Hey, Philly Singles: This Out-of-the-Box Dating Event Will Help You Find Your Match (Finally!)

Forget speed dating. The Feels is all about speed intimacy — and it's coming to Philly this November.

The Feels, a singles event focused on intimacy and authentic connection, will debut in Philly on November 8th. / Photography courtesy of Equanimity Equation

In today’s world, dating is hard. And exhausting. And seemingly never-ending. From dating apps galore to worrying if you’re shacking up with the same person as someone a neighborhood away, finding love, especially in Philly, can feel more like an Olympic sport than butterflies in your stomach.

Maybe it’s because the pandemic has changed our socializing habits and personalities, or because people are now more selective with whom they’re giving their energy or free time to. Or maybe, archaic dating practices are simply not meshing with people’s current lifestyles, interests, and connection-seeking ways.

All of this drove New York City-based entrepreneur Allie Hoffman to shake up the dating realm for the better. In the summer of 2022, Hoffman tells me over the phone that three things were happening in her life: “(1) I was 38, very single, and feeling like everyone else had seemingly found their person, got married, and had kids. I felt like I was falling behind, and I wanted to be around people who were navigating the same questions I was. (2) I had been facilitating these mindful dinners, and I realized I wasn’t actually into thinking through the food menu or music program — all I wanted to do was bring people together in meaningful ways. (3) I was in a master’s program at Columbia University’s Spirituality Mind Body Institute. As part of the program, I was studying things like nonviolent communication, positive psychology, and somatic intelligence.”

Influenced by all three, Hoffman created the Feels, a singles event focused on intimacy and authentic connection. It forgoes surface-level exchanges focused on A/S/L and what you do for work in favor of mindfulness and somatic practices like guided meditation, extended eye contact, and personal, thought-provoking questions like, “How would you describe your current relationship to boundaries?”

Since debuting in East Williamsburg in August of 2022, the alternative dating experience has seen great success: People have been coming out with meaningful connections. “In a survey from March/April of this year, around 60 to 65 percent  of attendees noted they were leaving with at least one phone number of someone they’re excited about,” Hoffman says. “Now, that’s closer to 75 percent.”

Hoffman believes this has a lot to do with the emotional burnout that comes with dating apps. “People — nearly 80 percent — are fatigued with dating apps,” she says. “They were never designed to meet our needs in the first place — they’re designed to hold your attention, to keep you in the app. And now, we’re in this culture of ghosting, bread-crumbing, and gaslighting each other — no wonder we’re let down! All I’m doing with the Feels is showing there’s a demand and a desire for a new way to relate.”

One of the Feels’ somatic activities involves attendees sitting back-to-back and syncing their breathing.

It’s why Hoffman decided to expand to D.C. last month — the event sold out weeks in advance, she tells me — and, more pertinent to us, will host the Feels’ first Philly event on November 8th.

Here’s how a typical evening goes: When you arrive, Hoffman greets you and orients you to the event space and timeline. After a little bit of free time, all attendees gather in a circle and say their names and one word that describes how they’re feeling. (Low-key helps people check each other out!) Then, everyone lies down and Hoffman leads a seven-minute meditation designed to regulate the nervous system.

Participants then pair up for about eight to 10 minutes, four or five different times, and respond to prompts like, “Of what are you certain and how do you know?” or “What’s something you’ve learned about your sexuality in the last six months?” There’s also a somatic element to each interaction, from extended eye-gazing and hugging to syncing their breathing as they’re back-to-back or placing hands or fingertips on one another’s heart. If you haven’t caught on, this isn’t your typical speed-dating thing!

At the end, attendees check out the same way they checked in — by stating their names and one word that describes how they’re feeling in that moment — before mingling freely.

Dating hopefuls touching each others’ hearts

“I began with a question: How can I create something that stays as close to the body as possible?” Hoffman says. “When we get out of our heads and into our bodies, we get more information about whether or not we are called to a deeper connection with someone. The guided meditation at the beginning is a love letter to one’s body, and launches you into the other somatic experiences and verbal exchanges. You can’t just meet someone and go, ‘Okay, let’s eye-gaze!’”

In the past, the Feels has offered queer and ethically non-monogamous events. Currently, these are on hold while the brand expands and trains a cohort of facilitators. While everyone is welcome at the Feels, the assumption is, for the time being, you’re seeking a hetero, monogamous connection, Hoffman says.

Additionally, the November 8th event is the Feels’ only currently scheduled Philly experience. Hoffman hopes to offer them monthly in the city, depending on the debut’s turnout.

You can buy your ticket to the Feels Philly here. Your $72.50 ticket includes the three-hour event and light bites, and there’ll be a cash bar. The event will run 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Maas Building (1325 North Randolph Street, Kensington).