First dates are pretty much the most awkward thing ever. You're either texting your friends commentary throughout or regretting that you spent a Friday evening with Bad Breath McGee instead of your chums.
Grouper, an online "social club" launched more than a year ago in New York City, has the answer: Bring your friends with you! Say to Mystery Dude, borrowing the famous lyrics of Notorious B.I.G., "Tell your friends to get with my friends. And we can be friends."
Grouper, which has also been connecting folks in San Francisco and Washington D.C. for a few months now, expanded this month to include 10 more cities: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle. It's currently accepting applications from potential members in those cities.
"We're trying to re-create the way that people meet organically, in casual social settings or through friends," Michael Waxman, founder of the site, told The Huffington Post.
If a romantic match happens, it happens -- and your chances are higher, the more people you meet. If it doesn't happen, maybe friendship sparks will still fly. Because it's also hard to make friends, especially in a new city.
How does it work? Signing up takes about a minute because the site creates a profile for you by pulling information from your Facebook page. (Don’t worry: It doesn't post back to Facebook.) Then you send an email inviting two friends to be your wingmen or wingwomen.
Lastly, you answer five questions on a sliding scale. For example, would you rather go to a dive bar or a fancy club or some place between those two? Would you rather talk about "Jersey Shore" or philosophy or something more middlebrow?
Then you wait two to three weeks for an email from Grouper. There's a waiting list because matches are determined by staff members in addition to a computer algorithm, according to the company.
The email sets the location for your meeting and offers various times for you and your friends to choose from. The identities of your potential suitor and the suitor's two friends are completely hidden. Each of the six people must pay $20, which goes to pay for the first round of drinks and the site's fee. (Grouper receives a discount on drinks from local bars with which it partners.)
Waxman, 25, founded Grouper in July 2011 after he moved to New York post-breakup and was looking to meet new people. He noted he met his current girlfriend at a Grouper get-together.
Waxman was very insistent that his "social club" is not a dating site. Dating sites, he said, have "a dehumanizing aspect of shopping for people through profiles. It's very contrived and forced -- someone messages you because they want to date you."
Grouper is more effective and enjoyable, he said, because "when you're with your friends, you're going to behave more comfortably and naturally." He added, "There aren’t any labels or expectations."
Plus, what's the worst that can happen? "If you don't hit it off, you're already with your buddies, you're a round deep, and now you have a funny story to tell," Waxman said.
LOOK: The Funniest Online Dating Fails -- Send Us Yours!
Apple fans rejoice! "Mac-inspired" <a href="http://cupidtino.com/" target="_hplink">Cupidtino</a> will connect members with the Apple fanboys (or fangirls) of their dreams.
<a href="http://diapermates.com/browse.php" target="_hplink">DiaperMates</a> claims to be a forum where people interested in wearing adult-sized diapers or makeshift diapers can search for, share photos with and meet people who have similar interests.
Operating under the motto "Why toke alone?", <a href="http://www.420dating.com/" target="_hplink">420Dating</a> provides a hub where "smoker friendly" singles can meet and mingle, though a disclaimer states that the site's creators do not advocate the use of illegal substances.
"Slow-moving," "fast-moving" or "immobile" zombies turn to <a href="http://mingle2.com/zombieharmony/free-dating-sites" target="_hplink">ZombieHarmony</a> to find love with "freshly turned," "somewhat rotten" or "very rotten" members of the undead dating pool. Even those missing some or all of their limbs can find a match. "...because the apocalypse doesn't have to be lonely."
<a href="http://www.theatlasphere.com/" target="_hplink">The Atlasphere</a> is a community of enthusiasts for the Ayn Rand's <em>Atlas Shrugged</em> and <em>The Fountainhead</em>. The site boasts over 22,000 general user profiles and over 12,000 dating profiles.
<a href="http://www.vampirepassions.com/" target="_hplink">Vampire Passions</a>, a dating site and social network, welcomes "vampires" and "vampire lovers." While searching for potential dates, members can join groups like "sanguine vampirism," "newly turned," "amateur vampire hunter," "Team Edward," "Buffy," "Dracula," and many more.
Claiming to be a haven for furry fandom, <a href="http://pounced.org/" target="_hplink">Pounced</a> presents an open-minded community that connects artists, writers, publishers and "fursuiters" (those who dress in fur suits or anthropomorphic animal costumes for entertainment or pleasure).
<a href="http://www.darwindating.com/" target="_hplink">Darwin Dating</a> requests that only good-looking individuals join and mingle with the site's presumably attractive members. Acne, sweat stains, bulbous noses, pasty skin and saggy bodyparts are only a few of the many banned characteristics. If you're not sure that you make the cut, members will vote your hotness on a scale from "Ass-like" to "Awesome."
The Ugly Bug Ball
Internet daters will find a haven of self-proclaimed "uglies" at <a href="http://www.theuglybugball.com/index.php" target="_hplink">The Ugly Bug Ball</a> (TUBB).
Boasting 150,000 registered users, <a href="http://farmersonly.com/" target="_hplink">Farmers Only</a> bills itself as a personals site for farmers, ranchers, agriculture students, rodeo enthusiasts, animal lovers, livestock owners, country wannabes, and down-to-earth singles. "City folk just don't get it," the site asserts.
<a href="http://www.wealthymen.com/" target="_hplink">WealthyMen</a> purportedly connects wealthy men and attractive women. The site claims that its male members earn over $100,000 a year and even offers women a "sugar daddy" search option.
According to the site's curators, <a href="http://www.meet-an-inmate.com/http://www.meet-an-inmate.com/" target="_hplink">Meet-An-Inmate</a> helps connect "attractive" incarcerated men and women with non-incarcerated singles via letter and photo exchanges. "Whether you just want a friend, pen pal, someone to talk or even a possibility of a long lasting relationship you could find her/him here," the site says.
<a href="http://en.gleeden.com/" target="_hplink">Gleeden</a> purports to be a discreet extramarital dating site that offers married people "a secret little foray into infidelity."
Are you tall? Do you admire tall people? <a href="http://www.tallfriends.com/" target="_hplink">TallFriends.com</a> might be the dating site for you.
Not just for Trekkies, the <a href="http://www.trekpassions.com/" target="_hplink">Trek Passions</a> social network and personals site welcomes fans of Star Wars, Isaac Asimov, Ben Bova, Robert A. Heinlein, Douglas Adams, Arthur C. Clarke & more.
Though <a href="http://datecraft.com/" target="_hplink">Datecraft</a> might sound like a personals site catering only to World of Warcraft fans, all gamers and video game enthusiasts are welcome.
For a onetime fee of nearly $2,000, <a href="http://www.scientificmatch.com/html/index.php" target="_hplink">ScientificMatch</a> connects customers based on their physical chemistry, determined via DNA samples.
<a href="http://www.candobetter.com/" target="_hplink">CanDoBetter</a> pairs photos of current or potential couples and lets other members vote on whether the partners have found their perfect match. If someone "can do better," based on the community's votes, he or she has the option of meeting someone new from the member pool.
Purple Haze Vampire - Jimi Hendrix Hip Hop Girls - Vampire Lestat Maison
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<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JakobsDiary"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://images.huffingtonpost.com/twitter_profile_img/1463418.png" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/JakobsDiary">JakobsDiary</a>:<br />Cybergothdating.com is a strange cool dating site for Cyberpunks and Cybergoths who love the neon lights of a dance floor