Offline dating adventures: Baby’s first Grouper

People often ask why I use internet dating, instead of trying to meet guys in bars.

The thing is, I’ve never been the kind of girl who gets hit on in bars. I’d like to HOPE this does not directly correlate to my looks, though I’m sure my big, dark, under-eye circles aren’t helping, haha. I mean, when I am at bars, I am usually with my friends, and not focused on finding guys. Also, I’m super awkward and insecure with strangers. When people do try to hit on me, I am usually so surprised/terrified that I just run away. For example, I was out with my friend J recently, and a gentleman came up to us. Here is how the conversation went:

Guy: “Hi ladies, what are your names?”

Me: “The tab is under XXXX (my last name).”

Guy: “Huh?”

Me: “I said, XXXX.”

Guy: “I’m D, how’s it going?”

Me: “Just leave the tab open, we’re not ready to cash out.”

Guy: “I don’t work here.”

Me: “Oh god, sorry. I have to go to the bathroom.”


 Also, the clientele in bars is not exactly AMAZING. I was out at a bar a few nights ago, when a young intern approached me:

Intern: “That looks like a cool drink. What is it?”

Me: “Um, a Jack and Ginger ale.”

Intern: “Cool. So what’s in it?”

Me: “Jack Daniels and Ginger ale.”

Intern: “Wow! Awesome!”

Me: “Yup.”

And then I walked away to find my friends. Cuz the pickup line was lame, and because the intern was still literally in college.

So, that’s why I stick to the simple internet, guy messages girl, girl messages guy thing. But I’m relatively open to new ideas, so when my friendtee (that’s friend + mentee, which means a friend that is younger and cooler than you, and you want to create a name that you call her that isn’t “daughter”), G, suggested I accompany her on a Grouper, I was game. What’s that, Dad? What’s a grouper? Isn’t that a fish? It IS a fish. But it’s also a dating service. It works like this:

Girl signs up. Guy signs up. Grouper uses facebook to match them. It’s completely blind; neither person has ANY information about the other. Once they are matched, Grouper sets up a date and asks the girl to bring two friends and the guy to bring two friends. So it’s a 3 on 3 blind date. Each person pays $20, which covers the first round of drinks, and the fact that Grouper does all the coordinating for you. You go to the assigned location at the assigned time and, Voila! Now, go to Grouper’s website and read their much sexier description of the whole thing.

When you’re on the site,  you’ll also notice instagrams of lots of attractive, happy people having a blast together. Those are called GROUPERGRAMS. You are supposed to take pics of your amazing date and send them to Grouper. Now, are these pictures accurate and indicative of the Grouper experience? Doubtful.

1. They haven’t changed the pics in the two months I’ve been trolling the site.

2. We all know instragram filters are designed to make everyone look WAYYYY better than they do in real life.

3. I bet Challen, Grouper’s very famous Director of Member Experience, handpicks the GROUPERGRAMS to feature the most attractive people, who probably live in NYC, not DC. 

4. About 50% of these photos feature a Trojan horse, a warrior’s helmet, and roman statues. Does everyone end up at an after hours venue with Jordan Murphy?

jordan-murphy tool

I swear, Jordan! There is some straight up Tool Academy behavior up in these Groupergrams! For realz!

Before my Grouper, I did some field research of others who had been on Grouper. The first person I asked was my sister (she’s six years my junior, btw, but I can’t call her a friendtee cause we’re related). She was like, “Oh yeah, L, my friends from high school went on a Grouper recently. They said it was ok. The guys were doing Ecstasy the whole time.”  WELP. THAT’S THAT I SUPPOSE. I have no words. So, I headed into the Grouper with low expectations, hoping that we wouldn’t have to call the DEA on our dates.

The day before the Grouper, I received an email from, Challen. In addition to providing the time and location details, it contained the following warning about cancellation:

What if I need to cancel?

