I wrote this as a guest post for the lovely Jessie Rosen and her blog 20Nothings. You can see it here.
I'm not gonna lie: I'm quite the virgin when it comes to this whole "being single in the big city" thing. I've spent most of my (admittedly young) adult life in some form of committed relationship - running the modest gamut from being hardcore in love with my high school boyfriend to having an exclusive relationship based mostly on sex - and as such I've never been big into the bar/singles scene. I've met plenty of people in bars, but never gone home with anyone. In fact, I'd never even been to a bar by myself. Until last week.
I was trying to figure out my evening plans last week when I learned that all my friends already had other commitments. Left to my own devices, I normally just spend my evenings working out, making myself dinner (or ordering Chinese food, LBO) and watching TV online. (My Netflix account is tragically neglected.) But this particular day, I was feeling adventurous and empowered - it's the fucking dress, I swear to God - so I started Googling free stuff to do in New York. I stumbled onto Time Out New York's site, and at the top was a headline that read "5 Things To Do Today." Naturally, I clicked.
Second down on the list was a listing for something called a Quiet Party. Very intrigued, I read on and discovered that it's basically an event at a bar where people are not allowed to speak. You pay a minimal cover charge to get in, and you communicate with other people via writing notes. That's right - absolutely no talking allowed. Just like high school during the PSATs. Obvs I had to go. After work I stopped by the store to get some Jolly Ranchers to fold into the notes* of people I liked - on a ballsy tip from my host blogstress - then I headed uptown.
I felt amazingly confident as I made the trek to the bar. My high-heeled feet pounded the pavement, and I feared no one - not man nor woman nor empty bar. But as I crossed Sullivan and Thompson Street - ahhh only one block away now - a knot took hold in my stomach. Fuck, what am I doing? Who do I think I am? Going to a bar full of strangers by myself? What if no one "talks" to me? What if they're all fat/ugly/creepy? Or - GASP - old?!?
I took a deep breath, opened the front door and scaled the stairs into the room that had been reserved for the party. It was very - sigh, OK, obviously - quiet. I approached the bartender, whispered my drink order and took a seat. I sipped nervously as I watched people around me passing notes. The crowd was fairly attractive, but mostly older; probably late 20s and early 30s . People were snickering and giggling as sexy piano music tinkled out of the bar speakers. The wallpaper and lights were quite red, and the artwork on the walls complimented the music - think nudity, and lots of it.
The oldest guy in the bar - ugh, of course - approached me and handed me a note: This is sort of awkward isn't it?
Yeah, I wrote back. It's really... quiet. Hahaha. A truly brillz moment, self.
After this first note exchange - which stopped there - I no longer felt timid or nervous. Everyone was passing notes with everyone else - men with women, women with men, women with women - and everyone was smiling and laughing and seemed to be having a good, mostly innocent time. I jumped right in, walking across the room to deliver a note to the one guy I thought was remotely young and cute. He was sitting on a couch with another girl, and - figuring I may as well stick with the high school motif - I wrote, directly, Hi. Are y'all "together" together? He wrote back that they were not, and that I was welcome to join. I did, and minutes later the girl left to join another group of girls. Now it's just me and this strange dude on a couch, passing notes. OK, let's do this.
We exchanged - ha! literally! - pleasantries just like you would in a real bar. Only this time there was no yelling and I didn't have to pretend like I could hear him when really I couldn't. It was actually quite relaxing to be in a bar with minimal noise, almost like a yoga class or something. But better, because there's wine. Here's what I gathered from our wordless convo, annotated with a completely arbitrary points system.
Cute, nice eyes +15
Too short (the fucking story of my single life) -5
Smells good +8
Good handwriting +4
Nice and inquisitive +8
Slow handwriting, because he "hasn't written in a long time" -6
Tries to be funny... +5
... And fails -8
Composes hip-hop music... +15
... But only likes Jay-Z "OK" -10
Lives in Brooklyn... 0
... "Close" to his mom -10
After passing notes for a while, the novelty wore off and I was bored, hungry and freezing because the bar was so cold that all my creative juices had turned to glaciers. My brain was exhausted from trying to be charming, and I just felt like I was chatting on OKStupid with all these people, except in real life. I felt like there was an additional first step, and I wanted to use Ockham's razor (oh I went there) to cut out that unnecessary step and just talk to people with my actual voice. Because isn't that why we 20somethings gather in mass quantities in large, loud bars? So we can have amazing conversations and meet amazing, intelligent people, right? We ended up staying for about another hour after our stint on the couch, bouncing around the bar and passing notes with various randos, including a guy who asked me to write him a short story. When I did, he took my note and disappeared. Astorophobic, are we? Baffling.
I then suggested that +13 and I leave to get some food. I knew I wasn't that into him, but he seemed like a legitimately nice guy, and I've definitely split meals with worse, so I just decided to go for it. We talked over burritos a couple blocks from the bar, and it was actually one of the most pleasant "dates" - if you can really call it that - I've had thus far in this city. He was nice, he had good manners, and he could carry on a conversation without using terms such as "rad" and "get with it." We exchanged phone numbers and he called me a few days later - on a Friday night, is that kosher? - and left a very sweet voicemail that I have yet to return.
Bottom line: A quiet party is just like a regular night out at the bar, minus a few sweaty bodies and a lot of excess noise. It's novel and relaxing at first, then it just becomes boring and exhausting. As far as dating goes, if you're into someone, you just know it. Whether they are talking, yelling or saying nothing at all, if it's there, it's there - and if it's not, it's just not. So one's "success" rate at any party - quiet or raging - depends entirely on who else is there, no?
Now, what's the rule on returning the voicemails of someone you're not that into?
*The notes turned out to be miniature index cards, so I couldn't fold them, damn it!
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