Faster, Pussycat! Date! Date!

Benjamin has been looking for Erin for about four months. He met her at a party in August, and she hit his car two weeks later. But it wasn’t like that. There were no damages. Rather, Ben had a crush on Erin.

The number he put into his cell phone never saved. He searched the phone’s memory again and again. Then he made some calls. But for all anyone knew, Erin was a figment of Ben’s imagination. There was no last name, no friend-of-a-friend connection. Nothing.

He took out an “I saw you” ad in a local paper and it ran the next week. “You hit my car in NE Mpls. You looked beautiful. Please call to discuss the ‘damages.’ My name is Benjamin.” It ran the week after that. And again the week after that. And again.

It’s January and Ben’s had no response. When the ad first ran, he checked his messages daily. He says he’s down to once a week now, and even then it’s a halfhearted effort. The hope is gone. “I don’t think anyone reads those things,” he says dismissively.

Ben is adamant about one thing: He’s not desperate. But, to be honest, it’s hard to meet attractive, interesting women when you’re a 28-year-old medical student. And even when you do meet one, well, there just aren’t any guarantees of lifelong (or even week-long) compatibility. Ben doesn’t know if it would be different with Erin. But in their fleeting, beer-infused moment in time, he perceived a spark in her brown-eyed self that Ben rarely sees in Minnesota ladies. There are just so few good ones available, he laments. And even if they are available, how do you meet them? Now she probably just remembers him as the guy who never called.

Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. His friend ran into her last week, but he forgot to mention Ben, his interest, or his search. And then she was gone. Again.

According to the 2000 census, there are 82 million people living alone in the United States. Forty-eight million of those people have never been married; another 20 million are divorced, and some 13.6 million are widowed. The census has no way of measuring whether these people are happy about their swinging singlehood, but human nature being what it is, it’s probably safe to assume that most would prefer to be coupled. Or at least try. After all, thousands of people vow every day that theirs is a union that will be different. They thumb their noses at the divorce rate and tie the knot. But we all know the statistics. The Census Bureau notes that, on average, people between the ages of 15 and 85 spend more years unmarried than married. Divorce plays a big part in that stat. But you also have to consider the additional ten percent of people who will never marry at all.

Ask anyone in their late 20s or early 30s why they’re single, and they will probably tell you there’s simply no one attractive or interesting or datable left. With the exception of the single person you happen to be talking to, of course, all single people on the scene are weird, ugly, unemployed, or sleazy. But get them talking a bit more, and the truth comes out. Regardless of whatever else they might be, attractive young eligibles are all one other thing: completely, utterly unapproachable. Why? There are lots of reasons, mostly having to do with the limitations of the would-be approacher, not the approachee: because you haven’t actually approached anyone since college; because there’s no one to approach when you work in information technology/nursing/business; because there’s no one to approach when you spend your nights watching prime time. Because you can’t approach anyone when you’re shy, insecure, or out of practice; you can’t approach anyone when you have an overwhelming fear of rejection; you can’t approach anyone when you’re wallowing in singledom; you can’t approach anyone when you’re emitting from every pore the saccharine scent of your loneliness.

Which is why, on a cold December night, a hundred of those despicable singles gather on the mezzanine of William’s Pub in Uptown. These singles are mostly white, and mostly white-collar. They each shell out $40 to spend three hours of their busy schedules as Fast Daters. If you’re shy, busy, or genetically predisposed to the bizarre, Fast Dater is the up-and-coming way to meet your honey.

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