Thoughts on the Okcupid experiments from three reluctant guinea pigs

Happy Friday, readers!

When the story of Okcupid’s experiments broke a few weeks ago, the Stucu ladies were already in a bit of a dark place. Dating-wise, it’s been a wildly unsuccessful summer for the three of us, so it was total insult to injury when Okcupid plopped a big cherry on our shit sundae by announcing that we may have been unwitting, unwilling participants in some… experiments. If you haven’t read up on what happened, check out some of the coverage here, and here and here. Awesome. We appear to be dating in The Truman Show! Which come to think of it would explain a lot.

ts rain

Source: gifstumblr.com

Sure enough, soon after the news broke, LSD received this fun email from Okc’s evil masterminds:

okc

janice

Source: meangirlgifs.tumblr.com

If you’re scratching your head after reading that and saying, “What the fuck?” then that makes four of us (five if we include Janis Ian). First of all, I’d just like to point out that this company clearly has a fetish for dehumanizing its users by comparing us to gross, thoroughly un-cute animals. In January it was scorpions, now it’s large rodents. Okcupid, if you’re going to compare single people to animals, can you at least use cute ones? Or funny, nostalgic ones? These guys seem particularly appropriate:

Pues no hay nadie perfecto..

Source: ffffound.com

Anyway, next time you have something controversial to tell us, maybe don’t let a 17 year old unpaid summer intern put together the “artwork” in MS Paint and fire it off to your users. You fools.

Before my rage bubbles over too much, let’s get to the point of this post, which is to share our thoughts on the experiments themselves (SPOILER ALERT: we’re not thrilled). If you’re Bill Nye or something, and want to read the full, original text about the experiments before you take our incredibly unbiased words for what they are worth, check them out here. Three of them, three of us. #winning.

Experiment #1: LOVE IS BLIND, OR SHOULD BE

Quick summary: for a period of time one day back in January OKC declared it Love is Blind Day and hid all user profile pics. What they “found out” shouldn’t surprise anyone. At all.

First, while profile pics were hidden, there were WAY less first messages sent, compared to a “typical Tuesday.” It looks like an average of around 3,000 messages per hour for the entire time the experiment was running, when it’s normally around 20,000 – 30,000. Essentially, most people didn’t want anything to do with Love is Blind Day.

love is blind

Of the new conversations that were started in that period, people responded more often, and allegedly exchanged contact details more often. 

compared to a typical tuesday

I wasn’t surprised by this either. Far fewer conversations were started. So it makes sense that of the ones that were, they progressed further/faster. The people who participated in Love is Blind day were the very types who don’t place a really heavy emphasis on looks. Or at least the ones who don’t think they do. More on that in a little bit.

As an aside, while I had a depressing personal reaction to some of the results (see below), this is actually the only part of this experiment itself that bothers me. Are the people at OKC routinely monitoring the contents of all messages exchanged, like some creepy big brother matchmaker? Or was it just during this “experiment” to see what happened? I mean, I know I’m using their service, so I don’t expect that messages are totally private. But the idea that rather than just policing messages that people report as inappropriate, someone is over at OKC headquarters watching conversations progress and timing how long it takes for phone numbers to be exchanged, makes me never want to send another message.

Lastly, OKC kept track of how many of the conversations started during the Love is Blind period actually continued once profile pics were restored. The trend was overwhelmingly to abandon the conversation. No matter how deep into the conversation people were. Even after the exchange of 12 messages, there was still a more likely chance that the conversation would end rather than continue. 

convos in progress when pics came back 

This is one of those results that surprises me, but also doesn’t. I mean, on the one hand, I don’t routinely exchange 12 messages with someone who I don’t find interesting. And yet, even those conversations that were going seemingly well tended to end once profile pics were restored. But, on the other hand, we live in a world that places a high value on certain kinds of physical attributes. So basically, Love is Blind day proved that the majority of people who claim “personality is more important to me than looks” are big fat liars. Because like I said above, those are the people who were much more likely to give Love is Blind day a chance. OKC users are big fat liars? That is SHOCKING.

