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Speed Dating at the Strand: The Sequel

February 9, 2013

On Thursday night, I went to Speed Dating at the Strand.

For a wonder, there were an equal number of women and men. Unlike last year. I know one of the things they did to make this happen was they lowered the price of the guys’ tickets the week before. I’m pretty sure a couple of guys in the mix worked with the organizers, either Gaggle, the site organizing it (as one guy I talked to put it— are we sure that’s a good name for a dating site? Gaggles are collectives of geese! Geese are mean!). I also really like the mental image of Strand employees prowling through the stacks and collaring unsuspecting guys, luring them upstairs to make up the numbers.

Before things got going, there was a chance to meander around and mingle, check out the rare books, and nibble on cupcakes and fancy gourmet soft pretzels- I should have eaten one of the interesting pretzels, but I was afraid of getting crumbs all over the place. Definitely better quality, and better idea of eats than last year- last year, I remember I ate a bunch of pieces of chocolate, so I was indecently hyper by the end.

There was a row of chairs, face to face, about a distance where your knees wouldn’t actually touch, snaking its way through the rare book room. Given the fact that the way speed dating works is you write down names and numbers of people as you go, and some notes besides, maybe, we didn’t have a table to write on. So that got awkward, quickly. Some people had brought books, so they could lean on those. Or women leaned on their bags to write things. I wish there had been a table.

It was also really, really loud once people got talking all at once, each trying to cram a lot of talking into two minutes. Sometimes, I couldn’t hear what people were saying- and so we had to lean close. This might have been intentional. It was about two minutes, and then they called time, and it was time for the ladies to move. The one I went to last year, the guys were the ones who switched seats. Wonder how they decide who moves. I’d have preferred to stay seated, and I think it would have been more logical to have women stay seated. We have purses to juggle.

Bringing a notebook is key. They take your sheet where you write down people’s names- so it’s handy to have backup notes. I only really wrote down book titles- the lack of table meant guys could see what I was writing, so it’s not like I was going to write “has glasses, and is handsome, but doesn’t read fiction!” in front of the guy. I feel like everyone I met was a blur. So many people in 2-minute increments. We will see what comes of it.

I was definitely pleased with the night. As one guy put it- “sometimes the two minutes drags, sometimes it’s really fast.” On the whole, it felt really fast for me. Speed dating appeals to me generally as a concept. And even more so in the Strand, where I like the idea of a bunch of book-loving single people getting together and talking about books. It does make a good opener “Hi! What’s your favorite book?” Though- the number of times I asked that, and guys looked blank surprised me… I’d have thought that, going to the Strand to speed date, they’d have that answer ready.

Variations on bookish questions included:

“What was the last book you read?”

“What was the last book you hated?” My usual go-to for book hatred is The Catcher in the Rye, but the last book I hated? The only one I could come up with was one of my library science texts. The Intellectual Foundation of Information Organization. Which was handy, as it brought up the whole library science grad school thing.

I’m really proud to say “I’m in school for library science, to be a librarian.” No matter how school goes… that never gets old. Also, I’m way overdue some blogging about how the classes are going- I don’t think I’ve blogged since the first of the year. Yikes.

One guy took me by surprise: “What was the last time something you watched or read made you cry?” Really interesting question. I was a little sheepish about my answer: the Super Bowl commercial saluting the troops. Totally got to me. But fortunately, the guy who asked didn’t think I was completely weird. I think.

Anyway- speed dating. I met a whole range of people- including some of the women there, as before. I was glad that there was some open time to chat before and after, so I could get even more book recommendations, and interesting conversations.

Good idea for any sort of speed dating: Wear a distinctive piece of jewelry or a scarf in a great color. There were a few girls I talked to after, who said key accessories had gotten compliments.  Good idea for bookish speed dating: wear a necklace in the shape of a Scrabble tile. I have a letter E. It got plenty of comments, and a few stories of playing Scrabble. Always a god sign.

I met two guys who were roommates. I’m pretty sure they hit it off with two girls who were also roommates. The sitcom writes itself.

I asked one guy about books and authors he just couldn’t get into. He said I shouldn’t read Murukami, but that his is an unpopular opinion, since a lot of women love his novels. I’ve never read anything by Murukami. Then again, this was advice from a huge fan of Thomas Pynchon– so maybe he’s not an ideal person to recommend books to me.

Books that came up in conversation that I added to my to-read list:

A Prayer for Owen Meany- John Irving.

The World According to Garp

Heart of Darkness- Joseph Conrad

New York Diaries It’s a collection of diaries about New York from 1609 to 2009. How cool does that sound?

a book called Why Do Men Have Nipples?  which I’d read for the title alone. Also, yay, pop science!

The Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde

The Element- Sir Ken Robinson- a book about finding your passion. Possibly useful.

The Signal and the Noise- Nate Silver. This looks interesting- digging into big data and human nature. But I think I know better than to read this during the semester.

Books that I do not think I will read

House of Leaves- Mark Danielewski. I looked at Mike’s copy and the weird arrangement of text made my head hurt.

The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht. Seems intense in a way I’m not up for. Maybe sometime.

The General and His Labyrinth- Gabriel Garcia Lorca.

And that was my evening. It was tremendous fun. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of the night’s frantic, two-minute conversations.

I would definitely look forward to another night of speed dating. But only if it were somehow book related, or related to wordiness, I think. I wish the Strand would do an event at some other time of year, to cut the tie to Valentine’s Day, because I’m pretty sure Valentine’s Day makes everything just a little weirder.

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