In New York, cruising seems to have more fluidity, a looseness that implies dating, making friends, or making sweet finger-banging love. It is a playful, queer middle ground of possibility and opportunity — exactly what Alex Schmidt and Lily Marotta have curated through their event Queer Speed Cruising. “We’re not a play party,” says Lily. “And we’re not a daytime get together at the LGBT+ Center either,” adds Alex.
The pair are stand-up comedians, improv teachers, queer community organisers, and self-proclaimed “activities dykes” (Alex also founded the legendary sweat-fest, Dyke Soccer). They are absolutely hilarious and have been described as a lighthouse in the vast, stormy seas of NYC’s dyke dating scene. “You think there’s nothing out there and then you tap into this community and you’re in,” a local lez told me.
When I conveyed this to Lily and Alex, they declared themselves “queer wizards” and morphed into cackling oil-lamp-rubbing witches. “Come here my pretties,” hooted Lily.
These queer wizards have noted our community’s lack of both space for dykes and queers to hangout (not out fault) and imagination (probably our fault). “I just think we have a really limited imagination for where we could be spending time together as adults,” says Alex, “It’s either Soul Cycle or a bar.” Queer Speed Cruising is “the 8 p.m. vibe,” says Lily, a chilled space to interact with queers, no phones, no loud music — just conversation, lots of conversation, and maybe a beer or three. It is a place to find brains to pick, hands to hold, and bosoms to nestle into.
Unaware of this, I spent the Friday of Queer Speed Cruising psyching myself up for (the logistically bamboozling prospect of) a speed sex party. I was relieved when I strolled into Windjammer – a large, locals bar in Ridgewood – to find twelve tables in a semicircle, each hosting a pair of fully-clothed dykes chatting in what looked like the most progressive parent-teacher conference the world has ever known.
Alex, Lily, and guest-host Molly-Margaret stood with mics in the middle of the room. They were the evening’s referees-cum-compères responsible for cracking jokes and managing the flow of daters. Each date was three minutes, each round 40 minutes.
There have been six QSC so far, this was their smoothest-running; in earlier rounds they took on a “clap, clap, Camp Counsellor,” role to get dates to rotate. After this, they used whistles, but found the drill-sergeant vibe sparked “a lot of sound-sensitive feedback for cruisers,” says Alex. “So now we play music when it’s time to change partners, so you groove to your next date.”
Behind the refs, a slideshow shuffled in the background, posing the burning questions of our time: Is Oprah gay? Are switches real? How many straps do you have? These dykey in-jokes, and the ref’s use of silliness and self-roasting took the edge off the speed dating format; it’s more pretty, witty, gay, less sterile, hetero, organized fun.
“If you speak to someone like my mom about dating,” says Lily, “she’d be like, ‘Oh, dating is like a job interview,’ and people can have that perception.”
“There’s a lot of cards on the table, and checking off credentials at traditional speed dating things — it can be really quantitative,” says Alex. “But we’re not simply trying to make sure that everyone finds a partner, we’re trying to focus on the queer/lesbian side of cruising. If we’re being more wacky and performative then people will hopefully act silly too. If the conversation topics are more like, ‘Do you have a lizard?’ and less like ‘What’s your five-year plan?’ then people are more likely to talk about fun things and have a good time.”
“Yeah, if it’s so serious about trying to find the one, the more you’re going to be nervous and not yourself and probably not fall in love,” Lily says in a silky tone with the insight of Aphrodite herself.
As the first round circulates the room, the rest of us flit around, filling out our name badges: Insta; I.S.O. of dating, sex, friendship, other (most circled all three, some just sex and dating, others wrote Poly in the ‘other’ section); pronouns; and top/bottom/switch (the majority circled switches – in answer to the slideshow’s Q – though Alex and Lily reckon that lots of switches are undercover bottoms, waiting for date five to reveal their true form.)
The rest of us wait and watch in fascination; it’s like watching a nature doc. “Lesbians in the Wild: Habits and Rituals.” The room is vibrating with the high frenetic energy of nerves and flirtation. People seem to be having the littest dates ever; they’re leaning forward, looking into eyes, engrossed in conversation, straddling chairs, and cracking each other up. Lesbians, it would seem, are very good at dating.
This is apparently a QSC miracle, because we’re quivering, disorganized messes in the build-up to the event. “People ask us every single question on the planet. DMs, texts, emails, but we’re happy to answer any questions and hold all those queerdo hands and sweaty palms through this kooky process,” says Lily.
Just before your round, you coyly smile at people, semi-suss out if anyone’s your type, and attempt to look nonchalant and sexy – though you’re low-key dying inside. On the verge of plunging in the deep end of the dyke dating pool, you find you’ve suddenly forgotten how to swim, barely remember your own name, and don’t know what lesbian banshee possessed you to come to this.
