Friday, March 23, 2012

Blind Dating: Would You Fall for Someone You Couldn't See?

I guess blind people do it all the time, which, in my book, makes them the real heroes of the singles scene. But here's the thing about blind dates: I just can't do it.

Not anymore. In the past, I've done it. Twice. The second time was with the Argentine hairdresser of my best friend Lori. He showed up one hour late to our appointed meeting place, a trendy Asian-fusion restaurant on Lafayette Street in downtown New York City whose name, like whatever we ended up talking about during dinner, I've totally forgotten. I was so ticked off by his tardiness, and at myself for allowing my curiosity to make stick around and wait (which he also begged me to do when he called, all apologetic), that by the time he finally arrived, he'd have to look better than Enrique Iglesias to impress me. He didn't even come close!

This happened a couple of years before I moved to Buenos Aires. Little did I know at the time that he'd be first in an upcoming long line of chronically and predictably late and flaky Argentine duds who would pause in my romantic orbit.

My first blind date, many years earlier, was with less of a dud, but hardly the man of my dreams. He worked with a former colleague of mine at People magazine, and for some reason, she got it into her head that we would be perfect for each other. I think she was suffering from that straight-girl malady that says any two attractive gay men would make the perfect couple.

In this case, he was as attractive as she'd said he was, but there was no spark. We never went out again, but years later, we ended up working together at the same magazine! Neither one of us ever acknowledged how we'd first met, and part of me secretly hoped he didn't even recognize me, though I realize how unlikely that would have been.

So now do you see why blind dates aren't really my thing? For some, they might lead to long and lasting love, but not for me. And who needs to spend two years avoiding eye contact with a co-worker because he knows something that you don't want anyone else to know: That once, desperation got the best of me, and I went out with a guy, sight unseen?

I guess you could say that going out with someone you've met online would qualify as a sort of blind date, but at least when you go out with a guy you've met online, you know what he looks like, if you're like me, and no pic = no response. I don't have many requirements when it comes to people with whom I'd go on a first date, but if I couldn't pick you out of a police line-up before we meet face-to-face, we're not going to.

Of course, there are far more challenging ways to search for The One than traditional blind dates. What about a series of dates, where you are actually "blind"? That was the premise of Dating in the Dark, a U.S. reality show that aired in 2009 and 2010 that I've recently caught a few times on Bangkok TV.

Three guys and three girls have their first meetings in pitch blackness. Eventually, they pair off into couples (sometimes two girls to one guy -- which happened twice in the three episodes I've seen -- leaving one unlucky guy twiddling his thumbs on the sidelines), and they have a series of dates in the "dark room." Afterwards, they get invitations (or not) to return to the "dark room," where a spotlight is shined first on the guy (or girl), then on the girl (or guy). If you like what you see, you show up on the balcony and pray that the other one does, too. No rose required.

This is so wrong and so entertaining on so many levels. In this scenario, it's not even the "blind" factor that gets me. When you meet someone in a dark bar or club after too many drinks and end up taking them home, you never know whom you'll wake up next to. In that sense, I've been on more blind dates than I care to count.

So the "blind" part is actually the aspect of Dating in the Dark that would make me least uncomfortable. In fact, the idea of establishing a mental and physical connection with someone before you ever get to stare into his eyes intrigues me. Had I not been able to see most of the guys I've dated until the third or fourth date, I'd probably be going on six or seven years single right now. In Buenos Aires, considering the cultural and language barrier (especially in those first months, before I started to learn Spanish), it was always about how they looked.

For me, the toughest part of dating in the dark would come after the series of "blind" dates. It would be nerve-wracking enough devoting several dates to someone whom you couldn't recognize in a crowd. When I think back on my nerves when I was about to be face-to-face with my two blind dates for the first time, I imagine that I would probably be a quivering mess right before the spotlight portion of the proceedings, after I've had several dates to build the other person up in my mind. If he was super-hot, I'd be terrified of rejection (yes, I'm as insecure as the next one), and if he wasn't, I'd be terrified of appearing to be shallow on national TV.

Which brings me to what must be the most frightening aspect of Dating in the Dark. It's bad enough in real life when a guy you like doesn't return your phone call, or your text, or your email. But can you imagine going out on that balcony and not having him show up? Rejection in front of millions of people! Ouch!

On the episode I watched today, one guy, a Mr. Personality who probably never gets a second glance in the light of day, was pursued by two women. He was leaning towards one of them, but the other one was "so hot," throwing him off. She was the knockout kind of girl, he said, that guys like him never get in real life. This made his decision that much tougher. In the end, things played out as they were meant to. He checked his ego, and allowed the right head to make the decision -- good thing, since the really hot girl split -- and he and his chosen one rode off into the sunset, happily ever after, until the credits rolled.

I wondered what she would think when she saw the show and witnessed his inner struggle playing out onscreen: her or the incredibly hot one! If they could survive blindness, intense competition, and painful suspense, I'm pretty sure they'd weather the blow to her ego, too. That's the thing about dating in the dark -- you get to see what a person is all about first. Looks become secondary, which is more conducive to strong bonding -- and safer, too. As Morrissey once sang, pretty girls make graves. So do pretty boys.

The couple that stays together is the one that gets together based on something other than a hot body and an incredible face. For now, though, I think I'll remain in light. When I fall for someone's mind, I still want to be looking him in the eye.
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