I’d like to think I’m open-minded enough that if we were having a good conversation, but the person turned out to not be my type physically, I’d continue the conversation. i’ve responded to great messages from people whose pictures didn’t strike my fancy right away. Because, despite my tendency to form extreme crushes on total strangers (just last week I fell in love with a stranger on the T), physical attraction is also something that can build for me. Obviously, there has to be some baseline attraction. But much like a hot guy can become hideous based on his personality, a normal guy can become really attractive once I get to know him. And similarly, I’d like to think that there are others out there with the same outlook. But then I read about this experiment, and quite frankly, it made me super sad about the future of my dating life. I’m not especially attractive. Now, I don’t think I’m hideous either. It’s just that I would categorize myself as fairly plain. At least as far as looks go. I’m far from plain personality wise. I’ve got that in spades, and I like who I am. But if looks really are as important to online dating as they appear to be, then I don’t know why I’m bothering with this in the first place. Lord knows I get fewer messages, and go on fewer dates, than L and S. That’s never really bothered me before. I mean, we’re all different people with different tastes, living in different cities. And I tend to be more attracted to country boys (read: hicks), which is not the most populous type of guy in Boston. But then this “experiment” came out, and all I could think was, “well now I know the real reason I’ve been so unsuccessful.” (Oh man, D, now I’m sad. I’m going to resist the urge to throw out a patronizing “Ra-ra you are so amazing I wish we were both into women so I could date you right now”, even though that’s what I genuinely think. Instead I’m going to agree that the dating game can be a serious self esteem crusher. Show me a person who online dates and doesn’t go to this place at some point or another:

and I will show you a liar. Or possibly just a straight man (badum-ching!). Anyway, D, I just wanted to say I love you. Publicly. On our blog. And totally derail this post. Sorry, readers…)

have a lot of feelings

Source: perezhilton.com

Okay, I think I’ve gotten a hold of myself. Carry on, ladies.

I mean, the take-aways here are essentially: 1) virtually no one is interested in pictureless online dating; and 2) the world is a shallow place.

Experiment #2: SO, WHAT’S A PICTURE WORTH?

Did someone say shallow? L here, LSD’s admittedly most shallow contributor, ready to take on experiment numero dos. Basically, OKC asked a sample of users to rate other users’ profiles and pictures separately, and here is what they found:

looks-v-personality

In case, unlike me and S, who had a high school statistics teacher who was so amazing that his last name actually RHYMED with a deity, you have trouble interpreting scatter-plots, let me break it down for you: OKC users, by and large, rated people the same rating for looks and for personality. Now, this means one of two things:

1. People are truly as nice, kind, funny, and cool as they are good looking. Naomi Campbell is a good example of this. She is not only beautiful, but a really nice person.

That’s why she just hit Oprah with her cellphone. OPRAH, PEOPLE!

And before Gandhi passed away, “People Magazine” was frequently putting him on their “50 Most Beautiful People” list. I believe that Paul Wellstone will be remembered not as one of the most compassionate, progressive legislators of our time, but as 2008’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

OH WAIT…

2. What’s that you say? The above paragraphs reek of sarcasm? You’re right, dear readers, they do, because the much more plausible explanation for this graph is that OKC users are just really shallow and care WAYYY more about what you look like than what you write in your profile. Clearly, the mad scientists at OKC had this hypothesis as well, so they decided to take their experiment one step further: Remove profile text altogether and see if users’ rankings of people differed at all from when they could see profile text. And sure ’nuff, what did they find?

profile-text-experiment

Yup, same basic trend: profile text had very little to do with rankings.

