Wacky New Ways to Meet Someone

If you’re ready to meet someone new but are tired of the old scene, try a few of these offbeat options.

mart, single person that you are, you know that attending parties, dating online, joining a group to brush up on an interest (be it wine-tasting or kayaking), and frequenting your local pub can all be ways to meet your match. But if you’re interested in trying something really new and different, consider some of these offbeat ways that single people nowadays are mixing and mingling:

1. At spelling bees
One of the latest ideas for mingling and meeting a mate happens to be singles’ spelling bees, which have become quite a hit. Fueled by the popularity of books
Passengers received a list of questions to ask and switched seats every three minutes to make the rounds, speed-dating style.
like Bee Season, documentaries like Spellbound, and even an off-Broadway hit, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, these events were the brainchild of Zac Kushner, coordinator of recreational programming for a New York-based organization that specializes in offbeat mixers. “We’re always trying to host fun events where what’s going on is the focal point,” he explains. “If you meet someone, that’s an additional bonus. That’s definitely the new wave of dating and meeting.”

These spelling bees do sport some snazzy twists from the tense mood you may recall with a shudder from similar events during high school. For starters, at the New York City version Kushner oversees, there’s an open bar for those who feel a martini could help calm their jitters. And the word categories — which include “uncomfortable things,” “band names,” and “mythological creatures” — show no one’s taking this competition too seriously. While Kushner can’t say for sure whether any of the contestants exchanged phone numbers, they definitely seemed to be bonding over their victories and, more often, their failures—which included misspellings of Snoop Doggy Dogg (two Gs!), chupacabra, and chlamydia. “I don’t even think ‘meticulosity’ is a word,” laughs Leah LaRiccia, a 29-year-old biologist who attended the event. But that comment sure beats “come here often?” as an ice-breaker.

2. While grocery shopping
Ever caught yourself checking out a whole lot more than your groceries while standing in line at the market—for example, that attractive individual standing in front of you? If so, you’re not alone. When an Atlanta Whole Foods Market was voted the number one spot to “pick up a date” and “meet new people,” store representatives decided to help shoppers hook up in an official way. The result: Singles Night at Whole Foods.

At the inaugural event, 170 singles got to shop for a mate as well as for their meals. Participants wore nametags that indicated the gender of the person they were seeking, thus minimizing awkward approaches. They strolled among stations offering wine tastings and cooking demonstrations titled “Perfect Dinner For Two” and “How to Impress Your Date.” Bonus: Since Whole Foods’ organic goods cater to a health-conscious crowd, customers could swap phone numbers fairly confident that their potential paramours share some of their values. “We have a lot of people that are coming from the gym, so they’re obviously taking care of their bodies and thinking about what they’re putting inside their bodies as well,” says Darrah Horgan, a marketing specialist for the store. “So, that’s a definite connection.”

While Horgan isn’t sure whether any of the event’s participants are now doing their shopping arm in arm, a flurry of calls from customers asking for more singles nights prompted the store to make these evenings a regular occurrence. Whole Foods stores in other U.S. cities have followed suit as well. And even if your own local grocer hasn’t caught on to the trend and offered singles nights, that doesn’t mean you can’t bat your eyes at someone over the fresh produce, now, does it?

3. While riding the rails
Think your everyday commute is just about getting from here to there? That may change thanks to Caltrain, a California commuter train that launched a “Romance on the Rails” voyage—a special section filled with singles raring to mingle and make sparks fly.

“Fifty-three percent of Caltrain commuters are single men, so we thought we’d highlight the social benefits of taking public transit,” says Christine Maley-Grubl, executive director of the Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance, which teamed with Caltrain to
Everyone at is handpicked, upping the odds for a love connection or two.
launch the program. To aid the flirtfest, passengers received a list of questions to ask and switched seats every three minutes to make the rounds, speed-dating style. “I think the way they went about it, where everybody had an opportunity to meet each other, was great,” says Dan O’Leary, a realtor from San Francisco who participated. “It’s always tough to meet new people.”

Skeptics to the possibility of finding love on a train have only to meet Bill Laubenheimer and Carole Parker, who met on a Caltrain bike car, got married several years ago, and were along for the ride to tell their story. Plans for future voyages will give locals yet more opportunities to hit the rails and, hopefully, hit it off.

4. At a new kind of party
Ever met someone who’s good-looking, smart, sweet, a total catch… but just not for you? Of course you have. Maybe you’ve tried dating this person and it didn’t work out, or maybe your relationship has always been purely platonic. Somehow, at this point, you just know you two aren’t meant for each other, even though you’re certain that he or she will make someone very happy. Only who?

Thus the “date my friend” party was born—an increasingly popular option for singles who prefer to meet romantic interests through friends, but would rather do so at a party than a potentially awkward setup. Also called “Not for me” or “not date” parties, these soirées adhere to one simple rule: All guests must be single and are required to bring at least one single friend in tow. Unlike typical singles events, everyone at “date my friend” gatherings is handpicked, upping the odds for a love connection or two, as one party host, Susan Friedman, can attest.

“As a recent transplant to Texas and newly single, I hosted a ‘Suddenly Single in Dallas’ party and requested that my female guests bring tall, single gentlemen,” recalls Friedman. Several margaritas and friendly introductions later, she met a great guy she’s been happily dating for several months. “There was already more trust from the beginning because my friends already liked him,” she says. “When you meet someone randomly at a bar, there are definitely more precautions to take, and it may take more time to really get to know the person.”

“Date my friend” parties have become so popular they’ve even spawned a party-planning business called Date My Friend, which has hosted parties in major cities across the U.S. “We know of at least four marriages of couples who met at our parties,” says spokesperson Trish Gardener. So why not follow suit and gather some friends, break out your little black books, and start sending out invites?

5. While cooking
If you believe the way to someone’s heart is through the stomach, you may be right. But here’s a new twist on the food-love equation: Several companies are betting that if you get single people together, teach them how to cook dinner — and let them enjoy the results together — you’ll do more than boost culinary skills. You may just heat up their love life, too.

In these classes, “students” learn to prepare a gourmet meal and then break bread with a new group of friends—and maybe a new mate. You needn’t have any culinary experience; in fact, sharing knowledge with those less or more skilled than you opens up all sorts of conversation paths. “Having the activity of cooking to focus on made it easier to talk to people,” says Tamara Santos, who met her husband, Rick, through an event put on by Gourmet Gatherings (, which throws these parties in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Chicago and Santa Monica. Other companies offering similar events include Cooking with the Best Chefs ( in Chicago and Serendipity-SF ( in San Francisco, which has classes centered on a theme such as Tuscan cooking, Asian fusion or baking with chocolate.

Tamara and Rick first learned the basics, like how to chop an onion, and then were assigned to coed teams, each of which worked on a different recipe (heavy on the aphrodisiac ingredients, of course). “Rick was in a small group doing appetizers, and I was with a larger group doing the main course,” Tamara says. “Because Rick’s pesto shrimp was such a quick and easy dish, he had time to circulate and give out samples. He told me later that he had made a concerted effort to give me a taste.”

After the event, participants received copies of the recipes, as well as digital photos and email addresses of their fellow cooks. Rick got in touch with Tamara after class, and the two are now really cooking together.

Reported by Lisa Cericola, Matt Christensen, Laura Gilbert, Kimberly Dawn Neumann and Natalie Ermann Russell.
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