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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2002

Finding a match in seven minutes in 'speed dating'

By Tanya Bricking
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dee Dee DeSoto organized the speed-dating event held at Lanai & Augie's Ukulele Cafe.

Photos by Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Maybe tucking breath mints in my purse before I left home was a little too optimistic.

Finding a match at speed dating isn't exactly a snap, even with fresh breath.

Speed dating, the musical-chairs matchmaking phenomenon that pairs strangers to chat for seven minutes before changing partners, has come to Hawai'i.

Last week's singles party, put on by Kindred Hearts Hawaii, wasn't the speed dating I had heard about in other big cities.

There was no danger of running out of breath mints between conversations. This game offered only three choices of possible dates.

It wasn't the speed dating popularized on HBO's "Sex and the City," where Miranda bored a slew of speed daters by telling them she was a lawyer, then got a date when she changed her story with a lie about being a flight attendant.

It wasn't the Chicago version, where my friend met 32 men in a succession of three-minute conversations, then had four dates in a week, narrowed the field to two and just went to Paris with the one she's been seeing exclusively for three months.

I wasn't counting on a miracle. I just thought the playing field would be larger than three.

That's OK. Trends arrive slowly here. Hawai'i still has time to get the hang of speed dating.

Speed dating in Hawai'i is, if nothing else, entertaining.

Watching people looking for love rides a fine line between humor and sadness.

The game, held at Lanai & Augie's Ukulele Cafe/Cigar Emporium, hidden in a Waimalu shopping center, put three tables of contestants up front, almost on stage for each round of the dating game. About 20 other bar patrons (two men for every woman) and game players awaiting their turns watched in amusement.

Vanessa Eayre and Brady Levander chat for seven minutes before moving on.
There was "the hand holder," a speed-dating contestant who met his potential partners by refusing to let go of their handshakes. He tried to be touchy-feeling for all seven minutes. (And the minute counter kept losing track of time. Seven minutes sometimes turned into 10.) The hand holder's Bachelorette No. 3 kept her hands tucked under her arms and avoided his love connection altogether.

Then there was the woman my friends and I came to call "Elaine." She had hair like Elaine from "Seinfeld" and danced like Elaine, too. She seemed to be trying too hard, as if she had a checklist she was going through with the men in the room, and nobody was measuring up.

Maybe it seemed to her that my writing about this made a mockery of it. I didn't realize how serious it was for her until we had a very "Seinfeld" moment in the bathroom that was a little less funny the more I thought about it. She was retouching her makeup and talking about her frustration over still being single in her 40s. She knew I was there as a journalist.

"This is your job," she said, "but this is my life."

Then came my turn to take the hot seat, and the whole thing started to seem funny again. This is how I was going to meet Mr. Right? I didn't think so.

Bachelor No. 1 looked like Al Bundy from "Married ... With Children." He told me he was an aspiring writer and wanted to work for my newspaper. I was forced to rule him out immediately.

The second contestant was a musician with the Honolulu Symphony. Our conversation was going all right until I told him I had seen a symphony performance recently, but when he asked which one, I couldn't remember. Even worse, I told him I was a reporter. He seemed less than pleased that my research was not purely personal.

Then there was Bachelor No. 3, a 48-year-old guy who told me the last time he tried speed dating, a woman he was talking to during the game decided to stand up and leave before their seven minutes were up. "That was a little embarrassing," he said.

Charlie (last name withheld) holds Lyn Martin's hands during their brief conversation.
Every second counts

That's the beauty of speed dating. If at first you don't succeed, there's always next time.

My best friend from high school, a date-worthy pediatrician who tried speed dating unsuccessfully this week in Portland, Ore., said it's kind of like discount shopping. Sometimes you find something perfect. Other times, zilch.

I'm not knocking the system. With a little organizational fine-tuning and a larger dating pool, it could work.

"If anything, I think speed dating helps break the ice," said Ken Tarumoto, 43, who won a 27-inch color television as a door prize at one singles night and plans to keep coming back until he finds what he's really looking for.

His friend, Ernest Hong, my Bachelor No. 3, said he'll keep trying, as well.

By the end of last week's singles party, there were free shots flowing from the bar. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" boomed from the speakers. Elaine was on the dance floor with a newfound partner.

Dee Dee DeSoto, who served as organizer, made speed-dating matches with a technique slightly more sophisticated than junior-high note passing. Contestants handed her little slips of paper with the name of the person they wanted to date. She gave away four dinners and said there were more than four matches.

I didn't make any matches with my round of speed daters. However, I did exchange numbers with a cute guy who was not a contestant.

But that's another story.

Reach Tanya Bricking at tbricking@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8026.