Lifestyle

This IRL Dating Experience Wants to Change the Way New Yorkers Find a Match

Hinge and Raya, who?

Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren

Dating isn’t easy. Especially when the thought of telling yet another online someone what you do for work and what neighborhood you live in literally makes your brain hurt. Here’s the thing though-dating doesn’t have to be painful. Yes, it’s always going to be a little (or a lot) scary putting yourself out there, but if you find yourself in a place where meaningful connection has somehow evaded you, it might be time to step outside the conventional dating app scene.

It was this train of thought that led Allie Hoffman to create her own approach to IRL dating experiences. After close to a decade working in digital media, Hoffman realized that her career choice was maybe not the right path.

“COVID felt for me, like the great revealer. It exposed all these lies in my life, and one of them was that I couldn’t do what I was doing anymore. I shut down everything and I just got really quiet and still with myself. I realized that I’d been so married to this idea of myself as a successful NYC-based entrepreneur who crushed so hard, but that path had led me down all these roads that weren’t really the truth,” Hoffman reminisces.

Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren

Out of this confusing time came clarity. “I got this hit. You’re here to help other people be in their truth,” recounts Hoffman. “At first, I thought that was the funniest thing I’d ever heard because I was like, ‚ÄėMe guide others? Hilarious.’ But I sat with it and sat with it. And then I started doing what felt really natural, which was bringing people together.”

She started off by hosting dinner parties as part of her company, Equanimity Equation. Over the next two years, the dinners gained popularity and shifted into ticketed events with DJs and performers as added entertainment. But, as is habit for Hoffman, things were about to evolve dramatically once more.

“I realized that I actually didn’t care about what flavor the cake was or what the table settings were like. It wasn’t about the dinner party, it was about the connection created at the dinner party,” says Hoffman. “I was about to turn 39 and super single and wanted to be around people who were thoughtfully approaching being single. At the same time, I was at Columbia [University] getting a masters in spiritual psychology and being exposed to Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Buddhist monks, and the somatic intelligence movement. They were teaching us how to more deeply connect to ourselves and other humans.”

Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren

That was how The Feels was born. Now held on every third Wednesday of the month at The Knife Factory event venue in East Williamsburg, The Feels welcomes single-identifying participants and leads them through a series of somatic exercises designed to facilitate meaningful connection.

The night starts off with an introduction from Hoffman, which includes a rundown of the evening and words to qualm any anxieties. Following that, up to 75 participants gather in a circle and share their name and one word that describes how they are feeling in the moment. “This is a chance to kind of clock everybody and be like, ‚ÄėI like her vibe. Oh, they seem cool,'” explains Hoffman. Next, everyone lays down for a five-minute body scan, which acts as a quiet moment of contemplation. Hoffman then pairs couples off to talk through prompts like “What’s something you’ve learned about your sexuality in the last six months? How would you describe your current relationship to jealousy? Where are you currently finding the most joy?”

Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren

Now that the ice is broken, couples exchange compliments over something their partner shared before entering into an extended eye gaze or a back-to-back lean on one another. “What does it mean to feel another person quite literally having your back?” muses Hoffman. “What does it mean to be in contact like that? And then they put their hands on each other’s hearts and breathe together in another round.” The final exercise with your partner is a hug. “You’re not just hugging, you’re really in the experience of what it feels like to have somebody’s arms holding you. What it feels like to have another heartbeat near yours.” Attendees then repeat the process with three other participants, partake in a moving meditation, and close out with free time-all the while hoping someone’s vibes match their own.

To clarify on the ambiance of the events, Hoffman says, “It’s not sexual, it’s not erotic. It’s very much meant to be an opportunity to feel what’s there to be felt. It’s not about being attracted to or being attractive enough to somebody. It’s really about showing up [and being] present.”

Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren

For New Yorkers that are open to exploring or identify as part of the polyamorous community, The Feels also offers an ENM (ethical non-monogamy) counterpart. Set up in the same format as the monogamous events, the meetups for those in the open community are held every last Wednesday of the month.

With the average participant age ranging from 32 to 38 (although events have previously included anywhere from 25 to 55 years old), the success of The Feels could be attributed to the kind of New Yorkers it attracts. “[The Feels] is designed for people who are at a place where they have found a lot of meaning already in their lives. At the last singles group there was everyone from a TV writer and a filmmaker to two therapists and a real estate investor, and so on,” recounts Hoffman. “It’s for people who are intentionally investing in their dating life.”

Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren
Photo by Brae Lawren

If this whole concept leaves you feeling anxious or skeptical, don’t stress. It’s not an out-of-the-ordinary reaction. “I think people come in with hesitations and blocks because anytime you’re doing inner work, there’s a part of you that resists,” Hoffman tells. “It’s the hero’s journey. Going through the discomfort, but coming out the other side, you realize you can do it. It’s a big gift we give ourselves.”

The journey to find love can be a lonely one sometimes, but thanks to New Yorkers like Allie Hoffman, we might just be that much closer to finding our special someone(s) to lean on.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Izzy Baskette is the New York City Staff Writer for Thrillist. Talk to her at [email protected] or find her on Instagram.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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