Adventures in Offline Dating: A Hopeless Romantic Tries Speed Dating in Malaysia

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All photos courtesy of the event organiser.

Love and romance, the thrill of the hunt, and the longing for another are part of the eternal struggle of one’s life on Earth. We all want to be with someone, be part of some coveted set, two hearts beating as one. 

Being no different from my fellow men, women and they/thems, I too find myself in this sense of longing – moreso than ever after a seven-year relationship ended in a whimper subsequently followed by a year occupied with reclaiming myself. 

The thought of putting myself out there, into cyberspace with carefully curated profile pictures, flowery words of self-advertisement, and the anxiety of swiping left and right, was truly too much to bear. 

Which is why the minute my older brother suggested Speed Deets, a new speed dating event by @deets.kl happening at Gasket Alley’s Coffeeboy Club Cafe, I hopped at the chance. 

Love Today

Why speed dating? What makes it better than meeting people online?

From where I was standing, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The scene is set, everyone there is going to be single, and everyone gets a chance to speak to each other. 

For the uninitiated, the way speed dating works is that each participant will have five minutes to speak to each other, with the men moving between every single woman’s table, like a game of musical chairs but you get to make lightning-speed connections with strangers. 

It was the grand equaliser, a level playing field for 30 people, equally split between men and women. No pretences of an online profile, no immediate stalking of each other, what you see is what you get, and truly most of us look and sound better in full 3D than the two dimensions of a phone screen. 

Most of my job as a journalist involves interviewing people anyway, so I figured this was a natural fit for me. Plus, nothing beats the read you have on people with first impressions, for both sides of the table.

So, with my hair done up, encouragement from friends and family, and an everyday outfit that best represents me, I was off to the races. 

Adult Diversion

Arriving at seven sharp, with my wingman and bandmate Omar by my side, we caught up and eased each other before the event started. In true Malaysian fashion, the event was starting late, which gave us time to mingle before the speed dating started. 

Participants were marked with a red sticky name tag, so it was clear to see who was part of the event and who were patrons of the cafe. Just looking around, one could see men and women of different ages and sizes pumping themselves up for the event. 

The back half of Gasket Alley’s main corridor was lined up with 15 tables, where the women were to take their seats. At this point of the event, most of the men were a little too apprehensive to take a seat, opting to hover around instead. 

It was clear to see that this was a new experience for each and every one of us, a bizarre pocket dimension where singles could finally adhere to the old adage and actually mingle.

As the clock struck eight, the starting bell rang and the men began taking their seats. 

Uncertain Smile

Well, that’s not exactly true, at least in my case, as by 7.45 I was already sitting with a fellow speed dater. As we exchanged pleasantries, waiting for the event to begin, a stack of cue cards awaited us, filled with questions like “What is your kink?”, “What are your vices?”, and “What was something you bought that you instantly regret buying?”.

Icebreakers for sure, but needless to say, they weren’t needed for the rest of the night. Me and Girl #1 tried it out, but the minute the bell rang and our five minutes began, we just spoke to each other. Like normal people do. 

I can’t say the same about the other guys, but for me this first person set the tone and tempo for me, a good starting position if there was any. Perhaps the practice round right before prepped me, but needless to say, I was pumped to meet the next fourteen women. 

Omar was two guys ahead of me, so that gave us the right amount of space between each other to get a feel of the people we were about to meet. Sure, it was definitely a bonus to say “Yeah, I’m in a band”, doubly so when your guitarist has just made an impression right before you.  

Speed of Life

When a singular bell was rung, it meant that four minutes were up, when two was struck, that means five minutes were over, and the men had to hop to an adjacent table. There were times when time slowed and hasted, a quantum conundrum for sure. 

I didn’t think having any sort of opening remark or pickup line was necessary, so I began each conversation asking for their age, occupation, and what they did for fun, allowing for the necessary back and forth, and a natural flow of conversation. 

The girls there seemed to like to have you guess what they worked as, and apparently “makeup artist” is a flattering enough answer for most. Fitness instructors, copywriters, and marketing execs were the common answers this time around. 

The age range covered a whole decade or so for both men and women, with early 90s babies mingling with the fetuses of the early aughts. Luckily for me, the midrange 1994 to 1998 crowd were abundant. 

Introverted or extroverted, one must commend the spirit that everyone had throughout the event. At least for my part, I can definitely say that each person stood out on their own merit, however brief the encounter was. 

Name tags helped of course, but finding out somebody plays bass as well, has just started a new career in their lives, or what was their spirit animal and whether they would eat said animal, was an eye opener. 

Sure, there were some connections that were more instant than others, like the ones who enjoy thrift shopping certainly got my attention.

What was daunting was speaking to the younger Gen-Z participants. As I approach the age of 28, I was apprehensive about starting anything with someone who was 22 and below. 

One thing I can say is how exhausting it was to quickly meet 15 women in the span of an hour or so, especially when your only source of sustenance was a complimentary Pandan Cooler. I understand that meeting people with food in your mouth isn’t exactly attractive, but a post-speed dating buffet would have been perfect. 

Keep Feeling Fascination

Speed is definitely an understatement, as it was no mere sprint and a full-on marathon. After the event was over, everyone was free to hang around, which meant exchanging Instagram handles and a phone number or two if you really made an impression. 

Food vouchers were given, though the kitchen closed at around 9.30pm.

Girl #1 didn’t get to order any food, so we split the Pesto Chicken Sandwich that I managed to order. That gave us time to resume our conversation before the speed dating started, speaking at a more comfortable pace. 

Behind me, Omar was deep in conversation with another participant, driving her to her car as the night ended. We were definitely passive wingmen, and in this sort of setting, giving each other the space to explore our options was a great way to go about it. 

After making the rounds of Instagram exchanging with Girls #2 to #15 (as well as a number of guys too) and finishing the half-dinner with Girl #1, we said our goodbyes and headed home.

New connections were made alongside a happy uncertainty of what comes next. 

What I’ve learned from this experience is that a twist of fate truly makes life worthwhile, and it was admirable to see all these like-minded people, no matter their trauma or past transgressions, taking this big and active step to meet people. 

Of course, the real speed dating is the friends we make along the way, but whether they were new friends or potential lovers, I can firmly say that Speed Deets is something I would attempt again unless I actually do meet someone along the way.

Either way here’s hoping we all get the love we deserve in our lives.