Excerpted from the New York Times bestseller MARRY HIM: THE CASE FOR SETTLING FOR MR. GOOD ENOUGH by Lori Gottlieb
I’d heard about speed dating for years, but this was my first attempt at actually sitting down with complete strangers for five minutes each before rating them on a scorecard. It may sound like an odd way of meeting mates, but what the format lacks in substance, I figured it would make up for in volume and efficiency.
The event I chose that Tuesday night was for singles forty to fifty years old. At 41, I could have signed up for the thirty-to-forty group – the speed dating company says there’s a one-year grace period – but I figured a guy my own age would be a better match for me.
As I got dressed for the event, I was kind of excited. After all, I’d get to meet ten new single men, which was a lot more than the zero single men I was meeting during a typical day of working from home. I thought it would be fun to “get out there” again, even if I didn’t find a romantic connection. How bad could it be?
A PLANE BROUGHT ME HERE
At 7 p.m., I arrived at a trendy restaurant near the beach where, in a private corner, two-top tables were arranged in rows. Ten women – seven of them appearing to be no older than 42 – were seated. Six of the women had a male counterpart seated across from them. That was the first surprise: There were only six available men for ten available women.
I checked out the six men. Surprise #2: All but one appeared to be older than fifty, and one guy looked so old that he bore a striking resemblance to my high school best friend’s father. (So much for the one-year grace period.) So there we were: seven early-40ish women, three late 40-ish women, and one mid-fortyish man, and five men well into their fifties. We were instructed to get to know the person seated across from us until we heard the bell, then the men would move one chair over to the next table.
The bell DINGED and it was time to begin.
Guy #1 seated across from me was Sam. He was bald and wearing a sport coat. We had just five minutes to chat but after the first minute, I wondered how I was going to make it through the next four. It started off innocently enough. “Are you from Los Angeles?” he asked. I smiled and said that, yes, I’m a native, and then asked where he was from. New York. “Oh,” I said, trying to make the best of the fact that I was sitting across from someone who looked like a grandpa. “So, what brought you to the west coast?”
“A plane,” he replied, barely containing his grin, as though he were the first person ever to have made this joke. I smiled weakly. There was a long pause.
“Actually, it’s a very long story,” he continued, despite the fact that this was “speed” dating. A simple, “I liked the weather” or “I moved out here for college” or “There was a job opportunity” would have sufficed. Instead, he told me about how he doesn’t get along with his family so he moved as far away from them as he could; how he couldn’t finish his Ph.D. because his dissertation advisor had a heart attack; how he tried to transfer schools but he didn’t get in; how he moved in with this woman that he thought he would marry, but then she left him for another guy; how he ended up working for a temp agency, and how that didn’t work out because… DING. It was time for him to move to the next table.
Guy #2 was Roger. Handsome in an older way, like Bill Clinton. After some small talk, Roger told me that he’d moved to Los Angeles in 1973. “Remember the gas shortage and waiting in all those long gas lines?” he asked. I was six, I wanted to say, but instead I smiled gamely and asked what he did for a living. He owned an employment agency but business was bad. He asked what I do, and I told him I’m a writer.
“Do you need a job?” he asked.
I thought he was kidding, so I said, “Not at the moment, but I’ll let you know if that changes. Maybe you can help me.”
He didn’t get the joke. “You shouldn’t wait until you’re between jobs to find something. You should look while the iron’s hot.”
“Thanks,” I said, humoring him. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Writers have it so easy,” he continued. “What do you do all day, hang out in your pajamas?”
“Um, not really,” I said.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“Do you watch Oprah every day? All the writers I work with – they don’t do anything.”
The bell DINGED. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Purchase here MARRY HIM: THE CASE FOR SETTLING FOR MR. GOOD ENOUGH Link to Lori Lori Gottlieb