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It's hard to meet new people once you leave school and enter the working world, especially if you are like me and majored in drunkenly surfing the Internet and watching Frasier reruns instead of going outside (with a minor in Russian literature). You could join a club for people who share your interests, but if your hobbies are mostly solitary (playing video games, reading, quietly crying into your whiskey at four in the morning and wondering where it all went wrong, etc.), they don't exactly have meetings down at the local community center.

Luckily, the Internet was invented to help the awkward and socially challenged find companionship. So if you want to make new friends but are worried you'll creep them out, you're in luck! At the following gatherings, nobody could possibly be any stranger than the concepts themselves.

5
Eye Gazing Parties

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Have you tried speed dating but found the conversation to be stiff and forced? Then it's time to try something new! No, don't do anything drastic, like find a way to have meaningful conversations with people -- go to an eye gazing party, which combines speed dating with all the fun of silent, judgmental stares.

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It's just like having a romantic evening out at the public library.

The creator of eye gazing parties, Michael Ellsberg, claims that his invention is a great way to "Meet Tons of New Singles Who Want to Meet You, and Be the Life of the Party." How will you be the life of the party? By looking into your partner's eyes and doing absolutely nothing else. We're told "the pairs switch up every two minutes, for a total of 45 minutes," suggesting that Ellsberg is as bad at math as he is at partying. But don't worry, it won't be awkward, because there will be "inviting beats in the background," which hopefully means "Hungry Eyes" on repeat.

Those of us who find extended eye contact with strangers uncomfortable (and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that's basically everyone reading this) would disagree with Ellsberg's claim that eye contact is the "Cadillac of icebreakers." Unless he means it's like actually driving a Cadillac over thin ice, and under the ice you can see the Arctic piranhas gathering. Their teeth glimmer in the bright winter sun. They hunger.

Mark Costantini/The Chronicle
"I can tell by your cold and unfeeling shark eyes that you are indeed the life of the party."

But don't worry, the party's not all serial killer training. After the 45 minutes are up, you switch to afterparty mode, where the drinks flow and the music shifts to "luscious beats vibing." That's how you know shit's getting real. At this point, you can talk to the owners of the irises you memorized, allowing you to exchange contact information or, more likely, ask each other what you were thinking about while you eye-fucked.

Mark Costantini/The Chronicle
"This music sure is luscious, wouldn't you say? I'm sorry, where are my manners: My name's Chad and I'm a registered sex offender."

In fairness to Michael "The All-Seeing Eye" Ellsberg, he claims that the intensity of staring at strangers like you're a prison guard and they're an inmate on suicide watch is part of the experience, because compared to typical first date chatter, it's "fresh, frisky, and risky." Supposedly it's a lot easier to have a "mesmerizing conversation" with an "alluring new person" after exchanging blank looks for two minutes, and I suppose that's true. But while Ellsberg says it's because eyes are the windows to the soul, I say it's because you can both giggle about what an uncomfortable and stupid experience you just went through together and race to see which one of you can say "My friends convinced me to do this" first. With that in mind, you can look forward to my own new dating idea, Sexy Singles Farting on Elevators.

4
Edwardian Foosball

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Foosball and the Edwardian era go together like albatrosses and OPEC -- nonsensically, because no sane person would think there was any sort of logical connection between them. But that didn't stop them from combining their powers like deranged Wonder Twins to form "A Game of 2 Halves," a speed dating experience with more arbitrary rules than most cults.

First, couples are paired up to play foosball. You probably already figured that out, but be patient for the sake of the slow readers, OK? Next, you have to choose a fantasy pseudonym to go by, like Lady Audley or Captain Constantinos. That, along with optional stick-on mustaches, forms the Edwardian portion of the evening (although it seems they're a little lax on name enforcement, as I don't think Sir Cookie Crumbles or Sir Cycle-a-Lot were actual members of the aristocracy).

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The first (and last) of his name.

Addressing other human beings by ridiculous fantasy names is fine if you're speed dating in Azeroth, but it's tough to pull off in reality without breaking into a mocking accent and wondering if you should have saved your time, stayed home, and e-masturbated with the gnomish shaman who claims to be a bisexual dance major.

Then there are the rules -- you can't ask anyone how old they are, what they do for a living, or how much they make. That's fair (especially since my answers would be "young enough that I should have better things to do," "write crude jokes for the Internet," and "not enough to pay for this beer, so if you could do me a solid ..."), but the enforcement of said rules with yellow and red stickers is a bit much. The last thing people attending the Speed Dating Game of Doctor Moreau need is to have a referee plant a red sticker on their chest and declare that they've been banned from the pursuit of love.

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"That's a penalty for discussing religion! Step 10 yards away from your date!"

The moderator helpfully suggests other topics, like how you eat your cream eggs (there's the real window into the soul) and what celebrity you'd want to be your butler, because that fits with the Edwardian theme, kind of, I guess. Presumably they also ask you what your favorite opium den is and which of the colonies you think produces the finest silks and spices.

Being in an environment where you have to refer to everyone by code names and obey the arbitrary conversational laws laid forth by an overseer sounds like speed dating in a soulless dystopia, but if you like foosball and being punished for expressing free speech, you're welcome to give it a shot. Just don't get a red sticker, because then you'll be suspended from your next few dates and they'll have to bring someone up from the minors to have sex with all the people you thought were attractive.

Luke Fildes
"I say, that's hardly appropriate behavior for my loyal subjects."

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3
Pheromone Parties

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What if you want to have the terrible dating experience of an eye gazing party but have been afraid of eyes ever since you visited the optometrist as a child and he murdered your parents? Never fear, unusually specific demographic -- thanks to pheromone parties, "a matchmaking experiment based on scent," you can follow your nose just like Toucan Sam, except instead of finding sugary cereal, you'll discover the shattered remains of your innocent dream of finding love. So I guess it's more like being the Trix Rabbit.

