Comfort is a two-faced bitch. It lures us away from the jagged rocks of pain to the soft shores of protection. It is a great time-saver and facilitator; it might even be fun for a while.
Comfort is also our undoing, robbing us of our potential. It’s the difference between Bilbo Baggins staying in the Shire as a Hobbit, and fighting a dragon as THE Hobbit.
So, let’s keep this in mind when I offer my thoughts on Grouper, a self-described “social club” offering a new spin on online dating — although they never use the word “date,” and you’re hardly ever online. After using Grouper three times, I’ll say this: it’s one of the most comfortable ways of meeting women that a guy is going to find. Take that for what you will.
Here’s a quick lowdown for the uninitiated: Grouper started here in San Francisco and New York and has since spread to other U.S. cities. A “Grouper” matches one guy with one girl, and although the company takes great pains not to call the event a date, you must each find two single friends of your gender to go. I suspect this formula will gain popularity with younger, techier crowds who don’t want the anxiety of approaching attractive strangers.
It goes something like this:
All the prep work is done for you: there are no online profiles to sift through, no email exchanges and no planning where to go. These factors will be pros or cons depending on your viewpoint, but I mostly consider this an improvement over standard online dating, where scanning profiles and sending emails can be an eye-gougingly dull experience. Yes, at least you exercise choice with OK Cupid, but we’ve covered the downside of that.
The price includes a free first drink, making the cost of this endeavor far cheaper than traditional arranged group dates like Table for Six, or even your average first date. So that’s a plus, too.
You will not know what your Grouper partners look like before you see them, nor will you have any information on them other than a generic-sounding promise that the girls are “super cute.” I suppose that’s more comforting than being promised that they have “great personalities,” but the matching system, based on people’s Facebook profiles, seems as sophisticated as throwing at a dart board.
I’ve been on three Groupers with the same two wingmen, and we each took turns being the guy who signed up. We have plenty in common, but not so much in common that we should get the same type of girls each time — for example, one of us is a hard core Burning Man guy whereas I’m quite the opposite. But diversity was hard to come by.
Leaving physical attractiveness out of it for a minute, all nine of the girls we met were in their mid-20s, white and of mainstream tastes. Virtually all of them lived in or hung out often in the Marina, which is the Never Never Land for ex-frat boys and sorority girls. None of us are compatible with Marina girls beyond a drunken night of hooking up to songs by Ke$ha.
Based on my Grouper outings, here’s a quick cheat sheet for any guys considering your own:
Get fun wingmen you can trust, and have a game plan: I had the first part of this down — my wingmen are great friends — but our first time out we didn’t consider the logistics of having a six-way encounter where we’re all sitting at a table. Unless you want polite chit-chat the whole night, you need to switch seats and isolate at some point. The girls came together and will have pressure to leave together, so your insta-date odds afterward are slim unless you’re really hitting it off.
Give the point man first dibs on a girl: Even though my friends and I have different physical tastes, we agreed each time on who the best looking girl was. So to avoid any conflict or miscommunication, I advise giving first dibs to the guy who organized the event. My secret code for calling dibs was looking at the girl and saying, “How about those Giants?” Smooth, I know.
Don’t be shy about escalating: I find it ironic that while Groupers seem marketed to shy people and uses a “no labels” mantra, you need to exercise some PUA skills to close the deal. Grouper doesn’t give you the girls’ contact info afterward, so you will need to get her number by the end of the encounter, probably in front of everyone.
Now for the recap of my three Groupers:
No. 1: Thumbs up on the bar Grouper chose, and I liked being able to get Scotch as my free drink. As for the girls, it was a three-headed Marina monster. They could talk about sports, visiting Western Europe, and drinking, but that was about it. One of the girls was good looking enough that one of us probably should have gotten her number just for the hell of it, but we didn’t regret it.
No. 2: The best I can say about this one was that the girls were all nice (in fact, all nine of the girls we met were nice; social conventions sort of require it). However, none of them were remotely interesting to us, physically or otherwise, and the bar had a DJ blasting music so loud we could barely talk. After this one I had to talk one of my wingmen into doing a third Grouper, on his condition that I write this review. So I hope you’re happy, buddy.
No. 3: I was the point man for this one, so I was fortunate that one of the girls was cute. Yes, she lived in the Marina, but at least she was apologetic about it. I got her number but she didn’t return my texts afterward (was it my Giants line?); still, even soft rejection felt like an improvement. The bar was solid, and we took an inspired Groupergram — you’re encouraged to take a creative Instagram photo of the six of you. It was my idea to have the five of us simulate surgery with knives on my shirtless wingman while the bar manager watched in horror.
Grand total for three outings: None of us is swearing off Grouper forever, but none of us would rely on it for dating. Combined, the three of us spent $60 and over six hours of our time. We had a whopping one phone number (that didn’t lead anywhere) among the three of us. We had perfectly safe, pleasant conversations in safe settings with nine friendly girls who mostly did not attract us (the feeling may very well have been mutual).
But phone numbers are beside the point. This is more about the costs of comfort. There might be little to lose in talking to three pre-selected women, but for many guys I suspect there’s also much less to gain. Personally, I would rather exercise my own judgment in meeting my kind of girls — and the risk of immediate rejection is an asset, not a liability.
I’d still recommend Grouper to a guy who just wants to go out and meet lots of people and maybe hook up with a girl or two. But if you’re looking for girlfriend material, I’d take the bumpier road.