Two views: ‘Hello, Good Lookin’—all 35 of you!

Two views: ‘Hello, Good Lookin’—all 35 of you!

By Christyn Rittenhouse

Editor’s Note: Two local ladies recently went to Madison and came back with a new dating formula. Here are their views.

View No. 1

It may not be spring, but love is in the air … at least it was one evening last month in Madison. Looking for Mr. (or Ms.) Right? Mr. Maybe? … Mr. Right Now? Judging by all the personal ads, Internet dating services and self-help books on how to find your true soul mate in the relationship section at Barnes and Noble, I’m not the only single looking for love. What’s left to try? I’ve done the singles book club, singles dances, singles picnic, networking, blind date set-ups by well-meaning neighbors and friends, and even Logli’s on a Monday night. I like the grocery store idea the best, but the only men I’ve gone home with after shopping were Ben and Jerry. So, when I got a flyer on my car during an art fair in Madison for the “Date Express,” it felt like a sign. What is Date Express, you ask? Think of having 35 dates in one night. It was like five years of flirting condensed into one evening. A time saver, if nothing else.

Date Express, or “speed dating,” as I like to call it, stems from a Jewish tradition. This fine custom was invented probably by some wise rabbi to help the young folks meet and marry within their faith. I personally would just like to have something to do on any given Saturday night. The premise is, (approximately) 35 men, 35 women, one night. Here’s how it’s done. The woman sits at her own table, poised with a note pad, a few questions on deck, and her best “come hither” look. Each person is donned with a name tag revealing his or her alias name and a number (just in case there are two Natashas). The alias is a nice touch; this way, no one gets any info on you unless you want them to. So, in my case, I, Maggie, 24, sit across from John, 24. I mark down his name on the appropriate line, which has space for notes (very important for later recall) and a yes and no column. If we both mark “yes” after our three-minute interview, then the company sends us each other’s e-mail address. They can sit back with a smile and say, “Ah, my work here is done.”

Three minutes. Three minutes to decide if you want this complete stranger sitting across from you to have your precious e-mail address. Three minutes is not a lot of time … or sometimes it’s an eternity, depending. It’s not as scary as it sounds. Laura Martin, the owner of Date Express, is so well organized, you can hardly tell all the work that goes into the logistics of such a huge task. She is also great at creating an open and fun environment. In addition, since she’s not some big corporation, she’s very open to input and has a very strong vested interest to ensure that her guests have the best time as possible. In fact, she’s already switched to five minutes per round due to popular demand.

I, for one, had a great time. It felt like an adventure. It felt exciting. And yes, it felt a little scary—until it all started. I learned a lot about myself that evening and met a lot of interesting people. Initially, things started off a little slow for me. I had a long string of “Nos”—nine, in fact. Here are some of the reasons I said “no.”

1) He talked to my chest, not my eyes.

2) Lives with his mother.

3) Lives with his (ex) girlfriend.

4) Direct quote, “I kill for a living”—I don’t care if he is in the military—he scared me. I was starting to feel like Ally McBeal. Then, kablam—good-looking, intriguing men everywhere.

In the end, I said “yes” to 11 men and got seven matches. The four that said “no” to me weren’t that much of a disappointment, to be honest; funny how that works. I’m not sure if I can articulate why I said “yes” to them—a look, a smile, a connection, a shared laugh, chemistry. My advice: trust your instinct.

By the end of the night, my brain hurt. My jaws ached from smiling and talking. It was exhausting. Exhausting but great fun, and inspiring. Yes, there are other single people my age out there—not just single, but interesting, intelligent, good-looking, adventurous men and women. I am not an island.

So, as Lori and I drove back to Rockford, I thought, that was definitely worth $30, an hour drive, and a stomach full of nervous butterflies. Not interested in a long-distance relationship? Well, you may be in luck. Laura Martin is considering crossing the border with her Cupid’s arrow, that is, if Rockford is curious enough. So what do you say, Rockford? Are you curious?

If so, please contact Laura Martin at

View No. 2

By Lori Berg

I had made a resolution to spend the summer “Sans Male.” No men, no dates, no flirtations; nothing “Y” chromosome-tainted at all. Well, I do admit this decision was largely prompted by the lack of available men I’ve encountered. But I rationalized; such a resolution would give me ownership of the situation.

Then my friend Christyn called. Would I like to join her on a trip to Madison to experience “speed-dating”? I recalled an episode of Frasier that dealt with the subject (it wasn’t pretty), but I figured Christyn is a fun person, and Madison would be a great road trip. I calculated the likelihood of actually meeting someone with mutual interests was nil, so my summer’s resolution was quite safe.

Before we left, Christyn and I shared our fears of what may be in store for us. Total rejection. A room full of Britney Spears clones. A room full of Britney clones with no men. Or a room full of turtle men. “No matter what happens, it’s an experience,” said my inner voice. Outwardly, I encouraged an extensive shopping excursion on the State Street Mall, hoping my partner in speed dating would lose track of time.

Christyn, ever the prompt one, got us to the bar/restaurant with plenty of time to indulge in the taco bar that was part of the $30 package. (Men and a meal, woo-hoo, such a bargain.) The taco bar was … well, have you experienced the taco bar at the Irish Rose on Tuesdays? This wasn’t like that (I’ll let you figure it out).

The overall atmosphere was comfortable. The restaurant/bar was open and airy, with a tinge of country decor. The line dancing lessons were just starting. All of the date-ees were gathered around the bar, participating in conversation. One could not say too many good things about the Packers or the Badgers. Completing the scene was the bar manager, who seemed intent on making good with a few of the women himself. He made the usual sexual innuendo jokes, and I think by night’s conclusion, he had won over a few of the ladies.

At the appropriate time, we were asked to go to a private party room where there were about 40 tables set up with numbers. It was at this time the line dancing was gaining in appeal to me. I found my table, assumed my alias, “Lauren,” and started with the interegation … er, interviews. There were some men with whom I would have liked to have had more than the 3 1/2 minutes. With a few, I was grateful it wasn’t a second longer.

It was difficult deciding how to vote, yes or no. Many, I concluded, would be great friends but nothing more. A few I was interested in, and several I knew that with the distance, a relationship of any type would not work. Out of the 35 men, I finally said “yes” to nine men—nine men I would like to get to know better. Nine men I could imagine carrying on an extended, intelligible, not just the superficialities, conversation. And, of those nine, seven said “yes” to me. That was a nice feeling.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. My head hurt, and my adrenaline was depleted in preparation for the day. I was happy I had gone. I was happier it was over. And I was ecstatic that Christyn was driving.

I did go on a couple of real dates. After winding my way through the maze of men, I found myself with one of the gents in a maze of corn, lit by the moon and glow-in-the-dark armbands. The evening started with his presentation of ’70s love songs he had burned onto a CD. Nothing says love better than, “La,La, La, La, La… La, La, La, La, La… Lovvvving youuu…” The date ended with me removing his arm from my waist.

Now that summer is over, my fall resolution is to watch more Frasier, to avoid Britney clones, to stick with the Irish Rose when dealing with taco bars, and to wait patiently for La, La, La, La, La Love.

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