Is this surprising to me? No. As the mastermind behind Tacosdelish, I’ve actually seen firsthand that many people could care less about what you put in your profile, or even what you say when you’re messaging with them. But does that mean that we should all give up unless we have really hot profile pics to post? Not at all, and let me tell you why:

  1. You can screen out a lot of crazy by looking at a profile. One of our mottos here at StuCu is “live every day like it will be your last because there is a good chance you’ll meet a murderer when you’re online dating and he’ll kill you.” Believe it or not, there are a staggering number of potential murderers (as well as womanizers, mentally unstable trainwrecks, perverts, and general fools) who actually just admit to being these things on their profiles. And no matter what a guy looks like in his pictures, if there are major crazy flags in his profile, I screen him out.
  2. A profile gives you something to message about. How many times have we complained on this blog about getting generic messages? Or messages just about our looks? Or messages that were actually intended for Angela Merkel? Your profile gives people the ability to start some sort of conversation with you, or, at the very least, make a witty joke before they ask you out for drinks. 
  3. Most people are just average looking. I’m not trying to pretend I’m better then the average OKC user. I didn’t message a single person or return messages on “love is blind” day because love is not blind.  I am actually legally blind in my left eye, so I know what it is to be blind, and LOVE IS NOT. I need to be attracted to the person I’m going out with, and he needs to be attracted to me, or otherwise the date is a huge waste of time (unless we end up starting a book club or write a plan for world domination or something). Now, I know that attraction can develop over time, but I do think this is only true up to a certain point. That is why, when I’m evaluating people’s profiles and deciding whether to message them or message them back, I put them into  one of three categories. (See, now do you understand why I’m the shallow blogger?) :
    • Category 1: I can’t get past his looks. The pics they posted are just not attractive to me. (15% of men)
    • Category 2: They look passable. This means they have at least one picture that I find attractive, and no pictures that scare me. (65% of men)
    • Category 3: They look super hot. Every picture they posted is attractive to me. (10% of men)

So here’s the thing. Most men fall into Category 2. (I actually think even MORE men could graduate from Category 1 to Category 2 if they stopped posting idiotic bathroom selfies or creepy pics of them in bed.) And, if you’re Cateogry 2, I read your profile to get more information.  Because I believe there is a chance we could have a decent date/you could be the love of my life. So, if there is nothing in your profile, or if it is full of stupid adjectives and not so subtle digs at women, then I will GTFO and move on (sadly, I’d say more than HALF of the Category 2 guys weed themselves out this way). But, if we have even a little bit in common and you are not a She-Man-Woman-Hater, I’ll message you back.

Now,  if you’re Category 1, I do just skip your profile and continue on my way. Sorry. I’m not as nice a person as Naomi Campbell, ok? And, Category 3 guys do get a VERY LENIENT read on the profile, and I’ve been known to go out with a couple Category 3 guys whose profiles have expressed thinly veiled chauvinism or some pretty egregious spelling errors. But this has almost NEVER turned out well for me, so honestly, I do this less and less.

The big takeaway here: Most of us look like average, Category 2 people, and so what people think of our looks is pretty subjective.  So keep on writing those profiles boys. Unless of course, you’re so hot, you look good even when you’re pumping gas

RYAN GOS PUMPING GAS

 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/15-insanely-sexy-pictures-of-ryan-gosling-pumping-gas#3qqsag1

Then my answer is YES YES YES.

Experiment #3: THE POWER OF SUGGESTION

I actually asked L and D if I could take this one, because I think it’s the most brazen (and therefore, offensive) of the three experiments. While the first two covered looks and how much they matter (shocker: they matter a lot. I could have told you that, fools) this third one was about compatibility. Basically Okcupid attempted to figure out whether people’s behavior on the site could be influenced by being told they were “good” or “bad” matches when in reality they were the opposite. They did this by manipulating the match percentage of a sample of users and watching what happened. Here’s what the Okc nerds say about match percentage in their blog post:

“By all our internal measures, the “match percentage” we calculate for users is very good at predicting relationships. It correlates with message success, conversation length, whether people actually exchange contact information, and so on. But in the back of our minds, there’s always been the possibility: maybe it works just because we tell people it does. Maybe people just like each other because they think they’re supposed to? Like how Jay-Z still sells albums?”

burn

Source: www.goodreads.com

Um, let’s leave Jay-Z out of this, shall we, Okcupid?

