It’s peculiar the things that will make your palms sweaty and give you a stomach-ache. Going to a Grindr hookup’s house at 2am on a Saturday night? No stress. Cruising the local park? Sign me up.
Speed dating at Carmen Jones during Pride? My IBS is playing up.
I drunkenly signed up for a bit of character development. Of course, I am a perpetually single gay in my mid-20s and at this stage I am ready to try anything. I dragged my flatmate along with me for emotional support, and because if I needed a man – he needed two.
Carmen Jones is a Spanish bar, on the iconic Karangahape Road in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, with a penchant for hosting queer events. If Carmen isn’t a gay bar now, she’s got a long history of gay experiences.
The night was hosted by an adorable well-dressed lesbian couple. Ah yes, rub it in our faces. If anyone knew anything about finding love and settling down though it was the WLW (women who love women). I resolved myself to letting my newly appointed sapphic fairy godparents take the reins of my love life for the night.
There was an electric feeling in the air as our hosts walked us through the proceedings for the night.
Half of us would remain in our seats while the rest of us switched between partners every 5 minutes, as dictated by the sound of a bell. There were some cards on the tables with prompts in case the well of conversation ran dry.
Simple enough. Be charming, fascinating, good luck and don’t fuck it up.
My first partner was a bit older than I would usually date on my own volition. Perfect, stepping right out of the comfort zone.
The chat was fine, nothing exciting apart from the rush of our situation.
“Have you ever done this before?”
“No, have you?”
All of the interactions for the night would include some variation of that exchange. We had all heard of speed dating, seen it on TV, or read about it. There were different motivations for being in the room, not all of us were looking for love but we were all excited and keen to meet new people.
I talked myself through a mixture of good, bad, and really bad dates. Pretty much the same as normal dating, just on speed (as the name suggests).
We’d been given a piece of paper to write down notes about our potential suitors. I tried to scribble down something about everyone I met like I was a judge on the X Factor.
Sam* - Funny, spilled his beer in a cute way.
Jamie* - Kinda capitalist vibe but giving daddy.
Patrick* - Didn’t make eye contact but it was probably because I had something in my teeth.
Jack* - Glad he told me I had something in my teeth.
It was interesting to meet other gay men outside of the typical tango of dating apps and dancefloor rendezvous. I found common ground with people I might’ve never had the chance to share a conversation with otherwise.
There was a patent respect and appreciation for each other’s company that to me felt less like an exercise in finding a mate and more like queer community building.
My foray into the world of speed dating didn’t lead to any more dates. We wrote down names of people we wanted to see again at the end of the night. If there were matches, we would get an email in a week. Out of the three, I had one match and neither of us ever contacted the other.
I’m grateful for the safe space that was created to nurture connections between queer people and I do hope more of these opportunities continue to arise for others.
But for me? I'll be dancing on my own (Robyn).