© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2003
Age creeps up on you slowly. One day you realize that you either need glasses or longer arms in order to read. Another time you find yourself saying, "my hearing is fine, I just wish everybody would stop mumbling!"
And then you hit the wall.
You are too old for speed-dating.
That is the response another, er, mature, staffer and I had when we read that Gulf View Square mall will have two speed dating events Tuesday and Wednesday -- for people between ages 21 and 40.
Speed dating is a phenomenon that will probably do for the new millennium what leisure suits did for the 1970s (To wit: not much.). You get to know prospective dates through a whirlwind of three-minute sessions with women sitting at tables with an assigned letter and men (as usual, my female friend laments, I'm sure) picking a woman to sit and talk with. After three minutes a whistle blows and the men buzz off to the next flower. Each participant in the conversation discreetly marks on a scorecard either "yes" or "no."
With 20 men and 20 women competing in a one-hour session, everyone gets to meet 20 potential dates. Scorecards are compared and, in cases where the "yes" boxes match up, those participants will get an e-mail with the match's name and e-mail address.
Pretty good deal for anyone staring a dateless Valentine's Day in the face and willing to take a flier on someone they talked to for three minutes in a mall.
I, with my first wedding anniversary coming up, am of course out of the dating game, but memories of singlehood are fresh enough in what's left of my brain to join my equally creaky co-worker in yelling, "Hey, what about us?"
The Gulf View Square event will host prospective daters from ages 21-29 on Tuesday and from 30-40 on Wednesday. (Note: Preregistration is required, and that closed Friday.)
I'm still in trouble with some of the mall folks at Gulf View for making fun of their new decor in 1999, and I didn't want to pick on them unnecessarily so I called marketing director Kelly Lowrey to ask about the speed dating's age categories and why Gulf View was omitting a group that forms a substantial part of its target demographic.
"We only had time available for two events, so we had to pick and we had to keep the ages close enough so that we didn't wind up with 25-year-olds talking to 65-year-olds," she said, adding, "but if the event catches on we would probably do it again and include other ages."
The remark about the 25-65 thing ruffled my few remaining feathers.
"Oh yeah?" I wanted to say. "And what's wrong with that?"
But then I recalled that before I remarried I dated a woman 28 years my junior and remembered specifically what was wrong with that, at least for me ... and her.
You can only stand so many blank stares when you mention Jack Paar.
I also know better than to make fun of the three-minute evaluation process. Too many of my friends would be quick to remind me that I have spent less time than that contemplating marriages. They would, of course, be wrong. Sometimes I spent days making up my mind.
True enough, a "whirlwind" process might take just a teeny bit longer for us old folks. Sometimes it takes me two or three tries to get out of a chair, and I now find that I can accomplish what used to require drugs and alcohol by simply standing up too fast. For people with hearing like mine, conversations might take a little longer to allow for multiple repetitions.
Large-print check boxes on the YES and NO boxes would probably help and the whole speed-dating thing might move along more quickly if they held the event in front of the organ store so somebody could play the Baby Elephant Walk while we changed chairs.
Actually, it's a relief to be beyond that entire dating thing, regardless of age, and I salute Gulf View for giving love, well, at least young love, a chance.
Maybe one of the three-minute courtships will turn into a quickie wedding at Gulf View some time soon.
The bride and groom can dance to the Minute Waltz, grab a fast-food lunch at the food court and then spend a weekend honeymoon in New Port Richey, to save travel time.