DENVER – Ask any single person over 30, or under 30 for that matter, and you’ll get the same answer: Dating isn’t easy. Luckily, people can go to the same place for help where they go for almost everything else these days, which is the internet.
In a world where Billy Eichner from “Billy on the Street” makes videos assisting staffers at prestigious magazines with their Tinder accounts, online dating is ubiquitous, acceptable, and if you’re single, basically expected. Most singles have done it at least once, and many have profiles on multiple sites, the idea being if one is good, more must be better.
Speed dating, on the other hand, has been somewhat relegated to the punch line of a movie like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” or the dustbin of the early 2000s. But why? It still exists, and if Anna Maria Basquez, founder of Denver Catholic Speed Dating & Faith Match, is right, it could be just what a jaded Catholic dater is looking for.
Basquez, a Colorado native, decided on a new course for herself one cold February night in 2011 when she was supposed to be planning what she called “another boring Valentine’s Day event” for singles at her Last Supper Club. At the time, she was doing the Prayers of St. Bridget for a second time, and she believes that was part of her inspiration.
After all, St. Bridget was married, and there aren’t many married women saints. Basquez thinks there should be more, and maybe she could have a hand in creating some.
Basquez didn’t start out looking to become a Catholic version of Fiddler on the Roof’s yenta, with women singing out what they’re hoping for in a match. Instead, she began her career with the improbable combination of journalism and accounting as majors.
She went on to become a full-time journalist for secular papers for ten years before becoming a freelance journalist for many Catholic papers, writing regularly for the Fort Collins’s The Coloradoan as a restaurant critic for five years, which would later serve her business well. As she says, she knows how to help people feel at ease in restaurants where the speed dating events take place.
Then, in 2011, she did something very unusual for a freelance writer – she started turning down work. Say what? (Well, other than that assignment interviewing Emilio Estevez!) She knew reporting wasn’t all that she was meant to do. Not long before her epiphany, she had attended a Theology on Tap event in which Archbishop Charles Chaput, then the archbishop of Denver, was giving a talk and said that he wished he could select the attendees’ spouses for them so they wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore, and she heard people saying things like, “I wouldn’t mind that.”
The kernel of an idea was planted.
A few years earlier, Basquez had created a supper club for her fellow Catholics to try new restaurants together and spend time with people they might otherwise just give the sign of peace to. When she tried the speed dating on that fated Valentine’s Day, she says it was so popular that Thai Basil, the local restaurant hosting the event, “broke the fire code” with more than 50 people attending when she had expected maybe only a dozen.
She didn’t want to arrange marriages or select spouses, but she did want to give people options, options for finding others who take their faith seriously too. Still, she doesn’t say she’s the only game in town. She tells people, “Try everything, but try it with temperance.”
She gives them a tip sheet before they begin with advice on what to expect and what to do, and then lets them loose to try and find someone who may just become Mr. or Mrs. Right. For daters wary of awkward getting-to-know each other pseudo-conversations that get harder to make after a series of dates, the dreaded wait to see if the person texts you or responds to a text, (God forbid there’s a phone call – this is 2017, after all, and voice features on a phone are unacceptable for Millenials,) these tips would be key. She knows well that “some people come wounded from past dating experiences.”
One of her first tips is from a priest (who knew they had tips about dating) who said “stop looking for your clone!” As anyone who has looked at online dating profiles knows, many people start with all their deal breakers. After a long list of what they are not looking for, they finally write what they are hoping for. Basquez questions the wisdom of this approach. Her best advice is to be open and forgiving. That’s unique advice for modern daters indeed.
Basquez takes a more realistic approach. She asks that people try to see past some of the quirks of the people seated across the table and give them a chance, “at least two dates!” In a world where people have multiple profiles across dating sites, risks are something not many seem to want to take anymore.
But she might be onto something. One of her clients, Loralie Holmbo, says that it was that advice that convinced her to be open to her now husband whom she met at one of the events. She might not otherwise have agreed to a second date, but instead she took Basquez’s tip to heart and decided to “let God take control.”
Basquez has several success stories of people meeting through a speed dating event and marrying. At least two people confided to her that part of the reason they moved to Denver was for her and her dating service. And it worked!
But whether it’s her supper club or speed dating, Basquez is most interested in creating community which she believes has led to the success of her enterprise. Even if someone doesn’t find a match, they inevitably find a group of friends, and maybe that is where her magic lies. Instead of fearing a boring or awkward first date, people come knowing that come what may, they’ll find something good.
She says that she knows that doing this has brought her closer to God and to her faith, and she believes it has done the same for many of the people participating.
She seems to know her business given she has grown hers into about twenty Catholic events during the year with another four open to Christians in general. Anyone can come to any of the events, but they should know that they will be meeting committed Catholics. The next speed dating events are in May and information can be found at www.denvercatholicspeeddate.com
Basquez herself is unmarried, but for right now with her business booming, you might say, for the moment at least, she has met a match.