As I walk past a car guard, the lights of Fox Street suddenly go off, the music from the surrounding restaurants stops and there seems to be a collective sigh from patrons and restaurant staff. “Ah, Eskom and their loadshedding!”
I meet Rachael Neary at the POPArt Theatre in the Maboneng Precinct and the first thing she says is, “this is exactly why we started this thing!” We take a seat in the candlelit entrance hall and bar of POPArt and start talking about ‘Dating in the Dark’, a speed dating event she created and runs with the owners of POPArt, Haleigh and Orly.
Rachael, a freelance actress, speaks about how her experiences of being single in Johannesburg gave her the idea to start this event. “I tried various ways to date people” she says. She grew increasingly tired of propositions for sex on Tinder, blind dates set up by friends that were too awkward, and she didn’t want to date the people she kept meeting because they were in the same social circles. After many dating misfortunes I must say, I personally share all of these sentiments. Even though you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, in my experience, the cover matters.
“Dates are based on what people look like. You don’t get to know about a person’s personality until you meet them. [Dating in the Dark] is all about eliminating preconceptions… I wanted to get the looks out of the way” Rachael explains.
Here’s how it works: you purchase a ticket online; men and women are required to arrive at different times to maintain the air of mystery; you have 5-minute long dates, with approximately 10 people with a LED light only bright enough to write a comment after your date; when the dates are complete, you have the choice to either have a drink in the POPArt entrance with fellow participants, or leave discreetly. The organisers will read all the comments and feedback from the dates, and if you have a match you receive an email with each other’s contact details and free tickets to the POPArt theatre for your first date. If you don’t find a match, there’s a consolation prize. For the last one, they gave out free tickets to a single’s Valentines Day party at the Living Room.
Currently, the event only caters to heterosexuals because of the overwhelming amount of interest from heterosexuals. Other than that, this event attracts mostly young people from diverse backgrounds, places and cultures, much like the Maboneng Precinct.
“The range of people was insane”, says Hayleigh, who had to sit in on the first edition of the event because someone didn’t pitch. “Do not cancel, because you are the rudest person if you cancel” she exclaims. Noted. You don’t want to be the person that messes up the entire flow of dates.
So if you’re tired of conventional dates and want to let your personality do all the work, go check out the second edition of ‘Dating in the Dark’ on Thursday, 2 April at the POPArt Theatre in the Maboneng Precinct at 20:00. Check out the event on Facebook.
Words by @ThatGirlFati