Ooo, lordy, how many online first dates have I come away from cringing? My twenties are heavily peppered with these meetings: a gelato with a desperate and hopelessly self-centered music nerd, an afternoon tea with a hipster who hadn’t yet discovered the art of conversation and sat mostly mute for an hour, a pint with a self-described “fanboy” with chipped teeth and fingernails black from dirt.
To be fair, I don’t think I was a dream girl for a lot of these guys either.
But the sweet relief that would have come from some supplemental company! These weren’t bad guys, just really, really not-for-me guys, and a couple of other bodies at the table to take the pressure off would have been like the heavens smiling down on us. The fact that we just didn’t have much to say to each other isn’t an uncommon problem, though struggling through it doesn’t always ease the discomfort. In fact, for a couple of folks just putting in a small earnest effort (maybe I give some people too much credit here) to connect with someone new, that discomfort can be a little painful and sad.
We live, we learn, and now the Internet has something for this dilemma.
Online group dating is a cool new thing, and the options for when and where and how to try it are multiple. The idea sprung from more traditional scenarios for meeting people—at a dinner for a friend’s birthday, at a wedding, out for drinks to celebrate a promotion with coworkers. Except this way the secret hopes of meeting someone exciting and the game of feeling out who’s single and who isn’t are exposed, all cards on the table: everybody’s there to hook up, whether “hook up” means for the night or a few months or, like, till-death-do-you-part-style. And there are dating sites for all those different levels of desire.
The Dating Ring is a site still limited to NYC but with plans to branch out to other cities next year, and acts as a “personal dating concierge”. There’s a small fee and an initial meet up to get to know you, and then you’re set up in a group they think is a good fit for you and what you’re looking for. The groupings are of three men and three women, or four for gay groups. Martini, also based in NYC as well as London, Paris, and Seoul if you’re a jet setter, and Grouper are a little more low key. They help set up two groups of friends and allow you to decide what happens next. Dating in Groups emphasizes the safety factor of meeting with many new people instead of just one. They also focus on the “what” as much as the “who”—new restaurants, adventurous activities like rock climbing and mountain biking, and “exclusive parties” are all part of their sell. Superb takes a similar angle, encouraging members to share concert tickets, favorite pubs, or secret boutiques with some new people. Most of these sites deemphasize the “find your perfect match” element that’s pushed a little hard on OKCupid and Match.com, encouraging exploration and the opportunity to expand your horizons in unexpected ways.
Nothing to argue with there.