Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Babb doesn’t look like she would be hard pressed to get a date.
But on a Friday night at Martini’s Lounge on Ramstein Air Base, Germany, she went on what could be described as a blind-dating blitzkrieg.
When the night ended, she had rifled through 18 dates. And she did it without leaving her table.
That’s how it works with speed dating, a style of courtship that has become popular at bars and clubs across the United States and the United Kingdom.
Babb, who is stationed at Ramstein, was among the 17 women and 18 men who took part in the fast-paced method of meeting other single people. She signed up to participate partly out of curiosity and partly because she would like to meet someone. The outgoing staff sergeant said there might be plenty of men in Kaiserslautern’s large American military community, but it has been difficult to find many good ones who are available.
"Honestly, I’ve found it a little bit difficult to meet people," Babb said. "After like five people you approach or they approach you, you find out they’re married. ... Or you’re interested in someone and it’s like, ‘Oh, they’ve got a girlfriend.’ "
That’s not a problem with speed dating. Everyone is single and looking. And unlike a blind date set up by friends, participants don’t have to endure a long, drawn-out night with someone they know right away is not a match.
Los Angeles Rabbi Yaacov Deyo created speed dating as a way for Jewish singles to meet. But the concept has been all the rage for the past several years, even making its way into movies such as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Ramstein is believed to be among the first military installations to put on an event.
Jacqueline Hall, the entertainment coordinator for the Ramstein Enlisted Club, said she figured the concept might be a hit for lovelorn singles in the area.
Here’s how it works:
Men and women sign up and are assigned a number. Women sit down at their assigned table, while the men rotate tables every five minutes. Each person carries index cards to mark down which dates they like.
At the end, organizers gather the cards and notify those who put each other down as matches. It’s up to the participants whether or not they want to see that person again. There is no pressure or obligation to do so.
It’s OK to ask some personal questions, but others are off limits. Participants are not supposed to ask what somebody’s job is or where they work. They also aren’t supposed to exchange contact information during the quickie date. The reason is that organizers don’t want people unilaterally tracking down the dates; they have to see if they are a match.
A card on each table offered a few ice-breaking questions to help people get conversations going quickly.
After the sound of a loud tone, Hall would say, "All right everybody. It’s time to move to your next table." The men would move on to the next seat in the game of musical tables and begin a new conversation.
Men and women who signed up for Ramstein’s speed dating ranged from 20-year-old military dependents to some divorced civilians in their 40s. Some dressed to impress, while others clearly did not. One guy wore a suit and tie. One woman wore jogging pants.
Sophia Davis, 20, took part because she was curious.
"I have never done anything like this," she said. "I wanted to see what it was like."
She met a lot of men she described as friend material. But she didn’t feel that instant spark from anyone.
"But I had a good time," she said. "It turned out nice."
Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Patters, 23, said he enjoyed the experience and would recommend that other single men and women try speed dating before they knock it.
"I thought it would be fun," he said. "It was something to do on a Friday."
On the first night, there were no matches. But Hall said the speed dating event was so popular that organizers held another in April.
Some people might think that five minutes isn’t enough to find out if someone is a perfect match.
But Hall disagrees. She believes many people can establish early on whether there is any chemistry. First impressions remain important when trying to find that special someone.
However, she added: "If you’re sitting on the fence with that person, then you’re probably not a match."
Love at first sight didn’t strike Babb. But she did meet some guys that she thought were cool and wouldn’t mind hanging out with as friends. She said, unfortunately, it’s not an option to put people down as friend potential.
Still, she would do it again.
"I had a good time," she said. "It was definitely a good experience. I think it went real well."