One night, 25 dates — Is this love in the 21st Century?

BY JONAS BLANK

Harvard Law men are bizarre creatures, indeed.

Popular opinion suggests that we’re a breed of man near the top of our game. We’ve got gold-plated educations and astronomical earning potential. We’ve got bright futures and, if we choose to accept it, a chance to make a real difference in the world.

But when it comes to dating habits, most Harvard Law guys are nothing short of pathetic.

Based on our paper profiles, we budding masters of the universe should be bursting with self-confidence. We should be able to be proud of our accomplishments and glib when expressing ourselves. We should command the social graces that our future careers ask of us.

Why is it, then, that our dominant dating strategy involves such Casanova moves as “dropping the H-bomb” and pulling the latest pickup lines from the pages of Maxim? Why is it that, when it comes to the most basic of human instincts, we’re more Screech than A.C. Slater?

Whatever the reason, I got tired of all the carping. I got tired of hearing both that there are no decent-looking women at HLS (a falsehood, to say the least) and that telling non-HLS women that you go to Harvard Law School will somehow impress them. Instead of sitting around hearing, for the umpteenth time, about some cheeseball plan to go to the Kell’s and let the old “H-bomb” work its magic, I decided to do something that would almost certainly help me broaden my dating horizons.

I tried out a dating service.

Hurrydate.com, my service of choice, works a bit differently than most web-based singles scenes. Rather than posting profiles and photos on some web site, HurryDate prides itself on promoting interpersonal interaction — for three minutes at least.

The service works like this: You sign up on the website for the next “session.” The $25 fee includes one free drink (which, if you drink right, means you save about ten bucks). On the appointed day, you travel to the chosen location (the uber-trendy Pravda 116), where you’re given a scorecard and a name tag with a number on it. After you’ve got your free drink and your name tag on, you’re ready to start your round. The fun begins when you participate in a round-robin style series of conversations with the women seated around the room. After you’ve chatted for three minutes, a whistle blows and you move to the next woman. At the end of each conversation, you mark “yes” or “no” next to the person’s number on your scorecard. If both parties checked “yes,” HurryDate sends you each other’s name and e-mail address. It’s not quite getting the digits, but it’s a start.

By the time I sashayed into Pravda’s rear lounge area, all soft red lighting and muted techno soundtrack, I wasn’t feeling particularly confident. Actually, I was feeling precisely how someone ought to feel when offering themselves up for a dating service: embarrassed, and maybe a little ashamed.

At first, I tried to keep my head down and avoid eye contact. Just get a martini, my inner voice told me … just make it to the vodka. Vodka will make everything all right. But as I waited for the first of many drinks, I decided to survey the room.

The crowd, female-wise, wasn’t the disquieting mob of half-wits, divorcees and hobgoblins I’d expected. In fact, many of the women looked rather … pleasant. Some of them even seemed — could it be? — attractive.

Not so for the male end of the operation, which more than met all those nasty dating service stereotypes. For one thing, there weren’t enough men to begin with — HurryDate employees were already asking men to stay for both of the night’s two “rounds” — and the ones there seemed decidedly in need of some combination of Viagra, haircuts, new clothes and gym memberships. That is, except for the one guy in a suit, who was so roaring drunk before the round even started that he nearly knocked me over twice.

My confidence grew. These women weren’t half bad! And compared with this gaggle of balding, sagging, sloppy nincompoops, I was hardly a dog’s dinner. If I could muster even a reasonable façade of charm and attractiveness, I’d have women “hurrying” to date me!

A half hour and two martinis later, it was time for my round. The helpful HurryDate MC plunked me down at a table and told me women would appear shortly. And before I could fish the olive out of my drink — presto! I was talking to an attractive thirtysomething Australian who worked for Hale & Dorr. While our conversation went swimmingly, she picked up on that whole age gap thing right away. After she asked me how old I was, I knew it was all over. So I checked “no,” slid into the seat right next to me, and started the next of the 24 conversations to come.

HurryDate’s method has some clear advantages. Three minutes, you find out, isn’t all that long of a time to talk to someone. A guy doesn’t exactly need Cyrano’s grasp of the language of love to talk for such a short time. You’re lucky to get past the whole, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” stage. But for those who do run out of normal things to talk about, HurryDate provides some cheesy icebreakers like, “Do you believe in ghosts?” and “How do you like to be kissed?” It is a dating service, after all.

Most of my conversations went well. I met loads of professional women — bankers, consultants, corporate people — as well as world travelers, secretaries, waitresses and a few unemployed types. There were also three women from MIT’s business school, which apparently suffers the same dating malaise that HLS does. Of all the truncated courtships, only one — with a nervous redhead who works for Fleet — was an outright disaster. It’s amazing how quickly you run out of conversation topics when every question gets a one-word answer. Most of the women seemed bright, interesting and not terribly overeager. I had conversations I’d probably never have with people at HLS — though talking about how much it sucks to be unemployed may not be everyone’s idea of fun.

I talked about mountain biking, school, work, whatever came to mind. I did not drop the “H-bomb” profusely, though when I did, it seemed to impress people less than half the time. It’s not surprising: Along with all the traditional negative connotations of lawyers, earning potential just isn’t the same thing as actual earnings. Sorry, chumps.

By the end of the night, I’d chalked up about eight or nine “yes” marks on my sheet — about a third of the people I talked to. The poor drunk guy was about to fall down again, and, given that I was on martini number four, I was starting to feel his pain. By the time I stumbled out of Pravda, pleased to have wrapped up my Torts reading before hitting the sauce, I was feeling pretty good about my chances.

Three days later, I got my results. Six of the nine or so women I’d said “yes” to seemed to feel the same. Compared to the likely return rate of hitting on random women in bars, the 50-plus percent return rate wasn’t bad. Plus, these women actually wanted someone to call them.

Problem was, all I had were email addresses, first names and the numbers the women were wearing at the event. Whether a result of the confusion inherent in talking to 25 women in just over an hour, or the martinis, I had no idea who these women were, what we’d talked about, or, of course, what they looked like. I know myself well enough to realize that I can be generous on four martinis.

In the end, I decided not to email anybody. Figuring out who they were in a tactful way would be way too complicated. And hey, I am an HLS guy after all. Why do something about a dearth of dates when I could just complain about it?

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