At a speed-dating event in August, $25 bought attendees 20 dates with strangers, each roughly five minutes long.
When the first blind dates began, it wasn’t long before some people — mostly men — tried to go out of order so they could talk to the person they were most attracted to.
“There’s a seat right here,” one of the event’s organizers said, steering a wayward attendee back into the designated flow.
Speed dating is no easy feat, requiring the conversational stamina of a filibuster champion, the brevity of an auctioneer and a positive mood to fight the boredom of repetition. Drinks were encouraged.
“I’m a very personable person — I hate texting, I love phone calls,” said N’dack Fleming, 28, who added that she was ready to leave behind her “hookup phase.” “So I was like, OK, this experience is a very personable experience.”
The event, called We Met IRL, was created by Maxine Williams as a balm for those who have found it difficult to navigate a sometimes unsavory dating scene in New York City, where endless swiping and lukewarm flings can convince even the most introverted that it’s time to leave the apartment. This summer, We Met IRL was just one of several events that nudged singles out into the real world, uniting them through common interests or kitschy themes, sometimes the more contrived, the better.
Singles events have long asked people to place their hopes for romance in the hands of strangers, promising attendees — if nothing else — the chance to get out of their comfort zones. Many of these events held in New York this summer centered on activities, like ax throwing, or shared interests, like a love of reading.
At a singles party for queer people of color hosted by the queer collective Raw Honey at the Sultan Room in Brooklyn last month, more than 200 attendees showed up to kick off cuffing season. Each person was asked to pick a colored wrist band: Red signaled you were there only to make friends, yellow identified you as polyamorous, and green meant you were single and down to mingle.
Gabrielle Hitchens, the founder of the collective, said that she knew it could be hard for queer people of color “to find each other and connect,” so she wanted to provide a destination for them to do so in a party setting. Between dancing and drinking, many in the room seemed to hit it off, with at least one pair confirming they had a date planned in the days ahead.
Cambria Evans moved to New York City in 2021, and she said she hadn’t yet been able to fully explore the queer community as a bisexual woman in Brooklyn. When she saw a flier for the Raw Honey event on Instagram, she thought it would be a great way to get out of her comfort zone.
“I did see a bunch of people that I was definitely attracted to, but I was definitely too shy to talk to them,” Ms. Evans recalled a few days after the party, which she attended alone. “I am doing things one thing at a time.”
A brightly lit room in Williamsburg filled with dog treats, toys and kibble might not be the most obvious setting for flirting and romance. However, dozens of people gathered last week at Boris & Horton, a dog-friendly cafe in Brooklyn, to do just that.
It was a “Must Love Dogs” singles mixer hosted by the Blink Date, a dating app founded by Taly Matiteyahu that schedules 10-minute phone dates for its members with potential matches. A lot of mingling happened among the dozens of guests, but at first, it was mostly the dogs introducing themselves.
Vladimir Manosalvas, who referred to himself as “single like a Pringle,” said he came to the event alone with the intention of meeting dogs and only dogs: “Dogs are love, dogs are life and even though I like people, I mostly came to this mix-and-match event for the dogs.”
Allie Shoemaker, who was at the cafe with her two dogs, Itty Bitty and Doodle, came to the event to look for a potential match but didn’t have high expectations. She quoted a Carrie Underwood song that summed up her dating experience: “The more boys I meet, the more I love my dogs.”
“The peace I feel right now, that I always wanted to feel with a partner, I feel with them, and that’s OK,” she said.
It’s safe to say that many of us still yearn for a classic meet-cute that online dating cannot achieve. Singles mixers dangle the idea that you might find the one (or at least the person you want to cuff through the fall and winter) over drink specials and a niche theme. The only thing you need is an event link to place you and your future partner in the right place at the right time.
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