Huffpost Women
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Anne Vitiello Headshot

Why DIY Speed-Dating Is the Best Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day

Posted: Updated:

The 14th of February.

Who's cringing? Hopeful? Excited?

Indifferent?

Perhaps you have become a full-on cynic toward the whole thing at this point, done with the overpriced flowers and boring prix fixe menus, not impressed by creative alternatives?

Any and all the more reason to grab this holiday by the bonbons and make it your own, if not for your heart then just for the heck of it.

One solution for world-weary singletons: Do-It-Yourself Speed Dating.

Worst case: You will have some good anecdotes to talk about later.

Best case: You and your love can look back on how corny/romantic/weird/whatever it was that you met on Valentine's Day.

It's rough out there. Don't believe any dating advice that glosses over that fact. And, while I don't envy the young ones in this bleak era of hook-ups and hairless vulvas (though signs are pointing to some backlash against that particular trend, mercifully), the truth is it's even tougher for those of us who are no longer bright-eyed and bush-less 20-thru-40-somethings.

First obstacles: There are the cold, hard factors of free time and demographics. As with the best jobs, the best relationships are often those that you get through referrals. But what if your friends and family don't have anyone to suggest? Then you have to make time to place yourself in optimal environments in order to meet someone.

So. How hard is that, right?

Truly.

You have never really been busy until you are a working custodial parent: Job, kids, housekeeping, pets, errands, chores, maybe eldercare... and don't forget moping; I mean who has any time left when you factor in the moping?

It's not like the salad days when you could loll around all weekend with a new love interest. For some of us there are a mere handful of days per month that don't entail a double shift of work followed by family. And what if you want a moment to yourself or with your friends?

You can't meet that person if you can't manage to get out of the house. And, on those rare occasions when you do get out, it can be hard to stay calm knowing that if you strike out this time it could be weeks or months before you have another free night!

Online dating services can help, but they also come with some built-in pitfalls: For women, there is the exhausting bombardment and rude "sexpectations." Of course women already knew this, but hats-off anyway to the man who created a female profile and had his eyes opened to the ugly realities.

A moment for our single brethren here: I have it on good authority from at least two and a half decent men (And I am not inclined to create a male dating profile in an attempt to "prove" that they are exaggerating). It's not easy for them either. One male friend put out 50 inquiries. Real messages too, not spamming, not crass/lazy NSA sex requests, just a nice guy asking a nice gal, or 50 of them, for a date. On a dating site. He netted a big "1," as in UNO, woman willing to meet him.

But wait. There's more. Before she would agree to get together they first IM'd and IM'd and IM'd, then after many follow-up texts, they graduated to countless hours on the phone (Bless him, he even fell asleep during one blab-fest and woke up to realize that she had not noticed and was still mid-monologue), then f i n a l l y progressed to the big meeting -- but she rescheduled, twice... you get the idea.

As for equal-opportunity bad behavior: I can attest to tedious disappointment at men who can't stop looking elsewhere even when they have found someone special. This is not an objection to dating several people before or instead of investing in a relationship, this is about the lying. My singular near-miss at an online-based first date was cancelled on the brink, due to the discovery that my potential guy was in fact the boyfriend of someone whom I knew through work.

Before you start in: He was really her boyfriend. She wasn't imagining it. There was more involved than bodily fluids. He had met her parents and played with her kids, stayed overnight and bought Christmas gifts for the family. In a word: a boyfriend. I will 'fess up to darkly enjoying my final email to him, on the eve of the date that never happened, on which I cc'd her.

It was brief. Polite. Just a final re-confirmation that we were "on," with one caveat: That he could not possibly be the same person as this other guy I had been hearing about with whom he shared uncanny similarities... could he be? She clarified, instantly and passionately.

So, yeah. Online dating can be a dubious prospect, and for many of us, is too encumbered.

Speed dating is efficient, though the attendance fees can be costly, and it's not for the faint of heart. You are relying on long odds that the right person/s decide to go to the same event you are attending -- and that you can make the right decision about someone based on mere minutes of interaction. About a year ago, I decided to give it a try and ended up wishing that there had been a pre-event screening process. It was a memorable but non-productive evening. But at least it didn't cost me the time and effort of online dating forays that failed to produce results.

Then, it dawned on me: The peanut butter cup of dating discovery moments.

Online dating and speed dating are good but in different ways, and each have drawbacks. So, play to each of their strengths. Two great methods that work better together; the result, DYI Speed Dating. How to:

Put up a dating profile or two, then quickly choose some people to meet. Do not take longer than a month (ideally half that much time). Focus on screening out for only your major deal breakers (questions of religion, children, relocation, etc) and get on with it.

Do not linger over long email or text exchanges, just arrange to meet -- preferably on a designated day or weekend when you have time.

Now see if you can fill that day with your own personalized "speed dates:" Instead of three minutes each, devote 30-60 minutes each.

Start with coffee or breakfast and a walk. Then have a second one (walk, that is, not breakfast), or meet at a gallery, or interesting part of your favorite town for your next visit.

Devote lunch, then later appetizers and/or dessert to your other possibilities, and see if you can fill in between the meals with another walk or two.

No long fancy dinners, lingering at a bar, or open-ended time frames.

Keep it light, and of course relocate for each meeting.

By no means make a decision as to whether or not you will get together again.

Have fun, be kind, and decide later. (A good feature of speed dating: You meet, and you make a choice afterward.) If you are pressured to make a decision at the end of the date, insist on having time to reflect on it. Happily. Always leave something to look forward to.

At the end of the day (or days) you will have met a number of people that would ordinarily have taken weeks to see face-to-face.

You will not have had a disappointing meeting with someone with whom you thought you had a great connection, but now realize there is no chemistry.

You will be spared any potentially overlong awkward dates, and you will have economized not only on time and money but on emotional/energetic expenditure. Also, in case your wardrobe is limited, you will not have to remember what you wore for each date.

Now get out there and start planning. There are some free dating sites that are okay, and I notice that my personal favorite, "HowAboutWe" has a 50 percent discount code at retailmenot.

Happy Valentine's Day, and please let me know how it goes by posting your stories in the comments section!