Those of you into the online dating scene – or at least curious about it – may have heard about Grouper. This dating service is different from more traditional sites like OkCupid, in that it’s a three-on-three version of a double date. It involves a set of three friends meeting up with another set of three friends—and neither party knows anything about the other, except that the Grouper gods have plugged your information into an algorithm and decided that you’ll all totally hit it off based on your respective Facebook profiles and the answers you gave to a few general questions.

Oh? You’re above algorithms determining your compatibility? You’ve managed to find love the “old-fashioned way” and are blissfully spooning with said love right this second? So click off of this blog post and order an appropriate amount of takeout together then argue about what to watch on Hulu, or whatever it is that couples do.

There, now. The nay-sayers have gone. Where was I? Oh, right, putting my future happiness in the hands of a social media algorithm.

I convinced two of my girlfriends, who we’ll call Samantha and Jackie, to sign up for this thing with me. The way it works is a Grouper representative contacts you with a set of potential days and times, but no place. You don’t get the venue until a day or so before the date – part of the thrill, I suppose. You pick the day that works best for you, and then you each pay $22, which includes a free first round of drinks and tip.

The date itself was pretty fun, actually. Having friends around definitely helped buffer typical online date jitters/awkwardness, and jitters about potential awkwardness. The most stressful part about the whole night turned out to be just getting there. Because as those of you who online date know, the “oh, the night was totally normal” thing just never happens. Nope. Instead, things like this do:

Samantha lived near the venue, The Standard Pour in Uptown, Dallas, so she was going to meet us there, and Jackie lived closer to me, so I picked her up.

We were running late. I was nervous about it because I have this inexplicable hatred of making people wait on me. It’s only really an inconvenience when it comes to dating, because makes it incredibly difficult to be the appropriate amount of fashionably late. (Damn you social constructs! I wish I could quit you.)

By the time we got there I had two missed texts, one from my friend who was, understandably, getting impatient while waiting on us alone with three strangers, and one from the Grouper coordinator asking if we ladies were coming.

I couldn’t get that car valet-parked quickly enough. Really, I couldn’t.

I rolled down my window and asked the valet if he was going to park us because he was just sort of gaping at my car. I assumed he was rudely shocked that it hadn’t been washed in over six months, and made a mental note that the maroon-color paint wasn’t as forgiving as I liked to think.

He replied, “It’s smoking. From the hood.”

I looked up and realized it was. I tried to think about what to do next.

In the midst of my thoughts of a tow truck and how likely salvaging this date was and how increasingly pissed my friend waiting on us would be with each passing second, I heard an impatient horn, which I ignored. Then I heard the loud voice of a man who had foregone the horn to get out of his car and tell me to “move it!”

It was 8 p.m. on a Thursday, after all, and he had places to be. And my smoking car was in his way. And he believed in the fact that I could do something about that. Sometimes all we need in this world is for others to believe in us. I decided to take action.

“Mind getting out and waiting with Samantha?” I asked Jackie. “She’ll be the blonde alone with three guys who could look like anything at all.” Oh, did I mention, my two friends hadn’t met one another yet, either? “I’m going to find parking and figure this out.”

Being awesome, my friend accepted the situation for what it was and got out to go do this Grouper thing with the four strangers waiting inside.

I started my car, tried to turn into the street, and realized the power steering wasn’t working.

I’d experienced power steering failure once before, only that time I’d just recently gotten my license and was in the middle of sneaking out with a friend to go Saran wrap my ex’s car—because that would show him.  What, exactly, that would show him escapes me now, but I don’t know nearly as much about dating and life as I did at 16.

I digress. What’s important about my prior experience with faulty power steering is that it taught me that when your power steering is out your car must be manipulated by a combination of super-human strength and prayer, interspersed with strings of profanities.

I pulled out onto McKinney with a few choice grunts. The impatient man whipped around my car, and I was very relieved that at least I was no longer inconveniencing him in any way. How horrible the whole situation must have been for him. I hoped that when he got home he treated himself to a hot bath, and drowned in it.

I fought the panicky thought that I would never, ever find a parking spot in Uptown. It was not an unrealistic fear. Parking spots in Uptown, Dallas, are akin to purple unicorns and matching socks—nice to think about, but the stuff of dreams.

Then, as I made my way down a goddamned side street, huffing “Please, for the love of all things sacred, f*&ing turn right, you piece-of-” the heavens heard my pleas.

Another car pulled out of a parallel spot. I managed to move my vehicle into the space, hail Mary, and cut the engine.

I thought of calling a tow. And then I realized that while a tow truck will always come when called, an opportunity to meet eligible men in Dallas is not nearly so certain. And so I left my car smoking on the street and walked back to The Standard Pour where my friends were waiting with strangers.

We determined with some certainty and the power of group think that it was just the radiator and would be totally fine. When I did finally get it checked out it was not, in fact, the radiator. It was the power steering pump and cost around $500 to fix, so approximately 55 glasses of wine in Uptown. Best not to think about that. Let’s get back to the post you all came here to read: What’s it like to go on a Grouper (after you actually arrive at the date).

It’s fun and it’s weird. There’s no one guy you’re there to be with, so you’re all kind of just talking and hanging out and getting to know one another, wondering which one your friends are into, if any; which one you’re into, if any; which of you the guys are into, if any; and if this is all going to result in some major drama later.

It kind of feels like a cross between a date and a dinner party where you only know a handful of people and you’re having a good time but you aren’t really sure when’s the appropriate time to take your leave and call it a night.

The guys were nice and interesting. We all talked and laughed about the car, work, life, plans, and actually ended up going to a second bar later that night. They were super friendly, and I’m betting that Grouper attracts that kind of outgoing personality, what with the total blind date premise. There was only one I could see myself maybe going out with a second time, and we exchanged numbers, but life happened and our schedules couldn’t seem to line up, and then I actually scored a job in a different city, so there wasn’t a second date.

Grouper reps are very persistent, though. They bug you all night to post a photo of the fun on Instagram. (Which we didn’t do, because what was in it for us, really? The opportunity to maybe win a free round of drinks if our pic was chosen as one of the best? No thanks. No way I’m letting everyone know I online date! Unless it’s very publicly via a blog post on this website.) And they follow up afterward to see if you had a good time and ask you when you want to do it all over again.

When I told the rep I wasn’t going to do another Grouper because I’d moved away from Dallas, she congratulated me on the new job and asked me where I was going, which was a great saleswoman tactic because it made me feel special even though I knew it was leading to the next ask, which was whether I’d do Grouper in Austin.

I’m settling in with the new job right now, so dating is on the backburner, but in a few weeks or a month, I may. My new roommate and I have already discussed it, and she has another who girl she thinks would be up for it.

I’m hoping that she and I carpool, and that we take her car.

  • Jim Beam

    Love your blog Leigh!

    • Leigh Katharine Camp

      Thanks so much, Jim!! 🙂