Anyway, I’ll come back to my thoughts on match percentage in a sec. For part one of this experiment, Okcupid told people with low match percentages (30%)  that they were super compatible by making the percentages appear as 90%. Unsurprisingly, those people sent more first messages than those who saw the actual lower percentages.

okc1

Then they wondered, does this perceived compatibility cause people to actually hit it off and send more than just a first message? According to their data yes, it does:

okc2

Anyway, these results were stressing the Okc peeps out, because they basically suggested that their match percentage algorithm was worthless. So they flipped it and reversed it: this time around they told actual “good” matches (90%) that they were “bad” matches (30%) and saw the same general trend. Here are all the results displayed all together:

okc3

In summary, according to Okcupid, users can be influenced to message more often if they’re told they’re a good match, and less often if they’re told they’re a bad match. Unsurprisingly, people have the best chance of hitting it off if they appear to be a good match and actually are a good match (bottom right number).

My one real beef I have with the experiment itself is: for bad matches who are displayed as good, why is four messages considered some magic number of compatibility? Okcupid had this to say about it:

“The four-message threshold is our internal measure for a real conversation. And though the data is noisier, this same “higher display means more success” pattern seems to hold when you look at contact information exchanges, too.”

True, four messages technically constitutes a conversation, but you can’t then conclude that those people actually hit it off. I’ve exchanged four messages with plenty of dudes and decided that I actually hate/could never date them. Same goes for exchanging contact information… if I had a dollar for every time I seriously regretted giving someone my phone #, I would have enough to cover happy hour later today. Which would be awesome.

happy hour

Source: modernmagnolias.blogspot.com

 

Mmmmm happy hour. Focus, S.

Anyway, if Okcupid had instead polled the people involved in this experiment and asked what they actually thought of their match after four messages, or checked back with them a week later, then that data would be much more revealing and accurate. I suspect that for many people it just took that long for the other person to share some detail about themselves that horrified them (and that could have easily been discovered earlier if that person’s info. had been provided truthfully and accurately in the first place). Maybe five messages is how long it typically takes for people to casually reveal whichever of their answers are deal breakers, like that they hate gays or love nuclear war.

Also, not to get all ‘big brother is watching/NSA is listening’, but I’m with D on that last quote from Okc about “looking at contact information exchanges”. The idea that some 23 year old statistics nerd may be reading my messages to see whether I exchanged phone #s with a dude is gross. And creepy. And gross.

So, regarding experiment #3, my first takeaway is that dudes appear to actually look at match percentages, which given the two above experiments and L’s own experiments with Tacos Delish, I wasn’t entirely sure about. Hurrah! Second, I’m not surprised that people can be influenced to some extent (as you can see we’re not talking huge numbers here) by match percentages. Because, if I may remind the nerds of Okcupid, match percentage is not some random, arbitrary number. If you really want to get nerdy, check out their formula for calculating it here. Basically the number is representative of two people’s answers to questions and how important or unimportant they consider the questions to be. The Okcupid people themselves insist that some of these questions are a very reliable predictor of compatibility. Some questions are stupid and meaningless (I hate camping and horror movies, but they’re certainly not deal breakers), but others, likes these, are pretty big deal (you can literally mark them as ‘mandatory’, and I do):

dealbreaker

Source: modernmagnolias.blogspot.com

Yup. A guy’s answers to these matter to me just a smidge. It’s true, a 30% match could probably make me laugh, or we could have off the charts chemistry or even really like each other. But at the end of the day, if he answered his questions truthfully, we’d still disagree on some fundamental things, and odds are those things would become an issue somewhere down the line.

Now on the flip side, a high percentage is no guarantee that I’ll actually be into the person. I look at a guy’s stats (age, location, education level, height etc), then profile and pics. Then match percentage. Then if we message, he could be ass numbingly boring, or reveal that he has only a basic grasp of the English language, or be mean-spirited. Or we could meet and have zero chemistry. There are a million different reasons why a 99% match could still not be the guy for me, but the point is at least I know when I message a 99% match (or even an 80% match) that we’ve presumably cleared the hurdle of agreeing on things that are important to both of us. In short, it saves time. Unless, of course, you’re an Okcupid guinea pig, and like I said above, I have a sneaking suspicion that these poor souls came to the exact same conclusion, just not as quickly. Such is the life of a lab animal.

