By Bailey Mount Editor-in-Chief
It’s not that I didn’t want to go to Cal State Long Beach’s Speed Dating event. Okay, maybe I didn’t want to at first, but I had my reasons. I’d already gone two years ago and didn’t enjoy it.
What I did enjoy was being single. When the opportunity was presented to--or rather, forced upon--me, I realized that it presented a sort of social experiment. I got to be a journalist instead of a participator. I could watch everyone interact with each other and see how each guy changed when they got to me, see the different personalities forced to interact over strange circumstance. Best of all, there were no stakes. I wasn’t actively looking for anybody.
This is why I’m glad I went with Jess--it was a lot less awkward walking in there with someone. Despite being detached from the event, I felt self-conscious. When we showed up, we watched everyone cluster in different corners of the University Student Union Ballrooms. There were eyes on me. We were all scouting each other out.
On the first “date,” I patiently waited for the first guy to sit down. I might have folded my hands in front of me. It felt like I was interviewing potential job candidates and, in a way, I was. Being there for fun gave me certain liberties with how I communicated. I talked to a guy about his religion, another about why he’d left a company he pretty much helped built.
With other guys, it was almost maternal. They were nervous and I spent our three minutes together hyping them up, coaxing them out of their shells and trying to make them more sociable for the next girl. I had to notice what made their eyes light up, what made them sit a little straighter and pursue that until they started acting like approachable people.
Here’s what I learned: everyone is awkward. On some base level, we’re all operating as journalists. We listen to what the person across from us is saying and develop follow-up questions to foster a connection. I also learned that everyone treats the event like an extended version of Tinder or Bumble. I could see a guy’s eyes swipe left or right on me as soon as he sat down. No problem, I pretty much felt the same way. I hope it worked out for the people who were, as one of the hosts unfortunately called it, at the “traditional” tables. It definitely wasn’t working out for the queer table.
By Jess Kung Multimedia Manager
I signed up for Cal State Long Beach’s Speed Dating event on a whim, mostly because Bailey kept saying she wasn’t looking forward to it. I didn’t have anything to lose, and I was super skeptical about how they were going to pull Queer Speed Dating off. I heard there was only one queer rotation.
Speed dating in itself is archaic - it’s swipe-right, swipe-left with eye contact. If the whole point is to split people into two groups that can be mutually attracted to each other, there are ways to accommodate the LGBTQ community. There could have been two-way rotations for gay men and lesbians and maybe one for other weirdos like me. But there wasn’t, they just sat all the queer people in the back and had us figure it out. It wouldn’t make sense to let straight people sit themselves randomly with no guidelines, so why is that happening to queer folk?
I don’t think it was worth attempting to include non-heteros if they aren’t going to be given the chance to find someone explicitly compatible. We sat together at a round table and learned through things said and unsaid that nobody was really compatible with anyone else. I admire the attempt at inclusion, it just ended up being us nine or ten people told to do whatever we wanted. Like, there was only one gay man. That’s not how this works.
Even though I wasn’t optimistic going into the event, it stung that this space said it was for me and then let me down. I tried to take it as an opportunity to make queer friends, but part of me yearns for a space to freely feel out attractions. It shouldn’t be necessary for a system to validate my queerness and give me a chance at romance, but wouldn’t it be nice?
The resources available to this event, as well as the institutions it’s attached to, make it seemingly impossible to attach a queer-friendly space to it. So why bother? It doesn’t make you homophobic to run a heterosexual event. Nobody needs speed dating, it’s fine to not dangle that carrot in front of us.
On the other hand, there was an ice cream bar, and we didn’t have to wait for the straights to finish to dig in. That was kinda nice.