"Love is mysterious. Welcome to the mystery." These were Maya Diamond's words of welcome at Cupid Talks, a new, ongoing event that aims to aid your ailing love life in the online dating realm. Led by a quartet of therapists and relationship coaches, Cupid Talks held its first soiree Thursday at a.Muse Gallery to a mostly 35-and-over crowd of about 50 that skewed toward men.
If you combined a blind date with group therapy, it would be a decent approximation of what to expect at Cupid Talks. Lectures by the four self-avowed experts on how to improve your profile and how to handle rejection were punctuated with ice-breakers and mini-bitching sessions about the frustrations of online dating. (The big ones were lack of responses, e-mails that went nowhere, and people lying on their profiles.)
After we discussed our fears and frustrations (twice), we were told to create intentions and mantras. "Men love me and want to date me" was the example given. I couldn't really embrace my inner Stuart Smalley for this round, though, so just directed a bunch of questions to the burly, bearded gentleman whom I was paired with. "That's a great mantra," I lied. I don't even remember what it was -- something about attraction and being a man's man.
"Thank you," he said. "I've been working on it for a while."
"I can tell!" And so on.
One of the hosts was Jessica Engle. Many of her profile and messaging tips were similar to what I'd written about previously, she lost me when she said she highly recommended we all get professional photographs taken for our dating profiles. She lost me further when she answered in the affirmative about whether to bring up child rearing in a first e-mail. But overall her advice, and the general advicey theme of the evening, was that we were great and we should trust ourselves more. For instance, if you're a forward person, then be forward. If there's a question you really want to know about someone, then ask it. If you have boob-grabbing pictures, then you are probably going to attract boob-grabbing dudes. And so on.
Despite the fact that one of the presenters is gay (amazingly, it wasn't Jeremi McManus), the evening was very heteronormative, and at times insulting to anyone who's ever taken a gender studies class. This became apparent during the Q&A, when a question was asked about why men's big, romantic gestures were often well received, but women's romantic gestures were considered creepy or annoying. "It's biological," said Maya Diamond, and then she seriously started talking about cavemen and how they needed to hunt to prove their usefulness. My friend and I looked at each other, and she wrote, "OH MY GOD" on the index card where her mantra should have been.
While I'm not against using therapeutic tactics as a way to address the trials of online dating, there was something very twee about the whole setup. It's not my cup of tea to spend an evening discussing my "greatest passions" with strangers, but I also found it difficult to mock the coaches, who were so earnest, and did genuinely want to help us poor, single saps. Also, there was a yoga teacher with a blender in the back of the room, doling out brown-colored drinks in very small portions. I'm not entirely sure why.
If you missed last week's event, fear not. Cupid Talks' next mixer is May 10. Hosts will discuss how to have a great first date. Not to give away too many spoilers, but the words "putt putt golf" were mentioned.