 

pinky

Source: www.thedailytouch.com

Conclusion

I’ll admit, there’s a part of me, the secretly nerdy psych major part, that finds this all fascinating. We spend so much of our time on this blog being utterly baffled by people’s behavior, so anything that may shed some light on why people do what they do is, on some level, really cool. People are cool! Human behavior is fascinating! Science! Discovery! Progress!

But then there’s the other part of me, the painfully single part who accidentally goes out with bros, cries in public after being dumped, and experiences fade aways on an alarmingly regular basis. That part of me is

not impressed

That part of me thinks that online dating is hard and confusing and ridiculous and soul crushing enough without some Harvard BA in applied mathematics fucking with my user experience for sport. Yes, I realize that I signed a “user agreement” and it basically says Okc can do whatever they want with me. And I think it makes total sense for Okcupid to study the data they already have (and they have plenty) to draw lots of interesting, informative and helpful conclusions. Experiment #1, while stupid, was at least clear cut. Everyone realized what was happening. Nobody was being deceived. Experiment #2 was more deceiving, for sure, but still an A/B test (two versions of something with info. included or left out).

But when these assholes start changing match percentages, now people are just straight up being lied to and that’s when I hop onto my soapbox. Because you, Okcupid, an online dating service that people use to meet their significant others, may have legitimately prevented people from crossing paths who would have otherwise seriously hit it off. Many of us, LSD included, are using your service to hopefully meet the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, sparing a lot of time, money, misery, humiliation and heartache in the process. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but if you were looking for a blog free of drama and ended up here, you clearly took a wrong turn somewhere.

drama

Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Believe it or not, Okcupid, we’re not thrilled to sign onto your site day after day and cruise for thoroughly undatable sociopaths and illiterate weirdos, while our friends get engaged and married around us. It sucks. It’s the worst. And your comical disregard for that fact is not only infuriating, it sort of makes me want to stop using your site and go elsewhere. Except as we’ve covered pretty well here…. there is. no. elsewhere.

Plus the site’s arrogant, flippant tone throughout this whole thing (go reread that email above), combined with the way they’ve been dressing it up as if 1. if we’re on the internet period we should expect to be lied to in the name of research on a daily basis and 2. it’s some benevolent way for them to help us have a better experience, is also totally gross to me. This WSJ interview with Okc co-founder Chris Rudder sums it up pretty well:

okc4

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/08/12/qa-okcupids-cofounder-on-the-growing-pains-of-data-science/

Blech. Sure, Chris Rudder, we’re in control, but we base who we interact with on certain criteria. And if we’re given the wrong criteria or you withhold information from us, then that control is a fallacy. Don’t patronize us, buddy. Also, you’re lucky, so lucky, that a Stucu blogger didn’t wind up in one of these experiments, because you and our poor readers would probably never hear the end of it.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Advertisements

Stucu’s Best Date Spots: Boston Edition

Today I’m rounding out our “best of” series (you can check out DC here and Philly here). To recap, we’re providing some of our favorite first date spots in our lovely cities. Up today is the best city of all, Boston. The Charles River is swimmable again, the Big Dig is over, our former mayor is affectionately known as Mumbles Menino, the ducklings get dressed up for every occasion, Boston is one of the best walking cities there is, etc. etc. The only thing keeping Boston from perfection is the baseball team that plays here (but not the ballpark, I love Fenway). Anway, let’s get to it.

D’s TOP THREE BOSTON DATE SPOTS

1) Granary Tavern (170 Milk Street, Boston, MA 02109 – Financial District)

Obviously, a good bar is a standard go-to for a first date. It’s a public place, it doesn’t have a time commitment, alcohol helps with nerves, etc. If it’s going well you might end up a little drunk and almost miss the last train home because you’ve totally lost track of time (this happened to me a few weeks back, on what quickly became my best first date ever). If the date is a dud, you’re out as quickly as you can down your drink.

funneling

Source: Huffington Post

This kid is going to be a CHAMP when he gets to college. Anywho, Boston is certainly not lacking in bar options, with a pretty even spread of shitty, mediocre, and great. I actually LOVE dive bars, but since my favorite one closed years ago (RIP Our House West), and people tend to have strong opinions about dive bars, I avoid them on the first date. Like S, I like a casual place that’s not too loud, and has a decent menu if the date is going well. I also like a bar that isn’t full of 22 year old assholes, a population that Boston has in spades. We are a young city full of colleges. Which was GREAT when I was going to college here (Go BU!), but now that I’m less than a month from 30, I’m over those shenanigans. So, that eliminates every single bar in Faneuil Hall, and virtually all of Allston/Brighton.

