Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Judging Books (and Men) by Their Covers

No one ever says, "I met my husband at a speed-dating party!"

And yet, two years ago, I did attend a speed-dating party. At the time, I thought it sounded like the perfect place for a workaholic to meet new people. I've always been willing to invest countless hours in my work (hence the phrase "married to the job"), yet I've been much less willing to invest even half that amount of time in finding Mr. Right. At a speed-dating party, I'd get to meet twenty guys in one hour, rather than have to go on a bunch of bad first dates that lasted at least two hours or more only to realize at the end of the date (or maybe within the first five minutes) that I never wanted to see the guy ever again.

I was really nervous and scared before the party. What if I didn't meet anyone I liked? What if all the guys at the party would take one look at me and refuse to sit at my table even when it was their turn, so that I'd spend the entire hour sitting by myself? What if the guy or I decided we didn't like each other within the first three seconds, and then spent the next two minutes and fifty seven seconds just staring at each other?

But I thought there was also the possibility that I might meet someone I liked. And at the very least (and I hope this doesn't make me sound shallow), I thought it might give me something to write about. Even though I've been following a lot of really great YA writer's blogs, my goal is actually to write for an older audience; the stories I write would probably be classified as "chick lit" (although is it still politically correct to say chick lit? Should I say women's fiction? But isn't that phrase too broad? And actually, "chick lit" always makes me think of Chiclets, which makes me think of M&Ms since I don't like Chiclets, which makes me think I should go buy some more since my candy stash is running low. Did I mention I have a short attention span?)

Before the party started, I ordered a Coke from the bartender, who was amused because I was the only one who wasn't drinking alcohol. I rarely drink alcohol because I get even more hyper when I drink it and I figured I wanted to make a good first impression that didn't involve talking too fast or passing out at my table.

I'd like to say that I didn't judge the men at the party by their looks. I'd also like to say that I don't spend several hours a week watching crime dramas, but I'd be lying about that too.

Here's just a few examples of what was going through my head during the party:

Bachelor #5: Hi! How are you?
Me: Umm...hi. Why are all his teeth pointing in different directions?

Bachelor #9: Have you ever done anything like this before?
Me: No... I wonder if I should tell him that his hairpiece is on crooked. But what if that isn't a hairpiece and he just doesn't know how to brush his hair?

Bachelor #13: So if you ordered pizza, what kind of toppings would you get? (I swear I'm not making that question up; that was actually one of the "suggested questions" on the speed dating website)
Me: Anything but pineapple. Are you not going to date me if I say I like pepperoni?

Me: Hi, what's your name?
Bachelor #15: What's my name? My name is the only one you'll have to remember tonight, whoo!
Me: I wonder if this Coke will leave a permanent stain on his shirt if I throw it at the right angle.

I wasn't the only one judging people at first glance; I got a taste of my own medicine when I sat with one cute guy, who obviously wasn't interested in me and not only gave one-word answers to my questions but kept checking out a girl at the next table.

I kept checking "No" over and over again in the "Interested?" section on the sheet we were given, but I realized I should check "Yes" to someone at some point. I did meet a nice guy who talked to me like a real person and not like he was interviewing me. He later sent me an e-mail with his picture suggesting that we meet up for a drink sometime. I e-mailed him my picture and phone number so that he could call and set up the date.

He never called. I never found out why. Maybe he looked at my picture and thought, "Oh, so that's what she looks like when I'm sober? Forget it." Or maybe he went out with one of the other women he got matched with and liked her better. Or maybe he fell into a coma and will call me when he gets out of it.

A speed dating party is a lot like browsing for books at a bookstore. The first thing that usually draws my attention to the book is the cover. If the cover is brightly colored and has a catchy title, then that's going to make me stop and pick up the book. I read the blurb to see what the book's about, but the blurbs always say good stuff; you never see a blurb that reads, "This is the most boring book ever and will make you regret ever buying it." So I peek at the first few pages to see if it'll hold my interest. If it doesn't, I set the book down and move on to another book.

Maybe one of those other guys I quickly dismissed could have turned out to be a really good date, maybe not. But it definitely made me think that first impressions in dating and writing are important. Sometimes all it takes is saying (or writing) one wrong thing that will immediately make the date (or the reader) lose interest.

Even though I didn't meet Mr. Right at the speed dating party, it did give me the courage to move past the work bubble I'd been hiding behind and meet more people. I joined a group at my church, and I tried online dating (which is another blog entry in itself). And it made me realize the same thing with writing, that I can't hide my writing away forever; if I ever want people to read what I've written I have to put my work out there and meet other writers. I'm also thinking that the writing process will be a lot more fun than speed dating.

Here's a link to an episode from a really funny online video series called Speedie Date that originally aired on www.strike.tv; it makes fun of speed dating but also highlights a lot of the doubts and expectations people have about it.


  1. First impressions. That phrase leaped out at me from this post. (I found you through Karen G's blog, BTW.) I see you live in Chicago. Many times I have been to Naperville where my beloved younger sister lived. She recently passed away, just a year and a half after her husband. Nostalgia kicked it when I read your profile. So now I'm meeting you because of it.

  2. Great post--those are hilariously inane questions. And great descriptions of douchebaggery! (isn't that an awesome word, douchebaggery?)

  3. Maybe he looked at my picture and thought, "Oh, so that's what she looks like when I'm sober? Forget it."

    That was so funny. I had to keep myself from laughing aloud at my kids' Taekwondo lesson.

    Those speed dating things always sounded like a nightmare to me.

    Want to hear the funniest book by its cover story? (At least to me.) My husband bought a book last week. He brought it home, opened it, and found out that it began on page 19!!!!!! I asked, "Didn't you bother to open it? Didn't you read the first line?" Turns out that it was in the Bargain Books section and the back sounded good. He added that he opened up to a random page and read a couple of lines. We had to go back and exchange it. Two more copies were missing first pages. He bought a copy that began on page one.

  4. Hi Ann,
    I'm sorry about your sister and her husband. My condolences.
    But thanks for reading by my blog. Isn't it great that blogging not only gives us the opportunity to write but also to meet other people?

    Hi Sadako,
    Douchebaggery is a great word! I'll have to put it away in my file so I can use it later ....:)

    Hi Theresa,
    What happened to your husband and those books was funny! I wonder if people kept ripping out the first pages because they liked them so much, like some people do with magazine articles. Only I don't get why they'd do that since they'd miss out on the whole book. Maybe a bookseller caught them before they had a chance to rip out the other pages :).

  5. I met my husband through online dating! It's a slightly bizarre thing, because you form an impression of the person in your head before you meet them, then you have to reconcile the two. Still, it worked for us...

  6. Hi Talli,
    That's great that online dating worked for you and your husband! It seems like online daters really are more successful at making good matches than speed daters. I did try online dating a few months ago, but then I took a break from it for several months because I was spending all my free time studying for my preliminary exam. But I'm going to try again...