I've got the perfect way to spice up the next Winter Olympics: Speed Dating. It's true, I'm confident of my Gold-medal chances--but that's not the only reason it's a good idea.
First of all, let's face it: this year's Winter Olympics were a letdown before they even began. NBC did more to hype last week's episode of "The Office" than the Opening Ceremonies. I hardly knew it was going on until I saw Bryan Adams on stage with Nelly Furtado and was confused about whether they were both Canadian, and whether it was still 1998. If not for Evan Lysacek and that crazy-haired snowboarder, I'm not sure anyone here would have realized the Games were happening.
Also, it turns out that the 2014 Games will be held in a Russian city that no American--with the possible exception of Sarah Palin--had heard of before last Saturday.
Lastly, I would really like to make Bob Costas uncomfortable. I think that's something we can all get behind.
The name "Speed Dating" may be misleading. I'm not talking about the traditional, race-through-a-bar, talk-for-five-minutes-then-switch-partners routine. In fact, it might more suitably be called Dating on Speed--but I know the OOC is sensitive to a drug joke. The object, though, is completely different: rather than simply finding a good match, the goal is to run through all five stages of a normal relationship, say one that would reasonably last one to two years, in approximately one to two weeks.
Note to potential competitors: it is not advisable that you choose a partner with whom you have actual romantic potential. Rather, you should play with someone that you are recklessly attracted to, but who will not make a good long-term companion. Perhaps they drink too much whiskey, or can't communicate; perhaps they are barren. Any critical flaw will do.
This shouldn't be difficult: most people are critically flawed. But now, the tricky part: condensing an entire relationship into fourteen days or less. Speed is a consideration, of course, but medals are awarded primarily on the basis of performance.
The course can start any number of places where people gather: bar, grocery store, subway. Wait, do they have subways in Russia? Or grocery stores, for that matter? I have no idea. A bar is best anyhow: there's nothing quite like booze to help get things moving quickly. By the time you and your partner leave this place, people around you should think that you are in a relationship. You are. It should seem, however, as though you've known each other several weeks or months--rather than minutes or hours. The key here is sincerity: points will be deducted if your gestures don't appear genuine. I'd get more specific about this, but my grandmother would be really excited if I won a Gold medal.
You've now begun the "Romance" part of the course. It is advisable that you go home together, snuggle and make out all night, but not have sex. I mean, you can have sex. The judges won't be watching. But, probably, they'll know--and I can't promise the Dutch won't deduct points. Then again, you may get a few extra from the French. Really, it's your call.
It is crucial, however, that you immediately begin lavishing one another with absurd and patently false compliments. Probably, your partner has never seen anyone so beautiful and you had him at steak tartare. I'm just guessing. You must also start to discuss your long-term future together. This is where you quickly go through the "Disillusionment" stage and power into "Stability." Maybe you can start bickering about what breed of dog you are going to get or how you will get along with each other's more eccentric relatives. Or something. (Again, Grandma.)
Once you've recovered from this first small argument you must move into a quick "Power Struggle" and, then, briefly, "Commitment." Soon after you enter this last stage, one person must freak out. If you are male, there is a 99.9 percent chance that this person will be you.
"I need to slow down," this person will say. Here, the judges award points for drama and, again, authenticity. The confrontation can take place anywhere, though my personal favorite is standing above a hot stove while making your partner a succulent lamb tagine, with sweat beads that resemble teardrops dripping down both of your faces. I'm pretty sure they have stoves in Russia.
At first this person might say they don't want to end things entirely, but it quickly becomes clear this is a lie: despite their declarations--just hours earlier--about pets and parents, they have now realized that they are not, actually, capable of being in a relationship. In fact, they are completely "undateable" and may need to go live in sub-Saharan Africa or New Jersey for a while before resuming normal human contact.
This is where the course ends.
As you can see, Speed Dating is an extreme sport, with significant potential for emotional trauma. However, the entertainment value is truly unparalleled among winter events. Also, there is minimal risk of physical injury or sequined lycra.
What is that, Bob Costas? You don't think I can win? Just watch. I'll see you in Sochi. But before then, do me a favor and stop by my place in Albuqerque: I want to make sure you get some good footage for that "behind the scenes" video you'll play right before I win Gold. Grandma will love it.
Follow Elizabeth Tannen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ertannen