You can learn a lot in just three minutes

Times Staff Writer

For the last few months, I've been trolling the Web, checking out dating sites. I've posted a profile and answered queries. But honestly, I'm having more fun playing profile peeping Tom than actually making contact. That, of course, makes dating a tad more challenging.

So days after a game of "Who would you ... " with my friend Phil as we surfed through dating site profiles, I enlisted him for an adventure. was having a speed-dating event at Shane in Santa Monica, and we were going.

At the very least, we would have one date out of 24 that would be three minutes of bliss and we'd both get to leave with someone we actually liked.

The age range was 30 to 44, which Phil objected to because we both had crossed the 30 mark this year. For me, it would be heaven -- older men. For him, hell -- older women. He just had to deal.

When the evening started, I found one important shortcoming. With the women sitting the entire evening, we never really got a useful height comparison as the men moved from table to table. I'm about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and rather particular about my men and their height.

A guy who reminded me of Huey Lewis did ask me to stand. His pompadour barely reached my shoulder. (I was wearing my tall shoes.) "Let's date!" he exclaimed. Uh, maybe not.

Phil started at the other end of the room. His first date spoke very little English, so he strained to keep any kind of conversation going. Three minutes seemed an eternity, he said.

Next was the woman who was closer to 50 than to 30. "How old are you?" she asked him, as if to suggest he had no business being there.

A series of women about his mom's age followed.

For me, the age gap was no biggie. My most recent beaus and crushes have been in the 40 to 48 range. The whole experience was like a series of brilliant mini-parties -- and I love playing hostess.

Phil decided to have fun with the time after finding only one remote possibility in a superficially interesting woman.

Before we embarked on this dating adventure, a mutual friend had given us an envelope with topics of terror to be opened in case of emergency. Phil mentally tore that baby open, recalling the best one.

"Well, I've got three nipples and a tail," he told one of his dates, staring confidently into her eyes.

"You do? Wow, that's hot," she said. (Needless to say, she chose him as a match -- and was looking for him immediately after the event.)

I tried to keep good notes but eventually gave it up. So while I recorded that one rumpled guy was rather down about being a 48-year-old bachelor and was concerned about his fertility, I totally missed what that tall, good-looking guy at the end had to offer.

Some of my more memorable candidates: the personal trainer who was Mr. Clean with a tan; the man with a voice like Melanie Griffith; the conservative Buddhist comedian; the cameraman-turned-lawyer; the sociologist; the psychologist; and that cute salesman with the goatee.

After the musical chairs of the evening came to an end, Phil and I ran off to debrief over martinis at Monsoon.

For him, this had been an exercise in futility: The women were mostly Mrs. Robinsons to his Benjamin. Besides, he was really more preoccupied with the repercussions of what might happen if he broke up with a gal back home he hadn't yet officially started dating.

As it turned out, speed dating actually worked out for Phil without a single match being sent to his e-mail. That night, he raced home to Indio and finally kissed the girl he'd been fretting about.

Now they're picking out condos together.

My adventure in dating, however, will continue -- just as soon as the e-mail with my matches hits my inbox.

Michelle Maltais can be contacted at michelle.maltais

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