But we’re not talking about the worst of here today, we’re talking about the best. So I present to you: Granary Tavern. It’s in the financial district, so it’s easily accessible by T. But it’s also on the fringe of the Financial District, right on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, so there’s lots of other stuff around in the evening. It’s got a good selection of beer on tap, as well as wine and other cocktails. They’ve got a good menu, including a late night menu. And they’ve got a decent amount of space. Also, they have outdoor seating in good weather, that faces out to the greenway. 

granary tavern

Who wouldn’t want to sit out there with a cold drink and a cute guy? I love dining and imbibing al fresco. 

I also love Eastern Standard in Kenmore Square. They have insanely delicious cocktails. But it’s much trendier and gets really crowded, eliminating it from contention as my favorite. But it’s a decent back up on the right night/with the right date.

2) Sacco’s Bowl Haven (45 Day Street, Somerville, MA 02144 – Davis Square)

I also love a good activity date. Sitting across from a stranger drinking a beer can be super awkward. It’s nice to have a distraction, something that engages you both. And for that, I love me some bowling. Perhaps it’s the fact that I grew up in a town where bowling and woods parties were basically all we had to entertain ourselves. Perhaps it’s my intensely competitive attitude (my desire to win, at everything, while likely a character flaw, is also such a huge part of my personality that it’s one of the few parts of my crazy that I put on full display from the beginning to weed out the people who don’t find it charming). Almost definitely, a part of it is that my butt looks slammin’ in jeans, and bowling provides a lot of opportunity to put that on display. Besides, New England has the ever-charming and quirky candlepin bowling.

candlepin bowling

It seems like it might be easier, but it’s not. Here’s a delightfully 80’s tutorial that I came across recently while trying to brush up on my skills before a bowling date, as I had talked a LOT of trash leading up to the date (despite the fact that I’m a mediocre bowler, at best). 

There are a couple of places to bowl in Boston, but my favorite by far is Sacco’s Bowl Haven in my old ‘hood of Davis Square in Somerville. Right on the red line, Sacco’s is also easily accessible by T. They only have candlepin, so if you’re not a New England bowling purist, you’re better off going to Jillian’s or Boston Bowl. In addition to candlepin, Sacco’s has alcohol and delicious flatbread pizza. I dare you to find something wrong with the combination of beer, pizza, bowling, and healthy competition. Although they keep a certain number of lanes open for walk-ins, Sacco’s gets crowded fast, so midweek is best for this. Sacco’s will take your number and call you when a lane opens up, so if there is a wait and the bar is crowded, head over to Red Bones (or any one of the numerous other places in Davis) for a beer and/or food. 

3) Castle Island (at the end of William J. Day Blvd. in South Boston)

Since it’s summer, and summer in Boston is lovely (humid as fuck, a specialty of the eastern seaboard, but all the colleges are out and there’s an abundance of parks and waterfront to explore), I’m rounding out my fave first date spots with an outdoor activity. A little vitamin D, a little physical activity, and endless options for ways to continue the date if things are going well. I’m partial to Castle Island for this.  

Castle Island

It’s not actually an island, so if the date is a dud you’re not actually marooned with the fool. It’s got great views of Boston Harbor and the harbor islands, as well as the city skyline (especially if you walk out on the causeway in Pleasure Bay (I hate that name, so much, but I digress)). They open up Fort Independence in the summer, and who doesn’t love exploring a good fort? A nice sea breeze is always refreshing. If the guy is in fact a dud, you can call it a day after one lap around the fort, and at least you got some exercise! If it’s going well and you get hungry, Sullivan’s is right there with seafood, burgers, and ice cream (in case you weren’t sure you were in South Boston, that name should give it away). There’s no bar at Sullivan’s, but a quick walk into South Boston will give you plenty of options if you want to cancel out all that strenuous walking with a cold one.

