Speed Dating Slowed Down

For anyone still looking for their Valentine this month, but feeling wary of internet match-ups and too weary for the five-minutes-of-fame speed dating gives you, there’s a new alternative in town: speed dating slowed down.

Daria “Dee Dee” Bracic is turning Valentino’s Café into a Sunday dating hot spot for all the Victoria singles — young and old — who have yet to find their perfect match

Daria “Dee Dee” Bracic is turning Valentino’s Café into a Sunday dating hot spot for all the Victoria singles — young and old — who have yet to find their perfect match

One local restaurant owner is donating her space

to ensure everyone can find their Valentine this year

For anyone still looking for their Valentine this month, but feeling wary of internet match-ups and too weary for the five-minutes-of-fame speed dating gives you, there’s a new alternative in town: speed dating slowed down.

Daria “Dee Dee” Bracic, owner and operator of Valentino’s Café on Blanchard, has decided to donate her café for a loving cause — literally. Starting Sunday, Feb. 13, Bracic will be turning her perogy café into a dating hub for those who want to meet Victoria’s most eligible singles.

Bracic, 50, is single and has never been married. She says the idea began when she went out to Bard and Banker with a few girlfriends and realized they were the most matured ladies in the bar.

“Most of my girlfriends are between 45 and 65 years old, some of them are single, some are divorced — some of them wish they were divorced — and they ask me, ‘Dee Dee, where can you go at our age if you want to meet someone?’” she says. “And I thought, why not start here?”

With that motivation, Bracic posted signs and asked that people call if interested. The response was huge, so this Sunday between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Bracic will be hosting free “Speed Dating Slowed Down” for anyone 45 and up. But don’t expect to be rotating tables when a buzzer bings. Bracic is setting out the board games, movies, coffee and treats for people to come meet, mingle and maybe match up with the future love of their lives.

“So many women I know say they’re just ready to give up. They’ve tried the internet, single sites, the bar scene and events, and they’re still waiting,” she says. “But there’s a lot of stigma the older you get, and that’s what I’d like to get rid of. I figure, if I can do something to make a difference in the lay of the dating land, it could change someone’s whole life course. And that’s pretty exciting.”

Bracic points out that most people nearing 50 aren’t ready to be considered a “senior” yet, despite the fact that most senior centres mark that as their entry age. In fact, Bracic’s mother is 70 and even she won’t hang out at the centres because she says the people are “too old” for her.

“I think 45 and up is the perfect time for romance, because you’ve already gone through your coming-of-age trials, and you can finally relax into who you are. It’s when you start to blossom,” she says. “I had a lady in her 70s come in and ask ‘Dee Dee, am I too old to join?’ And I said, of course not!”

Bracic, who is originally from Winnipeg but has lived in Victoria for the last 19 years, wants to redefine ages as “baby blossoms,” women just starting to bloom, and “baby barons,” men who are now tender and juicy. She hopes people will forget about their waistlines, wear and worries, and just come out for a great time. And while Bracic knows putting yourself out there can be intimidating, she says she can’t guarantee a match but she can vouch for a safe and loving environment, and a chance to meet a Valentine just in time.

“One of the best parts of this is that I know these people as my customers,” she says. “And there are some very eligible bachelors and bachelorettes who will be in attendance — business executives, doctors, former NHL players, nurses, teachers, shop owners — and you wonder how these people haven’t met their mates yet.”

To raise hype around the Sunday dating, Bracic started the “Love Wall,” where people can press their lips to a piece of paper, then vote on the sexiest. The winner, who will likely be in attendance, she says, will win a free meal at Valentino’s.

Bracic, who was a school psychologist for 20 years, says she plans on continuing the Sunday events as long as there’s interest. She also plans on hosting events for the younger crowd as well — 18 to 25, 25 to 35 and so on. Those ages, she says, may see the more traditional timed speed dating just to keep things interesting. So far, she’s had inquiries from members of the Salmon Kings and from women as far as Vancouver asking to receive a call as soon as the age is lowered.

Admittedly, Bracic hopes her own future Valentine will be amongst Sunday’s crowd. She’s a big believer in chance meetings, the old fashioned way, and has never tried online dating herself. However, she has, like many little girls, always dreamed of her wedding day. In fact, she already has the dress, the veil, the crown and the shoes. Bracic says she’s also already had two chances — both were millionaires — but she turned them down.

“I won’t know him until I meet him, and I haven’t met him yet — but that’s how you know,” she says. “You just know. And somewhere, he’s out there looking for me too. Maybe we’ll meet this Sunday.” M

To find out more about Speed Dating Slowed Down, call Bracic at 250-386-3223, or stop by Valentino’s at 1002 Blanchard. While all are welcome to attend, Bracic asks that those interested call ahead so she can prepare tables accordingly.

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