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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz

Nerds at Heart show that love doesn't have to be a battlefield (PHOTO: Jade Patrick)

Nerds at Heart brings singles together


Are you looking for your nerdy soulmate? Do you long to have meaningful, hour-long conversations with your partner about why "Firefly" should never have been cancelled or a lively debate about the canonical anachronisms of the 2009 "Star Trek" movie?

If the answer is yes, Bathsheba Birmin and the good folks at Chicago-based Nerds at Heart have got your back.

Since 2006 the dating service has been organizing singles mixers for those who fly their freak flag proudly. They began in Chicago (where the company is based) and have since and expanded to Indianapolis, the Twin Cities, and most recently came to Milwaukee a year ago.

Their next gathering here will be at Karma Bar & Grill on June 24.

Don't be spooked. This isn't ComicCon meets speed dating. There are no costumes or lightsabers. Nobody will show up dressed as Chewbacca.

Rather, says Birmin, it's a gathering of friendly, smart working professionals who are looking to meet like-minded individuals. (Also ... there might actually be a few lightsabers. But to be fair, it wouldn't be a party without them.)

"This will be the best conversation you'll ever have," Birmin promises. "One of the reasons our events are so relaxed is that we work really hard to make it a fun environment. You don't have to struggle for conversation as much because it's people who have the same interests as you. They won't all necessarily be Buffy fans, but what you will find is people who have that same love of learning and curiosity and light of mind."

Nerds at Heart events begin with an ice-breaker and go on to incorporate classic board games (think Uno and Taboo) interspersed with short rounds of trivia.

"The people are grouped in sets of six or ten, so there's a dynamic where you're able to get to know people," says Birmin. "The men rotate tables and the ladies stay seated."

Birmin was inspired to start the company six years ago after hearing battle-weary friends complain about the rigors of the urban dating scene.

"People are not really finding compatible matches out there, and part of it comes from not having an appropriate milieu. That spurred the thought that there should be some type of alternative to finding someone either in the club scene or at speed dating," she says. "If you're in a club and you're either interested in your want to buy someone a drink, really it's about a 30-second once-over as you're deciding either way. That didn't seem to me to be the stuff of long-term relationships."

Thus was born Nerds at Heart, the low-pressure, no-awkwardness approach to finding real, meaningful, and delightfully nerdy companionship.

"The idea was really sort of taking the kind of vibe that you would have hanging out in your rec room with your friends playing board games but with the chance of actually meeting people outside your own circle."

Worried you're not nerdy enough?

"Nerd is an all inclusive term," Birmin says. "You don't have to take a mensa test. If you think you're a nerd, are you probably are. We let people self-define and we have no sense of exclusivity. Nerd culture is very broad. And it's not even so much what you're interested in, it's who you're interested in."

Nerds at Heart has had plenty of success stories. Birmin says she has personally attended several weddings of her clients in Chicago and "this year our first nerd baby was born," she says.

Though there have been no Milwaukee marriages yet, there are several relationships and plenty of fun.

"I learn something new at every single event and come across someone doing something that I've never heard of before," she says. "We've made a place where people can actually find someone simpatico in some other way than just superficial. Because everyone's had that experience where you're having a conversation and there's really just nothing going on. This was an attempt to be an antidote."

Birmin says not to be afraid if you're shy.

"All of our attendees are incredibly sweet and warm and friendly."

And if you're the person who's always lingering at the bar, trying to look busy and fake-texting while scanning the room for potential dates, the Nerds at Heart team employs full-time hosts and coordinators who are ready and willing to be your wingman if necessary.

"If they see that you're sitting alone, they'll be right next to you asking what you need, is there someone you're interested in? We have amazing staff," Birman says.

Icebreakers were always every high schooler's least favorite part of the first day of class, but Birman and her team have put a fun twist on the tired practice.

"We have themes. This time we're doing like a summer-vacation-themed icebreaker – making a postcard from your dream vacation spot."

But here's the kicker: "It doesn't have to be a real place. Like, what if you could go to Narnia or Tatooine? Or travel though time?"

And while you might not find the Arwen to your Aragorn the first time around, Birmin promises you'll have a good time and meet people you're genuinely glad to know. And isn't that really what dating is supposed to be about?

"You don't have to suffer through dating," she says. "A side benefit of dating can be that you meet people who are incredibly sweet and ultimately funny and smart. The people at our groups have a really strong sense of community."

If you're interested, online registration is required, and admission is $30. Check in begins at 3:30 p.m., and the event runs from 4 to 7 p.m.

And relax. It's just dating, not rocket science. Unless you hook up with a rocket scientist (we make no guarantees. But anything is possible.)


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