Dating in D.C. can be difficult; 'eye-gazing parties' seek to help singles

By Lisa Bonos
Sunday, April 18, 2010

Going through the motions of dating in D.C. can often feel like being stuck in that Bill Murray flick "Groundhog Day."

"What do you do?"

"Where did you go to school?"

"Where are you from?"

Now repeat.

So what happens when you preempt that tired script of first impressions and instead ask singles to gaze into each other's eyes, not saying a word?

On a recent Saturday night, about 30 single Washingtonians, myself included, streamed into Logan Circle's Flow Yoga studio to find out.

Jeffrey Platts, a 33-year-old who works at a PR firm by day and is a DJ, yoga teacher and dating blogger on the side, organized an "eye-gazing party" as an experiment for the buttoned-up D.C. singles scene. Having read about such parties' popularity in New York and San Francisco, Platts thought Washington could use a little eye contact.

"There's a stigma that D.C. is tight," Platts says. "That may be true, but I think there's a hunger for variety."

He might be right: There was a waiting list for his first eye-gazing event, which doubled as a fundraiser for Haiti relief. (Suggested donation: $10.)

On the night of the party, a slight buzz of anxiety -- and a sense of adventure -- wafts through the room. No talking, no touching. Just two minutes of gazing. Silently thank your partner. And switch!

We settle into meditation cushions, women across from men, in an upstairs studio normally filled with deeply breathing yogis. I take a spot across from a friendly looking, clean-cut guy. Before the gazing officially begins we launch into that get-to-know-you conversation this activity is built to avoid, and wonder whether we'll be able to gaze without giggling. It turns out we can't -- such reactions are incredibly contagious.

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