Speed dating questions for the socially conscious?

As noted yesterday, I am “a somewhat lonely, somewhat het (although not exclusively so), somewhat socially awkward, somewhat male (although again, not exclusively so) individual of (at least apparently) the species homo sapiens“. As noted yesterday, I sometimes want to do something about the “lonely” part.

One of the ways that people go about meeting new people with whom they may eventually form romantic/sexual relationships, is to meet lots of them in a short space of time at a speed dating event. Where I was living before, this was not a realistic option for me because of remoteness and poor transport links, and I don’t drive (I have a provisional licence, but it’s never been a major imperative to finish learning). Now, however, I have better links and a bigger city nearby, so it is available to me to try it out. Who knows, maybe the set-up of one person at a time, albeit several persons in quick succession, will be effective in dealing with the whole introvert/reserved personality thing that I have going on.

The catch is that there’s only 3-4 minutes per person, and I have several things I want to figure out about a person before I’m comfortable saying I’m interested or not. Therefore, some kind of prep work is going to be necessary to give myself the best chance of meeting someone who could fit well into my social-emotional-romantic life.

Chief of the “must-haves/dealbreakers” level of importance has to be social justice position. Racism, transphobia, homophobia, completely out. Similarly, a potential partner must for me either identify as feminist, or else have a “I’m not a feminist but…” relationship with gender equality/liberation as a philosophy/ideal. Otherwise, I’m going to be questioning whether it’s her choice or social norms that dictate her role (it will be “her” at a speed dating event, although one group organised an event where it was possible to date either/both – and my choice of wording there makes me wonder idly how a polyamorous speed dating event would look; thoughts/examples, any poly-folks out there?)

The other dealbreaker that could realistically be assessed in that short span would be whether she smokes (sorry, smoke makes me ill, the smell is instant passion-killer). The must-have of kink awareness/involvement would hardly be an easy topic to broach at any time, let alone a light, 4-minute get-to-know-you. And the other personality/attitude things are probably going to have to come out over time, unless she announces them up-front herself.

Dislikes/would-be-nice also have some of the same issues – things that will ultimately have to come out over longer chats and exchanges (for instance, whether she has the ability to follow my train of thought and has similar reference points to mine; or whether she has a tendency to put herself down). But I think I have a reasonable chance of finding out things like whether she is musical, somewhere tending towards the nerd/geek/dork range of identities, whether she has a creative bent, and how busy her life is (including travel wishes). While travel has its upsides, I want someone who’ll be able to settle down with me without forever looking for the next long-distance trip.

Given these clear criteria for “the sort of woman I want to meet”, my next step was to find out how you go about assessing these qualities. It seemed to me to be quite blunt to try asking up-front about them: it’s not, after all, a job interview or “elevator pitch”. It’s supposed to be fun for you both, right? Not to mention, if you ask up-front, then people will tend to say what they think you want to hear (e.g. if I ask, “Are you feminist?” or “What’s your view of feminism?” then women who think men are afraid of feminists will say “no” whereas women who think I am into feminism will answer “yes”, regardless of the true value – although I would expect a feminist-leaning woman would be more likely to say “yes” even if she thought I would be turned off by it).

In Google I trusted. “Speed dating tactics” I entered. Oops. Hello PUAs! I tried a few other search terms to give general ideas of how to construct revealing-yet-fun questions, but didn’t find anything except generic and rather straightforward lists (some of which looked fun to adapt and use for interest). “Speed dating feminist” turned up the link above with the non-heteronormative event, but little else of value.

With these various searches I did find some general tips on how to make a good impression/avoid making a bad one, which become part of my prep work to internalise those. Some of them gave me the hints I used to construct some questions that I felt might get me the information I wanted without being too blunt, “job-interviewer” or otherwise un-fun.

