If you go
What: Silent speed dating, hosted by Be The Love You Are
When: 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, March 18
Where: Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place, 2027 13th St., Boulder
Who: Single people ages 24 to 45, give or take a few years
Cost: $25 for one ticket or $40 for a pair (bring a single friend of the opposite sex)
You've heard of a blind date.
This one is silent.
Zeona McIntyre knew the man across the room was boyfriend material without exchanging a single word. She met him at one of Boulder's silent speed-dating events.
At first glance, these singles gatherings are just what they sound like: single people sitting across the table from each other, gazing, smiling, motioning, making some sounds — but never talking.
But there's more going on than just that, event organizers say — both in the structure of the events and between daters.
McIntyre, of Boulder, says that, for her, it ran deeper than attraction at first sight. It was his body language.
"I remember seeing him dancing a little, swaying around, being in his body, being playful, and I was instantly attracted to that. I just knew from the beginning," she says.
Three months later, they're still dating.
And they talk now.
Chris DeCicco, of Boulder, the founder of Be The Love You Are, began organizing silent speed-dating events in Denver and Boulder about four months ago.
Similar dating events have begun cropping up around the world, too. There's Shhh Dating in London. Living Frequencies in Australia. And eyegazingparties.com can train you to organize your own eye-gazing party.
DeCicco is also a professional snuggler, known for organizing snuggle parties, which revolve around non-sexual cuddling and touching. He also has a background in Sacred Sexuality practices, and he thought silent speed dating would be a way to share some of those relationship exercises with the wider community in a less intimidating way.
"I'm working on concepts that tap more into the feminine side of people, using intuition and body knowing," DeCicco says.
Instead of focusing on your past stories, or even the checklist of what you want in the future, he says, he wanted to create a dating space where people could simply be present in the moment and practice awareness and consciousness.
That's where the nonverbal communication comes in, he says.
The National Institutes of Health estimates 60-65 percent of communication is nonverbal.
Most researchers agree that words are used to convey information, whereas the body is used to negotiate "interpersonal attitudes," according to "The Definitive Book of Body Language" by Barbara and Allan Pease.
In terms of romance, it's a lot easier to move from the heart than speak from the heart, says Kenda Seoane, who helps organize the events. She's working toward a master's in Somatic Counseling Psychology at Naropa University, with a specialty in body psychotherapy and dance/movement therapy.
She employs her background to help DeCicco bring their events beyond just eye-gazing. The first half of the events revolve around silly, nonverbal check-ins ("Everyone who's nervous come to the center of the room") and games (movement and improv activities).
Then, you sit across from one person at a time for a few minutes. Sometimes, it's "free form," where you do whatever you want (simple eye-gazing is perfectly acceptable). Other times, it's structured. Mirror the other partner. Do a crazy dance. Stand back-to-back and move.
The activities loosen people up and also help them connect. These are things you'd never normally do on a first date (act like an animal), and DeCicco says this opens the opportunity to express different parts of yourself in a short period of time.
No matter how silly it sounds — and it's designed to be — there's some guts to this strategy, too, organizers say.
"All of the weird and seemingly random activities that Chris and I introduce into workshops and events can all be backed up by the latest research where neuroscience meets psychology," she says.
Take the mirror exercise. Seoane says it stimulates "mirror neurons and resonance circuitry in the brain."
Boulder's McIntyre decided to attend a silent speed-dating event in November for the heck of it. She had recently gotten out of a relationship and thought the concept sounded interesting and different. Sure, maybe a little weird, she says. But definitely entertaining.
"Why not try something new?" she says. "If anything, the worst-case scenario is you have some funny stories to tell."
She didn't expect to actually meet a partner, or learn so much about nonverbal communication.
Perhaps just as surprisingly — at least to outsiders — McIntyre's story isn't rare. A good number of silent speed-dating participants have found love there.
Lauren McWilliams, of Boulder, is another success story. The self-proclaimed shy introvert says she appreciated the opportunity to make eye contact, play some games, be silly and not rely on small talk.
"I felt like I was able to just be more in my body, more aware of my breathing and myself," McWilliams says. "I like that I could sit across from people and make eye contact and see how the experience was different with each person."
She did not click with her partner during the nonverbal exercises. It wasn't until after the event that they began chatting and exchanged phone numbers.
But the silent introduction made the conversation later much easier, McWilliams explains.
Three months later, she and her partner are going strong, she says.
Seoane says she hopes silent speed dating opens new ways for participants to learn about themselves, as well as a chance to be real with other people.
There's nothing wrong with other forms of dating, she says.
"But we are saying that we want to bring lighthearted fun into dating," she says. "Seriously, when did it become painful work?"