each was contacted by event organizers via e-mail.
Sixty-six people attended East Campus Speed Dating, and 66 matches were made — 22 pertaining to love and 44 to friendship — resulting in an average of two matches per person. In 10 cases, one person put down love and the other friendship, CA Natalie Serrino '12 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.
The rotation set-up meant that participants would sometimes end up facing people of the same sex.
"It was a little tedious to talk to a lot of guys," said Martin Aspholm '14. "I was there to meet people, have fun. No one was taking it too seriously."
For the most part, a date would lean in, hand outstretched, and ask one of the following four, very predictable, questions:
What's your name? What year? What are you majoring in? Where are you from?
More rarely asked were, "Where do you live on campus?" and "What classes are you taking?"
The routine was so ingrained that, "What do you do in your free time?" left me slightly speechless.
And although a matter-of-fact, "What are your hopes and dreams?" surprised me, "What's the most awkward question you've been asked so far?" took the cake.
The allotted time generally ended in one of two ways — awkward glances to the left to check out the next suitor, or success in finding something in common and being forced to move along anyway.
After such a bombardment of one-minute rotations, I became a little dazed. Each new potential suitor seemed to come at me in a fish-eye lens, and I came to assign each date one defining characteristic.
While it can be difficult to have a meaningful conversation in such a short time period, several speed daters showed there are ways to make themselves memorable.
A "let's curdle" shirt, sporting a milk carton and a lemon mid-cuddle. A #1001 name tag. Hair gelled into three distinct prongs.
And the unforgettable #46 — who casually tapped her piece of paper when I asked what she was doing here — and showed how she had scratched out "love interest" and written in its place "sexual interest."
At the end of the event, roses were raffled out, as was a dinner for two on Thayer Street.
Petteruti Lounge — Saturday night
The second speed dating event, organized by the Class of 2014 Class Board, took a less romantic tack.
"With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we wanted to get people to hang out," said Andrew Silverman '14, vice president of the Class Coordinating Board and an organizer of the event, adding that his goal was to create a "friend-finding atmosphere."
The informal vibe was created by bright lighting — which petered out every few minutes to indicate a rotation — and a random assortment of tables around which people could gather as they chose.
But there was no impartial system in place for contacting people. Participants had to ask for phone numbers or e-mail addresses if they wanted to see the person across the table again.
"That was a little awkward," said one beaming junior. "I've got a date for Tuesday, though!"
"It's a cluster(expletive)," Tom Miotke '14 quipped.
Rotations lasted four minutes, and participants were free to choose who they wanted to sit across from for each rotation. Girls were on one side of the circle, boys on the other, and while Silverman apologized for the "hetero-normative" setup, boys were generally the ones to walk around and choose a date.
One junior joked, "I have a game plan — go in for the kiss immediately."
"It feels like waiting to be asked to dance at a sixth-grade party," another participant remarked.
Upon learning that I was a junior, one gangly first-year remarked, "older woman" with an appraising look.
Participants were provided with helpful questions in case the conversation went stale.
"I didn't want to just ask, ‘What's your favorite animal?'" Silverman said, having watched a YouTube video on how to set up speed dating. "I sat around and just thought about really funny icebreaker questions."
Silverman came up with creative prompts, among them, "What did you wear, or not wear, to(SexPowerGod)?" and "Edward or Jacob?" alluding to "Twilight."
Not everyone took the events completely seriously. One senior concentrating in literary arts admitted to having a pool with his friends to see who could get the most callbacks. Another person used an alias, meaning no one could actually contact him.
Jeb Koogler '11 and Victoria Chen '11, CAs who organized the East Campus event, both commented on how difficult it can be to get people to turn out to for organized events.
"We didn't expect such a great turnout — this is fantastic," Chen said, adding with a shake of her head, "This is crazy. We didn't expect this."
Koogler gave speed daters props for participating.
"Valentine's Day can be rough for, I would say, 90 percent of people. This group was not resigned to having a difficult Valentine's Day — you've got to respect their courage."