Anyway, pheromone parties are based on the idea that we all create a unique scent to attract partners, while ignoring the fact that for millennia mankind has used perfume and cologne to disguise our natural musk. Hey, it works for lizards and spiders, so why not us?

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Although some just get by on their natural looks.

To prepare, you need to spend three nights sleeping in a clean cotton T-shirt. Once the shirt is drenched in eau de you, it's placed in a plastic bag and brought to the party, where it's numbered, colored blue or pink for gender, and thrown in a big pile of dirty laundry. You then party like you normally would, except throughout the night you go take whiffs of other shirts. Find one that excites the foreman of your olfactory? Head to the photo station to get a picture of you with the bag, preferably while flaring your nostrils and grabbing your crotch.

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"Why does every woman I meet smell like Febreeze?"

At the end of the night, the photos are shown in the world's most unsettling slideshow. If you see someone holding your bag, you can go chat them up, safe in the knowledge that they won't be repulsed by your natural odor. It's the first dating game for people too lazy to do their laundry, and the only context in which a member of the opposite sex introducing themselves with the line "I love the way you smell" doesn't lead to you getting tied up in their murder sex basement. Have fun discovering a cute "how we met" story that you will absolutely never share with anyone!

huffingtonpost.com
The 'sex' part of 'murder sex basement' is a very loose interpretation of what she plans to do to the owner of that shirt.

2
Loo Tours

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Loo Tours (that's British for "Bathroom Tours") are walking tours through London that show you the finest toilets the Empire has to offer while discussing "the history and politics of public toilets," the latter of which I assume refers to the long war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists over toilet paper orientation. They're perfect for members of a very specific branch of academia, alcoholics who know they're going to be stopping at every loo they come across anyway and figure they might as well learn something while they're at it.

londonist.com
"Here you can see a man cleanse his hands in the water dispenser, or 'sink.'"

"But what will us lonely single people get out of Loo Tours?" someone asked, apparently, which is how date nights were born. This pub crawl/group date/loo tour puts an emphasis on socializing, drinking, and presumably the most educational urinal conversations since a hobo taught me that 9/11 was the first battle of World War II until the Illuminati rewrote time history.

News articles about Loo Tours are eager to make terrible bathroom puns (They're looking to wipe out the competition! They've brought a new meaning to crap dates! If they make enough money, they'll be taking golden showers!) but skimp on actual details. Do all the boys and girls cram into one gender's bathroom for a lecture on the fascinating history of hand sanitizer? What about people who aren't part of the tour who just want to poop without a crowd of people listening in and studying the toilet? Because most people are like that.

now-here-this.timeout.com
Most people are not like this.

You just know that sooner or later the combination of alcohol, toilet talk, and lonely strangers will get awkward. You're even encouraged to share your own anecdotes, because we all know that the best way to bond with the cute guy or gal you just met is to drunkenly recount the time you got so sick in a public bathroom that you made it look like Jackson Pollock's studio.

London is currently the only city hosting toilet date nights, unless you count the informal ones held by impulsive people in dirty clubs around the world. But there's nothing stopping you from bringing them to your hometown, assuming you can't talk to new people without mentioning bodily functions and live in a city with a sufficiently rich history of public defecation. Hell, combine it with the pheromone party concept and meet some coprophiliacs.

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They don't make for the greatest friends in the world, but you can always count on them to spot you a stick of gum.

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1
Cuddle Parties

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One of the worst parts of meeting new people is that you have to hang out at least three times before it's acceptable to change into your pajamas and snuggle up to them. I've scared off many a potential friend by trying to cuddle after just two outings. Sure, they try to be polite about it, but words like "You're making me uncomfortable" and "Why did you wear pajamas to my pool party, and also please remove your hand from my genitals" make it clear that my advances are unwelcome. This world just isn't built for the Unemployed and Aggressively Cuddle-Friendly Male demographic (which I've said many times).

Or so I thought! Then I heard about cuddle parties, the hippest place to be for people who are in desperate need of human contact, any sort of contact, oh God please touch me just brush my elbow even I just want to stop feeling so fucking dead inside!

A cuddle party is a "playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries, and affection." What that means is you put on your PJs and hug a bunch of strangers. After sitting in a "Welcome Circle" where the guidelines are laid out (they basically just filter out anyone who thought they were attending an orgy), the "freestyle cuddling" begins. You start touching anyone and everyone, providing they give you explicit verbal permission and you're OK with nuzzling a sobbing man in SpongeBob pajamas who looks like he buries people in construction sites for a living.

cuddleparty.com
Why are those two keeping their eyes open? I don't like that. I don't like them.

Cuddle parties are based on the premise that non-sexual touching is healthy and relaxing, society discourages people from acknowledging this, and the easiest way to change that is to spoon a couple dozen strangers like you're in the world's filthiest cutlery drawer. I have no objection to the first two points, but I in no way want to form a "puppy pile" with people I'm still struggling to remember the names of.

couriermail.com.au
"You have a really comfortable groin, Melissa."
"It's Susan."
"Shit. Sorry ... You have a really comfortable Susan, Melissa."

There's nothing wrong with the message of cuddle parties, and they claim to teach communication skills and confidence while helping you make new friends. But imagine the sort of people who would attend these events and ask yourself if you'd want to be friends with them. You'd spend every night out playing "help me deal with my crippling emotional issues" or hiking into the wilderness to ceremonially thank the Moon Goddess for the gift of emotions. Plus, us guys would be having 'Nam-intensity flashbacks to our awkward boner years. Just stay at home and cuddle a pet. That's literally why kittens were invented.

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"Just to be clear, this is strictly platonic meow."

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