So there you have it – LSD’s Best Date Spots in our respective cities. Thanks for tuning in while we share our recs! Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming of dishing about boys, insane messages, and memorable dates (both good and bad), because those things just keep on coming.

P.S. Boston peeps, did I miss any gems you want to share? I’m all ears in the comment section!

Stucu’s best date spots: Philly edition

Happy almost birthday, ‘Murica, and Happy almost long weekend of binge drinking/eating/fireworking, my fellow Americans.  The subject of today’s post is the fair City of Brotherly Love, where a certain important document was drafted years ago mere blocks from where I’m sitting at this very moment.

Anyway, this is Part 2 of our little ‘best of’ series, and in case you missed it, you can catch L’s best DC date spots here. So let’s get to one of my favorite things in the world: opinions!

opinion

Source: www.bodylovewellness.com

If a guy asks me out, in an ideal world he picks where we’re going to meet up, at least the first time around. But this is the real world, and in the real world, lazy suburbanites who’ve apparently never heard of Yelp usually text me things like: “so where should we meet up?”  or “I don’t know the city that well, any ideas?” I mean….

How-Rude-Stephanie-Full-House

Source: soletstalkabout.com

As annoying as this can be, it’s also an opportunity, because there is something to be said for controlling the location of a first date. I used to think that location didn’t matter much, and it’s true, if you hit it off with someone you will probably do that whether the date is in a trendy upscale restaurant or a dive bar that reeks of urine. But I’ve come to believe that there is a bit of a science to this whole thing.

In honor of that (pseudo) science, here are three types of date spots that I like to keep in my back pocket for when I’ve got a clueless suburbanite on my hands, and that I think every single girl should have in her arsenal:

  • a fun neighborhood bar with good beer/drinks (and lots of room) for first and second dates
  • someplace a little swanky/mysterious/sexy (I couldn’t even type ‘sexy’ without thinking of this–I’m seriously 12:)

  • something different than the typical drinks/dinner scene

You may note that I stayed away from actual restaurants on this list because not to be obnoxious, but Philly has a GREAT restaurant scene, so I don’t feel like it’s hard to find a really good place to eat, ever. Anyway, let’s get to this list, shall we?

S’s Top Three Philly Date Spots

1. First date watering hole: Strangelove’s (216 S. 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107–11th Street between Walnut & Locust)

strangeloves

This is my ideal first date location because it:

  • is casual but not divey
  • is cool but not overly trendy or pretentious
  • is never insanely crowded or loud
  • has good food in case the date goes well and we decide to have dinner
  • is in my neighborhood so I can easily FLEE if I have a serial killer on my hands

Over the past…wow, 2 years (#old) I’ve actually taken….five? dudes to this bar on a first or second date. That I can remember. It’s highly possible the bartenders and waitstaff have a running pool on when I’ll be in next and with whom. What can I say? It’s my old reliable (even though it’s only been under this name/owner for like a year. Shhhh.)

The beer selection is great if you or your date are into that (I am), but there’s a full bar if you’re not. This place is popular and can get crowded, but there’s a big upstairs bar so you’ll never find yourself awkwardly standing and trying to be witty and charming while simultaneously getting elbowed and sloshing Saison all over yourself. And in case you were worried, it has the GOOP stamp of approval (damn it that smug bitch has good taste). Also, there’s something incredibly fitting about having a first date with a stranger you met online underneath a glowing sign that says “STRANGE LOVE”.

If your date turns out to not be an illiterate sociopath (in which case)…..

congratulations

and you decide to stay and eat, the food is delicious and inexpensive. Also, the music isn’t blasting so loudly that you can actually HEAR wtf your date is saying. I realize I sound like the most uncool old person that ever lived when I complain about noise levels in bars…

mindy wifi

Source: starcrush.com

but sorry, haters, first dates are awkward enough without having to shout ‘What??’ and ‘Huh??’ back and forth with a stranger for an hour.

