The other night, I had a dream. In it, all the men I've ever let slip through my fingers made an appearance.
I awoke in a whirlwind of confusion. What possessed me to let them all go? Once upon a time, they loved me, but they all have girlfriends now.
It's not that they were all that bad; it's just that I was young and uncertain. Now I'm a bit older, a bit wiser and a little closer to being certain of what -- er, who -- I want.
I am also a bonafide hopeless romantic who's spent her life looking for love in all the wrong places. But I'm working on breaking my patterns.
Since I'm always down to try anything once, I proposed speed dating to my boss as a story idea, and she gave me the green light. My coworker and good friend, Bella, graciously offered to go with me.
Our aim was simple. We wanted to know what the hell is up with men these days. Trying an antiquated dating method with a fresh, Millennial perspective, we figured, would be an accurate way of finding out.
Bella and I walked into Murphy's Tavern, a sports bar in Manhattan's Financial District. Up the stairs, we went to find booths lined up back-to-back with one another.
I took one good look around and crossed my fingers, hoping the seedy bar atmosphere wouldn't attest to the quality of the men.
With time to kill before the event began, we sat at the bar and ordered $5 merlots. Bella disclosed that she's a writer; I, on the other hand, fudged the truth a bit and told everyone I worked in PR. We designed the experiment this way to see how men react to women with different professions.
"Hi there! Please take a name tag," the organizer said, interrupting my drink order. My tag pulled the threads off my sweater, but it was no thang. It was game time, baby.
A few sips into our merlots, Bella and I noticed two male speed-daters lingering within earshot. They approached us and introduced themselves as Sam* and Camden*, the former revealing he was from Ukraine.
Bella, a native Russian, struck up a conversation with Sam in her mother tongue.
"I'll go over here, where I can speak English," Camden joked, shuffling over next to me.
Camden was handsome in a James Bond kind of way. With an Australian accent to die for and soulful blue eyes, he stood out from the rest of the crowd.
I learned that his job -- a bank where he works as an economist -- took him from Sydney and stationed him in New York, where he manages over a thousand employees (aka he's kind of a big deal). He's been here for two years and counting but is unsure of just how long the "and counting" will be.
He told me he was 36, and though he freaked out a bit when I told him I was 25, I assured him he looked like a slightly older Calvin Harris. He breathed a sigh of relief and complimented me on my "hipster" glasses.
The back-and-forth felt uncontrived; there was an undeniable rhythm to it.
"I have two sisters. The youngest is trouble," he said, laughing. "Her choice in men is…questionable."
His sister and I had more in common than he probably knew, but I thought it'd be best to keep that to myself.
We moved from the bar and into the booths. Sixteen people ranging from ages 23 to 40 -- one man for every woman -- lined the walls of the bar.
I'd soon come to learn there were men from all different walks of life. An IT guy. An NYPD officer. Pretentious suits from consulting firms. Thick-accented FOBS from India.
The women were dressed in their best business-casual attire. Two Russian chicks who were already drunker than drunk indiscreetly ridiculed the men with their snarled lips and harsh intonations. Their gestures alone spoke volumes, but Bella overheard them: They were desperate for green cards.
I got comfortable in my seat while the organizer dictated the instructions: Each woman would have four minutes with each man. We were to write down the names of all the men on a piece of paper and then circle the names of the men we liked the most.
Hmm, I thought. Four minutes. That's enough to be either a really long conversation with a cringeworthy dude or a really short conversation with a great one.
The bell rang, and we began. My first date was a decently attractive guy from Rochester. He was nice, but he didn't have an edge. I didn't circle his name.
The next few men were seemingly carbon copies of one another. From what I gathered, none of their personalities were distinct in any way. I won't lie -- a few men got lost in the mix.
I also wasn't doing a good job of hiding the fact that I was scanning the room for Camden.
A guy named Charles* showed me his biceps, so I showed him mine back. A guy named Larry* loved chocolate more than I do, and that's saying a lot. They both made me laugh, so I circled their names.
And then, I looked up to find Camden. "Hello again," I said, in my sultriest voice. He smiled.
We continued our conversation from earlier -- he, asking me what I do for fun, and me, telling him my weekend plans. Before I knew it, the bell rang, signaling us to switch dates. Camden told me he'd like to meet up in the future, if I'd have him.
It was my turn to smile.
He left the booth. Tipsy off wine and giddy as a teen, I drew a heart next to his name. And it was game, set and match.
Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as painful as I thought it'd be. It was Tinder IRL; hell, it was a step ahead of Tinder. It gave us an opportunity to metaphorically swipe right for the men we not only found physically attractive, but with whom we also experienced face-to-face chemistry.
Still, I made sure to put my journalistic skills to use. When I asked the men why they chose to spend their evenings at a speed dating event, most men responded with different versions of the same answer: They didn't have time to date. They wanted to, but their jobs took precedence.
Their vulnerability was palpable, filling the room like air in a balloon. In a city whose inhabitants deem their careers their first loves, a city too fast to slow down for romantic love, I must say that watching men wear their hearts on their sleeves was as refreshing as falling into a deep, restorative sleep after days of being awake.
The next morning, I logged on to choose my matches: Camden, Charles and Larry. I was anxious to see who of the three would "choose" me back.
By the end of the day, not only had all three chosen me, but they had texted me, too. That is, except for Camden, who called me because he was born in 1979.
I have dates with all three men this week.
I don't know where or when I'll meet the love of my life, but I do know that speed dating gets a bad rap. At the end of the day, we're all looking for the same thing.
All mediums, whether meeting organically, through a friend or through an app, are simply a means to an end -- the end being the kind of love that renders you unable to remember what life was like without it.
I love love. More open-minded than ever before, I'm willing to try whatever it takes to meet "The One" -- and when luck meets fate, I'll meet my match.
As for now? My faith in men has been restored -- and that's a step in the right direction.