By Kris Kitto - 05/03/10 10:07 PM EDT
When it comes to dating in Washington, there’s always an excuse to put it on the backburner. Wall Street reform keeps you in the office late, or campaign season has hit full stride, or the FBI just announced it’s investigating your boss. Hattie Elliot, a new matchmaker in town, has a proposal for those who’ve thus far let their professional ambitions crowd out their romantic pursuits: Let her do the dirty work for you.
The native New Yorker recently launched her Save the Date(ing) organization with a single-malt Scotch tasting at the Alex Gallery in Northwest Washington. Part of the idea was to reconcile normally irreconcilable Democrats and Republicans, who came together with artists and even a break-dancing attorney in a casual, relaxed atmosphere the likes of which you won’t find at a committee hearing on derivatives. Elliot, who now splits her time between New York’s West Village and Capitol Hill, spoke with The Hill about how she hopes to save dating in Washington.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Washington?
Personally, I’ve always really loved D.C., so I thought this’d be a great excuse to get to know the city a little bit more.
Q: You had your first event here recently. How’d it go?
It was brilliant. It was really great. The way that it started in New York — and I’ve been very consistent — it started with my friends and personal contacts and their friends.
Here in D.C. — I don’t live here, so I went to top people in the Democratic Party and had them nominate people and to top people in the Republican Party and had them nominate people. Movers and shakers. Then I went to people in the legal industry, and then I went to people, like an architect friend of mine, and I really tried to put together a diverse, dynamic group.
The people I had at [the] event were incredible. We got a tour of the gallery — and we continued on our merry way with the single-malt tasting. And it was merry.
Q: The people you reached out to — how’d they react?
The response here was absolutely incredible. Every person I reached out to here got back to me. This woman, who was gorgeous, said, “I just got into a relationship, but this kind of makes me want to get out of it.”
I think people here are just yearning to meet people outside of their social circle and outside of their office.
As a result, we were able to put together an incredible group of individuals. At one table, there was one guy who had a green company, and there was a lawyer, and a diplomat, and a scientist who studied bugs, and a venture capitalist, and a woman who owns a chain of clothing stores here in D.C.
Q: How many people were there?
There were 32 people at the event. We try to keep the events between, I would say, 26 on the smaller side to 40 on the larger side, and it’s all [an] evenly matched male-to-female ratio.
Q: Did you have congressional staffers and White House staffers?
Yes, we did. We had people from both [the Obama and George W. Bush] administrations, if you can believe it.
I have very strong political views. I’m personally very liberal, but I really felt it was important in D.C. ... to mix up people from different parties so they were at tables together.
And I have to say, it was great. Again, I got so many comments throughout the night that people had such a great time. It has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with people getting to know each other. ... Taking those labels away was a great thing to do, and I completely intend to do that again.
People will say in New York, “I will not date Brooklyn.” It’s kind of a joke. Here it might be, “I won’t date a Republican.” But making sure the group was diverse politically here was really important to me.
Q:What are you hearing Washingtonians say are the biggest difficulties in dating in this city?
One definitely is that, if you work on the Hill and if you’re in politics, it’s all about who you know. It’s very clique-y, and people will stick to people either in the office or the same political party, and the only time people will go outside of that is to make a connection that’s beneficial to their career.
Also, it’s very transient. A couple of the new members are diplomats, and so they travel a lot, but they want to just make strong connections. So a lot of people really wanted to join to make a strong connection here and make it their home.
Time is people’s most valuable asset, and so figuring out how to allocate it and make time for their personal lives is a big issue.
Q:How do you plan to recruit members from this point?
We get a lot of people through referrals, and we really value that. That’s why we try to get really good people in the door to begin with. Presently I interview 15 to 20 people per day here, and we have about a 40 percent acceptance rate.
Q:What’s the screening process like?
It’s kind of like casual coffee. And it’s worked really well. Usually within the first five minutes, I know whether the person would be a good fit. If they’re pretentious and a snob and unfriendly, I have no interest in them being part of the group.
It’s like going on 15 to 20 first dates every day. When you join, you’re going to spend the evening with people who have already been vetted, so I do the dirty work. I do the dirty work and grunt work of going on those 15 dates so that you don’t have to.
Q :Did you see any potential matches at your event last week?
Oh, yeah. I kind of got a sense early on. I met this one high-powered corporate attorney, but she takes break-dancing classes on the side. You’d never know. And then I happened to meet a guy who’s a doctor ... who takes voice lessons and who’s really into hip-hop. And so I kind of strategically sat them together. And there was definitely some sparkage when they discovered their hidden talents. There was definitely some romance in the air last night — as well as women and men exchanging numbers to hang out. They discovered they live nearby or their offices are nearby.
Save the Date(ing)’s next Washington events are a margarita party on May 5, trapeze lessons on May 12 and sushi-making class on May 26. For details, go to www.savethedating.com.