I’m with Cupid
They were in awe of my ability to get dates and then boyfriends – at the Hawaiian-themed party, the cigar bar, in communications law class. Two of them were really dedicated to improving their situations, and I was confident that I could help them via amateur therapy sessions and “in the field” assignments. They both had boyfriends within a month.
I’ve continued to give dating advice and social tips over the years – for friends and actual paid clients – though this isn’t where my interest in the topic ends. I’ve made an art practice out of charting my own romantic history and regularly write about dating adventures and etiquette. I will admit that my advice has changed over the years. The longer I live in San Francisco, the more I have to radically tailor my suggestions to fit the uniquely bizarre dating scene that exists here.
In my experience, this is a city where men rarely approach women at bars (to avoid seeming sleazy) and women sit around waiting to be asked out (though they are go-getters in every other way). It’s a fittingly nonchalant attitude for a place where people drop in for grad school, a start-up gig, or a year of surfing and then head out for an affordable lifestyle or something bigger (New York).
The things that I love about San Francisco also make it a difficult place to navigate, romantically speaking. The city is packed with nontraditional souls writing their own rules about sex, relationships, monogamy, and marriage. It can be challenging to find someone who has similar views, and that’s the problem I want to solve. Together with my friend Jen Corbett, I’ve started a new series of social events to get my awesome commitment-minded friends (and their friends) in the same room, helping them find love and have some fun along the way.
Most of the career-driven, hobby-rich people I know (myself included) have resorted to online dating over the last couple of years. We’re just not meeting enough new people at our small offices, friends’ dinner parties, or the neighborhood bars we frequent on weekends.
Online dating is no picnic. The last thing I want to do after spending an entire day on my computer is hang out on OkCupid.com in search of intimacy. And the task of scrolling through countless profiles, emailing personal notes, planning dates, and then meeting up with strangers is an arduous one – especially when you realize 10 minutes in that you’re not even slightly attracted to the person you’re about to spend two hours with.
Several months back over dinner, my friend Jen and I discussed our dating frustrations and those of our friends. We realized that the two of us know quite a few ambitious, interesting, social, and attractive people who aren’t finding lasting connections online. We thought, what if we introduced all of these people to each other?
The dinner helped launch our new venture, Try Me, a series of private events for San Francisco’s most awesome and unattached. The goal of our new cut-to-the-chase gig: helping people find their special someone. The plan: throw monthly and bimonthly events, large and small (for example, bourbon tasting, trampoline jumping, cooking classes, hiking adventures) for a handpicked crowd. Each event will be carefully curated by age, interests, and gut instincts.
We set out to throw a large cocktail party first, in order to build up a network of interested people, and booked the classy Burritt Room as a venue. Next, we asked our awesome friends to recommend theirawesome friends and sent out invitations to our very first Try Me event for mid-May.
We quickly learned that a mixer isn’t for everybody. Some of our close friends stalled on buying tickets or didn’t purchase them at all. Others couldn’t wait for the party and told everyone they knew. As word spread, though, we received hundreds of emails from interested singles.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t just 30-something women like myself who were interested in such an event. We received countless emails from men and women ages 22 to 60. And contrary to what women seem to think, there are plenty of men looking for commitment here – they were among the first to sign up with us.
We asked respondents who hadn’t been recommended by a trusted pal to answer a number of questions and send us their photos. This way we could handpick those who fit best with the crowd who had already bought tickets.
As attendees aged 24 to 40 entered the Burritt Room the night of our event, I was in awe. Several guys arrived first, and Jen and I found ourselves holding court while we waited for the ladies to show up. Almost everyone had dressed to impress, and there was a nervous energy in the air, not unlike a high-school dance. Thankfully, nerves settled as alcohol consumption rose and people began moving throughout the room.
We had everyone wear name tags that included one interesting fact about themselves. The trivia seemed to work as an icebreaker – one guy told me the tags started 80 percent of the conversations he’d had that night. I didn’t see anyone use our get-to-know-someone game on tabletops, though – origami questionnaires inspired by the old-school fortune teller game.
Jen and I were dedicated to working the room – meeting as many people as possible so we could make introductions between these available folks. I rescued anyone I saw standing alone, though there were many points in the evening where it seemed everyone was engaged in conversation. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
It felt so good to be among single folks looking for more than flirty text messages, a handful of OK dates, and casual sex (these people don’t buy tickets to matchmaking events). Despite popular belief among San Francisco’s unattached, this city has some really great people who want relationships (gasp!).
Easily, the best part of the night was watching people give out their phone numbers. I witnessed at least five exchanges between couples and screamed to myself, “It worked!”
There are certainly things we can improve, though. We learned that people wanted the event to have more structure, an activity to make it feel less meat market-y. It’s difficult working a room where people have so much hope, fear, and self-consciousness. Alleviating that kind of anxiety is going to take more than icebreaker name tags and bar games.
We also heard from a few people that there weren’t enough of “their type” in the room. Here I’m going to get on my dating advice soapbox: You shouldn’t have a type. The more attached you are to a specific kind of person, the more likely you are to be single.
Open your mind! It’s San Francisco after all. Throw away your laundry list of wants. Get over your neighborhood prejudices. Great people are spread out all over the city. Overcome your fear of trying something new.
Business degrees and tattoos don’t make you laugh over coffee in the morning – people do. Whatever romantic ideal you’re holding onto, let it go. You just might start meeting more people – even that special someone.
OK, stepping down now. Regardless of whether you choose to veer off your normal dating track, Jen and I are planning on picking the best mix of people for every Try Me event. We’ve recruited artists who are business owners, investment bankers who are surfers, lawyers who are organic chefs, techies who play competitive sports. My point? We’re stacking the odds against finding a dud at one of our events.
As a single gal, I have a personal stake in this too. I’m secretly hoping to be one of my own relationship success stories.
Coming up next with Try Me: a cheese making class, wine tasting, and a whole lot more. For more information, visit trymesf.com .
Want to throw your own mixer? Here’s how:
- Go through your email address book and your Facebook friends and make a list of your unattached friends and those coupled or not who might have people to recommend.
- Plan the party: pick a location, choose the food and drinks, and come up with an activity or two.
- Send out invitations well in advance, asking people to RSVP by a specific date. You may end up with more women than men, or vice versa, and will need time to invite additional people and even out the crowd.
- Have fun and be lighthearted. As the host, you set the mood – make it a good one.