Love Is Blind

Gay men are dating blind thanks to this matchmaking service

Gay dating is defined by the face pic. On every dating app, a cute face (or a hot body) is grounds for a swipe right. On Grindr, headless torsos are derided, and “no pic, no chat” is a common refrain. But what if dating involved no pictures at all — if you didn’t even know what your date looked like until they were in front of you? A dating service in New York is answering that question.

ManMate isn’t a new dating service, but it certainly feels fresh. It actually began in 1985, when founder Grant Wheaton handed out 10,000 questionnaires at the New York City Pride March, then ran the matchmaking service for gay men out of his apartment.

Nearly 40 years later, ManMate is helmed by Nick Flatto (who goes by Nick Bradford professionally). In an interview with Gothamist, Bradford explained why a service like ManMate is still necessary in the age of dating apps.

“There was always a question of, ‘Will we be as needed if dating is this immediate, if it’s this free?’” Bradford said. “What I’m finding is, we’re needed more than ever.”

ManMate’s service is a far cry from the world of unsolicited nudes and endless “Into?” messages. Its team of three matchmakers (all gay men themselves) use detailed questionnaires to pair up their queer clientele.

Once its clients are connected, ManMate recommends they have their first date over the phone to test compatibility beyond the physical. It doesn’t provide pictures of your matches, and it advises you not to look them up on social media or to have sex on the first date. It’s a set of recommendations meant to combat the superficiality of most dating apps, not least of all Grindr, given its client base of gay men.

Bradford said ManMate is more effective than its competitors because of its understanding of gay dating. It’s by the gays, for the gays, unlike more mainstream services, which Bradord says his clients have compared to “girls trying to introduce me to their gay best friend.”

“I was like, ‘well, welcome to your gay matchmaker!’” Bradford said. “Because we just get it. We know the needs of our community, we know what we go through to get here.”

A package from ManMate doesn’t come cheap. Their most affordable option costs $1,000, which guarantees three introductions to eligible bachelors, as well as the potential for future matches for a year at no extra cost. 

That price point keeps most of New York’s gays out of the ManMate pool — but that doesn’t mean the service’s blind date philosophy can’t be applied by the general public. Even if you can’t avoid seeing a romantic interest’s face ahead of time, steering clear of social media stalking, early nude exchanges, and putting too much emphasis on the physical, could be a recipe for love at first (or second, or third) sight.

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