Tonight my friend Jill and I went to a single mingle at our apartment complex. Single. Mingle. I can’t stop saying it because I think it sounds hilarious. Lookit, I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe and like many members of my generation, I have trouble looking sincerity directly in the eye. I’m all about irony and things that are awesomely bad, so the idea of a “single mingle” is compelling because it promises to be deliciously awful.
I admit that I was a bit curious to see the kind of crowd that would show up. When I moved into the complex, Vicki, the woman who runs the complex and also hosted the event tonight, told me about the tanning beds and all the attractive single guys who lived here. I suspected the latter was an overstatement at best, but since I moved in for the gym and the good internet access, I didn’t sweat it. This seemed like a good opportunity to see whether or not Vicki had lied to me.
I also thought I might learn the names of some of the people I’ve seen around the gym. Like this guy who always seems to be there whenever I go in. One night he decided to run on the treadmill next to mine, only it had slipped off its thick, rubber mat. There were several other machines open, but he decided to just wrestle that one back into position. It took a few tries and what looked like considerable effort, but he got it. I’m not sure he’s my type, or even if he’s single, but you see a guy go toe to toe with the gym equipment, you wonder who he is. I didn’t solve that mystery tonight, but rest assured, I’m working on it.
I liked to think of what we were doing as an undercover mission of sorts. Jill actually has a boyfriend, but she was game to indulge my curiousity and be moral support. A single mingle doesn’t seem like something I’d be up for on my own. Improv comedy? Rock climbing? Those things I could do solo, but this was the sort of thing where I’d need a partner in crime.
We arrived late, and I quickly noticed that the men sat at one table and the women at two others. For a single’s event two days before Valentine’s Day, it seemed ironic that everyone avoided members of the opposite sex like we were at a seventh grade dance. I also couldn’t help but notice there were roughly a dozen women and only five men. The 2:1 ratio doesn’t necessarily prove Vicki lied to me. It’s circumstatial at best. Still…it seems noteworthy. We made our way directly towards the food table, and in keeping with the pre-existing group dynamic, I didn’t make eye contact with the men’s side of the room.
After we got our plates, Jill and I stood for several minutes glancing at the two remaining chairs, which weren’t next to one another. We weren’t quite ready to mingle, after all, but Vicki pushed us toward a table with two other women. We settled in and made a little small talk until Vicki announced it was time for us to play a game.
Because it’s close to Valentine’s Day and this was basically a mixer (hold the mixing), we were going to play Battle of the Sexes. I understand why this seemed like a good idea, and perhaps if it hadn’t been for the self-imposed segregation, a bit of gender rivalry might have been fun. Instead it seemed to exacerbate the current dynamic, and all the women huddled together with their backs to the men. At this point, if one of those guys had been twelve feet tall and had a second head I wouldn’t have known.
The game was kind of fun, although that may just be because I love board games. I am always surprised at how competitive I can get. Who knows about spackle, the Thrilla in Manilla, and Alfred Kinsey? This girl! Jill would like to point out that while Elle McPherson is known as “The Body,” some people call Heidi Klum by that name as well, so her answer should have been counted.
After the game was over, Vicki told us to line up in two lines. We did, and she explained that she was going to ring a bell and then…well, then, frankly the instructions became unclear. To everyone. She was going to give us a little time to meet one another, but only the person on the right was supposed to talk, I think. Then, she would ring the bell, signaling that we move to the next person down the line, which sounds simple, but when does the person on the left get to talk? Are we doing this twice? The lines weren’t necessarily lined up perfectly either, so sometimes it was unclear who was talking to whom, and I skipped one person entirely. Down at the far end, I wound up talking to three other people at once. At various intervals, the bell would ring. Sometimes, we had too much time and I’d run out of things to say. Once I had barely exchanged names with a woman, and we got the cue to switch. Halfway through this, a guy came in late, and Vicki scooped him up and moved him down the center of the two lines introducing him to everyone along the way, and randomly ringing that damn bell.
I have to say that everyone was very nice, and I liked having a chance to meet some of my neighbors. I remain skeptical about these kinds of gatherings, particularly as a potential way to meet a future boyfriend. Usually, I develop a crush on someone in spontaneous and unusual ways. A guy reveals that he knows the name of the actress who played the middle sister on Full House. He makes me laugh even as we are fighting over kitchen sponges. He kicks me in the shins (and lest you think that happened to me in third grade, I was 23 at the time). When I tell him about a particularly good day, he grabs a guitar and makes up a faux-punk song about it. We both love Caravaggio. We both love the same episode of The Cosby Show. He laughs at me when I tell him I have to take “remedial treadmill” at the gym. These are the things that make me swoon.
I don’t see me making those kinds of connections at a single mingle. In part, that’s because I usually need to get to know someone a little bit before I warm up to them, and God knows I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s also because I’m there on a super secret spy mission, and maybe the guy is, too, but there’s no way to know that because we’re both sort of under cover. The alternative is that he’s the kind of guy who goes to a single mingle without irony, and part of me has to admit that there’s something very brave about the willingness to put one’s self out there like that. It’s not easy, and, frankly, it requires a certain type of earnestness and sincerity that I still can’t quite look squarely in the eye.