This has been a long weekend, but I thought I’d get this out of the way. The overall experience for me at the NY Comic Con Sci-Fi Speed Dating ended up being fun and interesting with a few elements I found problematic. Going in on the final day of the convention, I didn’t feel any anxiety or pressure, mostly because I had this moment of clarity after seeing us separated into two lines of men and women as we waited to enter the room. The surreal, eighth-grade-dance moment just made me want to giggle. And, of course, since it was the last day, I wouldn’t have had any awkward run-ins if this program had gone sour.
The women entered first to be seated, and then the men came in to fill in the seats opposite them. I found myself sitting across from a lineup of ‘Sailor Scouts’ from the ‘Sailor Moon’ anime series, which made ME, in my plain burgundy T-shirt, appear out of place. The women were to rotate over a seat every three minutes until time was up, everyone marking down the assigned number badge of the persons you ended up connecting with.
After all was said and done, I didn’t make a connection from the numbers I put down versus the ladies who selected me, but that wasn’t all that disheartening. Since every woman I met during quick, three-minute drills seemed genuinely interesting from their geeky interests, it was disappointing to keep rotating in new people when it felt like, even without any discernible “romantic” attraction, I felt I could chat and listen to these individuals for much longer. No, I don’t mean I could have rambled on like I usually do. I found scientists, engineers, culinary students and graphic designers among the women I met, each of whom I could have listened to for at least more than three minutes.
Also, I have to admit that the “speed” in speed dating was definitely a drawback for someone like myself. I can do an elevator pitch, but apparently I don’t receive them well. I found myself scrambling, as another woman would sit down in front of me, to decide if I should put down the previous person’s number on my index card while in the middle of starting over with an entirely new conversation. It should also be noted, I’m not good with most things that involve “numbers” and “speed”.
- Aside from one other woman who left (discussed in ‘Problems’ below), two other women left early to make another panel which was somewhat rude, leaving some gaps in the rotation. The schedule clearly said two hours, ladies! Bill Shatner can wait!
- An accusation that someone, left anonymous by the host, in the room wasn’t “single” was made. This took up some time, because the host was giving the individual a chance to confess by leaving. I’m not sure what the host could have done anyway since there hadn’t been any kind of vetting before the event started.
Anyway, the part of actually meeting new people felt good, and most of the participants seemed to be taking it with humor and a general “we’re all in this together” vibe. And of course, it was somewhat ego-boosting to know, even if I didn’t return the endorsements (possibly because of my faulty “scoring”), that a few women had selected me on my numbered sheet at the end.
There were a few things about the event that made me feel a little uncomfortable. First, since the age limit was 18, the group of Sailor Scouts and their other friend dressed as an anime character, turned out to be half my age. Not that age is an all-important factor among consenting adults, when they’re dressed up to look even YOUNGER in Japanese fantasy school girl outfits, I really couldn’t escape the creepiness factor. They were very nice young women, and I chatted amiably with them. But, I still didn’t feel completely at ease with the conversations.
Also, while I understand the host was trying to appeal to the nerdy (and sometimes tense) room of folks, some of his jokes were off-putting, such as one about forcibly sodomizing a dude with a replica lightsaber. He did provide warning, but at least one woman apparently left because of something he said. To the host’s credit, he apologized to her when she did go, and stated that he’d be removing whatever offending joke it was from his bag o’ tricks, but being that this was a “geek” event, it still meant that a lot of gender stereotype cracks one might have found in a generic standup routine went unchallenged. I definitely would like to have just witnessed the LGBT sessions (a friend of mine noted that the transgender part of the acronym is problematic since gender doesn’t define sexuality, and I happen to agree) to see where his brand of humor went.
In fact, that was part of the “prep” as well before the dudes all went in. Volunteers providing tips that sounded far too much like video game instructions. Even the eye-rollingly ridiculous three sentence response to a woman’s displeasure (You’re right. I’m wrong. I’m sorry) made it into this bit. This made me irritated enough to shout down the line, “treat them like humans, and you should do fine!”
Adding to this atmosphere of casual stereotyping was the sponsor itself, Playboy, selling their fragrance line for “him and her”. Half the room had been set up as a photo studio for people who wanted to get a picture taken with a Playboy bunny. I don’t find this that awful in itself, and I understand sponsors make events like this happen at all, but during the “selecting” period, they had already begun shooting, which was weird and added to the rushed feeling I felt at the end. Of course, it doesn’t need to be spelled out that the photo op thing was mostly for “him”.
Also, one douchey guy sitting next to me, who felt the need to add his own riff to the host’s attempts at keeping everyone loose during the process, was “discussing”, in a crude manner, the Sailor Scout cosplayers with some other guys outside the room after the men were done. So there was that.
Despite the issues I felt that were present, I had a good time. Would I recommend it to fellow nerdlingers looking for a date? If you’re not flummoxed by having rapid fire conversations, you could do worse I suppose. The themed nature of the “Sci-Fi” Speed Dating certainly works in its favor at NY Comic Con. Besides, the people you would meet are likely people you wouldn’t get to interact with at the convention on a normal basis, so if you do it, value the experience of just practicing conversations with your fellow human beings who obsess over pop culture.