My outlook on dating is the same as my outlook on peas: Tried it out a couple times and decided it’s not for me. Now, I spend my time deflecting cries of, “That’s because you haven’t tried MY peas,” or “the RIGHT peas,” and “They’re good for you.”
Anyway, the last foray into speed dating landed me across from a friend’s newly divorced dad. I pretended to be deeply engrossed in the tablecloth, purveying it like an overzealous art student. “Yeah,” I’d grunt in agreement, as he told me about his vacation in California, and I contemplated the use of light and perspective in the ornamental pineapple embroidery.
Fortunately, kitschy décor is nowhere to be seen at Moana Bakery and Café in Paia, which held a speed-dating event on Monday, Aug. 20. The walls are tastefully bare and the ghost of fresh-baked bread hangs in the air. Several people are clustered at the bar. I’m in high school again, teetering on the verge of being picked last in P.E. But instead of dodge balls, ridiculously good-looking people are tucking in their business cards and throwing words like, “engineering,” “business start-up,” and the names of places you need a passport to get into.
Instead of the back of the class, I take a seat at the bar. I’m approaching this like the tests I forgot to study for: Easy questions first, namely, true or false. I ask for water and the guy next to me notices.
“You’re not ordering drinks?” he asks. “Why not? I mean, that’s why we’re here right?”
I laugh and agree, but he presses on. I nickname my new classmate Hopefully Intoxicated and smell the drink on his breath as he pulls closer.
“You’re not under 21, are you?” Hopefully asks.
“Haha! I’m way older than 21.” True.
“Not a recovering alcoholic or anything? I mean, five years clean or something? Just tell me if I’m asking too many questions or I’m offending you or anything.”
False, but suddenly I’m recovering from feeling offended. I drink my water like it’s alcohol.
“I’ve read about this theory, where you have to go on an average of seven dates, before you find the one,” HI says. “You know, that means some people only need to go on three, other people need to go on 14. I haven’t found my number yet, y’know?”
I glance around the room, and do some calculations. Assuming speed dating is hetero-normative, HI might find out tonight. The turn-out isn’t huge, but the crowd is young and attractive, the food is delicious, and after listening to how HI spent the last week in Sonoma, CA and how he almost missed speed dating to go on an impromptu inter-island cruise, I hypothesize the drink must be strong.
“I’m done being damaged,” he says. “I mean, I did the whole bar scene and I haven’t really embraced the whole being single thing. But when you’re at the bars, people are doing their thing, and people just give their number and you give your number, and you’re not really expecting anything…”
“Why would you give your number to someone you don’t want to?” I ask.
“It’s just a thing, you know? Everyone’s doing their thing. This one girl gave me her number, and it was like, are we really gonna call each other? Or maybe it’s inappropriate, like at work. Do you have any secret work crushes?”
“Haha. No. I don’t like anyone at work. And I’m not the kind of person to have secret crushes.” True.
Eventually, we move from the bar to a communal table, where beautiful women are exchanging business ideas. They’re a torrent of topics, ranging from work, travel, life. I resist the urge take notes. Soon enough, the host explains the rules. Guys rotate seats, and everyone has a few minutes to get to know each other. When time’s up, a bell chimes and the next date begins. I am all first-day-of-school jitters.
In front of me is a dark-haired twenty-something, who can only be described as debonair. After I hear his light German accent, I decide he’s a secret agent.
“What’s your favorite animal?” I ask.
“When I was little, I had a stuffed toy elephant. I guess I like elephants.”
“I like squids.” True.
“What? What is that? My English is. . .”
“Y’know, squids. Like an octopus, except they’ve got 10 tentacle-things,” I steeple my fingers, “They kinda look like this.”
“Uhh. . .” The bell goes off, and he stands to leave.
“They make calamari out of them,” I call out after him.
The gentleman across the table from me is now a gorgeous college student, who smiles with his eyes.
“So, what’re you doing here?”
I freeze and try to figure out exactly what he means. It’s a bit early in the night to be getting existential so I flounder for safer ground.
“What do you mean? Like, life? Or Maui? Or…?” My voice must be taking a frantic edge, since the smile is draining from his eyes. Apparently, the question wasn’t multiple choice.
“Oh, I got an email.” True.
The next fellow is so charming I wonder if we’ve met before. His laughter is contagious.
“What’s your favorite color?” I ask the Charming Fellow.
“I recently went to the Big Island, and was on a black sand beach there. While I was on that beach, I saw this wave, and there were more shades of blue on that wave than I have ever seen in my life. I can’t pick a specific shade, but the blues on that wave would have to be my favorite color.”
“That’s a good answer.” True.
HI is now across the table from me, grinning. In this light, he could be considered handsome, in a sunburned way.
“What’s your favorite word?” I ask.
“It would have to be ‘surf,’” Charming says. “I love to surf.”
“Oh, what kind do you like? Short, long, body…”
“I do it all! Depends on what waves are rippable. Shortboard if I wanna go fast, I do some longboarding, body-surfing, even some boogie boarding. Last Sunday I was in Oahu, for the Pipe Masters.”
Is this a trick question? Unless he’s well-versed in time travel, Billabong’s Banzai Pipeline Masters isn’t until December. Coupled with the use of boogie boarding to describe body boarding (unacceptable in certain circles), I have a complete flashback to high school and can’t wait for the bell to ring. But, like high school, it just won’t end.
“What about you? What’s your favorite word?”
“Proletariat,” I say, which is true. “It’s round in front, then spiky.”
“You could use that word without really knowing what it means. Like, ‘That’s proletariat,’ or ‘How proletariat.’”
“I’m gonna hafta look that up in my dictionary.”
“You should.” The bell rings, and class is dismissed.
Not much later, I was asked, “What’s the bravest thing you’ve done?”
The event was over and someone’s friend has been coerced to the table, just to talk. He’s got well-defined facial features and pauses before answering.
“I was in Costa Rica this summer and went cliff-diving,” he says. “The people in front of us had to turn back. It was pretty scary. You?”
Unprepared for an essay question, I reply with a lame, “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that exciting.”
“What about the time you were in Mexico?” the secret agent asks from nearby.
This is false. Maybe he has me confused with someone else. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Mexico. Wait, I can’t remember. Maybe. I’ll come back to this one, later.
Extra Credit: On a scale of 1-10 (One being the least, 10 being complete mortification), how awkward would you rate your speed dating experience?
Four. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, being at Moana Bakery and Café is always a joy, and I met people I would actually hang out with. Was it such a wonderful, breakthrough experience that I would reconsider my stance on dating? Let’s just say, although I love fried rice, I’m still going to pick the peas out.