Tag Archives: Speed Dating

Firefly Romance

As a child, did you run barefoot through the summer dusk, catching fireflies? Like me, you probably incarcerated them in mayonnaise jars with holey lids.

My parents tried to persuade me to release them.

This made no sense. My folks constantly looked for ways to save money. What wasn’t to love about a cool invention that lowered the electric bill? Still, when they insisted the fireflies were crying for their mommies, I freed them, trusting they were flitting home to hugs, baths and clean jammies, too.

Growing older, I wondered if something less Disney was going on. Sure enough, research revealed those Snow White scenes were actually firefly date nights. Since their adult lives last only a few weeks, love strikes these bugs like lightning; they do some serious speed dating.

Like me, Sara Lewis, a Tufts University scientist, loves to watch fireflies. Unlike me, she gets paid. For the past 25 years, Sara has noticed different species use specific flashes and delays to communicate. Opposites often attract, as seen in the following Photinus marginellus exchange:

P. marginellus Guy: Flash! (Two-second pause.) Flash! (Two seconds.) Flash! (The P. marginellus guys are the faithful, consistent types, but a little boring.)

P. marginellus Girl: Flash! (Zero delay. The P. marginellus girls are a little easy.)

A reversed pattern characterizes Photinus carolinus fireflies; with six flashes in three seconds, guys define the word “flashy.” P. carolinus women, however, wait 10 whole seconds before emitting short, coy responses that declare these dudes better show up with candy and roses.

Which some do. According to Lewis, males often bring “nuptial gifts” — food to sustain females as they lay eggs. Even in the insect kingdom, women love their Fannie May’s. Tied with red satin ribbons, thank you very much.

Because the girls are so picky, P. carolinus guys often gather in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina-Tennessee border. There, they synchronize flashes to attract their ladies’ notice, creating spectacular light shows.

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to all this love and light. The female of one species fakes the signals of others to lure unsuspecting males to her place for dinner — with him as the main course!

Eww. I’m tempted to go inside and refresh my psyche with a pure-minded sitcom.

But strains of the Mills Brothers’ old song, “The Glow-Worm,” float through my mind. Hundreds of fireflies appear, tiny lights glimmering like shiny gold confetti. My husband joins me, and we hold hands, glad that children won’t lack fireflies for their mayonnaise jars.

And that these sparks light up summer evenings for all young — and old — lovers snuggling on a porch in the summer twilight.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite firefly memory?

The Love Trials

valentine-636834_640In 1998, a rabbi promoting marriage among Jewish singles conceived the idea of speed dating, now practiced globally. Interested parties sign up for several round robin dates of three to eight minutes. Most of us spend more time selecting sides at Wendy’s.

Even if positive vibes result, many more check-’em-out dates will be required to truly know each other. So, wouldn’t it be wonderful if those longing for true love could detect losers and schmoozers in one day?

Ta-da! My revolutionary concept, Love Trials, cuts to the chase. This scientific approach will benefit all humankind, plus make me a few million dollars. Each participating couple will know whether they have found their soul mates after five short sessions in which they:

 Trial #1: Pack a suitcase. The girl and guy are given one small bag. Not one each – one. She does her best, but it only holds a weekend’s supply of lipsticks. And is he really going to wear that?

 Trial #2: Visit a buffet with one plate. When a woman’s baby spinach salad vies for space with the guy’s giant nachos topped with five pounds of bacon, she may reconsider. His passion may cool, too, when she doesn’t want his food touching hers.

Trial #3: Dig a car out of a snowdrift. Even without the debate as to who should have listened to whom about road conditions, speed and directions, this trial proves invaluable in unmasking polite claims of gender equality. She dubs him the stronger; therefore, he should push. He thumbs his nose at her so-called dedication to equal rights and claims superior judgment in rocking and rolling out of the predicament.

Trial #4: Hang wallpaper. Participants ask themselves: Do they really want to pledge their lives to someone who can’t distinguish a rectangle from a trapezoid? Who glues his thumbs permanently to his ears? Future wedding pictures are at stake.

Trial #5: Buy each other a $10 gift. She purchases an extra-long towel and embroiders his darling baby-in-the-bath picture on it (winning his mother over). He buys her a heavy- duty ice scraper.

Have the starry-eyed lovers fled the scene? If not, do they still speak to each other? (Grunts count. So do weepy “how could you!”s)

Light up a huge neon Congratulations! sign. Release the balloons and confetti!

In the Love Trials, if he and she have not escaped to Mars and Venus respectively, a relationship with a real, live human being has begun. Break out the chocolates, flowers, music and romance! This couple can celebrate true love until the next great Love Trial:

Planning a wedding.

What tried-and-true Love Trial would you suggest for my list?