By COREY LEVITAN & JUSTIN YURKANIN
The latest craze in London is speed dating with a paper bag on your head. No, seriously. It’s the perfect antidote to the digital narcissism of today’s young singles, who regularly lie to themselves when they say looks don’t matter.
While traditional, bag-free speed daters wonder why they’re still alone after rejecting soulmate-after-future-soulmate because of a bald head or a double chin, these Londoners seem to have hit upon a novel way of seeking romantic compatibility—and of hiding their bad British teeth.
The first American version is set to hit New York on October 8. But I didn’t feel like waiting. So I brought a paper bag to a traditional speed dating session in Las Vegas, to gauge how receptive my future potential soulmates would be to meeting someone in this way.
In other words, is love really blind? When women say they’re more attracted to a guy’s “personality” than anything physical, are they being truthful in any way?
DateSwitch.com set up 14 women, ages 32-49, in chairs at the back of the Downtown Cocktail Lounge. Every 5 minutes, a bell rang and the men seated across from the single ladies moved one chair to the right to start a new date. We all had rating cards marked “yes” or “no,” for whether we wanted further contact with each candidate. If corresponding speed daters agreed, we would each receive an email with the other’s contact info.
Speed dating is an instant distillation of compatibility based on looks, personality and the answers to questions like 1) Are you a smoker? 2) Are you a Neo Nazi?, and 3) Do you own three or more cats? For some reason, most of my speed dates inquired exclusively about my choice of headwear. So I explained my logic. And, once they considered it, the overwhelming majority loved the idea.
“Isn’t online dating kind of like dating with a paper bag on your head anyway?” asked Suzanne, a nursing student. “People can totally hide who they are by pretending to be someone else.”
When Jill, a schoolteacher, asked what I really looked like, I told her that I was extremely tall; that at least two feet of my height was scrunched up inside the bag. She cracked up—as did Roberta the insurance adjuster when she asked how I thought our date was going and I responded: “So great that I will have you in bed within 2 weeks, but only because it will be my choice to take it slow.”
I was actually being judged by my inner book, not my cover. My personality was running the show, and I could be charming and witty without feeling scrutinized for my physical attributes. I mean, I’m not a horrific sight to behold. Yeah, there’s my Hobbit-like stature and a nose that’s visible on Google Earth. But I’m relatively trim and have great hair—especially on each one of my toes. And thanks to ladies with low self esteem and a J.R.R. Tolkien fetish, I’ve done all right for myself since high school.
In other words, putting a paper bag over my head was never anyone else’s idea. Still, the bag conferred a boost of confidence I don’t normally experience in life while using my face. It’s a technique I could have used years ago to win over Michelle, a soundtrack supervisor from L.A. who told me she only dated pretty guys with button noses and, therefore, we could only go out “as friends.” (I never took her up on that irresistible offer.)
And, now that I think of it, had I met Jennifer the veterinarian while speed dating with a bag over HER head, maybe I wouldn’t have blown her off after 20 minutes of Merlot and polite conversation just because she was 10 years older than me and 20 years older than her Match.com photo.
I mean, all looks disappear. And they’re influenced by personality anyway. Doesn’t Jenny McCarthy look so much less hot since she began spewing that anti-vaccination nonsense? Wouldn’t you almost rather now date her cousin, Melissa McCarthy, knowing how hysterical she is?
Things didn’t start falling apart until my fifth speed date, Samantha, who wanted no part of whatever it was I thought I was doing. She judged me by my book cover in a different way, and I felt sorry for her. She would never get a piece of this.
“Do you really think you’re going to meet someone special by pulling stunts like this?” Samantha asked in a Tennessee accent. She didn’t use the word “shenanigans,” but I sensed she was about to just when our speed date got interrupted.
The bartender ordered the doorman, a ginormous hulk named Bill, to ask me to remove my bag or leave. Bill informed me that bar policy forbids patrons from covering their faces inside the premises. (Well, we know where paper-bag speed dating won’t be hosted when it reaches Las Vegas—also, where Elephant Man and the Unknown Comic won’t be seen hanging out together anytime soon.)
I refused to comply. And, as Bill escorted me outside, one female speed dater shouted, “Good! Get that jerk outta here!”
Nevertheless, I honestly believe there’s something to paper-bag speed dating. It’s awkward and silly and a total novelty, but I recommend it to any guy looking to get laid —and to have someone to actually share decent conversation with immediately afterward and, perhaps, for the rest of his life.
DateSwitch.com didn’t collect my rating card, so I never received any emails. But Suzanne gave me her email at the event, Jill seemed receptive, and Roberta could totally have been mine. That’s if I didn’t mind the fact that she shared an old-timey name with my mother.
And also, if I wasn’t happily married. Did I forget to mention that?