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• The newest singles trend arranges quickie dates with a coffee shop of eligible bachelors

Nine Dates in one night requires an exceptional outfit, don’t ya think?

“C’mon, you’ve got sexier things than that,” says my roommate, dismissing my all-black baggy get-up. “Put on one of those tops-you know the ones.” Oh, I know. She wants me in a Britneyesque jobbie that shrinks two sizes when you take it off. Well, between you, Britney, and my nine impending Dates, I thankfully have a few slinky selections.

Last summer, a single-like-me friend with her share of those tops convinced me that trying a new service called 9 Minute Dates was a good idea. The premise intrigued me: meet nine single guys in one evening at a coffee shop. Ask questions and size each other up over java and pastries. Since I’m already beginning to think that “a few good men” is an exaggeration when it comes to the dating scene, I decide to try it.

After 40 bucks and a two-month waiting list, the day arrives. But now that the hot and high-energy summer days are gone, I’m only lukewarm about the idea. Still, lipstick’s applied, hair’s blow-dried and nerves feel suitably raw and edgy.

I arrive early at the downtown Toronto coffee shop. Cautious to look nonchalant in case other potential Daters lurk, I keep my eyes on my newspaper while I caress a cup of coffee. Before long, my friend arrives. She seems much calmer than I. “It’s just for fun, a good way to meet people,” she assures me. Yeah, right.

The organizers begin by explaining a few rules. First, turn off those cell phones and beepers. Second, you can’t say where you work or exchange personal contact information, including last names, during the Date. Third, everyone must fill out a response card. We’re supposed to circle “yes” or “no” beside the name of each person we Date. After we all hand in our cards, the coordinators will tally the results of every encounter. If both circle “yes,” they will organize an exchange of numbers. If one circles yes and the other circles no, there’s no deal. If you both say no, the pheromones aren’t exactly dancing-no further contact necessary.

Date 1

Ding, ding! A bell starts the first match. Jeepers-it’s my neighbour! That’s right, our bedrooms share the wall between our semi-detached houses. We sometimes walk to the subway together, say good morning when taking out the garbage and complain in chorus about the pesky raccoons.

For nine minutes we talk like we would on any other occasion-ignoring the suggested conversation starters including, “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?” and “Are you a morning person?” No formulated discussion please, we’re freewheeling it.

Ding-time’s up. I discreetly mark yes on my card. After all, he told me he was going to, and saying no didn’t seem very neighbourly.


Date 2

Whoa! He’s cute, he’s a lawyer, he’s casual, he’s calm. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s cute? “So, why are you here tonight?” I ask.

“I’m kind of busy with work and never get a chance to meet people,” he says.

Now, I should clarify that he’s not the type of lawyer that can be found singing Barry White in the unisex bathroom. You know the fine print on the bottom of everything you sign at the bank? That’s him. Yawn. Never mind, did I mention he’s cute? I circle YES. Next.

Date 3

I’m gaining momentum now. Unfortunately, the next guy-a balding engineer-boasts about his rigid schedule of going to the gym and bowling 10-pin. A bit structured for my slovenly existence. But even worse, he lives in suburbia and I don’t own a car. I imagine myself taking a subway, streetcar, bus and then walking a mile to meet him for a Date. Not gonna do it.


Date 4

Okay, I can dig this guy. A designer-engineer who lives in the city. Check. He’s American, just arrived in town, is looking for a soulmate. Probably has a large expense account. But I’m still not quite over the cute lawyer, and I find myself turned off by this guy’s thick overgrown coif. Plus he’s still wearing his green windbreaker jacket(reminder: we’ve already been here for nine minutes times four). Not to mention that he seems a little out of my age group. The dating company has four groups: 25 to 35, 30 to 40, 35 to 45 and 42 plus. I booked 25 to 35 and think this guy probably belongs in the 35 to 45 crew. Sorry, don’t need a daddy.


Date 5

As I move to table five, I’m getting strong vibes on my freak radar. This guy seems overly focused. Instead of acting like he’s playing the nine-minute game, it’s like he’s conducting serious research, clutching his response card like hot stock tips.

“Hello, nice to meet you,” is all I say for nine minutes. At first I am annoyed that he monopolizes the conversation. Then, I begin encouraging his diatribes once I realize that he isn’t worth sharing my favourite colour with. Exhibit A:

“I work in the transport industry. I came here because I want to get married and have kids-two or three kids. We(WE?-ewww!)can start with one child, of course, and see how it goes.” Brief pause, big bad breath, here he goes again. “Sometimes I come down to the entertainment district, that’s marked by John and Queen and Front…(duh!). I get up at 5:45 a.m. and get home from work around 4:37 p.m. I go to the gym and find my concentration period to be about 35 minutes in which time I do six reps of this, 26 of this, and 10 of….” Help-where’s the stop button? No, with a capital “N.”


Date 6

Hmmm, curly hair, glasses, kind of cute and a schoolteacher. Growing up in the 80’s, Eddie van Halen made sure all us Gen Xers were “Hot for teacher.” Away I go.

“What do you teach?”

“German, but I also speak French, Czech and Italian.”

“Oh, so you’re obviously good at languages. I could have used you on my trip to Europe. Especially in Prague, I had a real tough time there.” Now, I can’t remember his exact words, but the gist of his horn-tooting sounded something like this: “When I was in Prague I was a superstar. I had a way better time than you did and I saw it from the ground up because I speak the language and I am a superhero all around.”

Nein. Non. Ne. No.


Date 7

A real estate agent, but not a cute one-darn.(Although later I find out that my friend thought he was a bit of a rock star and made a match.)I figure I’ll use the opportunity to get some tips. “Any idea what the market’s going to be like in the future? I’m thinking of buying a condo.”

“Excellent, I can hook you up.”

I politely circle no after what turns out to be a nine-minute sales pitch. My fault-bad opening line. Next.

Date 8

Since we’re one guy short, I sit out for this round and chat with the organizers. They tell me their business is expanding so quickly that they’re looking for more hosts. After operating for just six months, every night is sold out. Soon, 9 Minute Dates will go national. Note to self: tomorrow, submit a resumé to play cupid during my off-hours. Need insider’s tips!


Date 9

My mouth is dry and nine minutes is starting to feel like nine hours. So, poor number 9 doesn’t get my full attention and I likely don’t get his. All I remember is he tells me he loves to dance only after I tell him it’s my favourite thing to do. Considering he doesn’t look like he has an ounce of soul, I toy with checking “yes” just so I can put him to the test. Forget it. No, thank you.

The last bell rings and we all hand in our response cards. I’ve been making my selections as I go along but many take a moment to fill out their cards at the end. We thank the organizers and leave.

The next day I check my e-mail every 10 minutes till finally the matches arrive around 2 p.m. “Congratulations-you had two mutual matches! Below are their first names and phone numbers. They will also receive your personal information as part of our information exchange. It’s now up to you to make the next step. Good luck!”

Yippee-I have the lawyer’s number! He calls me that week and leaves a voice mail suggesting we book a coffee Date two weeks in advance. What was that he said about being busy with work? From there, we exchange voice mails at least five more times. He was “it” last, but hasn’t called since. Maybe he got together with that high-booted blonde who was two rotations behind me.

Still, my friend was right. It was fun and a great way to meet people. I’ve decided I need to put on another one of those tops and take a second spin around those nine tables with nine new bachelors. Maybe next time I’ll find a lawyer who sings Barry White in the unisex bathroom. Or, better yet, a new neighbour I’m attracted to. Hopping that fence in the dark could be fun.



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