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Eight minutes to a lifetime relationship--or a business contact



Some people want a relationship. Some want sex. And some just want a date.

"I'm going home to cry myself to sleep," joked Ben Young, recently single after leaving a relationship behind in Delaware, following an unsuccessful night of eight-minute dating. "She did not want to leave her family." Young was one of about 25 people to meet at Damon's Restaurant in Raleigh last Tuesday night, plunk down about $40 and go through the appetizers, drinks and a line of prospective dates. You know the drill: eight minutes each and move on; it evolved from one-minute dating after it was determined that a minute wasn't quite enough time to get to know someone.

Maybe Young needs to take a few notes from eight-minute dating veteran Eddie Hughes.

"It's called mojo," said Hughes, who claims much success with this forum for meeting single women. His last relationship lasted more than two years. "You hope to meet some new friends and have a good time," he says. "I accomplished that tonight."

Hughes, upon being seated with Kristen Aponte, realized they had met before and hung out. Both seemed happy with this reunion and vowed to keep in touch. Aponte, also a dating veteran, said of one of the evening's contenders: "I'll put him down for dating and friendship."

This eight-minute dating session was organized by Lalenya Strickland, who provides the food, drink and small tables with white tablecloths and a single red rose where eight-minute daters sit down with eight others over the course of two hours.

She also handles the logistics--because the relationships do not necessarily end there.

After the final encounter, participants fill out a ratings card and enter the names of the people they'd like to see again. If you're selected by another dater, you'll receive their contact information, and the dating process can continue.

Tom Schneider and Tamika Sneed were just settling in for their date when the formalities began. Schneider, I learned, was a fill-in dater for the evening. He was sitting at the bar when he was recruited for an evening of dating. He moved to the Raleigh area after spending most of his life in Buffalo.

"I'm making the best of it. Feed me a few beers and nice women and this is what it takes," he says. Sneed, who has lived her whole life in the town of Franklinton, just wanted to try something different.

Young and Tony Aukerman sat down at the end of the evening to discuss aspects and challenges of the dating scene. Who are your dream dates? I asked. Aukerman responded: actress Jenna Elfman (of the '90s sitcom Dharma & Greg). Young, without hesitation, said singer LeAnne Rimes.

Aukerman says he's not into the bar or club scene but tried eight-minute dating not just to get a date, but to make new business contacts. Both defined dating as being in a relationship. Young defined it further: "Regular sex, or sex on a regular basis."

"It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or the bonus question on the test," Aukerman says.

Their dating rules: A first date should never occur at a movie, but should begin at a coffeehouse, where you can talk. The best cheap date, Young says, begins at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh followed by coffee and lunch. The getting-to-know-you time is important, and both say they often disagree with their dates just to see what happens.

"I once broke up with a girl who agreed with me too much," Aukerman says. "I want someone who complements me as an individual."

But when it comes to his most romantic date, Aukerman was almost transported in time. "It was at the observation deck at RDU with champagne at midnight. I even left the car door open to play the stereo."

"Mine," Young said, "was at the Brandywine Creek State Park in Delaware, where we had a picnic and watched the stars." Both look almost dreamy as they tell their stories of romance.

Both said they look forward to their next evening of eight-minute dates. And if they don't get a date out of this round, it'll be a cheap date, for sure. The eight-minute dating guarantee: "You'll meet someone you want to see again or your next event is free."

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