Meet Your Match at Pride

How to mix, mingle and maybe even find someone special during the summer festivities…

By Tracie Potochnik

hen you’re single, the summer is prime time for putting yourself in dating-friendly situations. Sunshine is in abundance, people are relaxed, and the warm weather means that you can break out some of your more revealing wardrobe items. If you’re gay, you have an additional advantage: Summer is Pride season! In cities across the country, Pride events attract thousands of gay and lesbian folks, many of whom are available and looking for love. Read on as Pride organizers give you tips on how to make the most of your Pride experience and find that special someone amongst the crowd.

Go out, be proud
So what are the advantages of Pride when you’re trying to meet your
The single best strategy: Volunteer at Pride.
match? In part, it’s a numbers issue—after all, when else are you going to see that many gay people in the same place at the same time? Adding to the appeal is the diversity of the crowd. Pride tends to attract people of every classification, from every walk of life—so no matter what your type is, you’re bound to find it. And, of course, there is the mood factor. Shannon Lank, the Entertainment Chair of Boston Pride, says, “Pride is the one day a year when nobody is jaded. Everybody is happy and proud and having a good time.” Malcolm Carey, Boston Pride’s Parade Coordinator, agrees: “People are at their best when they’re having fun. It’s also a safe environment for gay people to be out—they don’t have to hide who they are or what they’re doing.” Whether you’re looking for a fun fling or something more serious, the various Pride events held in each city will provide you with plenty of opportunity to find it. So get out there and participate!

Queer volunteers
Both Lank and Carey agree: The single best thing you can do to meet people at Pride is to volunteer. And they know from experience: Both met their current partners through Pride volunteering. Carey says, “I got involved with Pride to meet guys. I was new to the city, and I was never into the bar scene or the clubs. I wanted to meet people who were doing something semi-productive with their time.” Whatever your area of interest and no matter how much time you have available, your city’s Pride will have a job for you. As you’re doing something positive for the community, you’ll also be meeting lots of folks that you might never have met otherwise, and your common experience will help to break the ice. You’ll also have a perfect excuse to spend more time with someone you have your eye on. Lank noticed her current girlfriend instantly when she started attending volunteer meetings. She says, “When Pride week started, she showed up to every event. The more events she came to, the more time we spent together. In the middle of the week I ended up calling her because I needed her help. Before I knew it, we had been on the phone for four hours.”

Don’t be afraid to do a little maneuvering behind the scenes, either. Carey recommends finding out what the
Get out of the crowd, and pursue your own particular interests.
person you’re interested in is volunteering for, then asking a coordinator to be paired up with him or her. Even if the romantic connection isn’t there, the chance is that you’ll end up with a new friend. Carey says, “The people that you meet and the relationships that you build can be a lot more rewarding than the event itself. The event is a lot of fun, but I’ve met every gay person I really care about through Pride.” You can find information about volunteering on your local Pride’s Web site.

Think small
While the parade and accompanying festival are usually the first things that come to mind when Pride is mentioned, there are usually at least a week’s worth of smaller, targeted events to accommodate a range of interests. These might include political gatherings or presentations, film nights, musical performances, workshops, and walks/runs to benefit gay and lesbian causes. If the thought of approaching someone in a crowd of thousands seems a little intimidating to you, these events might be better for seeking romance. Carey says, “The smaller events are for the more laidback person or for the person who’s not as outgoing.” Since these events are usually geared to a specific topic, you’re also more likely to meet someone with whom you have something in common. Check your local Pride guide — which can usually be found online, in your local newspaper, or at gay-friendly establishments — for a calendar of events.

Don’t get lost in a crowd
While the parade and festival — usually the two main events at any city’s Pride — can be daunting when you’re looking to meet someone, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances. Since most Prides have different areas for things like entertainment, food, informational tables, and shopping, Carey recommends paring down the masses by aiming yourself toward something that you like. If you’re a music junkie, head over to the entertainment stage and strike up a conversation about the current performer, or if you’re a single mom or dad, try the kids’ area to meet other parents. It will be easier to find something to talk about, and chances are the people that you’ll meet will have similar interests. Lank also has some key advice for any single person at Pride: Stand out from the crowd (and no, you don’t have to be a six-foot-tall drag queen to do so). She says, “One of the tips I’d have to give somebody who’s looking in this gaggle of people is, don’t always glom on to your friends. If someone is eyeing you, he or she will be less likely to approach you if you’re in a group, whereas if you check out a vendor by yourself, the person might be more inclined to talk to you.” This is particularly important if you’re with a crowd of same-sex friends. “If I see a cute girl talking to her friends,” says Lank, “I don’t know if any of those friends might be more than that, so I’m not going to go and talk to her.”

And finally…
As with many of life’s situations, the key to meeting someone at Pride is a simple one: Relax, have fun, and don’t try too hard. Lank says, “You’ve got to keep an open mind. You want to come to these things to expand your horizons and expand your friend base, and when you do that everything seems to fall into place. I am a true testament to this—it will happen when you least expect it.” Carey agrees: He says, “Go and have fun. If you’re having fun, someone else will see that, and it will make a fantastic first impression.”

Tracie Potochnik is a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.
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