So, here for your entertainment and feedback, are the questions I concocted. The “icebreaker/build interest” category is questions I found or adapted from the lists I mentioned earlier and that sounded like good ways to get a person to open up a bit. (I inserted “best” instead of “worst” on the third one, I think it’s more fun to think about positives.) The others are as discussed above (I decided the best way to deal with “smoker?” was just to ask that one directly, so that’s not included in the list below). Points in brackets indicate variations or followers that I thought could be useful/better. Square brackets indicate what point I think the question would help reveal. I have another category of “general compatibility” (things like “night owl” or “early bird” and so on) that doesn’t need comment here.

Icebreaker/Build Interest:

  1. What would you most like me to know about you? (Or, “When I tell my friends about meeting you, and I say, ‘There was [her name], and she…’ what do you most hope I’ll say?”)
  2. What would your autobiography be called? (Which famous person would you want to comment on it for the back cover? Would you write it yourself or get a ghostwriter?)
  3. What’s the best answer you’ve given/been given this evening?
  4. What would you be famous for?
  5. How did you prepare yourself for coming here?


  1. Are men and women basically the same or different? [i.e. gender politics views, will they be compatible?]
  2. Political correctness – too much or too little these days? (Or: “Gone mad, or not mad enough?”) [Does she support social justice activism?]

Dislikes/Would Be Nice:

  1. If your life was a suitcase, how would you describe it in general? [Is she always travelling, life too full, etc? Is she down on herself/life?]
  2. What’s your favourite way to express yourself? [e.g. artistic/musical/creative]
  3. What subjects fascinate you most? [ANY enthusiastic answer implies learning/involvement/geek-nerd-dork-ism]

Of course, some of the advice says not to talk about politics, but it’s a big filter for me, and some of those points are directly involved with my sexual interest (as in, I’m not completely het or cis so she had better be okay with LGBTQ folks, and I just have so much more confidence when a feminist/”not-a-feminist-but” says “yes”).

This leaves me with a burning question: when do I put the “dealbreaker” questions? If I ask them up-front, at the start of the time, then I’m going to feel pretty awkward for the rest of the 3-minutes or more if she gives the wrong answer for me (e.g. if she says she smokes). I don’t make small talk easily, after all. (Not to mention, it’s not going to look good if I sit down and rattle them off straight away – like I said, it’s not supposed to be a job interview, it should be fun!) I suppose some of the “interest-builders” would work to cover that, though. Alternatively, if I leave them, then I might not have time to fit them in later, if the conversation flows. All the advice says to let the other person know when they trigger a dealbreaker, and I think that’s fair enough.

The other point I thought of is that 4 minutes is not that long. If you ask an interesting question and get a good answer, that could easily take at least 30s (especially if it leads to a bit of back-and-forth conversation on the topic), which means that between my date and me, we have time for a total of maybe 8 questions put together, or four each. I have to let her ask some of her own too, right? So there’s no way I get to ask all my questions to every woman. Let’s say one of the ones I ask is “Smoker?” – that’s quick and easy, won’t take much time off the clock – so four others. That’s one icebreaker/interest-builder and then one or both dealbreaker points, and then maybe one Would-Be-Nice and one general compatibility, or else one or two W-B-N, depending on how many dealbreaker questions I asked.

This certainly gives me the opportunity to vary my conversations, by asking different questions to the different women, but it also undoubtedly leaves holes in my evaluation of dating potential. Of course, some of that can be ironed out later if we both express interest on our charts, and none of it will be as awkward as the first time I raise the kink dimension (which, as noted, would probably be a bit too personal to raise in the first few minutes of a date, and therefore has to be addressed on some later meet-up).

So, things to do would seem to start with getting used to the idea of using the interest-builders as a form of small-talk filler in case some of the women are smokers/un-PC enough to trigger my dealbreakers. Probably a good idea to start memorising the questions, too. Brushing up on the more ethical forms of PUA banter may help (I think it would be a great venue for trying Daygame’s “assumption” technique – so, instead of asking what she does, I might say, “you look like you work in/as…” for example, and let her use that as a cue to say what she really does). Maybe have a look at body language issues as well. Oh, yeah, and try not to overthink too much (unless by definition overthinking is too much, that’s why it’s OVERthinking…?)

Despite all that, I feel pretty good about the idea.


About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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