Like ’em, hate ’em, it’s over in five

Date number one: O. I try to delay the speed of my racing heart with a glass of red wine.

Date number one: O. I try to delay the speed of my racing heart with a glass of red wine.

O plops her beer down and takes her seat on the opposite side of the table strewn with chocolate hearts wrapped in red foil. Beyoncé’s Single Ladies serendipitously streams from the speakers. Attempted confidence radiation has subdued my nerves, for now. But when I try to flirt by telling O she has a pretty name, I make a stark realization: O is the name of a publicist I’ve worked with before. My first of the night’s 25 dates is with a girl I already know.

Speed dating is one of several matchmaking services offered by Single in the City, the dating company founded by Laura Bilotta and Melissa Seifert. The concept is simple: Spend five minutes each with 25 people in one night.

If a pair records feeling a romantic connection, they receive one another’s contact information to take things to the next level. Or, as fellow speed dater Michael describes, “It’s like blind dating on crack.”

To organize such an event, Seifert says, planning and media experience help, but real learning comes from getting your hands dirty.

“There are a lot of careers out there where you get more career knowledge by being involved in something than by (earning) a degree in that area. It’s definitely something you learn as you go.”

Date number two: P. She’s from Finland, so I try to impress her with my embarrassingly limited Finnish vocabulary: Porkkana and koira, which translate to carrot and dog. The random selection makes her laugh. I place a check mark beside P.

“A first impression is what speed dating is all about,” says Seifert. But while some critics would say it’s nothing more than forced encounters to coerce love, Seifert disagrees. “It is spontaneous!” she says.

“There has to be a chemistry between two people and chemistry is always spontaneous. It’s never forced.”

Date number nine: W. Despite donning the striking blue number that drew me to her, I must force a smile when W proclaims her greatest love is volleyball. I hate sports. Still, I feign interest and say I enjoy playing tennis, though I haven’t actually played in at least a year. Behind our grins, we silently agree it’s a deal breaker.

While not all speed dates guarantee a connection, Seifert has witnessed success. Past speed daters have written to her indicating they developed a long-term relationship or even got married. “Getting to see people find the person they’ve been waiting for their whole life and hearing about it — that’s really the best part,” says Seifert. “That’s the reward.”

My reward? 48 hours later, I receive an email: Three matches out of four ladies I marked having connections with.

We took things fast at first. Now it’s up to me to slow things down.

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