Play/Date: An Honest Look at Dating in NYC

When I’m outside of New York or when I talk to friends from home or another state, I almost always get asked: what’s it like to date in New York City?

It sucks. It’s terrible. I hate it.

Okay, I don’t (most of the time) and I still have hope (some of the time), but the truth of dating in Manhattan is something that took me a while to admit: being a single gal in this city isn’t easy. But when I first arrived in those black pumps with blind ambition about my career and my love life, I thought I’d be the exception. I thought moving here justified my bravery and my dedication to the city I love and I’d be rewarded with… well, love.

600 blog posts later, I think I’ve proven myself wrong.


But I’m not alone, in America, 44% of adults are single. The number is even higher in NYC where 50% are single – or approximately 3 million people. Millions of single people and somehow, we’re all walking around, sleeping around, dating around and never getting around to settling down.

Well, we do eventually. Sometimes. Maybe. If we move to Brooklyn.

The scene is hard to explain but if you really want to experience it (without having to go on a date) – go see Play/Date in the Lower East Side. While the show is ending this Wednesday, you’ll have another chance to see this fall. I went last Tuesday and was blown away by how accurate of a portrayal it was of being out on dates in this city.

Here’s how it works: just like you would any other night, you enter a bar and order a drink. There are couples, singles, bartenders, the whole shebang – but you don’t know who is an actor and who isn’t. The show begins with a speech from the bartender with some startling statistics (ya know, like how only 5 percent of people meet who they’ll marry at a bar and that most people decide if they want to sleep with someone within 3 seconds of meeting them) – and then you just have a good night.

Literally – in one corner, you’ll witness one of those dates where you both get a little too drunk and make poor decisions (been there). Or a date where an online dating profile made someone look ten times better than what they really are (been there too). Or when you meet up with your ex – that you’re not over – and try to play the one-up game until you feel somewhat better about yourself.

Or my favorite (naturally) where you’re pleasantly surprised with how well a date can go because you’re both honest about who you are. And miraculously, you’re on the same page and want the same things.

While there are countless other acts (listed below) to witness throughout the night and you can’t really see all of them at once, the biggest theme I witnessed was honesty. Creator Blake McCarty says this wasn’t on purpose: “While I would agree that it’s a common theme – it’s entirely accidental. Playwrights had the option of writing anything at all that they felt was ‘about’ dating – and it just so happened that honesty (in all its various forms) was a very common theme throughout several of the works.”

So maybe that’s the best way for me to describe what it’s like to date in New York (or really anywhere): it’s hard to be yourself, it’s hard to put yourself out there, it’s hard to say what you want and demand it, it’s hard to be honest about where you are in your life and what you want… and it’s hard to be honest when you’re afraid the honest version of yourself won’t be loved.

But what Play/Date taught me was that’s the key to the whole thing. There aren’t any answers, no magical way to produce a relationship (even if we all are looking for one, in all sorts of different ways), there is no right way to go out time and time again until you meet someone who is worth the status change. The only thing you can do is the hardest thing… be honest. Be you.

And go watch Play/Date this week or this fall. You’ll realize your bad dates are just like everyone else’s. And what you want… is really just what everyone wants. An honest (sexy, creative, inspiring, ridiculous, strong, fun) relationship.

Or at least one good date. Eh?

Play/Date Acts:

Are You Digging on Me? – A throughline of the evening about the casual relationship between the bartender and a waitress.

Voicemails – The other throughline, featuring a woman who’s been stood up leaving ever-escalating voicemails.
Insta – Two women agree to be social media girlfriends
Top – A woman arrives for her date topless
Little Honesties – One man show after being stood up
Mother’s Milk – Blind date with too much, too little or just the right amount of honesty depending on who you ask
Phoneland – A man makes a strange confession to the bartender after his date disappears into her cellphone
Hey Ruby – OKCupid conversation blossiming into Emoji romance
You? – An uncomfortable Grindr conversation
Who’s Great – Gay first date with two very different intentions
IRL – Woman desperate to get laid via dating app or text
Pump and Dump – The first blind date for a new single mother
At First Blush – Romantic second date for a gay couple that ends in a competition over past traumas
The Point Is… – Over-sharing and drinking games on a first date
E-Harmony – A first date that quickly goes down in flames
Victor, Victorious – The date after a couple has already drunkenly hooked up
White Lie – Married woman caught in a lie by her husband
Azul – Young woman FaceTiming with her long distance boyfriend
The Secret to a Healthy Relationship – Long term relationship that spins out of control as a couple celebrates their one year anniversary
Ancient History – A man pining for a former sweetheart
WYSIWYG – This woman’s date would rather play mindgames via text
Redux – Divorced couple meets for drinks to rehash their past



4 thoughts on “Play/Date: An Honest Look at Dating in NYC

  1. Just do what you like. Regularly. At the right place.
    Be it pool, volleyball, dancing, wine tasting.
    Meet someone who also enjoys it, is fun to bump into.

    Maybe you get to be friends. No rush.

  2. This sounds like the funniest thing to go see! I live in DC and I wish it would come down here, I laughed out loud at even the names of the acts!
    Also, I loved your post, thanks for the introduction to the topic and the production!

  3. Pingback: You Can’t Force Magic |

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