Well, your Grouper is tomorrow, so it’s a little late for that 🙂 We know that everyone has a lot going on, but you’re committed now and 3 other people moved around their schedules for you guys. First, call around and see if you can grab a friend to take your place. If for some (epic) reason canceling is absolutely unavoidable, you’ll need to CALL the other group to explain yourself. Call us first at646.699.3466, and we’ll put you in touch with the guys to cancel. And because we’ll need to make it up to the other group, we still have to charge you for your Grouper and won’t be able to roll it over to a future reservation. We’ll even have to consider canceling your membership. Also, as you know, a Grouper is 3 guys and 3 girls, so showing up with only 2 people isn’t acceptable. So, just show up on time, the 3 of you, and we’re all good 🙂

Yikes! Challen, cool your jets. This makes a Grouper sound more difficult to get out of than a marriage. I mean, I put down 20 whopping dollars for this thing, and I am cheap as f#$^, so I am going to show up, ok? You don’t need to add an extra element of terror to an already nerve-wracking situation. And also, don’t try to lighten the mood with a smiley emoticon. You know I hate those. It’s nice to know that everyone’s going into this thing with a proverbial gun to their head.

So the day of the Grouper, me, G, and N (My other friend slash co-worker) get to work and we’re all like:

clear eyes full hearts

Until, N decides to share some interesting news with us.

N: “So, you guys, I was talking to my cousin last night. And he mentioned he was going on a Grouper too…”

L and G: “And…”

N: “Well it’s at the same place we’re going. Slightly different time, but still…”

So, this meant one of two things. Either, we were literally going to be on a date with N’s cousin OR N’s cousin was going to be watching us HAVE a date. We were really hoping for the latter over the former. For N’s sake, of course. 

When we got to the bar after a little healthy pregaming, we were relieved. The bartender lead us to a table with three very nice, normal looking guys, who didn’t appear to be rolling  or be related to any of us. WHEW. And we ended up having multiple drinks, and a pretty darn good time. Why?

1. We were very well matched. The guys were around our age bracket (younger than me, but older than G) and very nice, funny, and down to earth. From the GROUPERGRAM photos, we were pretty sure we were going to get some bros, but these guys reminded me of people I’d be friends with. We all had similar senses of humor and interests. Nice work Challen! ;), right back atcha.

2. Having more people around really does take the edge off. I think both sides were much more relaxed than if this were a regular, one on one date. I really enjoy G and N, so I was pretty confident I’d have a good time even if the guys were lame. And it seemed like the guys really enjoyed each other too. And there was so much less potential for awkward silences, because there were so many people to make conversation. It was also the first time I truly understand what being a wingwoman meant, because you could set up your friends to make jokes, tell funny stories, etc. Basically, I think it made everyone TWICE as charming as usual. 

3. It was so much better than any of us expected. Yes, one on one dates are unnerving. But there is a lot more to be scared of on group dates. I.e., What if my friends hit it off with the guys and I don’t? Or, what if I hear the guys referring to me as “the ugly one?”, or What if we all hate each other? And, just the fact that we had such a decent time after such low expectations made the whole thing a lot better. I could see relief on everyone’s faces, including the guys. And I think that relief made the date more fun.

So, what’s the drawback to Grouper?

I mean, I would call it more of a “meeting new friends” thing, than a date. While it’s much more natural in terms of the way you’d meet people and make conversation, it’s very hard to tell if anyone likes anyone, and very hard to, like, “pick out,” the guy you’d most like to date. I think this was particularly hard for our group, because we were all nice, inclusive people. If I saw that no one was talking to someone, I invited them to join the conversation I was having. I kept an eye on G and N to make sure they were enjoying themselves. And they did the sme for me. There just wasn’t a ton of energy left to focus on getting to know one person in particular. And the end of the date was pretty awkward. I mean, ending solo dates is hard enough, and we were multiplying goodbyes times three. So, all of us just exchanged numbers with the person we were standing closest too, and claimed that maybe we’d all get together again for drinks. The truth is, I’d definitely get together again with them, but I am not sure how I’d set it up. And G and N feel the same way. So we’d love your advice, readers.

Dating rating: 8/10. Seriously. It was really fun. I laughed a lot, and I met cool new people. And honestly, it restored my faith that there are cute, fun, single guys out there.

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