Traditional speed dating sounds a lot like an assembly line – the women sit at a long table, and the men rotate around them. It also seems a lot like sorority recruitment, with strained and scheduled interaction. To many, speed dating sounds daunting.
"I personally won't do it because I don't think its possible for me to just be attracted in a matter of couple minutes in such a setting," said Sang Park, a junior in Weinberg.
On February 9, about 40 Northwestern students defied the cold Evanston weather and NU’s frigid relationship culture for an hour of slightly awkward gathering at a campus speed dating event sponsored by Northwestern Sex Week. Wildcats gathered at the Celtic Knot to try their hand at making acquaintances with other dating hopefuls.
"It [wasn't] your traditional speed dating where you sit at a table and the man moves from table to table,” said co-chair for Northwestern Sex Week Amanda Mathers. “We thought that was a little too structured and awkward for what we were going for."
The event was not intended to compete with Valentine's Day but was close enough to tie in well with the day of romance. Adding to the ambiance of an evening out in mature style, The Aurelia Trio played for students who took time to relax, flirt, and buy drinks.
"A lot of people said, ‘How is that different than a party?’,” said Kelsey Sheridan, a co-chair for Northwestern Sex Week, “Everyone’s looking for a date, whereas at a party you don't know if they're single, or seeing someone, or just off the scene for a little while."
McCormick junior Carly Major attended the event after a few of her sorority sisters suggested going together.
“I didn't have plans and had just recently broken up with my boyfriend, and I thought, why not?” Major said. “I got a couple dates out of it, and it was just another way to meet people at Northwestern that you wouldn't meet through normal channels.”
Some students don’t believe speed dating could lead to anything.
"It definitely has the potential to spark interests, but I feel that it would be hard to see beyond the cover within that short amount of time allowed,” said Weinberg sophomore Christine Cho. “It is definitely a light-hearted and fun activity, but in terms of searching for a significant other, it would not be my ideal choice."
Other students agree that their primary interest is meeting new people, not necessarily scoring a date.
"I think at a place like Northwestern where there's a big divide between north and south campus, and different majors, and Greeks and non-Greeks, it's hard to meet new people who are different from you. Speed dating would be a great way to meet new, interesting people," said Katie Gronendyke, a sophomore in Medill.
The event allowed for casual interactions to keep from awkward moments, though guests may have come in with preconceived notions about speed-dating.
“It was more like mingling and you would just walk over to meet the next person,” said Major. “You had to be aggressive if you wanted to meet someone in particular.”
Despite the short interactions, speed dating allows people to gauge whether or not there’s a quick connection.
"I would prefer [speed dating] over online dating, because with online dating people lay out all of their qualifications,” said Angela Lee, a Medill junior. “Everything is too out in the open, and one of the best ways to make a connection is to meet them in person. With speed dating, I wouldn't be looking for my soul mate but I feel like it would be a better way to meet someone and and get to know them on a personal level."
Overall, the event was successful, with many students getting paired up. Match-making happened over mutual interest - after speaking with someone, the daters were given a card where they stated whether or not to share their contact information with their most recent conversation. When the coordinators found a match, the future friendlies indirectly swapped digits.
"Only the mutual ones received information, and both parties received information, so neither party had to be the aggressor," Sheridan said.
The event will ideally inspire a fresher dating culture, or at least more opportunities to schmooze with a mission.
“It was definitely a positive experience,” said Major, “I'm glad I went.”