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Love Machine
Dating returns to planet Earth.

Just before the house lights dim at Grainger’s Pub and Grill in Greenfield, and underneath the reflected glow of rec-league trophies, two groups are getting ready to perform. The first, the Brew City Rhythm and Blues Band, is tuning and tweaking its instruments for a Friday-night set. Members of the second, a gaggle of five baby boomers sitting at a nearby table, are trying to break the ice.

They thumb smartphones, and someone pulls up a picture of a puppy. They’re all here for a “meetup” of the Boomer Cohorts 45+ group. It’s not a dating group per se, but it’s not exactly not, either.

Hear more about Speed Dating on WUWM’s “Lake Effect” Feb. 14 at 10 a.m.
“When I first went to one of these meetups, only six people showed,” says one of the men, a 40-something.

Seven will show by the end of this night, just a sample of the 500 self-identified boomers that the group counts as members. Maria Platounaris, who works for a local construction company, started Cohorts about two years ago through the website meetup.com, and it mirrors a growing tendency to use the Web not for traditional online dating but to organize in-person gatherings.

“The trend seems to be going back to more conventional ways to meet people, so meetup groups are becoming very popular,” says Martine Davis, a local event coordinator for Pre-Dating Speed Dating, the world’s largest speed-dating service. She’s had success getting hundreds of lonely Milwaukeeans together for events such as a cocktail hour or a day at the zoo.

And Boomer Cohorts, billed online as an opportunity to become “a part of a group of like-minded, happy and mature singles,” has incubated a number of relationships. “There are men and women who have connected,” Platounaris says, “as well as one couple who recently married.”

For further evidence that sparks are more likely to fly in person than over a profile-based Web service, witness Nerds at Heart, a social circle that launched in Chicago in 2006 and has grown to host events in five cities, including Milwaukee.

Honesty, it turns out, is attractive. I mean, would a guy lie about being a “Star Wars” fanboy in the same way he might about his age or his waistline?

Founder Bathsheba Birman has uttered sentences like, “We are all about nerd empowerment!” She tells tales of weddings where the cake was molded in the form of a Risk board, or where the bride and groom rolled dice at the altar to determine which vows they would recite.

It’s like momma always said: If you can just find a level-12 paladin to stand by your side through this crazy, mixed-up life, you’ll have the world on a string.

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