I'm sitting in the lounge area at the House of Yes. Everything is red. The lighting is red. The tablecloths are red. My face is red.
I'm doing my best to hide my beaming cheeks in the shadows of the lounge area. Soft Cell's, "Tainted Love/ Where Did Our Love Go?" plays from the speakers overhead.
Rachel, a producer for Guerilla Science, is making her way to the entrance of the dance hall. Her voice overpowers the music for a moment,
Ladies, gentlemen, those who reject the gender binary, come on in. Welcome to 'Sensory Speed Dating.' Come on inside. Take a seat close to the stage. Drop your purses, drop your bags, drop your inhibitions.
People begin to trickle into the dance hall sheepishly. They're dropping their purses. They're dropping their bags. I can't see what they're doing with their inhibitions all the way from the lounge area, but hopefully they're leaving those behind too.
Over 70 people of all different races, ages and sexual preferences have come to spend two hours at a speed dating event held in Brooklyn, New York.
But this isn't your average speed dating event, this is "Sensory Speed Dating."
Guerilla Science describes it as “a one-of-a-kind event [that] explores the science of attraction through a range of enticing sensory adventures. Adventurous participants were given the opportunity to smell, hear, taste, touch, see and move their way to a greater understanding of the subconscious processes that drive our behavior and desires.”
In the hall, long tables are laid out in a three-by-three grid with room for eight people at each. The tables are equipped with a set of blindfolds, and for the sake of cleanliness, a couple of bottles of Purell.
Chris Duffy, an NYC-based comedian, and Elliot Aguilar, an evolutionary biologist, guide and educate participants through six rounds of (for the most part) blindfolded sensory adventures.
Unlike your typical speed dating event, “the idea isn't so much to guarantee that you'll match up with a partner, but it's to give you this really magical experience where you explore how your other senses are related to attraction,” says Mark Rosin, the co-founder of Guerilla Science.
And from what I saw, he was right. People were doing a whole lot of “exploring,” particularly in the neck regions.
At the end of each round, blindfolded participants were asked to make a secret indication as to their interest in matching with their partners. Matches were catalogued by a group of volunteers and posted publicly at the end of the event. From what I saw, the crowd seemed to be into the whole concept, and watching blindfolded strangers smell, feed, touch, dance and listen to each other for two hours was pretty entertaining.
The event did a good job at breaking the ice and giving participants something to talk about during and afterward.
I can't guarantee you'll get married after a night of "Sensory Speed Dating," but it sure as hell beats an awkward Tinder date.