We took part in Loveflutter's social experiment, #SayNoToShallow, in which NYC singles speed date with a paper bag over their heads to mirror the way the company's smartphone app works. No faces, just 140 characters written on a bag to describe yourself.
Initially, we were under the impression that this was a media event and that everyone there was planning on writing a story. When we arrived, we were told to not mention that we worked for BuzzFeed, or that we were going to write about the experience. We soon discovered that while most (if not all) of the women were there for free as media coverage, all of the men had paid $25 for what they thought would be a genuine dating event. As the night progressed, more and more of the men caught on that the women were writers and appeared to feel anxious about the possibility of being written about.
Here are some lessons we learned through this experience:
1. Making some people pay for an event you're hosting and then letting in media for free is kind of crappy, especially when it comes to paying money to speed date. The people paying want to be there for their personal life, while the people invited from media are probably there for a story.
2. When you can't see a person's full face, you look at their clothes and shoes instead.
3. Having a bag on your head is completely humiliating.
4. There is something weirdly unsettling about seeing a horde of men with obscured faces walk into a room in a pack.
5. Dating with a bag over your head does not warrant a 45-minute subway trip to Queens.
6. Having a news crew, at least seven photographers, and people conducting interviews around you does not make for a romantic atmosphere.
7. Women like to decorate their bags with realistic facial features.
8. Men were more partial to cartoon drawings and top hats.
9. The whole time you're at the event you are really wishing that your best friends were here to see this. So you take selfies galore to make sure that they feel included in this weird night of your life.
10. There's nothing wrong with finding someone physically attractive.
11. In fact, thinking someone is attractive is exactly what dating is about in the beginning.
12. You can have a great conversation with someone with a bag over their head, but you're going to be thinking about what they look like under there. It's human nature.
13. But also, you can see the person's eyes/mouth, so unless they have a wildcard nose, you can pretty much guess what they look like.
14. DON'T put decorative cellophane over your mouth hole if you want to breathe successfully.
15. Having a bag over your head does allow you to hide your mouth if you're laughing at something weird that your date said.
16. Shaking hands with someone you're supposed to be "dating" is awkward, but you can't really do much else since your smile is hidden.
17. It's really unattractive having a guy's first words to you be, "I think I'm gonna have to pass on that last one." Classy, dude.
18. The "fun fact" you put on your bag could potentially be all you talk about, so a fact about guacamole is a great move.
19. Talking about guacamole for 44 minutes straight really makes you want guacamole in and around your mouth.
20. Because you can't get to your face, it will be itchy the entire time you are in the bag.
21. Trying to scratch any part of your face through the little eye hole is awkward for all parties involved and watching.
22. It's not fun not having peripheral vision.
23. Sitting at a table with another "couple" during any type of speed dating is really distracting.
24. When you only have two minutes for a date, it kind of feels like an interview.
25. If you're weird with a bag over your head, you're probably weird without a bag on your head.
26. Bringing a dog to a speed dating event is very polarizing — it'll either make you look like a bonafide animal lover, or a peacocking pickup artist.
27. Sitting with a bag on your head for 44 minutes = nose chafing.
28. Alcohol probably helps. You see people with drinks and regret showing up to the event five minutes before it started.
29. Going into speed dating sober is like trying to explain Tinder to your 91-year-old grandfather. Horrible.
30. Even days after speed dating with a bag over your head, you feel sensitive to seeing paper bags — they dredge up the horrible memories.
31. Having a bag over your face makes you feel like a cartoon character.
32. Having fun facts on your bag makes it awkward when no one gets yours.
33. Your bangs will get in the way of your eyes, you won't be able to fix them, and yes, this is what hell is like.
34. It's really hard to hear with a bag over your ears.
35. Mouths will start to look, like, REALLY weird. You'll have nightmares about teeth for the next two nights.
36. You'll make way-too-harsh judgments about people's fun facts.
37. Watching someone try to read and figure your bag out is somehow more uncomfortable than if they just examined your face.
38. People will still ask you your age and where you live, even if they know next to nothing about you.
39. Lying about where you work is a challenge, and it makes you feel sleazy.
40. Cameramen will come up to you when you least expect it and catch you taking a deep breath.
41. Guys will get their order confused when they're changing dates and it'll be an awkward situation for everyone involved.
42. Guys will also openly check off "like" or "pass" in front of you before you've finished talking.
43. You'll be vain about what they're wearing and feel a little bad.
44. You'll also pay more attention than usual to their handshake, as that's the most physically intimate you'll get.
45. Speed dating in general is extremely awkward, especially when you hear the ever distracting, "30 seconds left!" every two minutes. Oh, and there's a bag on your head still.
46. Drinking a beer through a mouth hole LOOKS SO WEIRD.
46. Don't tell a man with "I love Katy Perry" written on his paper bag that you prefer Taylor Swift. Drama will ensue.
47. If "I love Katy Perry" is the first thing that a man can think of about himself, run.
48. You'll likely run into an old work friend (since every woman invited was from the media) who promises to set you up with someone, so you feel less alone, if only for a moment.
49. You may encounter a man with long coke pinky nails. You will stare the whole time.
50. You use your like/pass dating sheet only as a reference to see how many dates you have left.
51. And every time you look down at it you think, "Please, God, let this be the last one."
52. When you are finally "unveiled" in a moment of sheer awkwardness, you will immediately look for the person you had the best conversation with to see what he looks like, thus judging his looks anyway.
53. After the de-bagging, you find one guy physically attractive even though you "passed" on his personality, making you feel vain.
54. Your tweets will start looking a lot like this:
55. And this:
56. The bartender will probably end up being the most eligible bachelor in the room.