At “The Not Creepy Gathering for People Who are Single and Want to Fall in Love,” at Seattle’s Fremont Abbey, participants are put out of their comfort zones all in an effort to show vulnerability and find love.
“In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Unless, dear Lord Tennyson, you happen to live in Seattle.
Spring, summer, dead of winter. Doesn’t matter. The dating scene — and the chance for love — is beyond bleak around here.
The last U.S. Census showed 119 single men in Seattle for every 100 single women. Screens have replaced meaningful eye contact, and the only game some guys have is a regular round of Dungeons & Dragons — or the Call of Duty World League competition at the Clink the other day. Nothing wrong with either.
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But it seems the perfect time for “The Not Creepy Gathering for People Who are Single and Want to Fall in Love.” That’s the real name of a real event being held at the Fremont Abbey on Friday, April 27.
The event was started three years ago by Jenna Bean Veatch, who holds classes for writers, musicians and visual artists in Bellingham.
Veatch, 36, had been working on a dance-theater piece about “the desire for human connection that was going to create connection by having the audience participate.”
She was sorting it all out during a walk around a lake when she was inspired to create a structured, participatory event designed to help people make connections — and, maybe, find love.
“I wanted to get in a room a bunch of people who acknowledged they were looking for that,” said Veatch, who is single, has never married and has no children.
She booked a venue and created a Facebook event page. About 70 people showed up. Since then, she has held about 20 Not Creepy events up and down the West Coast.
Veatch begins each event with a bit of stand-up comedy to get people loosened up and laughing. “I want them to let down their guard so we can share something of our true selves.”
She then breaks the room into small groups, and gives them a topic or a question, often starting with her favorite, asked of her by a 10-year-old boy: “What’s your favorite feeling?” (Hers? “The feeling of getting lost. When I am so in the moment that I lose track of time.”)
The group then does a six-minute, stream-of-consciousness writing exercise, prompted by the phrase: “Here’s what I want.”
When the timer goes off, Veatch has each person underline their three favorite sentences and then come up to the microphone and read them to the room.
“Outside of your comfort zone is where the growth happens,” she said. “There is no need for anyone to go to the freak-out zone.”
At the very first event, someone got up to the mic, and said, “I think I just want a friend. I think we’re going to start there. A friend would be good.”
And that was good enough.
Because Bellingham is a small town, Veatch heard later how things played out for her first Not Creepy participants. Some started dating. Some became roommates. One left the event, went to have a drink with friends and gave their phone number to someone at the bar “because they felt bold,” Veatch said.
“And I know of the first ‘Not Creepy’ baby.”
The price of admission is anywhere between $5 and $20 because, as Veatch put it, “Love should not be cost-prohibitive.” She is capping the Seattle event at 100 people.
The group is usually about 60 percent women, 40 percent men, “but the last had more men than women, so you never know,” Veatch said.
The age of participants spans 20s to 70s — but all share a certain frustration that, despite all the ways there are to meet someone, each is problematic in some way.
Bars can be smarmy and surfacey and online dating “sounds like such a weird concept,” Veatch said. “Trying to get to know another human without being in front of another human.”
And apps like Tinder are set up for you to make a snap decision on a person based on their appearance — which seems “so gross” to Veatch.
“We are not taking time to get to know people as people.”
Veatch has had a couple of major heartbreaks, she said.
“Having been through that, having felt that longing for connection and not finding it allows me to do this work because I know what it’s like to be there,” she said.
So if you’re shy, don’t worry, she said. She has created a “structure for engagement” where everyone in the room wants the same thing and is feeling vulnerable.
“But vulnerability is required if we are going to make connections,” Veatch said. “And showing up despite that fear is the brave work that is required.”
Spring may have sprung, but here in the Northwest, people are slow to let their wants sprout and bloom.
“There ends up being this kind of shame around it,” Veatch said. “So just by showing up at this event, you’re saying, ‘I want a connection. I want this.’ ”