Q&A with a not-creepy gathering creator

Gwen Frost

The first “Not-Creepy Gathering for People Are Single and Want to Fall In Love” happened in Bellingham at the Honey Moon Mead and Cider House almost three years ago. Now, the connection-based event is coming to Bellingham Saturday, May 12 at 8:30 p.m.! Hosted at Make.Shift, entrance is $6, and you will be enchanted by creator and host Jenna Bean Veatch.

During the last week of April, after stories came out in The Seattle Times and the Evergrey, the Seattle event, booked for that Friday, was sold out by Tuesday night. Veatch then added another event, which sold out in one day, and is now adding three more events in Seattle at the Fremont Abbey.

The Review got to sit down with Veatch and ask her about love, logistics and how she goes about playing matchmaker.

AR: How did any of this even come about?

JV: One day I was walking around a lake, it was Lake Merritt in Oakland, and I thought “Oh my god, I have an idea.” And I called a friend who books the Honey Moon, and I booked it, and we had the first event a few weeks later, and 70 people showed up to that first event. There was a story in the Cascadia Weekly before the very first event, which is how people found out about it. And then, I spent the next three years trying to get coverage again, and it just wasn’t happening. It’s funny, I’ve been doing this for over three years, and just in the last week it has exploded.

AR: How do you make 70 strangers comfortable talking to each other?

JN: Most people arrive nervous, and I name that right at the beginning. I tell people “I have a secret for you, if you’re a little bit nervous, then you’re in good company, because almost everybody here feels a little bit nervous.” Just naming that allows some of that nervous to dissipate. Because people are usually nervous in the beginning, it starts out fun and funny, with me basically doing stand-up comedy to get people loosened up.

AR: How do you move forward into getting people to talk to each other on a one-on-one basis?

JN: I’ll put people in a group of four or three or two and give them a question to talk about. I often start with my favorite question, which a 10 year-old once asked me, “What’s your favorite feeling?” and it’s such a good question! Because it’s not something most people have thought about, and it elicits such fascinating answers and it actually tells you a lot about a person.

AR: So what is the success rate of this whole thing? Have you heard any stories?

JV: So this is billed as a dating event, and once people are there, it becomes clear pretty quickly that it’s really about connection much more broadly. I really encourage people to be open to the possibility of connecting with anyone they meet there. Maybe someone is there looking for a blonde baby daddy, and so she’s not gonna talk to the cute redheaded girl in the corner, because clearly she is not that blonde baby daddy. But, she might end up being a really great new friend, and I feel like a real friend is a pretty damn special thing, and if someone walks away with that, that feels like a total success to me. People have definitely also fallen in love, and, the first not-creepy baby is on the way. At least the first that I know of.

AR: Thinking about tinder and browsing, what are we missing out on when we don’t have that?

JV: Giving people a chance? Getting to know each other as people. Because something like Tinder, is set up for you to make a snap decision about someone based solely on physical appearance, and I actually think that’s pretty dehumanizing.

AR: Are you doing any identity-specific events? You mentioned hosting a group for older people who want to fall in love.

JV: Yeah! So it’s already hard to get out there, but especially for older people it can be hard to jump back into the world of dating. Going to a dating event and feeling like they’re competing with a bunch of twenty-somethings can be so hard, so creating a space where women in their 50s and 60s get to be the desirable ones is super powerful.

I’m also doing a queer-specific event in Seattle, because it is harder for queer people to meet people because there are fewer of us fish swimmin’ around.

AR: I want to ask about the “not-creepy” part. What was the thought in creating that phrasing?

JV: The most visible ways we have for meeting people right now are all kind of- problematic. Like online dating, that is based so much on physical appearance, I think that’s kinda creepy. There’s the distance which allows some people to feel like they can get away with just being jerks. And, some people don’t want to go to bars because maybe they don’t drink, maybe they don’t like being hit on because it feels objectifying, and this event is really about honoring whole people, rather than just skimming the surface.


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