“Every single person is nervous, but you’re all in the same situation,” says Lily.
“It’s like performing,” continues Alex. “You’ve both bought into the reality that you’re going to be on stage for three minutes. We’ve all agreed we’re going to be present, we’re going to go on ten dates and ten people will give us attention. Even if you like none of them, now you have more confidence to go out and introduce yourself because you’re really used to it.”
There were 150 queers present that night. There were dancers dating lawyers, archivists dating engineers, students dating social workers. Stoners spoke to the highly caffeinated, the ethereal chatted with the austere, three pints in dated two Seltzers down.
The three-minute claxon, at times, felt premature, like you were plucked away from someone you could speak with all night. At others, the time between two minutes and forty seconds and three minutes felt significant. Either way, we were advised to exchange Intsa handles at the beginning of each date to avoid any awkwardness.
There’s no formula for dating; you have different chemistry with different people, and dates are taken in various directions. Some did feel job-interview-esque. At others, all we discussed was how speed dating made us feel. When there were immediate friend vibes, people discussed who in the room they did fancy. I received a cat photo slideshow, spoke of four-foot Mormons in Pennsylvania, planned a sex party of roller skates, and received a barrage of compliments for my funky trousers (though unintentional, wearing an eye-catching piece of clothing is top tip for QSC convo lube).
As you come into your own around date nine, you start to predict whether you’re going to fancy the next person or not, testing if you can know chemistry based on appearances.
“We’re always half-joking, but it is true,” says Alex. “I must have gone on a hundred internet dates. You spend $50 on a date, it’s two hours long and yet you always know in that first 30 seconds whether you want to spend time with the person. So I spent 5,000 dollars on shitty dates, and all of them I knew.”
“Yeah, and on a Wednesday when I could have been hanging out with my friends or just watching the show I want to watch after work,” adds Lily. “So you come to Speed Cruising, you go on ten to 50 dates for 16 dollars, and we give away free tickets if you can’t afford too – so it’s win-win.”
The experience is an absolute whirlwind. I partook in three rounds. As date 29 came around, I’d once again forgotten my name, wanted to burn my trousers, and needed to stare at the bathroom door for a hot-second.
Dating burnout only inflicts a handful of us though. “We have noted the faces of the people who are really getting their money’s worth,” says Alex. “You can go on 50 dates if you want, and we always joke that the more dates you go on, the more money you save.” No shade intended. “If this had happened when I was single,” she says, “I would 1000% be going to this and be one of those really hyper lesbians that’s in every round until I find someone.”
For the less-hyper dykes, Windjammer has a pool table, Pacman, pinball machines, darts, and a bar filled with conversing queers – many of whom abstained from the onslaught of dates and just came for the atmosphere.
“That’s why we chose a locals bar,” says Lily. “It’s not some live/work design gallery, there are cheap drinks, you don’t have to buy a $15 juniper cocktail. And there are dive bar activities, so when you’re not dating you can be like, ‘Hey, wanna play pool?'” It’s a mellow stroll in the park out here, and a high-intensity spin class in there.
So is Queer Speed Cruising a good place to meet queers? 100 percent. I left with lots of friends and some potench loverz. A couple of people started making out between rounds. “I definitely am surprised by any make out during dates,” says Alex, “but it happens. We’ve seen people get up mid-date and leave to get a drink together.”
“Yeah, that is the win. That’s when I’m like, this is why we’re doing it, for people to leave like that,” says Lily.
“Or when we find out somebody is dating or hanging out, it’s like we created that and it feels so exciting and empowering,” says Alex, like a proud soccer mom.
“It’s cool, because people are always asking ‘Why can’t there be a lesbian Grindr?’ And they say it’s because you need a coffee date and three hours to process, but we’re like, actually no, queer people do want to go and hook up — they don’t need eight hours to go Upstate. They actually would hook up right now. You just need a different setting,” says Lily.
“It can’t all be like Berghain. It’s not going to be at the Chelsea Docks. It will be at a place where it’s clean, there’s medium lighting, a little chill and sexier. I feel like any hook up I witness is—” ponders Alex. “Just so awesome,” Lily interjects.
Maybe you’ll meet bae, maybe you’ll meet a sometime boo or a life-long bro, maybe you’ll meet no one at all. What you will get from QSC is a lit evening of chatting with queers, playing Pacman with your peers, and basking in the delicious smorgasbord of New York’s thriving dyke scene.
Queer Speed Cruising runs every few months. It’s $16 and usually at Windjammer Bar, 552 Grandview Ave, Ridgewood. For future events and comedy-gold follow @queerspeedcruising.