I like to perform what I call “social experiments.” As a child, for example, I might speak in a nonexistent foreign language at the grocery store and watch the confused expressions on the other shoppers’ faces. When I was an undergraduate, I volunteered for a sociological experiment and happily agreed to fake an obsessive-compulsive disorder in public. Even today, I occasionally dress in an unusual outfit for the heck of it. The term “social experiment” is just a way of excusing my quirky personality and utter lack of shame. I rarely lay out a well-defined hypothesis or identify a distinct time period in which I will gather data, and while I often take note the reactions of others, I have never produced any formal written analysis.
The reason I feel free to act ridiculously is my belief in not taking myself too seriously. I find it’s much easier to enjoy life that way. An uptight person avoids activities where there is potential for discomfort and embarrassment. I have the tendency to dive in, looking like an idiot no doubt, but laughing off any failures and enjoying myself nonetheless. Out of this shamelessness, The Dating Experiments were born.
As it turned out, none of her marriage-minded friends would reduce themselves to the “humiliation” of a singles mixer, and so she asked me, someone for whom walking down the aisle isn’t even on my list of priorities.
Several months ago, one of my girlfriends turned thirty, that magic age at which one is supposed to get married. With no boyfriend to speak of, she panicked for weeks. Then an invitation to a singles mixer arrived. She immediately RSVP’d for two people – “ herself and a friend to act as a wing woman. She wanted to meet Mr. Right, but heaven forbid she do it alone. As it turned out, none of her marriage-minded friends would reduce themselves to the “humiliation” of a singles mixer, and so she asked me, someone for whom walking down the aisle isn’t even on my list of priorities. (It’s not that I don’t ever want to get married. I just plan to take my time getting there.) My friend didn’t expect me to go, but I did – “ not because I hoped to meet Prince Charming, but because I figured the event would be a good source of amusement, something I could laugh about later.
In terms of good story material, the mixer was a disappointment. Nothing interesting happened, and so when I mentioned the event in conversation to my friends later, I would say very little. “What have I been up to lately? Nothing much. Work, redecorating, the usual. Oh, and I went to a singles mixer last week. What about you? See any good movies lately?”
The reaction to my news was unexpected: women perked up when they heard it, asking how I liked the event and whether I thought it was worth it. They had me describe the men I met, and wanted to know if I thought there was any potential for meaningful relationships to emerge from such meetings. Even people I didn’t know seemed fascinated by the topic. At a dinner party, I was approached by a group of friends and asked a series of questions about the experience. The following week when I made a joke about it to a bartender, she passed the information on to a few colleagues, who then offered me a free beer, saying, “We heard you’ve gone to singles mixers. How are they?”
One thing I noticed was no matter who I spoke with, two questions were constant: 1) Was it embarrassing? 2) What other singles activities have you done? “Embarrassing?” I’d say. “Well, I have no shame, so not at all. But that was the only event I’ve ever done, so maybe the embarrassment part comes later.”
I wondered about their second question for some time before deciding their interest probably stemmed from their own hesitations about being aggressive in the men market. We’ve all heard of the many ways of meeting and keeping guys – “ the places and techniques fill women’s media outlets. But how many of us have ever actually attempted more than one? It’s easy to give up on new strategies when the magazine that told you to trip so a cute guy could rescue you is proved to be a lying piece of crap. Yet having access to someone who has actually tried some of the strategies makes them seem a bit less insane, a bit more user-friendly. Being that I’m used to putting myself and the people around me in awkward social situations, I decided to become that someone. And because I like the word “experiment” so much, I decided to use it to describe my activities. So here it is: The Dating Experiments. Are you ready?
Liz is a southern California-based writer of East Asian ancestry. She loves travel, politics, and incredibly unhealthy desserts. When not front of her computer, she can usually be found chatting someone’s ear off. Get ready for Liz to share her dating experiments.