A Singles Party, Where Chaos Is the Point

“Are any of you guys drinking Jack and Coke right now,” Jesus Valdes shouted at two women who were sipping cocktails during a crowded singles mixer at American Whiskey, a bar in Midtown Manhattan. They were not, and Mr. Valdes let out a sigh of frustration.

He was playing Chaotic Bingo, a game in which guests were given a sheet that listed 25 characteristics they had to find in someone else, including someone who’s had sex this month and someone you’d want to kiss later. First one to circle five across received one free year of Tinder platinum.

Mr. Valdes, 34, a professor from Staten Island, said that he had met a few people already that he was interested in, including one “stand out,” but that it was early and he still wanted to mingle.

“I told her I got to keep my options open,” he said. “She said, ‘I understand.’”

This was one of the many features of the Chaotic Singles Party, a monthly event where singles are invited to attend to meet other singles, but only if they bring one of their Tinder matches, whom they do not know, as their plus one.

The taxidermy looked on.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times
Emma Childs, Jesus “J.C.” Valdez, and Cameryn Martin mingle.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times
Geppetto Pierre dips Sophie Sieck.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

With more than 300 tickets sold, the bar was already swelling with guests shortly after the party started at 9 p.m. on a Friday. Romantic hopefuls wearing white name tags on their chest were sipping drinks and almost screaming in conversation as pop music blared through the speakers and light from eight TVs mounted on the wall illuminated the space with baseball and basketball games.

Godfrey Butler, 26, an I.T. field technician who lives in the Bronx, arrived alone after discovering the event on Eventbrite two days before. “ I was trying to be a brave soldier,” he said, adding that dating has been a “rough patch.”

“I haven’t used dating apps this year, but maybe I should join,” he added. “I think it’s better to meet people in person.”

The room was warm and the tight crowd didn’t help ward off the summer heat. One tall gentleman even managed to produce a heart-shaped sweat stain on the back of his shirt while grabbing a drink at the bar.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

Hosted by Cassidy Davis, the party grew out of her difficult time with dating in Los Angeles. On Valentine’s Day in 2022, she instructed her single female friends to invite random men from their dating apps to her house for a party. At the last minute, she also invited 65 men off Tinder.

“Like six dudes, differently, were like, Is this an organ-harvesting scam?” she said. “And I was like, Who hurt you? Like no babe, not me. But the fun ones came and it was a really fun party.”

She uploaded the party on TikTok and it quickly went viral. Using that momentum, she rented out a venue in Los Angeles and threw the same party two weeks later. Five hundred people showed up. After receiving a flurry of news coverage, she has been throwing the parties monthly ever since.

Cassidy Davis interviews attendees at the party.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

Now with a partnership with Tinder, she has taken her party on the road with a singles summer series to celebrate “uncuffing” season, hosting five parties in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

The parties offer relief from using dating apps — solace that more people are seeking in a variety of ways. Instead of swiping, people are trying speed dating, posting personal ads around their neighborhoods, soliciting help from a matchmaker or taking a break from dating all together.

Tinder this year started its first global brand campaign to celebrate the “possibilities” offered by the app, which has become known as a forum for easy sex and hookups. The company has hosted real-life initiatives in the past, like matching singles with adoptable dogs to attract pet lovers or partnering with Lyft to gift your match a ride to your date, but this is the first time it has partnered with an in-person singles mixer.

Making their presence known at in-person singles events is one way Tinder is trying to get people out the door and on dates again, Sheldon Bachan, a spokesman for Tinder, said.

“We’re always trying to bridge the gap between online and offline dating, so we thought this collaboration was cool and a great way to do that,” Bachan said.

Back at the party, Davis kicked off a game called Musical Cheers. “It’s like musical chairs, but with alcohol,” she said. Guests moved around the room as music played, and when it stopped, they clinked glasses with the person in front of them, then answered a “chaotic question.”

Donnaleah Jones and Jayel Gant.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times
Guests, getting comfortable.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

Two guests were standing near each other when the music stopped and Davis shared the first question: “Why did your last relationship end?”

“My last relationship ended because my ex thought she wanted to go back with her baby father,” said one of the guests, Michael, who declined to share his last name for privacy reasons, but added that he was dumped just a week ago.

Michael said he understood it was odd that he was already at a singles mixer days later, but added that things had “felt off” for a while.

Jayel Gant and Donnaleah Jonescame to the event together but were only meeting for the first time after they both had dates who canceled just hours before.

“I was swiping as I do and an ad for the party came up on Tinder. And so I put on my Tinder bio, if you buy tickets to this event, I’ll give you a kiss,” said Gant, who is pansexual. “And I decided to go with this one guy and then he canceled two hours before we were supposed to meet up.”

A man and a woman who stuck around after midnight could be seen leaning against the staircase making out, unfazed by the small crowd watching them with delight.Credit…Jackie Molloy for The New York Times

Determined to go, Gant bought their own ticket. Since it came with a plus one, they went to the queer dating app Lex and asked if anyone wanted to attend the party. Jones, who also had a date cancel on her that night, said yes.

When asked whether they were feeling each other, Gant smiled and said, “TBD.” Jones, who is also pansexual, said, “We’ll see” with a smirk.

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