This WA artist wants to help locals fall in love without feeling creeped out

Dating can be rough. Especially in a city known for locals’ hesitance of welcoming new friends into their lives (a.k.a: the Seattle Freeze). Couple that with the seemingly never ending stream of new dating apps, sites, and well-intentioned setups from our friends, and dating can feel like a total headache.

Jenna Bean Veatch wants to fix that. She’s a local performance artist who curates dance-theater shows, writes music, and dedicates her time to creating delightful things. Her latest project is “The Not-Creepy Gathering for People Who Are Single and Want to Fall In Love.” It’s a dating mixer she launched in May 2015 to foster genuine human connection with a little stand-up comedy, small group activities and answering questions like, “What’s your favorite feeling?”

We caught up with Jenna to learn more about just how hard dating is in the PNW and how she hopes her project is helping solve those challenges.

OK, so what’s this gathering all about?

I think there’s power in coming to a place where by just showing up, you’re naming that yes, you do want connection or you do want love. I feel like in our culture there is this shame wrapped up in admitting that you want this thing you don’t have.

How would you describe dating culture in the Pacific Northwest?

What’s the opposite of direct? [laughs]

Maybe this is a Pacific Northwest thing, but I feel like it’s so common to not know what it is that people want. Like, “Oh, this person asked me to go to coffee. But what does coffee mean? Is it a date?” … People aren’t bold in their directness.

What was the first event like?

The first one was in Bellingham at a teeny tiny venue and 70 people showed up. It just seemed so clear that I had stumbled upon something that people want and was filling a need that wasn’t being met in other ways.

Tell us where the “not-creepy” part of your event’s name came from.

A lot of the creepiness is found – say in bars on a Saturday night –  because of people being hit on or hitting on other people based solely on physical appearance. I think some people really enjoy that interaction and some people feel objectified by it and want to be seen as whole people.

Once people are [at my event], it becomes clear pretty quickly that it’s about connection much more broadly than just romantic connection. I encourage people explicitly to be open to the possibility of connecting with anyone they meet there and not write people off because they’re clearly not who you came looking to meet.

What’s the response been like?

After the last event [in Bellingham], someone who was there sent me a really  beautiful email saying that she she felt more like herself in those three hours than she had in the last three years. She was so grateful for the opportunity and space to safely be herself.

That’s why I’m doing this: creating a space in which people feel safe enough to be a little vulnerable because that’s what makes space for connection. We have to let down our guards enough — that can be fucking scary, but that’s essential.

Wanna get a little vulnerable? The next Not-Creepy gathering on April 27 is sold out — but it’s coming back to Seattle on Thursday, May 17! Grab tickets here.