To most of modern society, the concept of blind dating may simply be out of date.
But at a time when search-engines and social-networking sites make it easy to research almost anyone before you meet, one creative website is putting a little mystery back in the process: CrazyBlindDate.com.
The rules of the game go like this: Sign up for a 30-minute-minimum date with a complete stranger and without any sophisticated personality test or "About Me" section to fill out beforehand (nor any membership fee to pay).
There is essentially no vetting process. In fact, you won't even get a phone number for textual flirting beforehand - only a first name and distorted photo, and a date, time and place.
"We like to keep things simple," the website's description reads. "That's why on very short notice we can set you up on quick dates with total strangers at public places."
Founder Sam Yagan, 32, says that unlike sites like eHarmony.com, which promises an eventual soul mate, his site thrives on low expectations. "Crazy Blind Date is not going to change the world," Yagan says. "The name is already kind of tongue-in-cheek. The people who use the site are adventurous, wanting to try new things, exciting people who think 'Why not?'"
Yagan also points to the appeal of having to do little work - like managing a profile and emails, winks, pokes, and all other forms of virtual courtship - and the opportunity for instant gratification as keys to the site's success.
CrazyBlindDate hosts about 100 dates a night across the country - 10 in Chicago - and boasts one married New York City couple among its users. Perhaps more impressively, one woman in Austin has gone on a date through the site once a week for about a year, according to Yagan. The service, launched in November 2008, is currently only available in eight U.S. cities.
The first step is to create an account where you can log in to manage dates, rate your date and play with the matching system, according to the website.
Then you "schedule" the days, times and neighborhoods that work for you, and your matches' preferred age and gender. First decision: solo Crazy Blind Date or double Crazy Blind Date (with a friend or another set of strangers)? You are also given the option to further specify what you want in your potential date: height, ethnicity, body type, education, smoking and religion.
This is much different from the original blind date, according to one historian, who says those early matches typically included a lot of insight and vetting.
The idea of blind dating originated in post-WWII society, when friends and family would "set up" people who were from the same community with the idea of marriage, says Beth Bailey, a courtship and dating historian and professor at Temple University. In the 1960s, Ivy League colleges developed complicated algorithms and systems aimed at correlating attributes for a match.
When it comes to "the notion of a blind date as a means of a random match-up, [Crazy Blind Date] is probably a lot more accurate," Bailey said in a phone interview. "It sounds fun, adventurous – but it's a very odd method of dating if it's that random to find people you actually want to spend time with."
Your Resident Single Girl
In the name of research, one brave reporter was sent out on a "blind" assignment. That reporter being me – Sally Ho, your resident single girl.
For the sake of the blindest date possible, I opted not to specify the man I'd like to meet. Instead, just a man between 25 and 30, in a coffee shop, in one of several North Side neighborhoods.
Who I got was Marcus*, a man in his late 20s who was adjusting to life back in Chicago after years abroad. He seemed genuine, liked hockey and offered to pay for my coffee (as a feminist, I declined) – a good prospect by most standards.
Marcus says he returned to his hometown to start school this semester. He had been on two other Crazy Blind Dates before. "My sister convinced me to do it," he said. "Figured, why not?"
Marcus was not, as some may fear, a creepy serial killer or antisocial ogre. He was a very normal man – the kind of nice guy most girls look for - who I probably see dozens of on an average night out on the town, but won't actually get to know.
What I learned on this blind date is that finding a true connection may just be a numbers game. If so, CrazyBlindDate.com makes no promises of a winning season - just many games on the schedule. Play 'til ya win.
*Identifying details have been changed to protect the dater.