What I Learned at a Not Creepy Speed Dating Event
What insanity is this, perhaps you are thinking? “This, from the woman who wrote about the rapturous joys of being alone in You Are Whole All By Yourself? Is this a cruel joke? Is she drunk? Why is she doing this?”
Ironically, as I was writing my piece about the joys of being alone, a writer friend of mine tipped me off to this gathering that was facilitated by a very good friend of hers and she suggested I attend. I laughed and said, “Of course! The perfect counterbalance.”
I went with my daughter, and we may well have been the only people in the room not actually looking to find someone. We were fascinated and curious about the process. Someone described it as “benevolent counterculture.”
The Not Creepy Gathering (NCG) takes the speed-dating premise, but sees it through a more poetic and artistic lens. The evening engages participants in stream-of-consciousness writing exercises and gives prompt questions presented as topics for small groups (which gradually become whispered stories one-on-one).
The Mistress of Ceremonies was adorable: funny, hip, at ease, and genuine. Although it’s skewed as a “dating” event, the true aim is to allow people to open themselves up and take them out of their social comfort zone. She encourages you to see everyone as cute, not in a dating kind of way, but in a sweet human kind of way.
I love the Mister Rogers nature of that: “Hey, cute neighbor!”
The first writing exercise was to write a love letter to ourself that we would want to receive from someone else. Upon completion, we were instructed to fold it in half and give it to the person next to us, then walk across the room and exchange with someone else. The note changed hands maybe six times, until we lost all sight of its point of origin. Then there were various topics for small-group sharing in 2–3 minute blocks of time, ranging from what was your favorite character in a book as a child, a favorite song lyric, the most influencial person in your life, etc. Tell your life story to someone in five minutes.
The finale was, “If my life were a book it would be ____.” Ten minutes to write stream-of-consciousness, do not lift the pen from the paper, do not stop writing, do not think. Do. When that time was up, we picked our three favorite paragraphs or phrases and then read those aloud to the room. One at a time, everyone did.
These were some of my takeaways from this evening:
- An astonishing number of people are lonely. Really lonely. It was heartening to see smiles and softness after being in a safe place with others for a couple of hours.
- The person who told me his life story used 30 seconds, shrugged and said, “Well, I guess that’s it.” (Not everyone sees their life as a fascinating multidimensional opera.)
- When people read aloud their “If my life were a book” piece, I was taken by surprise by almost all of them. Eloquence, nuance, vulnerable humor from people I never would have imagined. People are way more complex than we ever know.
- When you see all humans as “cute”– like mongrel puppies that can’t help but make you smile –even if it is grudgingly at times, it takes the hard edge of labeling away.
Before leaving the event, we filled out cards with the names of anyone we would be interested in connecting with, along with our contact info. The facilitator then went through the cards and connected any matches via email. No awkward being the last kid chosen for dodge ball in the gym in front of everyone.
Later, when I read the love note I had been left with, I smiled at how much it sounded like what I had written myself and I guessed that perhaps all of the letters were similar in tone if not word choice. We all want the same thing, to be loved, cherished, and seen. That starts with how we treat ourselves. Write your own cute self a love letter.
You are a light in this world. I am grateful every day that you are in my life—growing, changing, falling, and moving forward. I admire your courage and resilience, your ability to make everyone worthy of your time and love. You have a smile that makes my heart feel at peace. You are a magnificent piece of art unlike any other in the world. Your world is your creation and I’m blessed to be a part of it.
Don’t ever forget how very loved and loving you are.