It seems to me that the worst way one could arrive at a singles mixer for people obsessed with death would be on time. So when Google Maps tells me it will take me 17 minutes to take the F train and walk a bit to the "Morbid Curiosity" mixer I'm set to attend at 8 p.m., at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, I fight my punctual instincts and make sure not to leave my apartment any earlier than 7:44.
When I arrive, I am 14 minutes late, but still, as always, a little too early. The museum, which sits on the corner of 7th Street and 4th Avenue in Park Slope, features two walls made entirely of glass, so I am able to see from a block away that I am the sixth person to show up. Three of the five others are volunteers. Two of them have hot-pink hair.
I am here for three reasons, ranked by my opinion of their relevance: 1) I think the idea of a death-themed singles mixer is the funniest thing I have ever heard in my life, 2) I love things that are death-themed, and 3) I am single. (I also live with a dating expert who is always telling me to join dating sites and apps, which I hate, and I see this as a sort of spiteful concession. I will NOT join OkCupid, but I WILL go to a mixer in a museum filled with diseased organs in jars.)
Still, I pretty much ruled out the possibility of having a good time at this event the moment I bought my $15 ticket. Anyone who attends something called "Morbid Curiosity Night" should, in theory, have similar interests to mine. The problem with people that have my interests is that they are weird.
When I walk in, a woman with long, straight blond hair and a pink floral dress greets me and asks me to write my first name and an "icebreaker word" on a name tag. In order to fit the night's theme, under my name I write "spectrophilia," which means a sexual fetish for ghosts. I have decided that my go-to pickup line will be, "So, who's your favorite murderer?" (I drank a not-small glass of wine pretty quickly before I left my apartment.)
I sit down at a table on which a Homer Simpson version of the game Operation is set out and take out my phone to text people alarmed sentence fragments. Occasionally I look up to survey my surroundings: behind me, a glass case displaying a stuffed possum and a death mask of someone who suffered some kind of severe facial growth issue; in front of me, on top of a cabinet, the skull of an elephant.
Several more people trickle in, often in groups of two or three, and soon enough I look up from my phone to find a respectable crowd of 30 or so people standing around the room. A buttoned-up blond guy sits down at the table across from me and asks me what "spectrophilia" means. For the first time of many that night, I have to explain that it refers to people who want to have sex with ghosts, but that is not something I myself am interested in pursuing.
At some point the guy across from me gets up and is replaced by another and two other women. We start talking — this guy's tag says "baby bird" on it, and it turns out he rescued one this morning and named it "Kowalski," because "every wounded guy you root for in war movies is named Kowalski" — and playing Operation, and soon after I realize that I am having fun and kind of flirting. Or maybe I'm just talking, and it only seems like flirting because it's a singles mixer. I actually don't know. I have had 2.5 wines by this point.
About an hour into the event, one of the girls with pink hair announces that we're going to play a round of Pictionary with various mythical creatures as our subject matter. People in the crowd identify chicken-scratch illustrations of the New Jersey Devil, a gremlin, and the Wendigo all within a few seconds each. I don't guess out loud, though I know the answer several times. I just stand in the back and grin. These are things I read about obsessively and privately; I don't think I've ever been around anyone interested in cryptids or weird diseases and surgical procedures to the extent I am, and certainly never a room full of them. I am having an excellent time.
There are a few things about this event that worked out exactly as I expected: There was at least one steampunk dude wearing a top hat and handlebar mustache. There was a higher-than-average number of tattoos and black articles of clothing. I met a female taxidermist who was wearing black eyeshadow and a human glass eye as a ring. But other than that, and especially for a singles mixer in a death museum, it was totally normal.
When I left — having given one person my card, though again I am not totally sure what I was up to — it was to walk to the train with a pair of friends who'd come together, one of whom is a student in mortuary science. From her I learned that being buried in a pine coffin is more environmentally friendly than being cremated, because the process involved in the latter releases dangerous gases. This is the kind of useful information you can get only by attending an event like this one. Or by going on the internet, I guess.
At the beginning of the night I had assumed that everyone would write creepy, death-related words on their tags, and that's part of the reason I chose "spectrophilia." I think I thought I was playing to the crowd. But at the end of the night I realized that everyone else's tags had said normal (or normal-er, anyway) things like "foreign policy," and "beautiful," and "baby bird." It is possible that the weirdest one there was me.