Seven Minutes of Play & Plato

Everything I do is marked by momentum. Not always with precision – but most definitely with speed. I walk fast, I eat quickly, I write this blog in a half hour, I live by snap decisions, I make up my mind instantly, I change it just as easily, I fall in love without holding back, and I almost always kiss on the first date.

So when I was offered a chance to try speed dating, it seemed like a natural progression for a gal who’s always been on the go. With strict instructions from my single female co-workers to take detailed notes in case they wanted to take this type of dating for a spin – I headed to a little pub in midtown east right after work.

Truth be told – while this was my first experience going on seven severely short dates in one evening, the name of this game wasn’t just about going quickly, but having fun. After all, it was professionally titled ImprovDating – which really, if you ask me, is what it is all about anyways. Isn’t dating one large improvisation we happen to act out for years until we find someone who lets us play the most difficult character of all…ourselves?

The evening began with pretzels and brainteasers, followed by warm up exercises to get us all a little more comfortable with the strangers we would soon be chatting with. As the three wildly energetic organizers prepared us for the rotating dates, one of them, who I’ll call Mr. Plato, quoted the philosopher from which he received his name:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Before I started playing ring-around-the-singles with the rest of the fourteen 20 and 30-somethings in the group, I scribbled down those wise words for safe keeping. The rest of the evening, I charged myself with the mission of listening, being open and non-judgmental, and most of all – just enjoying the experience.

For far too long, with far too many men, I’ve been far too concerned with perfection. With finding a man who not only has his ducks-in-a-row and isn’t a quack, but also crosses off all of those things on my not-so-imaginary checklist. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to approach dates with the same preparation and strategic planning as I would an interview. I came with the goal of determining if I was a match with the man in question and I left with a definitive answer of interest or disinterest. I didn’t look back, I didn’t doubt my decision to let a dude go, and I most certainly never gave him the opportunity, if I found him not fitting my fancy, to even have a minute of fun instead of an hour of interrogation.

Now, however, because of this journey – I’ve learned to just let it go. Of course, I’m not settling for less than what I want or compromising my non-negotiables for the sake of not being part of the singles crowd, but I’ve stopped looking at dating as end-all-be-all and more like the-here-and-the-now. Mr. Plato also advised not to look for your future husband or wife in the faces we all carefully searched before the games began, but just consider if you’d like to chat with them for longer than seven minutes.

That under ten-minute span may not seem very long, but you’d be surprised how little you learn about a person and yet, how many laughs you can share when limited by time. Though I can’t remember all of their names, their professions, where they’re from, or any specifics – I do recall enjoying the improv challenges we were faced with. Though one guy had the unfortunate task of having to mirror my movements and another had to witness my poor artistic abilities, and another was asked to describe, in detail, what he would do with himself if he was a woman for a day – the whole two hours the group spent together, we spent it in high spirits. At the end of my rotating dates, I can’t say I was too interested in going out with anyone (my heart and hope is currently with Mr. Possibility, to be frank), I did find myself embracing the opposite of what had attracted me to the event in the first place.

Instead of speeding through a date to figure out the verdict to text your friends or call your mom with details, why not slow down, and discover the art of playing? Of looking at a person as a person, as someone to share an incredible moment with, even if it doesn’t mount into a lifetime of those moments.

There really is no need to determine a mate’s potential in the very first date, and perhaps that’s why speed dating is speeding up in cities around the world. Sometimes, all it takes to trigger a little play and a little healthy laughter is giving yourself the permission to play, as Plato suggested. To let go of what you think you want or even wanting anything at all. To look into the eyes of someone else for the sake of making eye contact, not for deciding if you see your future staring back at you. To not worry about what someone does because that’s not who they are; to not get too intense too soon because that’ll kill any sort of passion; and to not ask someone to put all their cards on the table right away because you most likely won’t do the same (and neither of you should).

While I’m not going to condone playing with the hearts of others for satisfaction, I will encourage a little more play and little less conversation. And if you haven’t already – check out a speed dating event in a place near you, it’s worth the time, the experience, and the seven minutes of play. And maybe, of Plato.

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