2. Swanky and sexy: The Ranstead Room (2013 Ranstead St, Philadelphia, PA 19103)

https://i0.wp.com/www.wheretraveler.com/sites/default/files/styles/features_slideshow_gallery_articles/public/Ranstead_Room_Courtesy%20of%20the%20Ranstead%20Room.jpg

Usually when someone suggests hitting up a speakeasy that 1. is hidden down an alleyway 2. has bartenders that wear twee little vintage get ups 3. is too cool to have a website and 4. may close at a moment’s notice without warning I’m like:

hipster nonsense

Source: gifmethat.tumblr.com

But I promise you (and Liz Lemon), this is a good one.

I have to give my ex full credit for introducing me to the Ranstead Room, especially since he’s probably reading this post (hey, D). You guys, this place is so fun and so. sexy. Maybe a little much for a first date, but perfect for a second or third. Yes, it’s small, located down a sketchy back street with no sign and yes, there’s almost always a wait, but they’ll take your cell # and call you when a table opens up so you can go around the corner and wait at a bar or grab a bite to eat.

Once you actually enter it feels like Madmen-meets-70s porn set-meets-vampire den, which sounds insane but it fucking works. The drinks are delicious and the atmosphere is perfect for my favorite date activity:

banter

Source: domini-porter.tumblr.com

I’m telling you, RR’s great music, low lighting, vintage paintings of naked ladies on the walls (very non-sleazy/tongue in cheek ) and friendly, non-pretentious bartenders will make you feel hella cool and mysterious, and you will more than likely end up flirting your ass off with whoever is sitting across from you (to varying levels of success, of course, depending on your skill and blood alcohol levels).

clive bixby

Then, when you’ve flirted and bantered to your heart’s content and you inevitably tie a load on from those 4 custom cocktails you just downed, might I suggest…

jess singing

Source: allaboutnewgirl.tumblr.com

Calm down, you pervs. I was actually going to recommend ordering a snack off the menu of the yummy Mexican restaurant next door. Drunk guacamole, people. DRUNK. GUACAMOLE. Get your priorities straight.

Honestly, forget dates (and the fact that this post includes the word “intercourse”); if you’re from out of town and you visit Philly, check this place out.

3. Nerdy and unique: The Franklin Institute (271 North 21st Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103)

franklin institute

Honorary mention goes to Art After 5, which is definitely a more “grown up” option, but I’ve never actually gone there on a date (only with friends–woooommmmp #painfullysingle) so I felt like it was cheating to put it on this list.

I love a museum date, especially when the weather’s shitty. I like that it’s something interactive to do with your date, there are conversation starters all around you to fill any awkward silences, and if you get ass numbingly bored after an hour you can just peace out and resume discussing whatever low-brow things you normally talk about while still feeling cultured as shit for going.

mindy price harry

Source: www.tvguide.com

Philly has some great museums, and if you’re looking purely for art/culture, I have a bunch of arguably better recs for you than this one (also if you’re looking to totally creep your date out, I’ve got a rec for that, too). The Barnes is killer. The Constitution Center is great. But the Franklin Institute is …different. Maybe that’s because it’s technically a kid’s museum. BUT it’s also a combination of nerdy, wacky, juvenile, random and totally kitschy, which I love, and I think it makes for a more fun, playful date (at least early on) than your standard art museum. Also, being able to joke/be playful/not take yourself too seriously is a personality trait that I really value, and this is a good way to spot any know it all snoots who wouldn’t be thrilled to climb through a giant heart with you.

Other reasons why this is a fun date option:

  • Planetariums are hella romantic. Just ask Ross and Rachel.
  • You’ll seriously LOL at some of the laughably vintage exhibits
  • An hour or two among droves of screaming kids, and you will definitely both remember the importance of birth control.

jack thumbs up

Source: degrassi.wikia.com

So there you have it. Philly peeps, what do you think? What are some of your favorite date spots? I realize I basically stuck with the Center City area, but I’m always looking for new places to check out.

Have an awesome holiday weekend, readers. I’ll be spending mine lakeside with my homegirl D while L is sunbathing in Europe. (I know, we hate her, too.) Stay tuned for our Beantown edition of best date spots next week!